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.

 

→Follow me on Instagram where you can see me do a lot of this stuff before I blog about it.←

 

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

117 Comments

  1. Leslie says:

    Hee Haw set decorator 🤣🤣🤣

  2. Tess says:

    Next week I’ll be moving in to my 7th home in 25 years. I’ve seen it all; hardwood, shag carpet, tile, etc. My favourite floors were the maple floors I had when I lived in Winnipeg. I loved everything about that flooring. I would choose maple over pine any day!

  3. Gigi says:

    Wait… “my girlfriend, his wife” has more problems than a botched floor reno.
    Karen, I love your readers responses almost as much as your predicaments.

  4. Laura Lee says:

    Well, if you ask me, (and you didn’t) …I LIKE IT!

    NO ONE will EVER have a floor like that and it has a total modern artish flavor to it. It is as unique as YOU are! ;-)

  5. Debra Kapteyn says:

    I like the maple!!! Keep it, and if you decide you don’t like it, go down to the next layer:)

  6. Ecoteri says:

    SO. I am getting a new tub and counter/ sink in my bathroom. my one and only bathroom in my 100 or so plus year old house (sorry, Vancouver Island doesn’t have many 160 year old houses). In the process we have replaced all the plumbing in the house (dodged that bullet – the copper pipes and brass fittings were busting as they were removed. ouch. pressurized pipes? lost half their thickness due to acidic water – bullet dodged. expensive but much less than insurance)
    oh, then we dug 200 feet of 3 foot deep trench to the well. just cause, and since we were replacing the well electric and pipe, why not take more electric and pipe back down there so we don’t run it overland? like, really, what is another $1000 when the trench is just sitting there waiting for things to fill it
    AND while we are at it, let us dig up the entire side yard and find the septic tank that was “pumped” (NOT) 5 years ago, and get a real pumper guy (who was remarkably acceptable in personality and appearance, considering his profession) who took 2 freaking hours to pump a tiny tank while telling me that it clearly hadn’t been pumped for 30 years (is this TMI>?)
    and then have the digger guy fell a 50 foot high pine tree, tear up a pathetically large field of blackberries and a few elm trees, pull down a rat infested shed, a few rat infested shrubs and a couple of fences. And suggest that getting someone to bring in a ‘take-away’ trailer for the junk? I love the digger guy but not the bill….
    Most expensive bathroom Reno I can imagine, and no shower or tub for two weeks (and -snif – counting) good thing the tenants on the farm have a tub I can use, and better thing that the chillins have all moved off to University. Getting a bit ripe here, and another few days/weeks to go! Yer floor is minor, sister! LOL
    Oh, but as part of the one bathroom Reno I am getting another bathroom, so maybe, (maybe) there really is light at the end of the tunnel……

    • ecoteri says:

      OH, and we are keeping the old wood floors in the new bathroom. meaning my ‘friend’ has sanded said floors. without closing the doors to our bedrooms. Not such a good friend now. and I wince to think of how he is going to finish the wood floors. – although he did apologize and kept the bedroom doors closed for the second sanding. My girlfriend, his wife, has much more of my sympathy now. DOH. CLOSE THE DOORS if you are wearing a respirator the dust is travelling.. ok, rant mode off

    • Karen says:

      And THAT is why, of all the things in this house – I’ve never renovated my single bathroom, lol. ~ karen!

    • Jill says:

      “Considering his profession”???

      • Ecoteri says:

        Yes, Considering his profession, (as he owns a septic pump tank company, cleverly called Mike’ Septic), yes – he was considerably more likeable and less rough and dirty than I was incorrectly assuming he would be. My bad. Best to not assume potential negative things about the character or appearance of a tradesperson who does a vital job.

  7. Karalyn Faulkner says:

    Shit. That is all I can say too. I scrolled down and then back up… and then back down. I cannot decide. I have old floors and they need to be sanded and re done. I don’t know what I would do if I were you. The pine will turn for sure. The maple is cool. I also like the idea of the restored original..regardless. Jeez,I am literally of no help to you. Sort of excited to see what you do. I need inspiration to get busy on my floors.

