Refinishing Pine Floors

Refinishing old hardwood pine floors needs to be done after years of wear and tear. You can DIY it or hire it done. You have to make a few decisions before the project is done, so this article will help.

Hardwood pine floors can be found in older and newer homes, because of their great beauty and durability. There does come a time, however, where it will be necessary to think about refinishing your pine floors.

DIY Guide To Refinish Your Hardwood Pine Floor

Refinishing hardwood pine floors often sounds like more work than most people want to do, but it can be done by most do-it-yourselfers if you plan and prepare correctly. But it’s also a project you may want to leave to professionals. Education will help you make the decision and proceed on either path.

Start with educating yourself, as you are doing now. Books, websites, and magazine articles abound in how to refinish your hardwood floors. By reading all of the information you can find about refinishing pine floors, you can better understand the process and be more comfortable with it. This can net you added confidence in your endeavor as well. Read everything you can find about it, take notes, and make a plan. Then you are ready to move onto more physical endeavors, like choosing your tools and finish.

Tools And Preparation Needed For Refinishing Hardwood Pine Flooring

In any project, if you don’t have the right tools, it is that much harder to do the project well, much less completely and in a timely manner. Refinishing pine floors is no different. You need a floor sander and buffer and the finish of your choice, including sealant and/or stain. These supplies are the largest ones that you need, but you may need others, depending upon your room. Several different grades of sandpaper may be needed to help you get the smooth surface that your floors need.

Preparation for the room is an essential part of refinishing pine floorings. Refinishing any type of floor is messy and you don’t want the dust and debris to end up all over your home. By cordoning off this room from the rest of your home, with tape and plastic, you will help reduce most of the dust from spreading throughout your home. This can help you to keep the mess contained, so that you will only have to worry about one room at a time. Other things that you need to do to prepare the room include:

  • Countersink any nails that have worked their way up to keep them from damaging the sander.
  • Clean floors to remove as much of the dirt and debris as possible before beginning so you don’t scratch the pine.
  • After sanding, clean again, so that the finish will be even and beautiful.

Sanding is an important step you will want to be especially careful with, due to the softness of pine. Controlling the sander and your movements with it is critical to your satisfaction. If you aren’t careful you could oversand the floors in places, leaving them gouged and damaged. You want to make sure that you can handle the floor sander so that you can sand lightly and evenly, keeping the beauty of the floors intact. This may be the most stressful part of refinishing pine flooring, but if it is done right, it can make your floors beautiful.

Choosing the right finishes is also important. If you want the natural pine to shine through don’t apply a stain. But if you want to create a certain look, match wood tones or want to add a healthy glow to the pine floors, stain is important. Sealing with at least two coats of sealant is important to keep the floors looking great so you don’t have to go through this effort again any time soon.

I am biased towards low VOC stains and sealants because it’s better for the environment and your health. Most low VOC products use less petroleum products, if any at all, thereby reducing our reliance on oil — especially foreign oil.

Refinishing hardwood pine floors can help to give them new life, whether you do it yourself or you pay to have a professional do them. Adding new life to old floors is a great way to make your home more beautiful and inviting, as well as add value to your home.

35 thoughts on “Refinishing Pine Floors

  1. i need help im finishing a new pine floor and cant get the scratches out everything i do leaves small swirls in the floor please help me

  2. Hi Robert,
    I don’t know what grit you’re using, but chances are you need to go finer. You should finish by sanding the entire floor with 120 grit sandpaper. I’m sure that your sander won’t get into the corners well and possibly the edges, you’ll need to do these areas by hand or use a hand sander and use the same grit sandpaper.
    When cleaning up the dust, be sure to vacuum (even ceilings, walls, windowsills, light fixtures!) and use a tack cloth afterwards. It’d be a same to go thru all that effort and then have dust get on the floor when you’re staining/sealing/finishing the floor!

  3. I’m refinishing old pine floors in our bedroom. A contractor told me that they had been sanded in the past and the groove portion was now too thin to sand again. So we stripped the old finish with citristrip and cleaned up with mineral spirits. The questions now are:
    Do we need to apply any conditioner before staining?
    What’s the best kind of stain to apply?
    What’s the best top coat/sealant?

  4. Hi Jer,
    How did the contractor know that the groove portion was too thin to sand again? Just curious.
    I really can’t comment on applying conditioner since I can’t tell if the wood needs it.
    You can choose whatever wood stain you’d like – the big thing to keep in mind is to make sure that it will be compatible with other products that you use.
    For a top coat/sealant, I recommend Diamond Coat Varathane Polyurethane.

