I’m floored: getting your wood floors redone

My house had termites. They ate a board and a half from my floor and maybe a door sill.

They are gone. However, they did more than eat a board. They got me thinking about my house and if I really cared that much about it or not. It’s on a street that is sometimes busy. This little town of mine only has a few cross-town streets and Main Street is one of them. It’s poor planning for sure. Sometimes I have to wait a thirty seconds to pull out of my driveway.

So the question was, did I want to put money into this house? I decided that I did. I like where it is. I can walk to work. I can walk to town. In fact, I often walk to the meat market or the bakery or the pet food store. The house is near the hospital. This might seem like a disadvantage but the street is always plowed. The electricity is always on. I decided that I liked this house in this location. I did’t want to fix it up and then sell it. I want to enjoy my efforts. But I need to do things to it before I retire–which will not be soon unless I come into a fortune and even then maybe not. Once the termites were dead, I set about having the floors redone. The office needed a new board or two. And the whole set of floors needed to be sanded, resealed, and finished.

Unlike getting rid of termites, this was a major endeavor. We had to move out all of the furniture, appliances, and since that was all moving, I sorted things too. Not everything got tossed but I did give away books and threw out things such as old maps and any old plastic because we all know, I dislike old plastic.





My goal is this. I’m going to make my house beautiful and then I’m going to live in it.

The office floor had termite damage, the living room and family room had some water damage from 100 years of existence, and the back hall had holes from water pipes that had been moved. These weren’t extensive, you could cover them with rugs, or as it had been for years, with carpet.The carpet was aging and the floor dings had accumulated through the years and I faced fixing my house or letting it get worse and worse. I decided to fix it while I had a job–before retirement or the nation falling into rubble, which ever came first. I didn’t do this by myself. I called in floor restorers.

Step  one was patching. This took them a day. One question the repair company had was, did we have red oak or white oak? The woods finish differently. and replacing the termite boards was a major goal of this project.  The eaten boards were red oak. It’s considered more beautiful than white but is also more porous. This is what the termites adored and bored through. Most of the oak in the house is red except for the stairs which are white oak. By the way, floor refinishers say that white oak smells peppery when sanded. We also have fir floors and pine. Lots of trees gave their lives for this house and it’s an intriguing cornucopia of wood.

Next came sanding. Sanding the floors took over a day. This was longer than usual for a floor restore but previous owners had glued carpet and parquet over some of the floors. The mixture of sawdust and glue made hard little balls. Here is a photo of workers trying to get up the dark stain from glued on kitchen carpet. Never glue anything to your wood floors by the way.

People weren’t the only things trying out new substances. Floors saw an array of new glues and carpet backings. Here are workers trying to remove a mixture of carpet and glue from the 1960s.
Getting the glue off slowly. Working around radiators took a while.


Glue from removed parquet floors



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The floors are red oak and the stairs, white oak. Here they are after being sanded before being sealed or top coated. If you look carefully you can see that the banister covered with a thin layer of sawdust.


Here is a nice photo of the sanded floors in the living room.

Living room

Next came the sealing. Oak floors are best sealed with oil based polyurethane. This darkens them and brings out the yellow. It smells terrible and is hazardous. During this phase you need to move out of your house if you haven’t already. Don’t even think you can live there. Yes, I did leave my algae eater behind in her aquarium and she lived unscathed as the refinishing company predicted. However, I could smell the volatiles at least two feet outside of my house. This is not something cleaner or greener. The best hope is that it doesn’t have to be done too often in the life of a house.

Floors and stairs with sealant, illustrating white oak on stairs and red oak on floors.


After sealing, four coats of polyurethane are added with sanding in between. I thought that the sealing smelled the worst and each coat let off fewer volatiles. The last step in the process was to replace the baseboards. We had no baseboards in most of the rooms thanks to the carpeting. We had a choice of doing this last step ourselves or having it done professionally. My spouse is a handy person and was tempted to do it but I felt that the emotional energy on my part would have been far too great. How many days could I stand to look at no baseboards? Zero days. That’s what I decided.

After eleven days and a day after the last coat of finish we were allowed to enter the house with sock-feet, air it out, and the next day we began cleaning. Yes, cleaning. There was a thin layer of sawdust on all surfaces lower than 4 feet.


But here are the floors:

Yes this once had carpet glued to it.
Parquet no more.
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Once again, the living room will be grand.
The upstairs floor is humble pine but I’m a fan of yellow so I like it.
And d@**# those termites.
Finishing touch: custom quarter round.

The furniture can be moved in after three days and the rugs after a week. Since dirty shoes are tough on the floors we will probably join the ranks of those who take shoes off at the door. I’m a person who likes to be one with my shoes. As of today,  it’s all about socks. I can do it, right?

But not everyone is happy about that:

Although the floor people assure us that it’s people who do the damage to floors, for the next day or two Apollo will be sporting these no slip dog socks.

One thing to keep in mind when budgeting, if you don’t already have area rugs, you’ll want to buy some along with felt pads and castor cups.

One thought on “I’m floored: getting your wood floors redone

  1. Louis L'Heureux

    Your willingness to go through the hard work and sacrifice needed to accomplish this long term goal is typical of how you apply yourself to life. Who you are and what you have are not the spoils of apathy. Know that if your students didn’t have people like you to guide and teach them, that they could only hope for a lifetime of jobs that were as easy as you have been performing.


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