Last updated on June 13th, 2017
Fifteen years ago, when we purchased this old (1826) house, we turned one of the upstairs bedrooms into a library. The floor was already covered in wall-to-wall carpeting. I once lifted a corner of the carpet, only to discover the floor boards beneath were in terrible shape. “Not worth refinishing,” I thought to myself.
Enter Michael Kerner, the old-house flooring specialist who recently refinished our entrance hall. He lifted a corner of carpeting just as I had, and discovered, with his well-trained eyes, heart pine boards that maybe would require only minor repairs.
I remained skeptical. Who, after all, could predict what we’d find under other carpeted corners, and elsewhere in the room? Ugly plywood, perhaps? “Well,” said Michael, “there’s only one thing to do.”
With sweat dripping from our brows, we emptied the room of eight large bookcases, hundreds of hard-bound books, plus two couches, one chair, and a horrifically heavy, marble-topped coffee table. The bookcases were temporarily relocated to the upstairs hall. Furniture was crammed into other upstairs rooms.
As my heart thumped nervously (house projects always excite me), Michael — seen above, inserting a new razor into his cutting gadget — sliced away huge sections of carpet and under-padding. And what did he unearth?
He unearthed a couple of miracles, baby. Heart pine in the center of the room…
And old spruce under the window bay.
He also found 2,847,569 carpet tacks. Over the next few days, Michael removed every one of those tacks while I ate bon-bons and sipped champagne.
Once the tacks were raised, and every 19th-century nail was counter-sunk, and one badly-chipped floor board was flipped over, Michael proceeded to sand the floor. And after he sanded the floor, he sanded some more! Then he sanded yet again, just to remove his sanding marks.
What’s the sign of a good sanding-job? The floor should feel as smooth as glass when you swipe your finger against the grain.
We opted not to stain the floor, but to let the wood retain its natural color. The color deepened dramatically after MIchael applied a clear sealant.
The final step was to apply a matte finish of polyurethane. Poly is super-durable — a big requirement for me.
Here’s the library floor before the polyurethane dried. What a shine!
But I prefer the no-shine glow of the finished, dry floor.
Today, sans its wall-to-wall carpeting, the library feels both cleaner and healthier. A dry, microfiber dust mop removes both pet hair and dust. Scuff marks from shoes are quickly wiped away with a dry (or barely dampened) cloth. It’s an easy floor to maintain!
Got any repair or improvement projects scheduled for your own home? Talk to me in the comments field below.
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Stunning! I am hoping that someday I can also refinish the floors in my 1894 home. Than you for sharing.
Myrtle Miller says
On a pretty day might be a good idea to open the windows just to make sure there are no residual fumes. If there is such a thing as residual fumes. My favorite pic is before it dries. Beautiful shine. One day my eagle claw table will be fixed. Probably not anytime soon though. I also have a corner table that I got years ago that is in serious need of repair. I think its an antique.
Susan Iseman says
YES! We found an excellent craftsman who will “resurface” our old, paint encrusted, maddeningly crappy hinged kitchen cabinets for HALF the cost of installing new cabinets. They keep the existing cabinet boxes (solid wood) and make them look like new- lots of drawers instead of cabinet doors – no more bending down to get at those big pots! A total redesign & I can’t wait! Your floors looks fabulous- love the finish. I have wide plank pine also. Just don’t walk on it in your stilettos!
Kevin, that floor is so lovely! I’m glad you took the plunge to investigate — that room was built for that floor.
Years ago, in a 100-year-old home we no longer own, the wall-to-wall carpeting we inherited most definitely needed to go. We pulled it back in a number of spots and the oak flooring underneath was just a disaster. So we despondently ordered replacement carpeting for that section of the house. Fast forward to the day of installation. Carpet installers call upstairs to me, as I worked in my office, saying I should take a look at the floor. Which was beautiful. We’d managed to pull it up in the only spots that were a disaster. We sent the carpet installers home and refinished and repaired the floors. You just never know until all the old carpet is up and out of the way, I guess.
Jerry Miller says
Wow!!! What a beautiful floor. The room looks great.
Looks beautiful. Great job!
