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.←

 

Ever wonder what\'s under that floor? Me too. So I ripped it up. Underneath was a 100 year old maple strip flooring in perfect condition. It didn\'t end there. Wait\'ll you see what was under THAT.

114 Comments

  1. 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Carolyn says:

    I would refinish the maple and live with it a while. If you donโ€™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 donโ€™t work for them!).

  3. 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.

  4. MichelleR says:

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

  5. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ ~ karen!

  6. Kate says:

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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. Linda says:

    p.s. house centipedes are awesome! I have them and jumping spiders too ๐Ÿ˜€
    p.s.s. don’t ask where this came from. I won’t be able to answer sufficiently.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. Allie says:

    Some people rip up floors in their 180 year old house, others rip down walls โ€œjust to see if this one has horse hair too…โ€ 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?) youโ€™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!

  14. monica says:

    Go with the maple. It would be patriotic! ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ ๐Ÿ

  15. 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!

  16. I am solidly on Team Maple for all the reasons those smart people mentioned above.

    Do we get a prize if we win??

    • Karen says:

      Yes. Absolutely. Your prize will be helping me rip them out in 2 years time when I can’t stand knowing what the floors underneath are like. ๐Ÿ™‚ ~ karen!

  17. Alena says:

    I totally understand your dilemma. Not that I have several layers of wood flooring in my house, I have only one – the original (oak, I think, but I cannot swear on it) floor from when the house was built in the 1960’s. It was in a really rough shape so I had it sanded (but not prior to moving all my possessions into the house like any sane person would; I had is sanded after I had lived here for about 5 years [which should qualify me for the Darwin award]) and coated, like you and anybody else, in polyurethane.
    The freshly sanded floor was beautiful, very pale and I loved it (my skin is also very pale but unlike the floor, I don’t love it as much) but eventually, the polyurethane acquired a honey colour. I think the floor would survive one more sanding but I am not planning on it (sometimes I do learn from my own mistakes).
    I love wider plank flooring so one of me would go with the pine flooring but the other half of me protests the orange. I look forward to an update which option you are going to go with.
    Good luck.

  18. Carol says:

    The original floor boards under the maple would be the sub-floor, typically they would use the same wood for both layers – this is how the original floors in our 1850 house were installed. So, do you know if the maple continues thru your living and dining room? I would opt for not going down to the original floor boards (sub-floor) but instead if thats the look you want, source salvaged boards same species/age as the originals in your LR and then refinish all to be the same. Getting the colouration right is an entirely bigger project! ; ). Alternately you may have to consider going all new, check out pre-finished or unfinished wide plank, engineered character grade wood flooring. ~ C

    • Karen says:

      Why would I get salvaged boards for the foyer? I’m confused. I have the *exact* same boards in my living room as what’s under the maple in the foyer. So I’d be ripping out the exact match to my living room to put in ones that don’t match. Oh Carol. You’re so confusing. You may have your layers confused. The living room is original pine floors. Single layer. The foyer is strip maple over the original pine (that’s exactly like the living room) I’d be having all the floors on the lower level sanded at the same time so I’d be starting with more or less the same colour. (light sanding to hopefully just bring off the finish and leave some of the staining in the grooves etc.) ~ karen!

  19. Christy J says:

    “Hee Haw set directors”
    LOL!!

  20. Cussot says:

    My ambition in life is to have a floor with no crummy thresholds and level changes. Good luck!

  21. Jimmy says:

    I have to say that I’m going against the majority here. I love the maple. And it seems fitting for Canada anyway, a tribute to that heavenly elixir.

    • Karen says:

      Ah, you’re the second to nominate the maple in honour of Canada. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I’d rather have the pine (also very Canadian) and drink the maple syrup. ~ karen!

  22. Mary W says:

    Being totally uneducated about the cost, labor, or stress of it all, I would go with whichever one looks good with the floors you already have – the original, I think. My brother and wife redid your grandparents home built a hundred years ago, however, when lifting the house to square it all up and put in new pilings, they decided to add a second story and remove all the little rooms that had been added over the years at ground level – restoring the oridinal porches. It is just wonderful BUT where the living room floors were they were rotting and had to be replaced. They went with getting some old pine that had been sunk in the Suwannee River for decades and having it restored into planks that matched the original. It was VERY expensive but so worth it. Gorgeous floors throughout. Another thing – where the new second addition meets the wall in the lower ‘office’ where the stairs are located, there is obviously a difference in the wood panaling that was unable to be fixed. They decided to go with it and hung a small sign on a nail above the crooked part that reads: It’s an old house! Normally not even noticed by guests wanting to see the home but always brings a chuckle when they do see it. The 3 lovely porches are so nice and well worth loosing the newer ‘room’ additions. Good luck with your choice.

  23. Zoe says:

    Seems like the pine underneath everything could be what we’d call sub-flooring now. Granted, it seems like that’s the way people used to have their floors back in the 1840’s but I’d be super concerned about the gaps in the boards. You could get drafts from your rubble basement and the centipedes would have more ways to make it into your living spaces. I feel like you might also be concerned about centipedes.

    The previous owners were probably trying to make the house more comfortable by laying the maple over the pine. Our art studio in college had those original wide plank floors that they refinished. Every time you spilled something you’d have to run downstairs to see what you ruined. NOT fun.

    My vote is for the maple. Besides, maple > pine any day.

  24. Keelea LeJeune says:

    I really like the second layer…the skinny stuff.

  25. Mia says:

    I love the maple!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Art of Doing Stuff
Pin
Share
Email