After completing our paint transformation, we emptied the room out again to carry out a redo on our floors. After tearing out the carpet, we soon realized these were not hardwoods as we assumed, but were the original pine floors to the house which, for many years, had been the subflooring beneath carpet. Thus, they were filled with a few hundred nails holding the planks down tightly to avoid floor squeaking beneath the carpet. The nails couldn’t be removed because the pine is a ‘soft’ wood and became damaged very easily when we tried to pull a nail. We debated extending the laminate flooring from the kitchen, but we wouldn’t be able to match the exact flooring that already existed and were worried we would end up with a ‘close, but no cigar’ looking situation. I really wanted to keep hard flooring, but it was looking like re-carpeting was our best choice. We looked into a grey low pile option and almost did it, but couldn’t bring ourselves to pull the trigger on something that would be atleast $1500 to get done (~250 square feet) when carpet wasn’t truly what we wanted. So we decided to sand down and refinish the floors ourselves since they were pine instead of hardwood (which we would have had the pros do for a high end finish and future selling point). If it was a disaster, we could always carpet in the future. So we did all our research on floor refinishing, decided to sink all the 300+ nails and go for a distressed original floor look, but freshly stained and sealed in an ebony color.
About an hour or so into sanding and $50 into sanding pads, we had this… and we knew something just wasn’t right. The sanding pads were sticking to the floor, and this brittle stuff was depositing back onto the floor leaving a mess.
After calling the rental crew at Home Depot, they suggested we try an acetone test on our floors to see if maybe they were shellac, because apparently you can’t sand shellac floors. Whaaat? Sure enough, a drop of 100% acetone nail polish remover started to melt the finish right away = we had shellac floors. We had not come across the possibility of shellac or what was so special about it in all of our research nor had the Home Depot fellow that filled us with all kinds of floor sanding information ever mentioned anything about checking for shellac. We were a bit dumbfounded. Those of you ladies who have had a shellac manicure know how hard this stuff is to remove. The only way to get it off was by chemically stripping the floor. We had come this far, so we grit our teeth and started with the floor stripper. We used a Klean Strip product which resembles snot and has to sit for 15 min in small sections before being scraped off with a puddy knife. But we did it, little by little! All 250 square feet!
There was also a lot of hand scraping that had to happen to get the shellac out of the uneven parts and to better remove the melted deposits left by sanding. We call this the “hand distressed” part of the process.
Here you can see how the floor looked after all these steps on the left, versus the post-sanding mess on the right.
NOW we were truly ready to sand… again. After this round of the floor sander I experimented with stains and discovered the rotary sander we rented (the rental peeps recommended against a drum sander on a pine floor with non-professionals like ourselves) left all these curly-Q scratches all throughout the floor. You can see what I mean in the last picture above. After the floor was properly prepared and sanded, this wasn’t actually visible until the stain went on. So, desperate for anything that would work and beyond frustrated, I got a hand-held belt sander on Amazon and, with the help of the palm sander we already had, sanded the whole dang thing by hand twice over (coarse to fine grit) to remove all these scratches. This we call part two of the “hand distressed” wood treatment. There are no pictures of this process because it must have been too painful at the time (and too dusty, by the way) to snap photos.
Eventually though, by some time in November, we got to the stage of staining the floor. I used a wood conditioner first, especially important in pine to help the stain absorb evenly. You can see where the wood looks ‘wet’ here where the conditioner is working its way in. This part was a breeze to complete.
Then staining was completed according to the direction on the label with MinWax stain in ebony. Big contrast! I did two rounds of — wipe on the stain, let sit 10-15 min, wipe gently off, next section — in long strips along the length of the floor.
Here I am doing some sort of weird bird pose trying to wiggle down the last section of floor, working may way out of the room towards the front door. Thank goodness we had a very mild winter and it was still tolerable to have the house all opened up in November to let the stain fumes escape.
We chose to use a water based polyurethane in 3 coats for a more user-friendly application and a clear, less yellowy final product. Traditional polyurethane yellows with age, so is less ideal on white or black floors. I really liked working with this product and so far it has held up well. It had virtually no fumes which was great and it dried very quickly, allowing for all 3 coats in one day (2 hours between coats, each separated by light sanding and wiping with a tack cloth) and only 24 hours before walking on it. I have learned you can’t put painters tape on it though, but it touches up very easily if you do damage it (oops).
Ta da! Wow, what a difference to lose the reddish damaged floors. We went with the deep ebony color to offset and ground what was otherwise a very bright room. Next we did baseboards, quarter round and doorway transitions to finish the whole shebang.
Here’s what it looks like now. There are lots things I’d love to do yet, but this is probably where she will stay now that the house in on the market.
This angle is looking in from the kitchen. Mom did this painting for us of Ollie which we adore! Do people usually have original artwork of their pets hanging in the living room?
You can see Ollie is busy with her favorite indoor job, monitoring the front yard, in our expanse of black, white and grey with pops of some of our favorite colors.
Here’s a view standing at the built-ins looking into the hall where the grey continues towards the bedrooms. We started a photo collage on this wall that faces you when you enter from the front door.
So to remind you of the ‘before’ back in August… big pine box o’ woodsie.
To totally refinished clean and new! We love how much more bright and modern the room feels. You may also notice we upgraded to a flat-screen HDTV which we acquired around the Christmas shopping season when electronics are all on super sale.
This is definitely the biggest and most difficult room transformation we have done in this house, but we learned so much in the process. Learning to work with different kinds of equipment and materials through research and a bit of trial-and-error to get the job done has been invaluable. For example, if I ever refinish a floor again, I will know to check a spot with acetone first to rule out shellac, apparently the one kind of floor finish a sander will not tolerate. Chad and I often laugh about how stubborn we both are, but in this case it got us to a whole new living room we did ourselves! And we completed the room transformation from floor to ceiling, including the costs of the floor process mishaps, for half the price that re-carpeting alone would have cost us. Woo hoo!