So I Ripped Up My Pine Floors on a Whim. As One Does.

Part of the fun of living in a heritage house is the fact that there’s always something new and weird to discover. Sometimes it’s a 180 year old brick wall behind the drywall and sometimes it’s a gigantic nest of malformed centipedes in the rubble basement.  Last week for me, the discovery was not one, but TWO 100 year old floors beneath my current pine floor.  Here’s how I found out that little bit of information (it involves me being mental) …

I sat quietly on my living room sectional a few mornings ago, a coffee in one hand, a phone in the other.  I was talking to my sister Pink Tool Belt.  All I can remember from the conversation is her saying “I’d rip that floor up“.  I have zero idea of how we got to that point in the conversation.

Was I talking about my foyer floor?  I didn’t think I was.  I’m pretty sure I was talking about how the curve of spacetime intersects the event horizon of black holes.  I mean, I usually am.

The next thing I knew I was foaming at the mouth (that’s a dramatic way of saying brushing my teeth) and then running down to the basement to grab the nearest pry bar. I walked that pry bar straight into my living room and popped up a piece of my foyer floor.

 

Just one piece.  Only to see what’s underneath.

Let me step back a bit and explain a few things.

My house is around 180 years old and has the original 17″ wide pine floors in the upstairs and the close to original 6″ wide pine floors in my living room.  The dining room has oak strip flooring that probably dates to around 1910.

I know the pine flooring in the lower part of the house isn’t original to when the house was built because my house was built before tongue and groove flooring was invented and the lower level floors are tongue and groove.  Tongue and groove flooring was invented in 1885.  My house was built around 1840.

*** note – since writing this post I’ve had a floor guy come in to price having my floors sanded and he said he’s seen very old farmhouses with the same floors as my old floors, so they could very well be original to the house ***

Whoever owned the house before me had knotty pine flooring installed in the foyer for some reason.  I’m guessing they did it because they thought it would match the living room floor.  Or because they were former Hee Haw set decorators.  I’m not sure which.

When I got the floors refinished when I moved in almost 20 years ago I knew nothing about anything.  I had the floors refinished because they were scratched and a disaster.  Then I did what everyone did – I had them coated with a thick coat of polyurethane. This did two things. It brought out the absurdly orange colour of the pine floors and it created a surface that would show marks and scratches if you just looked at it sideways.  Or dragged a 350 lb buffet across it.

So the other morning when I lifted up that one piece of knotty pine I really tried to convince myself I was only looking to see what was under it.

Nothing more.

I’d put the piece back.

Exactly 37 seconds later I had brought all my tools upstairs, wedged my feet into work boots and was maniacally prying quarter round off while singing a song with lots of swear words in it directed squarely at my sister.

57 seconds later I was here.

Just to see. Have a bit of a better look.

O.K.  There we go.  So that’s what that looks like.

The front lawn covered in mangled knotty pine flooring looked considerably worse.

 

At this point I wondered if I could just leave the floor like this.  If anyone would notice.  I still had about 3 knotty pine boards that were underneath the buffet. Surely those 3 boards are what people would notice when they walked into the room – not the strip flooring covered with sperm squiggles of glue.

The floor is beautiful.  It’s an antique maple (?) strip flooring that’s in perfect condition.  You know, other than the big hole in the centre of it. To be fair, it wasn’t a hole, but rather a hole that had been covered with plywood a billion years ago.

But I could deal with that.  It could be patched a bit better. And I wouldn’t mind a patch in the middle of the floor. It adds to the character of the house and is a tribute to the years it has stood.

Huh.  I wonder what’s under that plywood anyway.

Anddddddddd here we go again.

If you had told me the house, all of its contents, myself and my cat would all sink into the aforementioned black hole if I lifted that plywood, I would have turned my bum in your direction, tooted, and then ripped up the plywood.

Which of course is exactly what I did.

Under that plywood and a few of the pieces of maple is the almost  original floor to the house.  The same as what’s in the living room.

