can you refinish pine floorsMany 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

can you refinish pine flooring - westchester NYTechnically, pine flooring 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?

heart pine floor refinishingMost 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.

 

Can you refinish pine floorsRefinishing 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 floor refinishing westchester county nyPine 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?

Can you refinish pine floorsPine 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:

 

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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?

 

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15 Response Comments

  • Robin jackson  September 30, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    I live near syracuse ny, and I can not find any one who refinishers pine floors. We have yellow pine I believe some boards are 24 inches wide! Can you help? Robin jackson

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  October 1, 2014 at 5:22 am

      Robin – I’m sorry I don’t know anyone in Syracuse. The closest I know is Buffalo and Rochester, and I know those aren’t that close. However, a great place to check is Angieslist.com. You generally need to pay a small fee (e.g. $10 or $15), but it’s well worth it to find a good contractor. You could also ask a local realtor. They often know great flooring contractors. I hope that helps.

      Reply
  • Mary  February 4, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Great article! I’ve been searching for useful information regarding refinishing old yellow pine floors. I do have two questions for you though.
    My dogs have dug out some of the softer wood with their nails (usually when someone is at the door and they grip the floor to get a running start). The gashes are at least a half inch deep. Is this repairable? Would wood filler work at all?
    Also, what is your stance on Murphy’s oil soap to clean pine floors. I have been sing it for a while now, but I don’t believe it is helping. I fear it is actually making things worse, as the stain seems to be wearing in the areas I use this stuff the most.

    Thanks for any help you can provide!

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  February 4, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Great questions, Mary.
      On your first question, most likely those boards would need to be replace if the scratches are that deep. You could try filler, but most likely that will pop out as the wood expands and contracts throughout the seasons, not to mention the traffic. You could also try an area rug (if it works for the space.

      I would recommend staying away from Murphy’s oil soap. The oil is certainly bad for the poly and it is wearing it down, making things temporarily look better but degrading the wearability. Chances are the soap has some of the same oils and waxes. I would try Bona instead.

      Reply
  • Kim  August 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Hi , i would like to install pine in my home! Everyone seems to be telling me no!!! I love the look but do not want them to yellow ! Can I get the look of whiter floor with pine? I was reading that the Swedish bleach them first to get that light natural finish! What are your feelings ! Or recommendations ? Thank you kim

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  August 17, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      Kim – I would recommend that you stay away from this combo as I’m pretty sure you will be disappointed. You can install pine in your home if you like, but recognize that it will be softer and it will dent more easily. You will probably need to sand and refinish sooner. That is fine, if you are aware and if you love the look go for it. But, no, do not even attempt to bleach the pine or do white wash. First, it will make it even weaker and permanently damage. Second, it won’t look right…it will have yellows in it and it will be blotchy. Often the bleach reacts with the pine resins and it does so unevenly, especially center of floor vs. edges.

      Reply
  • Celia  November 4, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    We just decided to get rid of are Carpet because we have animals and they all have used are living room to go to the bathroom. This house was made in 1804. It has barn wood pine floors . We didn’t realize that they had added to the floor in spots and it’s noticeable but we don’t care . The house is an old plank house we are slowly fixing up but still not making it modern . Very very original. We had a friend sand it and then he had us get stain and polyurethane together . We put one coat on then waited until dry then put another coat on. After about 6 days my husband moved a stand with wheels back into the living room and it caused a very small scratch. I said let’s wait another week and and move the rest of the furniture in. The floor was tacky still. It’s been 4 days since we tried to move something in. It does feel less tacky but seems to not be a smooth as a thought it was going to be. It’s beautiful to look at. I just thought a swifter would glide across it and it’s not. It’s hard to get the swifter to go acoss the floor . Better then it was last Saturday 4 days ago . It’s been 9 days since the last coat. Will it be every like glass ?? It seems to be taking forever to dry . Did we do something wrong ? It is November now and there is nothing but a dirt crawl space under the living room. Could it be just cold then warm and that is what is taking so long? How do you clean this type of floor also??

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  November 5, 2015 at 5:45 am

      Celia – If you guys sanded yourself (and didn’t use the professionals), chances are it’s done wrong and may need to be completely redone. Sanding and refinishing is really difficult for amateurs and even harder for first timers. And, pine, especially old pine is more difficult. Chances are it wasn’t sanded properly and as such the stain has not properly penetrated. Floors should have been sanded 3 times, each with finer grits. And, if stain wasn’t done right, the poly won’t adhere. You also need a conditioner. Not sure if you wiped off the stain. That could be another reason. and, if stain didn’t dry properly, than you will have issues with poly. Also, the floors should have been buffed after the 1st coat of poly. That makes it smoother.

      I would call in a local professional to get an opinion. It sounds like you have amazing floors, and I would let the professional handle this; otherwise you will probably be very sorry.

      Reply
  • Lindsay Olson  November 5, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    How do you recommend cleaning the knotty pine floors?

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  November 6, 2016 at 6:50 am

      Lindsay – The process is the same as all wood floors. I would recommend Bona for the cleaning product.

      Reply

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