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Need opinions on old plank sub-floors.
Lenna Halkes
December 18, 2012 in Design Dilemma
We are restoring a character home and in the kitchen have brought the floors down to the original plank subfloors. There are some spacing issues, etc,. I believe we can fill most cracks and put a good finish on them. I like the idea of exposing them and using them as the finished floor, but wonder will they always just look like a sub-floor. Our other option is slate tile.
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judianna20
That does not look like sub floor to me..Pine? How old is the house? Insulation under?
December 18, 2012 at 7:13pm   
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PRO
C Wright Design
Hi Lenna, I love the floors. As judyg said, they look like they are pine, which means that they are a soft wood and will ding easily, but that will just add to their character. I would have a good floor person take a look and put a satin finish on them. Be sure to do a sample of the finish on the wood to be sure that you approve the sheen (which will "knock down" in time) and color. Certain finishes will alter the color significantly but a good finish will go a long way to protect the floors over time. Best of luck!
December 18, 2012 at 7:22pm     
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Lenna Halkes
the house was built in 1913. They are def sub-floors. We tore off the oilcloth they would have put on top in that year. I love the history of the house. ... which is why I don't want to cover the floors if I can help it. There is no insulation. The basement is directly under and is dry and warm. The planks were well done, and are tongue and groove pine. We do all our own work. I did finish some in the upstairs, which looks great up there, in a jacobean stain. which is a nice med-dark and matches the original wood finish in the rest of the house, and a satin finish ... several coats to protect the soft wood. I suppose I could try the same in here and see how it works. My main concern is having all those cracks in a kitchen to fill up with gunk. .....
December 19, 2012 at 4:47am   
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windingcreek_creations
We polyurethaned our old kitchen floor. It filled the cracks and was easy to clean.
December 19, 2012 at 5:03am   
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Lenna Halkes
:) that is good to hear! Some of the cracks are a little wide. I was thinking of chinking them ... using some braided stained rope in there . Or filling them with a sawdust/stain mixture. Then using the poly. thanks. That makes me feel better.
December 19, 2012 at 5:12am     
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PRO
Custom Home Planning Center
run a 3/8" deep by 3/4" wide route in to one side of each board . Find the biggest crack and add the size of that crack + 3/8" to the 3/4 " cut in the other side. Then use a router guide set up for this with and cut away the side opposite you 1st cut. Then Glue a 3/8" deep wood strip in place. Tack this strip to one side, not both. Sand and finish. Make sure all nails are below the surface or you will tear up the sanding roller. A contrasting wood may be used if you like the look.
December 19, 2012 at 2:24pm     
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Lenna Halkes
thank you so much. What well thought out advice.
December 19, 2012 at 3:27pm   
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tinaland
Consider soap-finishing them. It's a hugely popular approach in the Scandinavian countries, and extremely easy to do yourself. It stands up to wear, too, which surprises people. These floors would look fantastic with a soap finish, if you happen to like the Scandi aesthetic.
December 19, 2012 at 6:14pm     
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C Wright Design
HI Tina, I have never heard of soap finishing. What is it and how is it used in Scandinavia? Thanks!
December 19, 2012 at 6:17pm   
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Linda
I love the idea of adding the additional board, although it does sound like lots of work. I think you would need to be sure to do it on the tongue side of the boards so you don't destroy the integrity of the tongue and groove system. One of the problems with old floors is when the floor gets sanded too much and there is very little wood left on the top of the groove, the wood tends to split and then move.

Do any of the boards move when you bounce on them? If so, you will need to resecure them to the joists before sanding. If the boards move during sanding, you'll get chatter marks which really show up when you stain the wood.

The floor guys used to make a wood paste from the saw dust collected from the first and second sanding and then use that to fill the floor before the final sand. Be careful when sanding those pine floors because it will be soft and very easily eat off too much of the floor especially with the rough cut. Since very few people have sanded a pine floor, the same methods used with oak or harder woods may not be appropriate for the softer woods.