  5. Have pine wood floors that were under a subfloor covered with padding and carpet. The floor sqeewked terribly because the two woods rubbed together. Took those up. The pine wood is the ceiling to the basement. They hammered the you know what out of the floor in places. I have puttyed those and sanded. My question is the space between the boards in some places lets things like water and dirt etc fall to the basement. What can I use to seal these up? I was planning on painting the floor, but have since started exploring a natural finish again.

  6. We are re-finishing our floors. The new wood in the kitchen is oak while the wood in the bedrooms and l/r and d/r are Ponderosa pine. If I want to use a stain, how do I go about choosing a stain that matching the oak and the pine? Also , should I use more than 2 coats of the poly on the kitchen floor since that is where everyone comes in from outside?
    Thanks so much for your time?

  7. Hi Jennie –
    Choosing a stain will be kinda hit & miss – don’t forget you can also mix colors to get as close as possible to what you need. You can put more than 2 coats of poly, that’s no problem. You may need to fine sand or buff as you build the coats up. Good luck!

  8. Hi there, I have a question if you could please help… Are you familiar with gel stains? Thicker than oil or water-based and supposedly they offer better coverage, but I guess it is less penetrating. Anyway, I was hoping you could tell me if it is still necessary to use a conditioner on my bare pine floors if I am using a gel stain, which is said to be much more even. On they said you should always use a wood conditioner on soft wood such as pine before staining. I just wasn’t sure if that applies to gel stains as well.

  9. Our Kitchen pine floors are 150 years old. Plan to refinish: Questions: 1) recommendation for filling cracks that range from 1/4 inch to nearly 1/2 inch and up to 3/8 ” deep. 2.) Water based or oil based?) 3.) How many coates?

  10. Most people use wood putty to fill in cracks, but those are some wide cracks your floor has! Some people also use clear epoxy to fill in the gaps. It’s up to you whether you use oil based or water based, oil based usually has a stronger odor and can take a while to dissapate. The product you choose should state how many coats to use, then add a couple more as this is a high-traffic area. ;o)

  11. I have pine floors in my cabin with 1/16 to 1/4 inch gaps between the boards is this the way the floor is suppost to be because the cracks seem to just collect dirt and dust. I want to refinish this floor by sanding it down and then putting a clear coat on it. Should i be filling in the cracks first or leaving them for expansion and contraction.
    Not Sure

  12. Hi Hutch,
    I could really use some more information in order to try to help you. Any idea about how old the floor is? Is this cabin your residence or a vacation type cabin (meaning not climate controlled all year long)?
    I presume you’re thinking about refinishing the flooring since you’re asking about the possibility of filling in the gaps?

  13. We purchased an older home(1956) that has pine floors.
    The floors looked as if they had never been refinished since original varnishing.
    We used a varnish remover,like stripeeze, to remove the varnish from the baseboards and 4 inches out from the baseboard on the flooring.
    We used a drum sander to sand the remainder of the floor,and it turned out well.
    My dilemma is there is a resideue from the stripper that looks like the varnish,and won’t come out unless I use a hand block sander.
    It is delaying me from putting my first coat of varnish.
    Is there a solvent or soap solution I could use to remove the residue from the stripper on the floor?

  14. Hi Jim,
    Usually when it’s tacky like that, it means that you didn’t leave the stripper on long enough to do it’s job. You can either try the stripper again or use a sander. Remember, the original varnish wouldn’t have gotten as worn at the edges of a room as it would more towards the middle (higher traffic areas). It’s going to take more work to remove the varnish at the edges because it’s going to be thicker.

  15. We built a new log cabin late in 2008. We installed rusic pine floors 14″ boards. Now we want to sand and finish. The cabin in not heated year round. I do have gaps and heard of way to fill them. Sand the floors and save the sawdust. Then mix with a resin to fill the gaps. Is this a good way to fill spaces between boards. Our gaps are 1/8 or a little more.

  16. Hi Jay,
    You failed to mention what area the cabin is located. I’m not convinced that the gaps should be filled in – they allow for expansion & contraction. You haven’t yet experienced really warm weather to see how your flooring will react to increased heat and humidity. I would think that there will be that since you will not be heating the cabin year round that it would be better to leave the flooring very rustic looking and not fill in the gaps. That’s only my opinion though and based on not knowing how big of a temperature variance there is where the cabin is located.

  17. Flooring Lady,
    Just responding to my March 31st reply. My cabin is located in Southwestern WI. I was planning on sanding in late May and finishing in June. We have been heating the cabin on weekends for the last few months. What types of sanders are the best for sanding?

  18. Hi Jay,
    Any kind of sander will work, it just depends on how much time you want to put into sanding. You can use a non-electric hand sander, an electric palm sander, or rent a larger sander (that will be much faster!). It’s up to you. ;~)

  19. I am refinishing pine floors and wonder if I need to use a wood conditioner before staining (will stain to match floors in other rooms).
    I have tested the stain on extra floorboars and it doesn’t seem blotchy, but most sites advise on using wood conditioner. Will it change the look of the stain, as i very much like the testing strips?
    Thanks for your advice.

