A Man Walks Into My Dining Room. The Floor Story Continues.


White Billy bookcases filled with eclectic pieces and books. Oak, thin strip flooring.

Me:  Hello Mr. Floor Refinisher, I’d like to get a price on refinishing these floors.

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  Which floors?

Me:  The pine in the living room, the maple in the foyer and the oak in the dining room.

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  I see you’ve revealed some pine under the foyer floor.

Me:  Yes. I can’t decide whether to go down as far as the pine. It’s a dilemma. 

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  Well if you do, you might as well go down to the pine in the dining room too.

Me:  Huh??!!!!  

And that is where this particular story began.  An innocent enough call to a local floor refinisher which subsequently had me Googling DIY recipes for Ativan.

I’d asked him to give me a price on sanding the 3 different floors on the main floor of my house.  You may remember (because it was only a week ago), I discovered an original pine floor under the maple floor which was under a new pine floor in my foyer. You can read about that fiasco here.


One strip of oak flooring removed to reveal heritage pine underneath.

When Mr. Floor Refinisher walked around my house inspecting the floors to see how they’d react to another sanding he squatted down in the dining room and declared the oak flooring had probably been sanded by a DIYer because it was uneven and had sanding marks all over it.

He told me the oak in the dining room *might* not be able to be sanded again. It was already very close to the level of the tongue and groove.  He could try to sand it but because it was so thin, the wood might splinter and break apart.

Undisturbed, unfinished antique pine flooring under old oak flooring.

That’s when he pulled out my heat register, looked inside it and said that pine was running under the dining room too.

Oh shit.


Why would he tell me that? I mean why would he say out loud, ever so casually that  “there’s pine under those floors“?

This poor guy obviously had no idea the meltdown that sentence would lead to.

Single piece of oak strip flooring removed to reveal pine flooring.

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  So, I’m not sure I’d recommend the pine either because it …


Mr. Floor Refinisher:  Well, yeah. I thought you’d know that.

Me:  No. I did not know that. THAT IS NOT SOMETHING I KNEW.

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  Are you O.K.?  You’re twitching. You weren’t twitching when I walked in.  Did your eyeball just fall out??  Listen, I’ll get back to you with a price, I should be going …

Me:  STOP RIGHT THERE. O.K.  Hold on.  Don’t you move. You’re telling me there’s pine under this floor like the pine in the foyer and the living room. How do you know that?  I mean just because it’s over there under the heat register doesn’t mean it’s through this whole room does it? This house is old, it’s been added onto, things are wonky, there could be anything under this dining room floor.  

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  Well yeah, there’s probably a lot of bugs under it.

Me:  We need to rip some of this floor out.  Now. Right now.  I’m going to rip it out right now so you need to get out of my way. Do you think I can just smash it?? I’m going to just smash it.  With an axe. There’s an axe in the backyard.  Can you Google if there’s any way I can make my own Ativan?

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  Yup.  I’m sure your eyeball just fell out.  That’s it rolling under the dining room table right now.  It has cat hair on it.

Me:  Whatever. I need to rip this floor up now so – if you could just …

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  I can take up a piece if you like right now.  Then we can see if it runs the whole length of the dining room. 

Close up of pine flooring revealed under oak flooring.

Me:  Do you want to use my axe?

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  Thanks very kind of you to offer, but no, I have my own way.

Me:  O.K.  But I have an axe.  It might be faster.  

Mr. Floor Refinisher:  Done.  Take a look and see what you think.


Karen Bertelsen sitting in dining room contemplating flooring.

And here I’ve sat for the past 4 days.  Unmoving.  Holding a piece of oak flooring, searching fruiltlessly for my hair covered eyeball under the dining room table.

Still no decision.  But I’m leaning towards a simple mixture of aspirin, catnip and cough syrup.


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A Man Walks Into My Dining Room.  The Floor Story Continues.


  1. Aimee Daddi says:

    Your floors drama is so good! Keep us posted!

  2. Joe says:

    Karen I used to be a floor layer when we lived on the left coast (Esquimalt on Vancouver Island to be precise, lots of woodwork there) Tear up the floor because the worst thing that can happen is you would have to replace the whole floor with a new floor and today we can even distress, hand scrape etc. Maybe you would even have no squeaks1

    • Karen says:

      Well if you can come and do that for free for me if need be my worries are over. ;) ~ karen!