I refinished the subfloor in my kitchen. I was planning on using cork tiles but when we got the subfloor cleaned up, it looked so nice we decided to go ahead and finish it. Mine is 3 1/2 inch douglas fir boards, up to 16 feet long with no knots. Yes, it is soft but if it gets too beat up, I can always put down my cork tiles
December 19, 2012 at 7:01pm   
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designideas4me
Is that dog licensed and bonded to do the work? If so can I hire him?
December 19, 2012 at 7:03pm   
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designideas4me
I have lots of doggie treats as payment....lol
December 19, 2012 at 7:04pm     
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Lenna Halkes
Linda, I think that is exactly what we are going to do, make a paste with the sawdust. These floors had never been touched, just oil cloth placed on top of raw planks. I just have to give them a light sanding with a couple of grits. There are a few spots that are a little wider than others where I may use the rope idea. I am not a pro, but have done floors in the past and they have turned out pretty good. I am encouraged to try, at least, I can always cover them with the slate at a later time if needed. :) Oh, and the dog is a she, Darla, she's pretty lazy, but great company. :)
December 19, 2012 at 7:12pm     
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kckris
I think you are right to tackle the spaces between the floor boards. I had random width pine planks installed in a new house. They filled the spaces with wood filler which eventually came out. In the kitchen area crumbs collected and I had to go to extra effort to get it cleaned out. Good Luck!
December 19, 2012 at 7:32pm     
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PRO
Linda
I would suggest upgrading to a two-part water base finish like Traffic or Streetshoe. Those are expensive...probably $90 - $100/gallon, but I think the finish is really durable. Those finishes are considered suitable for light commercial use where most of the poly finishes sold in the big box stores won't hold up that well.

If you decide to go with a poly, use two coats of gloss first, then screen and finish with one coat of satin if you don't want the glossy finish. Gloss finishes cure harder than satin so start with them since you'll want the durability for a heavily used space like a kitchen.

Everyone who sees my kitchen floor always comments on it, but no one ever guesses it was a subfloor. Only question for you is what if you spill something on your kitchen floor...will it drip on anything in the basement?
December 19, 2012 at 7:52pm     
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swewer
I spent several weeks in Holland and Belgium this past summer. There the exposed "natural" wood floors and furniture is all the rage. It is light, refreshing, and attractive. And it does wear very well. It is so neutral that anything goes with it. It ages well and is timeless. The floors may have been soap finished as TinaLand suggested, but to the casual observer, it looks all natural and untreated. I was thrilled after returning this summer to see Restoration Hardware do an entire catalog based on that natural wood style. Google them online or get a catalog from their store. So European old world elegant and classy. I would also imagine..low maintenance.
December 19, 2012 at 8:22pm   
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Lenna Halkes
I will def look into an upgrade for the finish. Worth the extra few bucks. There are only a couple spaces where it might drip and we are going to take care of that from underneath. We have a basement/workshop that we use for laundry, but it's old style and will never be finished. We are going to finish the attic instead. I love the idea of the natural wood, but not in this home. I want the floors to tie in with the hardwood in the rest of the house. Tx everyone Awesome responses.
December 20, 2012 at 5:30am   
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PRO
Mary Dancey Interiors
Have you looked into tongue oil? Very forgiving and easy to touch up when needed and it's old school just like your house. :)
December 20, 2012 at 5:52am   
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Lenna Halkes
I have looked into, Mary, thank you. I love it for the trim, but I think I need something to really harden the floors. They are soft pine, and in the kitchen.
December 20, 2012 at 6:02am   
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PRO
Mary Dancey Interiors
Lenna, are you sure the pine is soft? With the house being built in 1918 you may have old growth pine floors and my understanding is that old growth is much harder than pine we purchase today. I have a client with an early 1900's home, all the floor boards were 1-1/2" thick and old pine, just as hard as todays oak they were told. :)
December 20, 2012 at 6:08am      Thanked by Lenna Halkes
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Lenna Halkes
wow. That is great to know They are pine and they def date the age of the house, 1913, and they are VERY thick. :)
December 20, 2012 at 7:11am   
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Lenna Halkes
correction: I am pretty sure they are pine. Not 100%
December 20, 2012 at 7:12am   
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Sara Parker
Love the look of your floors! I wouldn't stain them yet. We have Abaco pine in old houses in the Bahamas and it is VERY hard. Good luck.
December 20, 2012 at 8:04am   
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Lenna Halkes
I wanted to thank everyone for commenting and give you an update. I tried doing the sawdust, glue/ stain mix and what a mess I made. So, I cleaned that up and decided on chinking, using twine to fill most of the gaps. I went with a jacobean stain and three coats of poly. My husband then custom made trim to match the chunky trim in the rest of the house. One thing I learned, it's best not to get the synthetic stuff as it frays and does not take the stain as well. I love how it turned out. Thanks again for all of your input! I posted some pics so you can see how it turned out. :)
January 13, 2013 at 1:33pm     
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PRO
Lehman Wood Products Ltd.
They look amazing!
January 13, 2013 at 1:44pm      Thanked by Lenna Halkes
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Bonnie Reherman
Hah, I didn't even see the cat at first!
February 24, 2014 at 5:53pm     
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Lori Dennis, ASID, LEED AP
just wood putty those cracks my friend. it doesn't look like a subfloor.
February 24, 2014 at 6:27pm   
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PRO
Mary Dancey Interiors
I love that you filled the cracks with twine!! They look great. It's a year later, how is it holding up?
February 24, 2014 at 6:41pm     
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