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Antique Heart Of Pine Flooring Restoration

By Edited Sep 5, 2015 5 16

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Heart of Pine Floor - Before


Heart Of Pine Floor - After Restoration




       If you are lucky enough to have antique heart of pine floors in your home, count yourself as having a magnificent antique that will never be found again.    

      Sometimes bundles of this precious wood are found at the bottom of bayous, rivers or forgotten in old barns for safekeeping through the centuries.  Reclaimed heart of pine wood is highly prized by woodworkers, homeowners and contractors alike.

     Heart of pine, a "softwood", is often called a "hardwood".  It was derived from the "heart" of huge centuries old pine trees, the likes we do not see anymore. 

     I am one of the lucky ones who do, in fact, have antique heart of pine floors that "had never been touched", a rarity in itself.  They had never been finished, covered by rugs or even waxed as far as anyone could tell and were in dire straits.

     In my quest to finish, seal, and protect my floors I contacted flooring companies who wanted to bring in big, heavy, machines that would have sanded off layers of that fabulous heart pine "until it was perfect" and then would have sealed them with a shiny plastic looking finish and noxious VOC ladened fumes. 

     To give you an idea of pricing, a mere 790 sq ft would have commanded a price of $3,000.00 plus.

     I decided to tackle the job myself, as the very thought of heavy machinery blasting through my little antique home leaving a "gym floor finish" - that is oh, so fashionable, but not at all my rustic, old-world  style - that really, I had no choice.  Never mind the cost!

     It was one of the hardest and time-consuming jobs I had ever tackled and although a thoroughly satisfying result was achieved, I truly hope to never do that again.  It was a painful task.


Things you will need:

first aid kit, fans, fresh air

respirator or dust masks, hearing and eye protection, gloves


mops, buckets, rags, access to fresh water

large bucket of sawdust (fine as possible) 

 scrapers both sharp and blunt

scrubbing brushes, kitchen and hand brooms

trowel & mixing containers

hammers & nails (or wood screws), toolbox

shop vac with extension cords

palm sander with packs of #60 & #120 grit sandpaper

 paint brushes - large & small 

        Minwax Water-Based, Oil-Modified, Flooring Polyurethane                          (clear satin)

clothing you will never want to wear again aka "rags"

Time, in terms of a month or so



#1. Clean, clean, and clean again with vinegar & water. Sweep, scrub, mop every square inch until rinse water is as clear as possible.

     a) Be aware NOT to use commercial cleaners or cleaning waxes that may bind into the fibers of the wood....the protective coating will not adhere.

#2.  Scrape every crack between the floorboards to dislodge debris using a knife, thin screwdriver or trowel.

#3.  De-nail random or re-nail loose nails. Replace rusted square head, hand-made nails if needed. (keep for towel hangers, etc.)

 #4. Mix a compound of fine sawdust, found at your local mill shop or big box store, with the polyurethane you are going to use as the Coating. Mix to a thick cookie dough consistency.

  #5. Trowel this mixture into the bigger cracks and ill-fitting ends of boards or places the wood has failed due to previous insect infestation or water leaks.

     a) Turn off your air conditioning or heater unit at this point as the fine dust the sander will make CAN harm the unit's motor.

    b)  Use a good dust mask, ear protection, safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself when sanding.

  #6.  Sand and re-sand with #60 grit sandpaper, secured in a square palm hand sander, to open up the fibers & to scuff and smooth the boards for finishing. Sand away splinters, rough areas and surface stains. 

   #7.  Vacuum with a shop vac over and over, taking care to keep the filter clean as to not re-distribute the dust and debris.

#8.  Again, mop with vinegar and water - then, finally, just water  - until the boards have an "as fresh scrubbed look" as possible.

      a) Take care to use a damp or wet mop, but not dripping wet. Your wood must never be soaked.

      b) If your wood feels damp - have fans, at the ready, to help dry before proceeding.

#9. With a paint brush, apply Minwax Water-Based, Oil Modified, Clear Satin Polyurethane (very low smell) or any floor polyurethane, oil or wax to every board and every side and end of board visible.

   a) In the kitchen and bathroom, for extra protection, re-sand with #120 grit sandpaper, lightly, to re-scuff and re-apply the clear satin poly.

    b)  My bathroom floor (which could not be salvaged) was milk-painted "white pearl", leaving a patina matching the original aged floor boards. In addition, milk-paint is self-sealing after it cures.