      • Joe says:

        If I could i would but, i have not done floor work for years. With your personality (simplicity and solid products) I just think with the options out there today you would love the headache free, great 1900’s look option. Maybe not free but close to the refinishing costs associated with your present floor.
        Have a lovely.

  3. Kim says:

    I’ve reconsidered. I think you should go with the pine. Because it’s everywhere now. And original. And I like original and matching. Our floor is fir. Which is also a softwood. But my wood guy (sounds dirty doesn’t it?) says the floor is basically like a hardwood now because after a hundred years that’s what happens to wood. And your wood is 200 years old. So probably durable as heck. Also I did a google image search on “200
    year old pine floor” and I like what I see.

    Basically actually. No. Wait. I have no opinion. That way I can’t be blamed.

    ps. You’re as hilarious as usual. & sorry about the eye.

  4. Tarra says:

    Pine is soft. You don’t hear people talking about softwood floors

    • Karen says:

      Yes, lol. It’s softer than oak or maple. But you also don’t hear people who have a love for heritage homes in my area talk about oak floors. Pine is what old homes in Canada (and England) had as floors and that’s what’s coveted. Antique pine floors. 180 year old pine also isn’t the same as new pine. It’s from very old, slow growth pine, unlike what you’d find in modern times and is much harder. ~ karen!

  5. Georgia Girl says:

    Pls fwd DIY ativan recipe.

  6. Shelley says:

    You crack. E up. LOL

  7. Sheri says:

    Why would you tear out oak floors for pine? I have original pine floors. They are so soft and easily damaged.

  8. Heather Grauman says:

    Well he good thing about getting down to the first level is you might have 14 foot ceilings!

  9. SusanR says:

    Leave the oak and stop at the maple. Get a price for refinishing what you want refinished. Have them start on the oak. If it splits or frays, then you know you have to at least go down to the pine in that room. The sanders can work on the other floors as you tear up that one. As others have said, there’s a reason the pine was covered up. People don’t go to that expense just for the hell of it. They were covering up something they didn’t think they could solve any other way.

    I think your primary point of decision should involve the centipedes you probably don’t want to find on your first floor when you turn on the light late at night. That could be a nightmare you let loose in your house by going down to the pine.

    You’ve already got pine in other places that you like. Keep liking it where it is. Like the maple, which will look quite lovely once it’s refinished. Be aware that the dining room might need a whole new floor, if the oak is so thin, now. At the very least, the pine under it might have to be painted, if it’s in really bad condition with stains too deep to sand out.

    • Kim says:

      I live in a 100 year old house and I can assure you people DO cover up things for perfectly no good reason. All sorts of crazy stuff happens over the years and half of it is for trends.

  10. Stephanie Orasi-Fitzpatrick says:

    Your eyeball might be a great Halloween accessory for this year!!! LOL!!! Rip up those floors and let’s see the amazing pine! :)

  11. Jan says:

    Well the pine might *sound* like a good idea but… I once lived in an old house with old plank floors. Wood shrinks. Gaps open. Whatever is in the cellar comes upstairs. Spiders, bugs, drafts, mice… Just FYI.

  12. Heather Sykora says:

    Hmmmm, I would want to just sit there, still and do nothing for a long time…..
    One experience I can add: my husband and I rented a floor buffer from Home Depot and applied Rubio Monicoat to the white oak flooring we installed ourselves. It is a one time application, traditional hard wax, zero VOC product that has held up amazingly well. I cook a lot and 4 kids and friends run all over and it still looks great after 5 + years

    • Karen says:

      That’s good to know. I tested Rubio at some point on my upstairs pine floors. I cant’ remember what I thought of it, lol. Yours look perfect. ~ karen!

  13. Nancy says:

    My first gut reaction was…go for it… but then I got this little tickle at the back of my mind. Why were the pine floors covered in the first place? Worn out? Heavily stained? An upgrade for the time perhaps? Then a full blown, Forest Gump line made it’s way to the foreground, “You nevah know what you gonna get” (find)
    I wholeheartedly empathize with your dilemma.

  14. Brandi says:

    Did you ever find out why he wasn’t sure he’d recommend the pine either? Not that it matters! Just curious.

