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Can you refinish pine floors or pine steps?

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.

 

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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 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?

heart pine floorMost 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.

WAIT!
Debbie Gartner The Flooring GirlAre you about to sand your floors? Not sure how long to wait before using them? Avoid these common pitfalls that can impact your floor’s durability!

 

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 ny - Douglas Fir wood 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?

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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color consultation for paint and stain colorsIf you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here.  Due to many requests, I’ve now started offering phone consultations.

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors

 

 

Can you refinish pine floors or pine steps?

 

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34 thoughts on “Can you refinish pine floors or pine steps?”

  1. 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

    1. 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.

  2. 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!

    1. 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.

  3. 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

    1. 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.

  4. 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??

    1. 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.

  5. how can I refinish a 100 year old pine wood floor without sanding. It has been under a carpet and seeme perfect except it is very dark.

    1. Lois – You probably can’t…although I’m not 100% sure I understand your question. If floors are in good condition and you’re happy with the color, you can try a screen and recoat. With this you buff and then add a coat of poly. This may be enough to take care of minor imperfections, some of staple marks and give it a fresh sheen. If you want to change the color, you will need to sand the floors. There is no other way to change the color.

  6. Hi ! I have a new home built in 1910 with this kind of pine flooring throughout. Is it possible to only lightly sand it so that it keeps the scratches and imperfections it has developed with age? And can it be treated with something other than poly- such as a low VOC oil finish? I don’t like the look of poly and would rather obtain an aged looking floor, with a lot of character of the wood.

    1. Hi Sienna – It sounds like you have a few competing/conflicting priorities. So on your first question, can you lightly sand – the answer is yes/sort of /maybe – it depends on condition of floor. See this article: https://theflooringgirl.com/blog/hardwood-floors-what-is-a-screen-and-recoat-what-does-buffing-mean.html

      Second, if you want low VOC, try Bona Traffic and check out this article: https://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/which-are-the-best-polyurethane-brands-for-floors-which-do-i-recommend.html

      Third, if you want more aged look, then you will need to fully refinish the floors and potentially use something like monocoat/oiled floor. This is more expensive and has more maintenance.

      I hope that helps.

  7. I have some gaps that have formed between boards. (House built in 1854). What should I fill them with? I plan to poly them.

    1. I would advise you to leave these as they are. These are natural and part of the charm of your home. If you do use filler, I would expect it to pop out in around 6 months, and it looks way worse and it won’t absorb stain properly. Generally for homes that we see for the 1800s, the gaps are way too wide for filler. Filler generally will make your floors look cheaper and older, especially a year later.

  8. I rented my home a year ago. I have two large dogs (landlord approved) and their nails have scarred and gouged the floors. When I first saw the home it was beautiful but did not take long to realize the landlord did all the work and I suspect in a rush. The floors have only one poorly applied coat of poly. In some places it’s a swirled mess and others simply overlooked.
    As well there is a ton of soft pine trim, doors etc… that was never finished! No conditioner stain or protection at all.
    Of coarse I am quite aggravated but I love the location of my home and don’t want to move. The landlord is useless and not involved. I cannot afford to invest $$ in a home I do not own so I will be tackling this on my own. Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated. My first and largest concern is the floors and carpeting isn’t really an option as it is huge! Approximately 15′ x 30′.
    Because of my dogs being 24/7 German Shedders I am hoping to avoid poly. Is varnish with a good wax polish an option?

    1. Oh gosh, Kasie, I’m sorry about your situation. In all honesty, I don’t know what to recommend. Based on what you’re telling me, it sounds like the only way to fix the floors is to sand it down completely. I don’t believe that any polyurethane or varnish for that matter will adhere properly.

      If neither you nor your landlord are willing to spend to so this right, then I think you’re kind of stuck. Perhaps there is a way to build it into a longer lease and negotiate.

      The only other solution I provide is to get a bunch of area rugs (which you can take with you when you move). This will at least prevent the floor from getting worse and is probably better for your dog.

  9. We are building a new house with three previous houses now under our belt, all with wood floors. We haven’t been impressed with hickory and oak on the previous floors. Even though hard wood kids and dogs still scratched the floors badly. We are considering doing a soft wood floor, like pine, that we are okay really being scratched/dented and going after a true distressed look. I works love your thoughts on the pros and cons of going this route.

