Unveiling Hardwood Floors

Apparently in the 60s it was common to put hardwood floors and Sheetrock in homes to meet code and obtain a mortgage and then immediately cover these beautiful surfaces by installing wall-to-wall carpet and gluing up wood paneling.  This is such a design tragedy to me, but the silver lining is that 45 years later we gave these floors a chance to reveal their true beauty.  Whereas tearing the paneling down left us with Sheetrock that was beyond repair, our 1 1/2 inch red oak floors were salvageable.

Now in my dream world we would have rolled back the carpet, screened the floor with a buffer, applied a few coats of new finish and enjoyed the results with minimal effort.  However, this was not our reality.  Years of pets living in the home and careless carpet installers left us with some tricky but not impossible challenges.  As a child I was called ‘stubborn’ but more often as an adult I am called ‘determined’ and these floors required a healthy dose of determination.

The prep work alone was time-consuming yet oddly enough enjoyable for me.  We ripped out the carpet from three bedrooms, a hallway, and a living room.  At times this was challenging with three young ones under foot but I do have to say they proved to have some real skills.  Armed with pry bars, hammers, and pliers they helped take out much of the carpet tack strip and thousands of staples.

Gouges left from carpet being installed with a "stringer."  There were probably over a hundred of these.
Gouges left from carpet being installed with a “stringer.” There were probably over a hundred of these.
Just a few of the pet urine stains we unveiled.
Just a few of the pet urine stains we unveiled.
My assistants hard at work
My assistants hard at work

I decided that we should also attempt to sand, prime, and paint all the sad looking wood trim before finishing the floors and that led into painting all the door casings. Man, does the scope of a project quickly grow.  After two weeks of prep, reading endless amounts of information on redoing floors, watching lots of YouTube videos, and getting a crash course of using the equipment from the friendly people at Pete’s Hardwood Flooring we were ready to get into the nitty gritty of the project.  Having run a marathon before I can say that this project was physically like running a marathon after only training for a 10k.  I am in relatively good shape, but the three 14 hour days it took to sand and finish the floors left me crawling up the stairs at the end of the day.

All in all we sanded 750 sq/ft of floors with three grits of sand paper on both the drum sander and the edger (don’t let any tv show convince you that these machines are easy to use), put wood fill in all the gouges and nail holes, ran the buffer over everything to blend it all, hand sanded out remaining edger swirl, and applied a finish.  Once we determined that the pet urine stains were there for good, we decided to go with a darker finish to mask them rather than invest in replacing the boards.

Before and after sanding
Before and after sanding
After sanding
After sanding
Pet stains are barely noticeable
Pet stains are barely noticeable

For multiple reasons we chose to use Rubio Monocoat in Chocolate.  It is a penetrating oil with a hard wax finish.

  1. It is a non-toxic zero VOC product.
  2. It allows us to do maintenance to keep it looking good every couple of years without moving furniture or sanding.
  3. It allowed us to put pigment to the wood without the extra step of staining.
  4. It is a single coat application!

This really was a cool product to work with.  You apply it with a buffer, let it set for 5 minutes, then buff it out.  The finished result has a matte finish and feels quite modern.  I am hopeful that it will hold up well for many, many years.


We love how this project changed the look of the house.    It was an economical way to get rid of the carpet that had seen better days.  I may have muttered countless times, “I am never doing this again!” But now that my muscles have recovered and I can sit back and enjoy the results.  I am reminded that it may be one of those things like child birth that is not enjoyable in the moment but so rewarding in the end…so maybe I shouldn’t say ‘never.’

Finished view
Finished view

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