    • Karen says:

      Yes. Just because removing a layer of floor and going down to the pine subfloor provides less insulation from cold and hot air as well as … creepy crawlies from the crawl space underneath. :/ ~ karen!

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        So my wood worker guy said, if she likes the old pine subfloor, bearing in mind that much of the pine used way back then was much harder than the current stuff, she should take it up too, install a plywood subfloor then lay the old pine back on top. That could also address the issue with the builtin bookcases. Heckuva lot of work!

        • Brandi says:

          That’s what I was thinking. That way you get the awesome old, heavy and hard pine floors (that look to have a nice wide plank), and the plywood subfloor which should help keep creepy crawlies out and help to insulate. A lot of work of course, but Karen is clearly not one to shy away from that.

  15. Lynn says:

    I am sure that you will figure it out Karen. You know living in a old house that no job is simple or straight forward. They truly can be a can jigsaw of pieces sometimes they are even missing pieces. Squeaky floors are usually due to (a) dust between the boards (b) loose boards.
    I can tell you one thing Pine Floors are not a floor that stands the test of time, they are to soft. If you go ahead and rip up all your floors down to the Pine an just sand the Pine , i just want to let you know that you will end up covering it up in the end.
    Please find and keep in safe spot your eyeball you might need it later scare pink tool belt.

    • Karen says:

      The rest of my floors are actually the original pine floors from 1840 and I love them, so I’m used to living with them. Only the foyer and dining room haven’t been exposed. . Yes, they mark if you drag a heavy chair across them, but I don’t mind those marks. ~ karen!

  16. Mary W says:

    I love you, hairy eyeball girl.

  17. judy says:

    Here’s my half a$$ed take on this dilemma. I have remodeled all of our houses with all of our moves. Is it the same effort we invest with the way we dress,makeup, snazzy car etc. I “fix” the houses. I spent so much on one house we had to sell it. It’s all a matter of pride versus shame or at least a bit of discomfort in the eye of neighbors,friends,relatives etc. We present who we are-neat and clean,organized, sophisticated,educated ,friendly,cozy,cool and minimalist and the neighbor who doesn’t live up to the neighborhood standard is a juicy topic of “what is wrong with those people?” Our house is our home but it is also our submission to the world of our worth. It seems we have really become invested in this as much as the Victorians with their opulence and splendor. I am 78 and tired but I get a chuckle out of the foibles of humans. We are so dear and complicated and I still love ripping the house apart but now I sit and watch while my sons do it with much muttering,I’m sure it’s how much they love their Mom. Leave the floors and take a trip to Paris and see the sights.

  18. Megan says:

    Oh man the dilemma! If you rip it all out and the pine is no good then you have no old floors and regret it forever. But, if you don’t rip out those floors down to the pine, you will always regret not doing it because, I mean, THERE COULD BE GREAT ORIGINAL FLOORS DOWN THERE! There’s only one possible outcome to this that would leave you satisfied. Rip it all up. Floor refinisher, if you can convince him to return when you have found that eye and picked up your adivan prescription, can hopefully work miracles if he needs to. If you have to replace a few boards, its better than not doing it and having to be heavily medicated forever. But this is coming from someone with perfect condition – original pine floors. So maybe my advice isn’t the best.

  19. Linda Moore says:

    Our house has pine floors and I say….go with the oak, or some other hardwood. Our floors scratch and gouge with the dropping of a pin. Pine is too soft for flooring IMHO.

    • Karen says:

      The rest of my house is actually already the original pine flooring so I do know how soft it is. I don’t mind the scrapes and gouges actually because it isn’t meant to be perfect looking. But I also like that my butcher block countertop has cuts and scratches in it from working on it too. Definitely isn’t the choice for anyone who wants it to always look perfect because it definitely won’t unless you put several layers of polyurethane on it. And even then the poly scratches. ~ karen!

  20. Heather says:

    I suggest you set up a Go Fund Me for your floors. ($10,000 is a hefty chunk of change!) There are plenty of interested folks following you, and we’d probably all pitch just to give you something back for all the fun you give to us. I certainly would. Whad-ya-say, folks? Can we help Karen out? :)

    • Karen says:

      LOL! Well if that’s the case I’d also like to put on a small addition to use as a studio for a lot of my work. ;) ~ karen!