#10. Within 4 - 8 hours the floor should be ready for walking and within 24 hours furniture could be moved in. Check the label of the product of your choice.
#11. If a more shiny look is desired, re-sand lightly (#120 grit) & re-apply poly up to 3 - 4 times.
     a) 1 (one) coat of clear satin Minwax was used in photo.
#12. Clean-up of tools can be achieved with water (and vinegar) if using the Minwax Flooring Product noted. Dispose all extra "cookie dough" and containers.
Warnings & Extra Tips
*Most days you will feel as though you have been run over by a truck (twice).....this is normal as you will be bending from the waist or on your knees for hours a day. Your back "will scream & beg" for mercy.
*Your hands and arms will hurt, tingle or be completely numb (esp during the night and in the morning as your coffee cup falls to the ground)....this is normal  as the constant vibrations from controlling the palm sander does a "job" on you, inflaming nerves and tendons. 
*Your body will shrink away from the very sight of wood, a sander or paint brush and "those days" will be best spent soaking in Epsom Salt baths and in bed with ice cream, pillows, books, TV, and laptop. 
*Listen to your body as time allows...some days there will be no choice but pushing it will only exacerbate the above.
*Enlarge and print the "after" photo and refer to often on those "low down dirty I HATE wood floors" days.
*Do one room at a time to keep spirits up.
*You will be ambidextrous with every tool noted above at end of project.
       The scratches, dings, and dents that may occur at move-in will only add to the, not-at-all-perfect, patina that years of rough 19th century living will have left on your antique heart of pine flooring.

     The satisfaction that one receives from "doing it yourself" is just remarkable and in my humble opinion, could not have been met by any other means.

     The deep gouges, burn marks from wood burning stoves, water stains and old milk-paint splashes - that CAN NOT be removed via this method - will be beautifully and naturally "restored" and "highlighted" and be greatly respected by anyone who experiences these awesome antique floors.

 Walking barefoot on them is akin to, I imagine, walking in heaven...






May 26, 2011 9:30pm
Wonderful pictures. The floors looks so buttery smooth. If this is the house you are restoring ... it's going to look beautiful when you are finished!
May 26, 2011 9:52pm
It looks beaugiful! It's a lot of work but well worth it when you see it finished. You may as well say this wood is extinct and to have it in your home is definitely worth the effort.
May 26, 2011 10:24pm
DD: Yes, it IS my droppy little house! Isn't she getting along just great? Thank you so much for dropping by and reading my article.
May 26, 2011 10:30pm
Darlene: Thank you so much. Yes, I took on an historic house restoration in 2009 (which sometimes scares me with economic times as they are) but it was floors like these and the fact the entire house is built with extinct cypress inside and out (besides the floors) that just "pulled me in". I appreciate your comment so much!
May 26, 2011 11:31pm
Great job girl and a great follow up article..(~;
May 27, 2011 7:23am
Thank you dreamaker - thank you so much for the helpful advice you gave me via your "HandyMan" blog. I truly appreciate you.
May 27, 2011 5:19pm
What a gorgeous floor-stunning and cared for with love! Nice share. I have Tasmanian Burlewood (Mannington) in most of my house, and I love it because it always looks clean, even though it's not. Mine is a step above Pergo, not authentic like yours. Great work! Thumbs up.
May 27, 2011 8:40pm
footloose: My neice has flooring just like yours and they are AMAZING. Truly, I was astounded with her floors. Absolutely beautiful product - had never seen before. I would most definitely pick them if I had to change my flooring. Thank you so much for your comment and enjoying my article.
Jun 9, 2011 12:49pm
WOW!!! You little nest should be featured on DIY. I really enjoy following your progress. ^5
Jun 9, 2011 1:31pm
Thank you Lysuz. I appreciate your comment very much. I must say that I am very proud of my little nest (and perhaps my age is being revealed) but I will never put myself through this again and can't seem to "quite recover from it"....or perhaps I am just being lazy right now. Thanks again - it helps to have support like yours.
Jun 12, 2011 9:20am
This is truely great and I can understand how you feel. Doing the work yourself is so rewarding been there done that in so many houses. The trouble is each time we fix things up we decide to sell then we have to start all over again. Our latest project is going to be the last ...I hope... at nearly 70 I think we have done our share.

And it is hard hard work, lifting heavy timbers,(my husband cant understand why I cant lift as much as him) haha. concreting, building patios. Usually it is the finished patio that causes friends to say well when does it go on the market to sell.
Good onya and keep up the good work
Jun 12, 2011 2:46pm
Eileen thank you! You really do understand how hard this is/was to do AND minus the husband!

Yes, I think you two have done your share and I salute you! I can't believe y'all keep doing this over and over. Blows my mind.

I highly doubt will EVER do this again. Perhaps after my body recovers...keep waiting for THAT to happen..lol. You and others here at Infobarrel help keep me going...and I really do love this droopy little house - but she is giving me a run for my money as they say.

My neighbors are probably thinking "is she EVER going to finish and clean up that yard"?!!! (it IS awful)

I appreciate you dropping by and reading my article.
Jun 15, 2011 5:42pm
Beautiful... It looks like a horrible effort, but paid off!
Jun 16, 2011 7:49am
Irene: Thank you so much for dropping by. I appreciate it. Yes, it was horrid and yes, it did pay off! (sometimes ignorance REALLY is bliss)lol
Jun 16, 2011 3:44pm
I think many amazing things wouldn't have been discovered or wouldn't have happened if the responsible people knew how difficult they were to accomplish from the start :)
Jun 17, 2011 8:10am
I agree completely and don't mean to complain at all. I wanted to convey that this was an NOT an easy project...(for me)..but a thoroughly satisfying one! Also, wanted people to be aware and careful. It was definitely not something to be taken lightly but again, so cool to be able to say, "I DID THAT"!
Thank you so much for the comment. Peace today, V
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