  8. Charlotte Tataryn says:

    Hi Karen, crazy woman that you are. I have not got time to read what everyone had to say here, and I have no idea how I missed the business about your floors on Instagram, but here’s my 2 cents worth. Maple flooring, if left untreated, and waxed, as in the built in the early 1900’s house I lived in until I was 17, and waxed and polished, until my parents’ brains were taken over by aliens, and put Avocado green carpeting down on top of them, TURN YELLOW, and that is that. However, I spent a good number of years refinishing my own, and other people’s furniture, some of which was maple, some +20 years ago, and I found that if a light, non yellow, wood stain was applied (I typically used a diluted Jacobean gel, that I wiped on and off as fast as I could, stopped that from happening, and it also highlighted the very little ‘grain’ visible in the maple, which surprised quite a few of my clients. In any event, there you have it, all of my thoughts, and unlike you, who is still young enough to know better, I don’t go any deeper than 2 layers on ANYTHING anymore, because I have had far too many surprises, and discovered I’d made a relatively fixable problem, a long-term, still not finished, issue. Hugs!!!! Love your blog, the only one I follow, about anything at all.

    • Karen says:

      I’ll look into that as an option for both the maple and the pine Charlotte. You must dilute the Jacobean quite a bit – it’s fairly dark. ~ karen!

      • Suzanne says:

        Karen you know I love you but I am with Charlotte, those maple floors will look positively stunning once you are done with them and will withstand much more abuse without visible evidence than the pine, even though it is very old ancient pine probably put there by homesteader aliens. I still miss our 1878 schoolhouse in Mono in the Hockley Valley….we were lucky to live there for about 18 months or so in the 90’s and the floors were similar to your maples ones! It will look positively stunning. But it does not really matter what any of us say, because you will just do what you need to do to stay sane. Oh, sorry, too late :)

  9. MrsChrisSA says:

    Why not make a feature of the bit in the middle?

    Friends of mine had a smiliar issue when they lifted their carpets in their over a hundred year old house. They put sea sand and shells underneath (they live at the coast) and covered it with glass and it has become a great talking point of their home – makes it quite unique.

    If I can find a picture of it will post on Instagram and tag you.

    • Lez says:

      Strange you should think of this, I thought exactly the same & remembered a VERY old restaurant in Cape Town that had the same in their entrance hall! One whole long floorboard was out, lined in sand, with gorgeous antique cups & saucers in it! Very thick glass on top, & then lit up from underneath somehow! I have NEVER been able to get that image out of my head, (& coveted it ever since)& antique crockery could look AMAZING in there Karin, with the age of your house!

  10. Kim Domingue says:

    I say….in for a penny, in for a pound. Lol!

  11. Renee says:

    The Maple… its will look lighter, and I love the clean to the eye flow from the front door into the back, keeps the rooms spacious..
    and later on if you have nothing to do you can pull up the maple 🤟

  12. TucsonPatty says:

    All I have to add is simply: Oh. My.
    And Wow. And better you than me.

  13. Kim says:

    180 years old is beautiful years old. My house is 100 years old. I just love all old houses. As for the floor: I say go with your gut. That’s what I do. And considering your fabulous impulsive floor removal, I assume you so the same! 😆 currently I can hear my husband ripping up floor tile in our kitchen (not 100 years old, though the rest of the floors are). So it’s all floors here right now too!!

  14. Su says:

    Lots of votes to take up the maple but I’m a huge fan of maple… good luck with whatever you decide

    • Carswell says:

      Me too. I would rather have the maple than the pine any day. A friend of mine has an old schoolhouse and the floors are that same narrow maple boards – they are gorgeous.

      Not to mention that they are a darned site harder than pine if you are prone to moving furniture around.

      • Nancy J says:

        Me Three. Leave the maple and patch the hole.

      • Linda says:

        Me four!
        No, the thin strip is not “trendy” at the moment but you’re not the trendy type… thinking practically, the maple would be the easiest and toughest wearing option. Why not think of an original or different finish for the maple? I’d be thinking, “simplicity”, “spare”, “classic” or “natural” for inspiration.

    • Ann Brookens says:

      I absolutely prefer the maple; it’s really pretty. Pine seems so bland. Especially bad if it’s orange.

  15. Sheri K says:

    Ooh, more excited about the finish you choose. Have a bare wood floor in my loft just waiting for a finish.

  16. Julie Anne says:

    As soon as I saw your email, I got excited thinking that wonderful, crazy Karen was going to do something incredibly nutty. Thank you for making me happy again. I know whatever you do will be perfect. And TG I can just live vicariously through you.

