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Why would you hire a pro? It’s expensive. It’s a pain in the #@& to have strangers roaming about your house. Maybe they won’t do an good job.
Here’s why I think hiring a professional wood floor sander/finisher is a dang good idea. (From my experience as an old house lover & a wood flooring business owner for 45 years.)
0. When you hire a pro, you acquire a friend in the biz.
I answered the phone for 45 years & guided homeowners through the process. Sometimes their call was premature- they had other issues to be addressed. I always quizzed them about their most recent termite inspection, signs of moisture intrusion, their allover restoration plan. If they lacked a plan, we put one together. The longest time I ever walked someone through the process was 2 years & 3-6 months was not uncommon.
I also took the opportunity to dissuade people from making unfortunate decisions such as refinishing perfectly lovely floors simply to change their color. I sold my business but I had a website full of great information & links & was able to educate them on how preserve their old houses. Now I write this blog!
I wanted to make sure that if they were taking the step of hiring a professional wood floor sander/finisher, that they were getting everything that they needed to get the best floor possible & to make the experience as smooth & pleasurable as it could be. It was a fun job!
1. You get the benefits of their experience. Pro’s have made all the mistakes already & don’t have to go to school on your floor.
The first floor my husband, Dennis sanded, at my vintage clothing store, way back in the early 80’s, was maple, which is a very hard wood. He learned how to refinish by going to the library & studying books. He was a chemistry major in college, which gave him a bit of a jump on coatings-stains & finishes- but his only experience with wood was as a sophomore in high school wood shop & he wasn’t very good at.
None of the books he read at the library, mentioned anything about the different species & their requirements & characteristics. I was young & foolish & specified a medium dark stain. A pro would have encouraged me to forego the stain to allow the full beauty of this finely grained wood to be displayed, but my husband wasn’t even aware that it was maple! And he certainly wasn’t aware of how difficult it is to get an even stain on maple because of its uneven porosity.
Fortunately, he realized that he needed to know more than the books could teach him, & called a pro company at random out of the Yellow Pages. Wildly, the person who answered lived right behind us & graciously stopped by to help. The pro suggested that we rent sanding equipment from him & gave Hubby some good tips on using it, which was what saved the project. (Two years & 100 floors later, my now educated & skilled husband critiqued this first effort & gave it a C-.)
Which leads me to:
2. Pro’s have state-of-the-art equipment that they keep well- maintained & calibrated. Since the 20’s, sanders really hadn’t been improved much but they were miles above the tools you could rent at the time (early 80’s) Hubby first started. The rental machines were extremely under-powered & just chomped the heck out of floors. Slowly & arduously, you understand, because of the lack of power.
During our 45 years in the business, we went through 4 major iterations of equipment. With each new development, we would replace perfectly workable sanding machines for new, ever more expensive & sophisticated machines that could make a floor flatter while removing less of the surface.
Our equipment was maintained religiously. An uncalibrated machine can bounce over a floor making waves that are impossible to remove. Rental company employees just don’t maintain their equipment. They probably don’t know how & it’s not theirs, so they tend to be a bit casual about it. Hiring a professional wood floor sander/finisher means that the machines that they will be using belong to them- it was our $15,000 that bought each one & we wanted them to operate well & have long lives. At least until it was time for the next upgrade!
3. They use the best products & have working relationships with product manufacturers Many pro’s have attended their training programs to achieve better knowledge of their particular products & equipment. Generally, folks who hold these certifications are conscientious & professional.
Bona, a stain, finish & equipment manufacturer offers such a program. Bona was a pioneer, way back in the 80’s of low VOC water base finishes & soon after, began manufacturing low VOC oil based stains & oil based polyurethanes.
Students who are pre-qualified by a local manger, must have at least 3 years experience & it is required that the company have been in business for 5 years. They are required to carry commercial liability insurance which protects the homeowner from any damage to a home that might occur from their work. (We had a decent amount of work paid by this type of insurance from floods caused by plumbing fiascos!)
In addition to attending their school, in Aurora, Colorado, member pro’s receive technical support in the field.
4. I seem to have wandered off product relationship & wandered into training. While everyone learns through experience, training under master craftsman takes skill to another level.