The floors look amazing!! And they complement the wall color that was already there.
Having pulled up those carpet tacks before (and even helped a friend do it in her house) you were smart to opt for the bon-bon and champagne route! That task is no fun.
In a previously owned house we peeled back the 1950’s-60’s carpet (which had been glued to the floorboards!!) in our dining room with the help of pliers, stanley knives and a lot of patience over the course of several weeks. Even though some of the boards splintered the finished result was a success and well worth the effort.
Bravo! A fantastic job.
Deborah Goodman says
WOW! This looks beautiful and inviting!!! This reminds me of something that happened when I was growing up. I was brought up in an old home. Mom decided she needed to paint and put in new carpet not long after we moved in. Dad thought the paint on the stair way and wood work should be stripped before new paint was on. Low and behold the dinning room was ALL old oak!! Stairway, floors and wood work. Did we paint and put carpet down? Heck No! Instead after school, homework and on the weekends for the next three weeks found everybody in the family, and any neighborhood kid that should stop by, stripping paint and pulling up carpet. We then sanded woodwork, stairs and the floor. Talk about dusty!!! After Dad got the sealant on the room was beautiful. Moral of the story is when you buy an old house you never know what hidden treasures lay under mounds of paint and yucky carpet. What I want to know is just what posses people to cover such beauty up?
Looks fabulous. My only query is why use polyurethane? We have old floors and have had them all renovated using tung oil. It’s just as tough as polyurethane and has a warm glow to it but it doesn’t do any harm to the wood.
Anne in Vermont, zone 4/5 says
Congratulations on having the nerve (see below) to take this on. The results are stunning.
The last time I had floors sanded and refinished was over thirty years ago and the dust was a nightmare. Equipment and techniques have, hopefully, made great strides so can you PLEASE comment on the amount of dust generated not by moving the books but by the actual sanding and resanding and resanding? This late eighteenth century house has heart pine upstairs badly in need of refinishing, but thus far I have been put off by my earlier experience and my friends who have done this all had the work done before they moved in.
As for my projects, just this week the tiler finished after eight work days replacing wall to wall with porcelain tiles. This is in an addition, so the there was only plywood underneath. What an improvement. I considered wood, prefinished wood, but settled on tile because the room has three exterior doors and because I hope one day to have a dog.
Best wishes, Anne
Floor looks terrific. One question. Did you use oil based or water based polyurethane? Everyone I know who has used water based has had very disappointing results with long term wear.
Love love love those beautiful heart pine floors! You and Michael deserve a nice reward for all that work! I do understand and appreciate the love of an old home. I lived for 27 years in a home built in the late 1800s. We now have a new home with cherry floors and I struggle between finishing with a glossy finish or a matte finish. Yours matte finish is lovely and it has helped me choose. Thanks for a wonderful blog and am enjoying your new videos too.
Best Regards, Selma
Martey Costello says
We had the same beautiful red pine floors when we lived at the other end of your village! I still remember how wonderful the pine smelled when I sanded them, as fragrant as the day that they were laid in 1830 something. Enjoy!
Beverly, Zone 6, Eastern PA says
The house is lucky to have you as owner and caretaker. What a wonderful result. That paint color is nice, too.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Anne in VT – In the past 60 days, we’ve had both the entrance hall and the upstairs library floors refinished. Surprisingly, the dust wasn’t bad. So you are right — major strides have been made in the field of floor-refinishing!
Hi Stan – Since durability was important to me, I chose oil-based poly.
What a thrill to see the beauty of that old wood unfold! I always look forward to your posts.
Mindy Bush says
I can do bon-bons and sip champagne, next floor revival, call me! BTW, really nice job on the floor. Totally worth the removal of tacks and all the hard work. Congrats!
In a previously owned house built in 1915, we had the maple wood floors refinished. We did it in two parts, half the main floor at a time. Living room & Dining room first, then later kitchen and entry. Glued down rubber backed carpet in the kitchen, yuck, it was horrible to remove. We used ice scrapers and I never thought that ugly blackness would come off. Very worn carpet in the living and dining rooms. Cat pee in many places stained the floor. I was totally amazed how the floor looked after they were sanded by a professional. We applied a poly varnish, by hand. The floors were gorgeous when done.