Shit.  Seriously.  S.H.I.T.

Now what?

The floor was painted brown and underneath that it was painted blue. I could see that with my bare eyes.  If I were to just sand a little bit of that floor I’d be able to see what it looked like under all that paint.

So I sanded the pine.

And a bit of the maple next to it.

You can see the pine has an apricot/orange undertone that turns full on pumpkin when you put any finish on it.  The maple is clearer.  WAY less orange undertones.

I ran down into my basement and looked up.  The ceiling of my basement is the underside of my original floors so I can see if there are holes, or big gaps or anything scary.  Other than the “hole” there didn’t seem to be any other issues with the floor.

Shit. Again, I say shit.

And so now I sit and stare at the flooring.  Day and night.  Wondering what to do.

Do I rip up the maple to get to the older pine that matches the living room?

I talked about this as it was happening on my Instagram account. The amount of people who said to immediately rip up the maple flooring to see what was underneath was an alarming reminder of how few people have actually ripped up parts of their house.

Anyone who had ripped up a floor or parts of a house was a bit more judicious.

For now this is how I’ll be living with my floors.  Because I can’t decide what to do.  I know they’ll all be refinished, I know I’m going to leave the floors raw (with either a soap or a wax finish probably) and I know I want to put something on them to combat the orange (wood lye).

The only problem is, I don’t know which floors I want to do it on.

I *do* on the other hand know which sister will be getting a nice Christmas present and which will be getting a nasty, swear word filled song screamed at them.

 

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So I Ripped Up My Pine Floors on a Whim. As One Does.

118 Comments

  1. S says:

    from the looks of it, that could be birch. I’ve seen a lot of 2 1/4″ birch flooring in old houses, and it often looks a lot like maple but a little different. It often has more of that color variation, and is a bit grainier. I like pretty much any natural wood floor, the pine is softer and nice for upstairs/lower traffic areas, and hardwoods like maple and birch will wear better and dent less. I put wide pine in my bedroom, face nailed with cut nails and it looks warm, inviting, old-timey, it’s beautiful. And the rest of my main floor is maple, which I love. All of it got the same oil-modified finish which ambers slowly with age. Sorry to be contrarian to everyone else but from the pictures I saw, I thought it could be birch.

    I just worked on an old house, and the first floor was all oak, except for a hallway that was birch. Why, who knows. And the upstairs was all pine.

    So i guess i’m curious, was there anything under the pine which was under the hardwood which was under the pine?

  2. Deborah Thomas says:

    The maple is the better flooring. A good carpenter or flooring person could do you a nice patch either staggering in new or used wood to try to match or make a tasteful square that fits well and acknowledges the history. My husband patched a hole where the old heater vent was in the floor. It is a square of matching flooring with a frame around it. It is absolutely smooth.

  3. JRose says:

    I don’t know much about floors so take that into consideration with my note 😆.
    I would keep the Maple layer at least for now and do all the fun things to it that you learn heart is desiring and maybe 10 yrs down the road when you need another change you still have another layer of floor to play with. But if you take it all up now it’s nothing but buying new hardwood to cover it if that’s the change you need in the future. Just my pennies of thoughts. Have fun whatever you decide. I like both. My husband wants us to get pine. Hoping to get a dark stain for it because yellow isn’t my favorite either.

  4. Irene says:

    My husband glanced over at my screen and wanted to know whether you were ripping up layers of flooring because you kept bumping your head on the ceiling. :-D

  5. Carolyn says:

    I would refinish the maple and live with it a while. If you don’t love it then you can rip it up later. I recently refinished a floor using Rubio Monocoat and I adore it. It is not a built up finish like polyurethane – but a penetrating oil finish so you still get the texture of the wood. You can buy samples of different colors to try on a less exposed bit of your floor to help you decide which would work best for you. It has been easy to keep clean and easy to touch up. Much easier than the polyurethane it replaced! (And no… I don’t work for them!).