  21. Marilyn Meagher says:

    It has cat hair on it. Lol sounds like my house.

  22. Lindy says:

    We can tell that this is an end of the world situation for you because you are always precise picking and spelling the exact word that suits each sentence. When I saw “fruiltlessly” I immediately realized that the padded wagon was on the way. Oh, my dear Karen, what a pickle to be in and I am so freaking happy that it is not me that my day just became beautiful. Yes, I am snickering away but in a kind way if there is such a thing, bwahahahha.
    with love because you need some in this situation,

  23. Stephanie Burris says:

    Your ceilings will be taller by 3/4″. The addition of a base board at the bottom of the bookcases would be lovely and add another layer of “custom” look! You’d also have the continuity of one floor running through the rooms which is NICE!

    I’d be ripping them out without thinking about the consequences–which I have done many times–and never have regretted it. What I do regret is NOT acting on gut instincts, over thinking, and then not doing. I just know curiosity would get the better of me–cat hair and all–and I bet it will for you too.

    GO FOR IT. . .

  24. p says:

    I can’t keep watchingggg….somebody holler when she gets it all up and finished :D Wide planks for the win!
    Jack Ledger, she MULCH do this!

  25. Jen says:

    I completely understand the paralysis. I found the original clapboard under hideous vinyl on my 100 year old farmhouse. So now I can do any thing to the outside because I can’t decide whether to rip off the vinyl and go broke restoring the clapboard or not! All I wanted to do was paint my shutters.

  26. whitequeen96 says:

    Sometimes it’s better to back away from the project, and realize that, for now, good-enough is good-enough!
    After all, tomorrow IS another day!

  27. linda in Illinois says:

    if there are three layers of wood stacked on top of one another, how far down is the first layer. will the two on top make it so high that it just looks silly with your book case, etc. so high above the floor.?? Seems like it would look odd to me but you will figure that out I am sure. Also, Is the first layer of pine floor, sturdy enough for living on and why was it covered up two times??

  28. Maryann Diederich says:

    Love, love, LOVE! Your posts!

  29. Jill Witlin says:

    Would this mean you would also have to do something to the bottom of the shelves in the dining room? I still think you should do it!

  30. Thanks for the Hilarious post! I particularly enjoy the image of your eyeball rolling on the floor and then with cat hair on it-so funny. What ever you decide to do it will look amazing-You have great Style and an eye for creating beautiful environments.

  31. Sabina says:

    I just made an appointment with my chiropractor for lunchtime…your pain is my pain…oh the joys of homeownership!

  32. Jack Ledger says:

    I find your pining about this goes a little against the grain. I suggest you branch out, get a second opinion, and try to get to the root of the matter. Personally I feel a little stumped and it leaves me in a state of wonderment to think that you may be barking up the wrong tree. All this worry is going to leave you totally sapped so I think you should leave it alone for a while. Your blog is very poplar and I wouldn’t want to think that this issue is going to grind you into pulp. As I lumbered on through your dilemma I kept thinking, “Wood I be going to all this trouble?”

  33. Ella says:

    Why does this decision paralyze you? Why do decorating decisions paralyze people? It’s not like you can’t change it again if you hate it. You dislike your current mishmash of floors (I personally loathe floor changes and have the same floors front to back, including the kitchen and powder room on the main floor and everywhere upstairs except the bathrooms). What’s the worst that can happen now? Refinish the pine. You’ll either love it, loathe it or be indifferent but at least you will have a cohesive look. If you really loathe it, you can just cover it up with a single layer of something else again.

    But don’t just sit there. Do something!!

  34. Suzette says:

    But….wouldn’t the pine have been built over for a reason? Like to hide the blood stain or something less scary but equally hideous and unfixable?

    • Beth says:

      Get all the way down to the pine and then hide that hideous and scary bloodstain with a nice thick coat of primer and two coats of white paint!

  35. Julie says:

    Nothing is ever easy in these old houses. A friend needed a new plug put in for their new stove….so, of course, they had to renovate the whole 1st floor.

  36. Sondra says:

    All that mystery and possibilities aside. If it were me, I’d just put that piece back where you found it, all of the other pieces also, get up off the floor before you ruin your knees and call the floor refinisher back and say “re-do it, oak is nice, call me when you are done!” There comes a point where some projects are not worth the angst and you don’t want to wind up losing both eyeballs over it either! That’s coming out of the mouth of a person has been scraping a HUGE deck for several weeks of 20 years worth of paint! Now that’s really nuts!

