Many of the older homes in Westchester County have pine floors, so a natural question is whether or not these pine floors can be sanded and refinished.
The answer is USUALLY yes.
Types of pine flooring:
The most common types of pine flooring found in Westchester homes are Douglas fir and Southern Yellow Pine. Other types include heart pine and eastern white pine. It’s fairly common to find pine in homes built before 1920 and/or on the steps or upper floors of older homes.
Background on pine floors
Technically, pine flooring is not a hardwood; it is a soft wood. The hardness varies, pending on the pine species being used. On the Janka hardness scale, Southern Yellow pine is 870, Douglas fir 660 and Eastern white pine 380, compared to red oak which is 1290. As a result pine, tends to dent and scratch a lot more easily. Among the pine species and cuts, heart pine is one of the hardest with a janka scale rating of 1225 which is close to oak’s hardness.
Most pine floors have goldish and red undertones. They tend to darken more over time (compared to oak) and many have “aged” in their Westchester homes for over 100 years. Most are considered character woods with knots, and many love it because of its character and authenticity. Many of the older pine floors have wide planks and/or very long boards.
Pine used to be popular in the 1800’s and early 1900’s as it was both less expensive to obtain (as it was abundant) and because the tools used back then worked better on the softer woods. As more advances were made, oak hardwood flooring became much easier to cut and hence it became more popular as it lasted much longer.
Can you refinish pine flooring?
Most pine flooring (and pine steps) can be sanded and refinished. This assumes that the pine is solid and thick enough/stable enough. Occasionally, I have seen floors that have been refinished so many times and it’s time to replace them, but this the exception to the rule (perhaps this occurs in 5% of floors). We have refinished many wood floors from the early 1900’s and 18oo’s and even several from the 1700’s. Nowadays, the preference is for wood floors, but decades ago, the preference was for carpet, and many of these beautiful wood floors have been covered (and protected) by carpet for decades.
Refinishing pine floors is more challenging than sanding oak floors as the wood is softer. This is definitely a job best left to the professionals. There are multiple species with varying hardnesses, each requiring different grits. You need an experienced sander who knows how to maneuver the machines with controlled movements to avoid chatter marks (or grooves) in the wood. This is definitely not something to attempt if you have never refinished wood floors before. Leave it to the experts or you are likely to pay a dear price…you may need to replace your entire floor.
Many pine floors have face nails in them (sometimes for structure and sometimes for character) and these nails need to be countersunk before the sanding starts (otherwise the machines can be ruined). If you are using a stain, it’s important to apply a conditioner before adding the stain. This opens up the pores so that the stain is properly absorbed (and the same way that well conditioned hair absorbs hair dye better.)
Pine floors absorb stain differently than oak floors (or other species for that matter). Most stain samples are produced on red oak (since that’s what is most common in the US), so it’s important to test the stain on your pine floor before choosing it. Since most pines have gold and red undertones, that will often shine through in the stain color. Be careful with very dark stains on pine flooring. On some species, very dark stains show orange graining, and some customers do not like this look.
If you have oak floors in part of your house and pine in another part, the woods will absorb stain colors differently and the graining will be different between the two species. This is very common in homes in Westchester County, especially with the steps being pine, while the floors may be oak. Often a runner on the steps (which is great for safety and decor) will help blend the two floors together. Alternatively, you can replace the stair treads or add stair caps, but these options tend to get expensive.
Because pine floors are soft and can dent and scratch easily, it’s important to use a good polyurethane finish. Oil based poly tends to work better/last longer, and you can read more about it in this article: Oil vs water based polyurethane. It’s ideal to use 3 coats of poly on pine, so it has more protection, and you don’t need to refinish as often.
Can you repair pine flooring?
Pine is generally challenging to repair. There are a number of reasons for this including first, that it’s challenging to match the species/grade of wood (and sometimes the lead times can be 2-6 weeks or more). Second, the milling is different nowadays, so you often need to get wider widths and then mill them down. Third, because pine darkens more than oak, and because it’s typically been in homes for 100+ years, the newer pine is lighter as it hasn’t had as much time to age. Repairing pine is best left to the pros. I’ve seen many botched repair jobs on pine and they are obvious as the species and widths often do not match and look like a sloppy handyman job, or worse, sometimes they look like they were done by a “do-it-yourselfer.”
Useful hardwood floor refinishing articles:
- How long does it take to refinish wood floors?
- What types of stain colors are most popular?
- Hardwood floor refinishing – Frequently asked questions
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors, whether they are light or dark
Can you refinish pine floors or pine steps?