Refinishing Original Yellow Pine Floors

I'm back to share a long awaited update on our upstairs renovation! Last spring, we started work on our Master Bedroom installing a faux brick accent wall and beginning the process of refinishing the floors. A few months later, I tore out the carpet in the adjoining hallway and we've been working on these projects on and off for the last year. 

Here's what our 113-year-old yellow pine floors looked like when we first uncovered them:

Here's what the bedroom floors looked like last spring, after their first coat of stain:

And here's the same view now:

Anthony and I like a more rustic look and don't mind seeing the imperfections in 100 year old floors. So our goal wasn't to completely sand them bare and start fresh, but more to clean up the wood, patch in any areas with major damage and then lightly sand and restain. I had already applied one coat of stain to the bedroom floors last spring (we chose English Chestnut by Minwax), but in the last couple of weeks I stained the hallway and then gave both a nice second coat to even out the tone. This past weekend, we applied the polyurethane and it turned out so good! The poly really brings out the vibrance of the wood grain and really blends in the areas that had been patched with a different wood species over the years. 

The challenges

Old yellow pine is not technically a hardwood, it's a softer wood species that tends to dent or splinter more easily than a true hardwood like oak, maple or walnut. This means the floors had more imperfections, and we had to be more careful with them as we were removing the flooring materials that had been installed over them and as we were sanding. The wood floors had been covered with underlayment, then vinyl, then padding and carpet. The carpet, padding and vinyl weren't hard to remove, but the underlayment was attached with tiny 1/2" nails spaced every 5-6" ACROSS THE ENTIRE FLOOR. Overkill much? I have no idea why they used that many nails, but I can tell you removing the underlayment and pulling all those nails was a beast. We have a large pickle jar full to the brim of nails we pulled out of these floors.

What worked

For removing the underlayment and pulling the hundreds of nails, I couldn't ask for a better tool than this small pry bar. I used it with a hammer to chip away at the underlayment and then used the notched "v" groove to pull up the nails. There were a few areas that had been badly damaged and needed replaced. Anthony & my dad were able to use parts of damaged boards they pulled out of the hallway to patch the bad spots in the bedroom floors and replaced the wider hallway boards with new. The hallway had already been patched with several wood species in several different widths over the years, so now with the stain and polyurethane it's impossible to tell what's old and what's new. For the stain, I really liked using these terry cloth staining pads. For the polyurethane, we used a lambswool applicator (similar to this, we got ours at Sherwin-Williams) and I am so impressed with the smooth, even finish it helped us achieve. One thing I didn't have that I wish I did was knee pads. With demo, clean up, sanding, vacuuming, staining and polyurethane, I've been over every inch of this floor at least a dozen times and I have the bruised up knees to prove it. Before we start pulling up the carpets downstairs, I'm definitely buying a pair of knee pads! 

What's next

As you can see from the photos, we need to install transition strips between the hallway and the bedrooms and new baseboards in both the hallway and the master bedroom. Our goal is to match the chunky, original baseboards we have downstairs so we're looking at about an 8" high board topped with an ogee moulding. If you watch my stories on Instagram, you may already know that I tore out the carpet on the stairs last week too. I have a real problem with finishing a project completely before a make a big mess starting a new one. The stairs were also covered in vinyl (and then painted over) with metal stair nosing. I'm now chipping away at the vinyl, but underneath that is some sticky felt paper and many layers of paint. My plan is to strip the treads and refinish the wood and just clean up and repaint the risers white. It's slow going, and it's made me grateful that the rest of the floors had a underlayment protecting the original wood from the vinyl and adhesive! 

Once the floors have had time to cure, we will start moving in our bedroom furniture! I can't wait to finally put together our new bed and get our mattress and boxspring off the floor! The bedroom has baseboard heaters on most of the walls, so I figure we'll just pull the furniture away to install the new baseboards when we're ready. I'm so excited to start putting the room together! 

Can you believe the floors are finally done?

If you've been following along for a while, you know this was a really big project for us! These floors were so much work, but now I smile every time I go upstairs! Part of me wants to change the hallway wall color so the floors are more of the "star" but Anthony made me agree to wait until we've completely finished the project (i.e. install baseboards) before I got back and change anything. Typical!