  20. Hi Stacy,
    Wood conditioner is useful to help ensure that you get the same results overall throughout the room. Some areas may take to the stain differently. As you know, you don’t have to use it, but you will run the risk of blotches if you don’t. I’m not going to tell you to not use a conditioner as neither of us can safely say that your whole floor will look as good as the extra floorbords you’ve already tested on.

  21. Hi Flooring Lady,
    We are having our old pine floors refinished and the contractor suggested filling in the gaps with filler – he didn’t say what kind. There are gaps that range in size between the boards. (We are having two rooms refinished and he suggested replacing the floors in the third room that has old pine b/c three would need to be repairs done to 1/3 the floor in that room and he didn’t think it would turn out well. He suggested using that wood to do repairs on the other rooms that are in better condition). The house is over 100 years and I believe it is the original flooring.
    I like the idea of not having gaps b/c of the dirt, etc. We also plan to have kids and I think it would be much better not to have cracks if there are children playing on the floors. However, I’m concerned (1) about the aesthetics and (2) that it may hurt the floor. I love the old floors and I would hate to harm them. I’ve read about using strips of the same wood (which may be a possibility if we replace the flooring on the 3d floor rather than refinishing it) but I think it would be too costly for us from a labor perspective.
    Any suggestions?

  22. Hi Philly, You didn’t state how big the gaps are. The answer to that will make a huge difference as to the best way to approach the repair. Filling gaps is a common practice with wood flooring, but generally the gaps aren’t too big — like up to a quarter inch.

    If you want to get creative you could use the old floor to make an interesting design. Say use the old floor as the “frame” around the edge of the room and then use a different color and style of wood to fill in the “center”. Or vice versa. You could use the old wood to make a grid through the room, filling the voids of the grid with tiles. Or filling the voids with another wood.

    Or, saving the old wood for patching the other two rooms, plus saving it for repairs down the road can make sense too.

    Let us know what you end up doing. It sounds like a great project.

  23. Hi Flooring Lady,
    Thanks very much for your sugguestions. I will have to think of creative ways to use the pine from the third floor.
    The gaps range in size. Most are around 1/8th inch or smaller but some are a quarter inch. There aren’t any larger unless the board itself is damaged. I’d read some concerns about filling gaps, is there somehting specific I should make sure the contractor uses (or anything specific I should make sure they don’t use)?
    Thanks again,

  24. caution. do not use white glue and sawdust to fill any gap. the sander will heat up the glue and turn it black. tried it on a sample and it looked like hell . the best thing to do is go and ask a dealer/ installer what to use.

  25. Please help me Flooring Lady!!!!
    After takiing up my nasty carpet, My floor has large black water spots Can these spots be sanded down? What kind of sander do I need to rent-a drum (I scared of using them) or an orbital?

  26. Monica,
    An orbital sander should work fine to screen or sand the floor. If the damage is not too deep, you should be able to sand this down and refinish the floor. If the boards are damaged all the way through, they may need to be replaced.

  27. Dar,
    When you redid your floor, did you use a gloss or shiny finish? Some finishes are matte or low-gloss. You may try putting on another coat and see if that increases the shine. Polishing it with white pad might help bring up some shine also.

  28. Hello,
    We have stripped the pine floor in our home, there are some discolorations through the wood. Do you have a recommendation for a wood bleaching product to bleach the wood surface from the stains, so we can refinish with polyurethane?

    • Hi Pamela,

      Pine is going to have some natural discoloration, whether from age or water or just the natural properties of the wood. If you are wanting a more uniform colorway throughout the wood flooring, one easy way is to match the darker color already on the floor and stain the entire floor dark.

      If you are aiming for a lighter color for your floors and wanting to lighten up some of the darkest areas, you can look into using Oxalic Acid to bleach those areas. You will need to sand the finish prior to using the bleaching crystals and make sure to use protective clothing and goggles. Oxalic acid crystals are available at most home improvement and hardware stores, and also on Amazon. You will need to dissolve the crystals in water and then apply the solution onto the stains with a cloth or sponge.

      Make sure to neutralize the bleach that remains with a baking soda solution after you have bleached the area and then re-sand before finishing.

      Good luck! And let me know how they turn out! I’d love to see pictures.

  29. Hi!
    We just ripped up carpets and found old pine flooring underneath. It seems very soft and am wondering how durable they will be? Would laying a new floor ontop be a better investment of time and money in regards to long-lasting durability?
    Any thoughts?
    Thank you,

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