Is it Worth Restoring Old Pine Floorboards?
Most people are delighted when they discover original pine wooden floorboards hiding under their carpets. However, what starts out as an exciting discovery doesn’t always lead to the dream floor that homeowners expect. Are pine wood floors durable and are they worth renovating? To answer this question, it’s time to go back and find out how the boards were made and originally used.
A renovated pine floor with a rustic look
Painting boards will hide the knots and any marks
Is pine a good wood for flooring?
The use of pine as a flooring material exploded during the industrial revolution due to the development of steam power, which was used to power the saw mills. Concrete wasn’t widely available at that time, so the wood, which was used close to ‘green’ as it wasn’t given enough time to dry properly, was also used to make the joists for the subfloor. For the early pine floors tongue and groove was not an option as it was done by hand only. The side matcher hadn’t been invented until 1885 and the end matcher in 1898 to enable mechanically cutting the tongue and groove profiles. So instead the pine floorboards were nailed to the joists with iron clasp nails. These were used as the blunt ends didn’t cause the wood to split.
Over time, the iron nails were prone to rusting, leading to staining in the wood. As the walls in these older properties were usually damp, the outside edges of the wooden flooring was painted in tar to protect them from rotting. These floors were never intended to be on show and were merely a practical, economical flooring material.
You can see the tar around the edge of this pine floor
Sanding won’t remove all of the imperfections
Filling in the gaps between pine boards
Original boards are suspended over joists, so as the wood takes on moisture it expands and contracts, leading to gaps between the boards. These can cause draughts, leading to a cold room. There are several options when it comes to filling in the gaps between pine flooring, but they do create their own problems, so it’s not something we would recommend.
Sanding dust can be mixed with a resin to create a paste which is then poured over the floor. The paste sinks into the gaps, hardens and then blends in with the boards. The problem with this method is that when the resin sets, it becomes rock hard. This means that it can’t move with the wood, so when the wooden boards naturally expand and contract, they squash the filler causing it to crack. The filler then falls out, so doesn’t work as a long term solution.
Wood slivers can also be used as wedges between the boards which are fixed into place using PVA glue. However, the thin slivers of wood are prone to splitting and cracking leading to splinters. Flexible wood filler is the best alternative to the other methods as it will last for around four years. However, the best course of action is to leave the boards as they are, with the gaps, so there’s ample space for the wood to move.
These gaps were left allowing the wood to move
Pine slivers have been wedged between these boards
Repairing pine wooden floorboards
Some repair work may be necessary before the boards are sanded. If boards are damaged or have been cut by plumbers and other trades, they may need replacing. Ideally we would recommend using reclaimed boards, so they fit in with the original floor.
It may be necessary to replace badly damaged boards
The old plywood had to be removed from this floor
Sanding pine boards
Old pine boards will need a really good sand to remove the staining from the rusty nails and the tar around the edges. However, if too much of the surface is removed, the board will weaken and be unable to support heavy objects. We recommend removing a maximum of 2mm to 3mm to retain the floor’s strength. This will create a rustic look, as the stains in the wood may run deeper than this.
This pine floor was unable to take the weight of the grand piano
Sanding will remove dirt, but some marks may be ingrained in the wood
Can you stain pine wood floors?
Both lacquer and oil finishes can be used on pine flooring. A stain will help change the colour, or alternatively, floor paint is a great way to cover up any blemishes. A good quality floor paint will last, particularly as you can use multiple coats and if any chips do occur, they can be touched up. Paint can also be removed with a light sand. More information on painting pine flooring can be found here. Lacquer is the least user-friendly, as it’s not possible to carry out spot repairs, so the whole surface would have to be sanded, which isn’t recommended if it’s previously been sanded.
This floor has been painted white
This pine floor has been sealed with a white oil, so you still seen the knots and grain of the wood
Is renovating a pine wooden floor worth the money?
If you like a shabby chic, rustic look, then refurbishing an original pine floor is likely to create the look you want to achieve. However, if your aim is to replicate the look of a new engineered hardwood floor, the chances are that you will be left disappointed. As pine is a softwood, it will mark and dent easily. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and the look you want to achieve.
This is how the floor looked before our work
This is the end result