  17. Suzanne LH says:

    Could the flooring under the strip floor be the”sub-floor”? That would be the usual thing for a house that old. Does it matter? Only if you don’t care about the dirt sifting down to the basement, the heat escape and the possibility of a bit of racking. Then again, that house is probable done racking. The other issue (been there done that) is all the trim will have to be redone, but you already know that. Can’t wait to hear what you decide!

    You are a brave lady. Hee

    • Karen says:

      HI Suzanne. I wouldn’t redo all the trim, I would just add a piece to the bottom of my existing (very old) trim to extend it down if need be. ~ karen!

    • Suzanne LH says:

      Oh and by the way, if you use tung oil, you won’t get the nasty orange, or any shine. But it’s super easy to live with, non toxic, and when you get a worn bit, wipe on some more, put a box over it till it sets up. And you’re done.

      • Karen says:

        Anythinggggg put on top of pine brings up the orange. Even spit. Not that I’ve spit on my floor to see, .. but I have. An oil would be my #1 choice but there’s literally nothing that will stop pulling the orange up in pine unless it’s pretreated with something first to combat it. I’ll be doing some testing with bleach and wood lye. ~ karen!

  18. UGACat says:

    Weird, not floorboards-related question (hey, I *am* following YOU, right? what’d you expect?) – what type of boots are those? I want ’em.

    And go ahead and pull up those maple boards. You know you wanna.

    • Karen says:

      Those are Bogs, but they’re from a long time ago and they don’t sell these ankle boots anymore. Which is horrifying because I love them and these ones are officially falling apart. ~ karen!

      • June says:

        Karen, Just thought you might like to know, the USA website for Bogs has a similar style boot. Odd that the Canada site doesn’t offer the same styles.

      • Karen says:

        They’re similar but they aren’t the same. These are the Classic short. They don’t make the Classic in short anymore. Just the tall or the mid. I have no idea why they stopped making them because anyone I know who owns them loves them. ~ karen!

  19. Barbara H. says:

    Oh my, I’ve been waiting for the continuation of the story. I really kind of liked the patterns on the maple floor so I’m so glad you said it was glue. That’s not so good but lessens the number of choices about what to do. I think Megan’s suggestion of an architectural salvage company is good. This is quite a dilemma, but the other good thing from this post is that I saw what bad shape the knotty pine floor was in. Will there be a difference in level between the dining room and living room floors and this floor? Good luck.

  20. Caryl says:

    And here I sit looking at nasty carpeting and wondering if it would be difficult and/or unseemly to rip it up, paint the floor and throw a carpet over it. You do inspire. I will probably leave the nasty carpet and sell the house instead though.

  21. Maria says:

    Yeah, but what about where the floors intersect? Are there height differences to deal with? Seems like there must be. Maybe thermal differences too to consider.

    Does the plywood section look like where a rug could’ve been placed? They use to do that a lot to save money. Then the rug would be permanently attached over the top.

    Good luck! (I can’t believe you ripped up a perfectly good wood floor!)

    • Janet G. says:

      I found myself wondering if that hole was just big enough for a stove pipe to go through. My grandmother’s farmhouse had one of those. After central heating, the hole in the bedroom was covered with a cast iron grate. We thought it was hilarious to move the grate and dangle our feet through the hole above the dining room table below. Ha ha ha. Thanks. I feel REALLY old now. (although I was born long after the grate was put in place).

      • Ann Brookens says:

        Oh, Janet G, it really WAS hilarious that you kids dangled your feet above the dining room table! Um…How did your mom react?

  22. Marilyn says:

    Lol. What a dilemma ! Well now that pink tool belt won’t have a job perhaps she can help you with that floor!

  23. Raymonde says:

    Come on, you know you’re going to rip the floor up eventually. So, before it drives you nuts, go on and rip that thing up!
    I’ve ripped up many floors and knocked down many walls in the two old houses I’ve owned and let me tell you, I’ve never regretted any of it! :-)

  24. Mark says:

    Must be hot, sweaty work! You started out in black jeans and had disrobed half-way through!

  25. Megan says:

    If you do decide to go one more layer down find ab Architectural Salvage company to take it up for…heck they might even pay you to do it!

    • Heidi Lee says:

      If you are like me, you need to finish up your vegetable harvest and clean up garden waste for the winter. The floor project needs to wait. Stop at the maple.

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