floor stripping and finishing- getting to hardwoods.


In both houses I am fortunate to have hardwoods under all the new materials time has thrown at the homes. I am really not good at building new things, so if I can rip stuff out to make an improvement- I’m in!

The old house
So, it has been a long few years on the floor. In our first house we had 1930’s Heart Pine hiding under asbestos tiles that were stuck down with tar backed paper, that was stuck down with a water based glue. Needles to say, I learned a lot of tricks by the time I was done with those, and it was not for the faint of heart.

-The tile contained asbestos
I sent it to the lab, not sure where now, but I found the link on the internet, printed out the paperwork and mailed a sample in a double zip locked bag. It came back about a week later and was less than 1%. This prompted me to heat the tiles with a heat gun and slowly peal up as to not release the encapsulated particles. Because the tiles were a solid rubberized material, the asbestos was not likely to become air born unless I really chopped it up. I have heard stories of some guys grandma living to 100, after working 30 years in an asbestos factory with particles flying around the mill like clouds. That being said, taking risks with these materials is not cool.

-The tar needed to be penetrated, and the stripper needed to be kept moist
(get your mind out of the gutter)
I found the best solution for this was CitriStrip laid on thick and covered tightly with kitchen plastic wrap. You can not let this dry out! It had to sit for at least 24 hours to break down the tar, but not long enough to dry up. If it did dry, you would need to get it wet again in order to scrape.

Click this link to purchase

Mistakes-
I used another, more caustic stripper at first, and that drove the black from the tar directly into the wood. I also tried a few other types that did nothing at all.
I tried to use plastic drop cloths instead of plastic wrap, they do not seal down tight enough and become pretty messy. You really tend to work in smaller sections, so the wrap works best. Surprisingly, it goes a long way, even when replacing for multiple applications. I managed to only use one roll for a medium sized floor.
-The glue was water soluble and needed boiling water

Once the tar was compromised, I could pour boiling water on the glue that held the tar paper to the floor, and loosen the grip. Don’t be afraid to play around with different methods for different materials.
– We sanded, I chose not to on my current house

Sanding provided a cleaner look for the floors, but since we were going with rustic anyway, I would have left the darker patina on them in hindsight, as we used a Tung oil finish that was very forgiving.
You can see later in this post for more on that.


The new house
Hillside was blanketed with old carpet. By Blanketed, I mean glued down to the original hardwoods in ways you could only imagine. Every square inch. Oh, and then some areas had linoleum nailed to plywood on top of that.


This red carpet got torn out slowly, section by section. The floor had been painted under the glue.

This was scraping day, after about 24 hours of CitriStrip under plastic wrap. It all scraped off in an oily mess, and note it is still wet as I mentioned before.

After of few months of section by section, I was left with bare floor. Note the darker strip was the path between my daughter’s room and the stairs, I did put one coat of Waterlox Tung oil on there initially to protect it while I got the rest finished.

In progress with Waterlox Tung Oil. As I mentioned, I stuck with the rustic look on these, and did not sand. I have a few reasons for this….
1. sanding sucks, real bad. The mess, the dust, the labor.
2. in our last house we sanded and the floors came out a much lighter orange tone, and I really the darker patina.
3. with Tung oil, the product soaks into the wood rather than sitting top like a plastic coating (most modern finishes). This makes it much easier to spot treat, or change your mind about things later down the line.

4. I am not going for fancy, I like to keep the character there, with 3 kids and 2 dogs, it will be back soon enough any way.

The hall still needs the pain stripped off the stairs and a new paint job, but for now, the red carped is gone and I have durable, pretty floor.


Lastly- How to make a floor nice without sanding – for now. The lazy refinish

The floors in our twin parlors were carpeted- up the walls.

We ripped out the carpet and had some nice oak under there. Looks like someone beat it up pretty bad with the wrong type of sander at some point. Adding to that, he finish was worn off in most places, every time a kid spilled some water, a stain appeared. Again, I am not ready to get out a sander, so I called on my good old trusty Waterlox Tung oil for a temporary fix. I have much bigger plans for these rooms in the future, and they require work that will most likely mess up the floor finish anyway (I’m coming for YOU plaster ceiling and walls that have brick and old beams underneath).

As you can see, even the first coat really made a difference!

I did both rooms at different times, the right side is completely finished.

One thing to note – Make sure if there is a finish currently on our floor, it is something that will react properly to the Tung oil! If not, you could end up with a real big mess.

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