  6. Katie N says:

    Please be nice to those gorgeous maple floors. Even if you rip them out, is it possible to do it nicely, then save the wood for me and I’ll drive all the way from Portland, Ore. and buy it from you???

    If I were you, I’d definitely keep the maple.

  7. MichelleR says:

    They look like folk art from days of yore
    But surprise, surprise it’s glue upon the floor.

  8. Shawna says:

    I’m full of questions:

    – Can you call an Architectural Salvage company to take it up or even Keiswetter Demolition in K-W. That might pay for the rental of the sander to refinish it.
    – Is there a height difference between the dining room and the matching floor?
    – Would you sand it down yourself or bring someone in?
    – Would you want it done in time for Christmas? Is that even possible?

    We are in the midst of a major kitchen renovation like yours and so I’m not allowed to take on any other projects, but continuous flooring throughout your first floor sounds like an very classy option.

    • Karen says:

      Yikes, lol. I believe the floor wouldn’t be worth the effort for an architectural salvage company. There are a variety of height differences, but there’s also some sloping going on so it’s hard to tell. I will absolutely hire someone to sand the floors. It’s too easy to ruin a good floor. Especially pine. Totally possible to do it before Christmas. I could have it done by next week if I really wanted to. :) ~ karen!

  9. Kate says:

    If you get rid of the maple flooring, you might want to save it for another project down the road!

  10. Kate says:

    You might want to check out some of these green products that I’ve read about: Osmo Polyx-Oil, Rubio Monocoat, & AFM Safecoat. Bona has some wood finishes/coatings/oils, too!

  11. Hannah says:

    Oh my god the MAPLE. It’s so beautiful!

    I dearly wanted birch floors when we built our house and was roundly vetoed in favour of…orange laminate…..so any kind of lovely, light wood looks very attractive in my eyes.

  12. Linda says:

    p.s. house centipedes are awesome! I have them and jumping spiders too :D
    p.s.s. don’t ask where this came from. I won’t be able to answer sufficiently.

  13. Linda says:

    I like the glue squiggles. You should keep them. Bear in mind, this is coming from a woman who likes to take down plaster and leave the lathe and who just now accidentally started a cat fight on Twitter and had to leave.

  14. Patricia says:

    Karen,

    My home is a farmhouse built in 1906. I live with some pine, and some maple. KEEP THE MAPLE.

    For now, leave it as is. What a great floor for Halloween.

  15. SusanR says:

    I’d stop at the maple. It looks better, to me, and once refinished will look absolutely FABULOUS. The scale of the maple will make the room look better, I think. You can always take it down to the pine later on, like 10 years from now.

    Your house might be warmer leaving the maple, also. Stripping off two layers of wood on the floor will let lots of cold up into the house from the basement.

    And pine always turns orange over the years. It can’t help itself.

  16. Allie says:

    Some people rip up floors in their 180 year old house, others rip down walls “just to see if this one has horse hair too…” in their 90 year old house. Spoiler alert: yes, more horse hair.
    Rip it up, because you know 10 years down the road (or maybe 2?) you’re going to look at the refinished Oak and wonder…..what if….

    • Karen says:

      Horse hair?? Your walls are full of horse hair, lol?? I’ve heard of chairs being filled with horse hair but not walls. Makes sense! (I guess) ~ karen!

  17. monica says:

    Go with the maple. It would be patriotic! 🍁 🇨🇦 🍁

  18. Jane says:

    Both heritage homes we owned, built 1840 and 1850s have tongue and groove original pine floors. They were almost always painted. Your lower floors are almost certainly original.

    • Karen says:

      Pre tongue and groove there was something else that was similar to tongue and groove. After women kept dropping buttons down their floors or pennies (!!!) they started making floors that weren’t straight cut on the edge. They had like a lip on them. The reason I’m suspicious is just because the floors upstairs are the original. They’re HUGE wide and various widths with square nails on top to secure them. They have “the lip”. The ones on the lower floor are only 6″ wide and have tongue and groove. ~ karen!

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