  37. Meredith says:

    Yes….what do you do with those built in shelves? Will you have to move them? OMG. I would put those floor boards back and never think of it again.

  38. Denise Potter says:

    Normally I just smile as I read your “diary” but today was a laugh out loud day (twice) when your eye popped out, rolled under the table and unfortunately picked up a cat hair along the way. You are too funny. Good luck deciding …

  39. danni says:

    I WISH I had something fabulous under my sh*tty contractor grade floors. They would be up and out the front door in a heap quicker than my neighbors could say “wtf is that crazy woman doing NOW!?”.
    I’m just wondering…. where did you find the time to pull yourself away from the fall garden and all the cooking, freezing, canning, dehydrating that needs to be done?! I can’t even begin to think of random bizarre obsessions until the last garden plot has been put to bed for the winter.

  40. Jenny W says:

    Here’s what you do:
    Go out and buy yourself a new pair of “Nike” sneakers
    Come back home,
    and “Just Do It”!
    ( maybe they will sponsor the post :) )

  41. Anne Faught says:

    IF. I say. IF, you go down to the pine in the dining room, what happens with the beautiful bookcases? Do you stop at the edge of them……. or WHAT? Scary. If I concentrate on it I’ll be twitching too..

    • Cathy says:

      That was my question too. That’s probably why she hasn’t moved. Should we try to feed her?

    • Karen says:

      Yes, the bookcases are built in. I would have to cut the flooring along the edge of them. Then possibly add a piece of trim to the bottom to extend them slightly to meet the floor. ~ karen!

      • Mary W says:

        A sign of life! You have been considering the cost of the why nots. I’m so excited for you since I chose the original pine way back last week.

  42. Lori says:

    Here’s what you do, tear it all out, every room, down to the last layer of every room. Sit on it for about a year and a half. Decide to sand it yourself and paint it. Seal it. Listen to your family bitch about the mess, the color, the smell. Finally, get mad and call the floor guy back and cover it all back up with a new floor – whatever the fam wants and sulk about it for years to come. That’s what I’d do!

  43. Keith Chirsan says:

    What good is having a nice shiny new floor if you can hardly see it because you lost an eye?

  44. Tina says:

    Do you need my help? I am full of rapid-fire questions, I scribble notes that no one else can read and I’ll take a quick glance at it all. Bake something delectable (like caramel pecan sour cream cheesecake) (baking put my thoughts in order) and can give you an answer. And it’s usually the right answer!

  45. Liza says:

    At this point, if you DON’T rip up the floor, you will be sitting in that spot forever. Just do it now and save your knees.

  46. Lynn Johanson says:

    I’m so sorry, and so excited. I’m glad it’s you not me. I would be dithering for months if not years. I know you will make a quick, with not to many nightmares, decision then we, your loyal followers, can watch the amazing process of whatever you choose, become a beautiful floor. Good luck……
    As an aside, have you moved the cane love seat that I covet back into the living room?
    Again, I hope your decision process is not to painful or long.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynn! Ohhhhh the cane loveseat. That’s a whole OTHER story. There’s been a development. ;) ~ karen!

      • Lynn Johanson says:

        Tell, tell!
        If you decide it still needs a new home, all you have to do is strap it on the top of your car and drive west for days and days and days. Take a left when you get to Vancouver and you’ll be in Seattle in 3 hours. See, it’s easy…..

  47. Laura says:

    Go for it, Karen!

  48. Katie Schneider says:

    More specifically, have SOMEONE ELSE so it. That will REALLY save some angst ;) (though we all know that someone else is not part of the name of your blog.)

    • Karen says:

      No it is not, lol. The ripping up doesn’t scare me. The results underneath does! ~ karen!

      • Nicole says:

        The lack of knowledge of what’s underneath will haunt you if you don’t. Every time you look at the floor, you’ll wonder, “is there lovely flooring under there? Is it papered with the Hoffa files?”

  49. Katie Schneider says:

    Oh, just do it. You know you’re gonna eventually anyways, so just save yourself the angst.

  50. Paula says:

    That’s amazing! Wow, lucky you :)

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