Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hardwood Floors: Here We Go...

Exciting grown-up news, over here. Guess who's having her hardwood floors refinished? I'll give you a hint: it's me! (oops, I'm not very good at that game...)

The decision to look into spending a nice little chunk of change having the 800 square feet of original red oak flooring in our 1960 home refinished originally stemmed from practicality... so out of character for me, I know. The floors aren't in great condition after 50 years; there are stains and entire boards that need to be replaced, the poly is glossy and yellowed in some places and almost completely worn away in others, which is really hard on the poor wood below. Yep, the hubster and I decided that the floors needed a little love if they were going to last. 

See? So practical. Look at me thinking of ways to take care of my little house to make sure that the floors are in good condition for a long time. Are we so impressed?

After we got all that boring responsible reasoning out of the way, it dawned on me that I would have orange oak floors no longer - it was a monumental realization and the moment I officially climbed aboard the "refinishing floors is cool!" bandwagon. I haven't built a house or undertaken a large remodel project, so this will be the biggest, most permanent and expensive house design decision I will have made... I admit, I'm giddy over the prospect. I get to change the entire aesthetic of my home. I can't wait!

(An aside to consider: what makes a person seem older: grey hair or unreasonable excitement levels over appliances and flooring? 'Cause I have both neither.)

In the last couple of days we've gotten three bids from different local flooring companies and are ready to make a decision soon... and these are the things I've been pondering:

Water-based vs. oil-based poly
All three of the companies we spoke with are comfortable using both types of polyurethanes and advised me to pick what I was comfortable with. To my understanding, the majority of floors are still coated in oil-based polyurethanes, but water-based finishes seem to be the 'way of the future.' They give off fewer fumes and dry faster which allows for less time between coats; however, this can be a double-edged sword because the faster dry time also makes them more difficult to apply, so it's important to find a skilled finisher who is comfortable with this type of product. 
Water-based is also more expensive, but I've read that it's just as strong (or even stronger) than oil-based finishes-- note that it's not the same water-based poly that is sold in the big box stores; these are special products that flooring companies can order. 

The last thing to consider is that water-based finishes stay crystal clear while oil-based polyurethanes do yellow... and while I was definitely leaning toward toward the clear water-based finish, I know some people really do like the warm glow an oil-based finish can provide to a wood floor and might even consider a clear water-based finish to be cold. It's just a personal preference!
In the end, we have decided to go with water-based both for the non-yellowing finish and because of air quality concerns -- we will be camping out in the basement at night and I'm just not comfortable with the higher level of fumes produced by an oil-based poly.
Sheen level
If you so desire, your wood floors can be glossy like a gymnasium. Well... I don't desire - glossy floors feel so formal to me. The less shine, the more forgiving the floor. Higher gloss finishes are less forgiving when it comes to imperfections in the surface, but they also show off scratches, dust, pet hair, footprints and smudges more than their lower sheen counterparts. You had me at dust. Have I mentioned that mopping floors is one of my least favorite chores? We will most definitely be going with an easier, more relaxed satin finish (unless the floor company has something even flatter, haha!)
Stain color
This is the topic that has me tossing and turning at night. I know I want a darker stain, but I also know I don't want deep ebony floors. Some people believe dark floors make a room look smaller, but I think they can actually ground the space, especially with plenty of crisp white trim throughout the room - the combination is enough to make me swoon, really! I also know that I have a golden retriever, and I don't care. I'll ask Santa for a Roomba next Christmas or something. I'll dye the dog black. I'll shave her to look like a Labrador. I don't know what I'll do, but I'll make it work.

Darker floors also show dirt and footprints more than lighter ones -- so I'm shooting for a medium dark brown and hoping that all the grain in my red oak floors will help break the color up and disguise the dirt a bit. I want the floors to be warm without reading yellow or orange. Once the floors are sanded they'll put some stain samples down, but I would like to have a good idea of some floors I like so I can give the floor guys someplace to start.

Does anybody have photos of gorgeous medium dark brown floors they can share? I'd love to see them!


  1. Hey Anna!
    We have a medium dark floor in our house and I love it. Its not too dark and not too light. You can see pictures of it in my tour my house button. I am super excited for you!!

    Love your guts

  2. Hi Anna!
    Soon we are going to be doing our floors too... I like dark but my husband doesn't so we have to go a little bit in the middle... you can check my pinterest.. I have a few of them is actually kind of dark..but the links will take you to a web with a lot of samples... Hope this helps!!

  3. Oooh floors are so exciting. We're in the middle of putting down flooring ourselves and it's such a pain in the butt. I wish you luck! Also, and this is just my two cents, I know you'll pick something gorgeous regardless... if you want a warm-y handrubbed look to the floors, you might consider (watco) danish oil vs. stain.. then using the water based poly on top.

    PS Those oxidized (green) copper lanterns in the middle kitchen there are lovely!

  4. Hi Anna! Just found your blog! I LOVE hardwood floors - we are currently looking to purchase our first home and hardwood floors are definitely at the top of my list - so beautiful!

  5. I love dark hardwood floors. We went super dark ( with a satin finish. We have multiple pets so it does require lots of cleaning but I don't mind at all. They make the house look very open, and are a perfect contrast to our white trim and bright/cool colored walls.
    Can't wait to see the finished result!

  6. I redid my 80yr old oak floors with a medium finish as well. After they were all sanded by my contractor, I applied 3 coats of 2/3s dark tung oil and 1/3 regular tung oil. I sed 100% pure tung oil from The Real Milk Paint Co. It's an old school, natural, non toxic finish that is matte and makes the grain really pop. It darkens and seals them at the same time. I've been told you do have to rub a little on every year or so in heavy traffic areas, but it's been a year with mine and they still look great. If you get a scratch, it's easily fixed by just rubbing a little more oil on it, so it's totally DIY friendly. I have white trim and mostly light green-blue-gray walls, I think they compliment each other well. There are some shots of the floors here and elsewhere on my blog:

  7. The floors in our house are the exact color of the Minneapolis Traditional Staircase picture. Lots of pics on my blog. I love them - it's such a good compromise. They're dark enough that they seem modern but light enough that they don't show tiny toeprints and dust and hair. In fact I was laying on the floor once and asked hubster how clean the floors looked (answer: fabulous) because from my closer angle they were as dusty as all get-out.

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