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Original Hardwoods | To refinish? Or not. 

April 13, 2016

Our current home was built in 1926, at a time when most homes were ordered from the Sears catalogue at your local store. The materials were shipped in a rail boxcar which included everything needed to build the home. Once delivered, these homes were often assembled with the help of family and relatives. There were two options for floors, oak or fir. Oak, the harder of the two was considered an upgrade, while fir came standard with most homes.

We have fir. You can see below what they looked like when we moved in.



We went back and forth trying to decide whether the floors could be saved, or if we were better off putting in new engineered hardwoods. I love a good story, and the history behind these floors was no exception. I spent countless hours mulling over what to do and working to convince the efficient, ever practical engineer in the house that they were worth it. We knew that because they are a softer, more lightweight wood they would dent easily -something hard to stomach after spending a pretty penny to refinish them. However, after a few quotes and an extensive amount of research, we decided to refinish. One of the reasons was our original floors have a much tighter grain than anything we could afford to replace them with. Below is a look at the floors after the walls had received new drywall, can lighting and fresh paint.


We brought in a professional to do the job, as fir is extraordinarily soft and someone as spastic and inexperienced as myself should never be allowed near a drum-sander. We moved out for two weeks while the team refinished them. We also timed our two-week vacation right after so that the floors could have almost a month to cure. The Swedish-finish that is recommended for floors in the PNW is really toxic and it took a few weeks for the fumes to air out completely. Below are photos of the process.


Picking the stain. We went with the darker of the two, New American because it showed the variation in the grain of the wood but hid many of the small imperfections and variances in color due to age and wear.


It took five passes on a drum sander to reach a clean slate. Naturally, there were spots around the house where it was impossible to remove all signs of previous wear. And in a few places it appears the wood was dyed by some kind of spill, but it’s character and this stain certainly showcased the richness of the fir. Note: having your carpets cleaned commercially in place is a great way to damage the wood underneath. We think this is potentially what caused the dark squares in our living and dining rooms.


The photo above was taken after one coat of stain. We opted to have them apply three coats total to give the wood a more durable layer. Fir is really soft and we were/are concerned that it is going to wear quickly with heavy traffic and dogs. See below for the finished product!


They are beautiful, and needless to say we are thrilled with how well they turned out. Whether they were worth refinishing only time will tell -there will eventually be another post on that.






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  • I’m just now finding your blog! This is awesome! I am so envious of your talent. So much fun to watch you two restore your amazing home!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words Rossi! I’m so glad that you found it! It’s been a neat process and I’m happy that we can begin to share more of it with folks 🙂

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