    1. First, if your previous floors were scratching, it was probably due to the finish. Hardness impacts denting. Pine is rather soft and it would not be my first choice as a) it doesn’t hold up as well and b) most pines have red and yellow undertones…so it will limit color flexibility with stains, and reds and yellows are very dated.

      Regarding going for a distressed look, that’s perfectly fine and logical. I would make sure that it’s solid hardwood, in case next owner doesn’t like that look.

      I would probably more inclined to go with white oak character grade which has lots of knots and more of a distressed look and will hold up better vs pine, but pick the look you love. Wide plank pine with distressed look is what you like, go for it. Regardless of what you choose, make sure it has a strong finish and more of a matte finish. Do not go shiny.

  10. Large Lampard

    Hello,I have some 8mm eastern white pine, will it be too soft or too thin for flooring?
    I’m not worrying about dent and scratch. I’m worrying about cracking and heavy damage within a couple of years(it’s a computer room for me, not a public area). I’ve already purchase PU paint since I’ll need it anyway.
    Or I can spend 5 times the money and get 34mm Douglas fir, but the cost is 5 times(wood is gold around here)compared to cheap 8mm eastern white pine…which will you suggest?
    99% of the people here (Taiwan) uses engineered wood floor and laminate so I can’t find answers around where I live.

    1. Gosh, I’m not familiar with Taiwan and what’s used/stylish/practical. But, I would never use that here…for flooring. It is one of the softest woods (only 380 on hardness scale..vs red oak is 1290). So, it can dent, scratch and crush more easily (crush strength is much lower than oak). Also, here we tend to do solid wood which is 3/4″ and using 8mm is pretty flimsy and probably can’t be refinished.

      I’m not sure, though, why you are considering douglas fir as an alternative as it’s also soft (harder than eastern pine) and more expensive. I would consider oak which is harder and should be less expensive than douglas fir (at least here it is…that may not be the case in Taiwan).

      But, if you are constrained on cost, and have this extra wood on hand, go ahead and try it..and then replace it if and when it cracks or wears down.

  11. Hi, this is a very helpful article! I just bought an apartment in NYC, took out all the laminate flooring, and underneath was pine in pretty good condition. I would like to have it sanded and perhaps stained, can you recommend someone to do that in NYC? Thanks!

  12. Hello! I’m having new pine floors installed in my kitchen and dining room to match the rest of my house and then having them all refinished (so hopefully they match) The issue I’m having is that the new floors are very white and the old floors are a gorgeous shade of honey. I don’t know what to do to get them to all match or at least be similar also what do i put on them, oil polly or a stain first to get them closer to the old wood color I love so much?!

    1. Leigh – Old pine will always be darker than new pine. It tends to be more light sensitive than oak and is often much older.

      I’d strongly recommend that you hire a professional for sanding pine floors. It’s a softer wood and more challenging to refinish than oak (and most DIYers are not able to sand oak well nor can they rent the right equipment). And, if you sand too much ins some areas, especially on pine, you will have permanent waves.

      You will want to add a stain (and test them) to get closer to the color, but before you do that, you will need to add a conditioner. Then, you would add poly and yes, I would do an oil based poly to match what you probably have in rest of house.

  13. Hi
    We have douglas fir pine Floor with water finish. What can I use to get rid of muddy stains. Been sanded 2 weeks ago.

    1. If those patches are dark/black, they have been damaged (most likely by water) and the only way to remove them is to replace those pieces (and then refinish). Or, else choose a darker stain to camouflage them.

  14. How many times can a pine floor be refinished? I recently had a pine floor installed and the contractor used an unbalanced sander. It has now been sanded 3 times to try and correct the ruts. I am worried that i may be limited to resand in the future.

    1. Ann-Well normally, I would guess 6 times or so(assuming it was standard 3/4″ thick). but, pine is soft and often people sand off a bit more, and in your case, I would assume it’s less.

      Now, very old pine is sometimes much thicker. We sanded some floors from 1700s that were much thicker as the tools were different then. but if it’s regular tongue and groove and from mid 1800’s or later, it’s probably 3/4″ thick.

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