Julie R says
Your floors turned out so nice, Kevin. I like the matte finish and the wall color goes so well with the newly redone floor. I enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading about your floor redo.
Some years ago, I pulled up the carpet in my daughters bedrooms, which has hardwood oak floors under the carpet. Also pulled up the carpet in my bedroom, which has that same oak floor. All three rooms could use refinishing….some day. Darn, I didn’t think to have bon-bons during those projects. = ) I’ll keep that in mind for the next time that I take on a project.
Samantha Gray says
Today a fence (part wood, part coated wire) is going up around our property. My husband is having mega-knee(s) surgery and there is no one to walk the dogs while he is recovering at home, as this nurse practitioner must cover the office for a vacationing doc. The fence will permit him to take the dogs (rough collies – think Lassie 1 and Lassie 2) out into the back yard off leash to allow them time for their own needs, while removing the concern that they will romp down the block merrily herding the neighbors’ cats and the occasional squirrel. My son has come up from Va. for the weekend to do the work, bless him! If all goes as planned, I’ll be able to grow snail vine, morning glories and sweet peas up one particularly sunny section.
MARIA LOURDES HERNANDEZ says
How lucky can you be with that un-earthed wonderful wooden floor! Great job!
Rhonda Strahler says
Just stunning! I love the large windows – sans curtains! – also. what a wonderful place to relax with a book!
That is a beautiful floor. And so much easier than carpet.
Great job, Kevin. The room looks beautiful. In my first three houses, I tore out carpet and had the beautiful wood floors refinished. In my current house, I tore out the most disgusting carpeting ever in the living room and hall. I had oak floors to match the existing floors in other rooms installed. This is the first time I installed wood in the kitchen and I love it. I don’t think carpet can ever be more beautiful or practical than hardwood.
The floor is gorgeous! Your finished library is so inviting it makes me want to grab one of those books and a glass of wine for a relaxing afternoon. Great job!
Lesley Anne Faith Lamont says
As always, Kevin, beautiful! Thanks for sharing. Love, love your site and your posts. Keep on keeping on!
Leslie D says
Congratulations on a beautiful job!
Wow! That is georgous. So love real wood floors and yours looks so happy to be finally showing its true beauty.
May I ask what brand of couch/es you have. They look super comfy and are perfect in the room.
Thanks for your wonderful posts on such a variety of topics 🙂
Just curious, Kevin, how long did that flooring project take to complete. We’ve done many renovation projects and I know how long some can take. Thanks for the great videos and recipes.
Question: In your tour of your lovely gardens, you show a beautiful potted plant with flowers that resemble petunias and you comment that they do not require deadheading. I couldn’t understand (old ears) the name of those flowers. Please! Let me know. To have the beauty of petunias without the tiresome deadheading? Perfect! Thank you!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Patrice – Refinishing job was completed in about 8 days.
Marjie T. says
Brian T says
Looks beautiful in a photo, I can’t imagine in person. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for this blog, where we could follow along in the photos. I too like the lesser gloss finish and your floors are just beautiful! So much nicer than carpet.
Cookbook Collector says
It’s a year later and now you are currently struggling with the new stair carpet and hall runner colors. I commented on they needed to be decoratively pulled together…well, same with these two sofa in this library room. To pull colors together using just is shown above, swop the two pillow sets by putting the green print pattern pillows on the blue sofa and the blue print pillows on the green sofa. To pull space together, place a rug between the facing sofas. To provide reading illumination, add at least 3 lamps (table or floor stand lamps)….and then start layering. You probably have already finished decorating this room, but it is always fun to tweak thing from time to time. Mixing colors and patterns helps colors and tones blend rather than individual colors glaringly stand out. On the main floor hall, to add another areas for the eye to land on and provide a weighted area, one or two straight chairs could be added up against the wall on either side of the hall table. Padded chair seats could be covered in just the colors and prints that also pull the hall and stairs together. I’d love to see how this library turned out! Any chance in posting more pictures?