Lagler, an equipment manufacturer also offers training & certification. In the class, students learn to master their machines, including advanced sanding techniques & the use of correct sandpaper grits at each stage. One benefit of this study is that the craftsmen learn to use operate the machines more efficiently, greatly reducing time spent on the job- & in your home!
The National Wood Flooring Association is the organization that sets the standards for the trade. They have researched & developed the most effective techniques & offer training in installation & sand & finish as well as educating inspectors who help homeowners when a job goes bad. Just holding a membership in this organization shows commitment to professionalism.
5. All these things mean that your floor will be finished in much less time than if you are going the DIY route. It also means that your floor will have a longer life because rented equipment in the hands of a novice can mean that more wood is likely to be removed. An experienced, trained hand is a gentle hand, very important in preserving our old-growth wood floors.
That being said, as much as you will benefit from hiring a pro, not all of them are alike. You must perform your own due diligence, to ensure that the one you choose has the above attributes. I strongly suggest that you-
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This guide of how to clean & maintain your wood floors applies only to floors with a surface coating type of finish such as oil-based polyurethane finish, water based finishes, etc. For floors with penetrating finish, refer to your manufacturer’s instructions.
There are some similarities in care between the various finish types, but for the sake of ease, this article pertains to water & oil based polyurethanes only. None of them requires scrubbing on your hands & knees nor flooding the floor with water! Flooring finishes have come a long way since Great-grandmother’s time & the methods of cleaning & maintaining them have evolved right along with them.
There are many choices in flooring finishes today, each one with different care requirements. If you should currently be trying to decide about which finish to apply to your floor, you might want to read this article on cleaning & maintenance, as well as the one on types of finishes. Appearance is not the only consideration unless you have a houseful of staff. I’m guessing that a few of you don’t!
That’s brings the point to mind, this article is a good guide for your housekeeper. I have seen too many floors ruined because a lack of education.
1. Avoid high heel traffic, especially heels that have lost the protective little tips on the end. They are deadly to wood floors.
2. Use walk-off mats at all entrances. It’s not a bad idea to remove your shoes before entering your house. It is the tradition in many cultures. In addition to dirt, it also keeps out pesticides & herbicides that might be picked up outside. It also helps you enforce #1 when you have guests & you don’t want to be singling out any one person.
3. Place protectors on the feet of all furniture. You can get them in different types. This is a link to Amazon where you can see the various kinds & even some cute little videos about how to use them.
4. Use area rugs in high traffic areas.
Let’s start with our canine buddies.
If Doggie weighs over 30-40 lbs. or is very bouncy, their claws can not only scratch the wood but can actually dent it. Softwood floors like pine or fir, even floors of old growth wood which are harder than floors of newly harvested woods of the same species, are more susceptible to this, but I have seen many dented old-growth oak floors.
Some of my flooring customers used claw tips & found them workable. You can see them on Amazon here. I know little about them & recommend that you speak with your vet or trainer before trying them on your pet.
I also recommend placing rugs beneath the places where Doggie likes to hang out because when they jump down, they can exert quite a bit of force against your floor. If you place the rug part way under the feet of the furniture piece, it will help to anchor it.
There is no finish that will make your floor harder. Wood is soft & porous & though I’m not going to say that it’s a delicate material, it does take knowing what it likes & what it doesn’t like to get along with it.
Kitties are another matter. Firstly, I do not think that there is any way in the world to protect a wood floor from a litter box. There is nothing that you can put under it that will make any difference. Find a floor with an impervious surface. Kitties also seem to like to throw up & their vomit is very acidic. All I can say is that you need to clean it up as soon as possible. You hear the urping sound, grab a paper towel & get it up immediately.
I have never seen a cat scratch a floor, though my Pouella scratched my high gloss dining table. We had a large round metal platter that we displayed in the center, & she used to like to walk around it before settling herself atop the nice, cool dish. After a couple years of this, when you picked up the platter you could faintly see a circle of tiny claw marks. (This was nothing compared to what she did to the couch, but that’s another story.)
Here’s where you’re going to get instructions that are unique to me. I have seen many, many floors ruined by loving hands.I have spoken to many heart-broken homeowners whose new floors were cupping (Here’s the GLOSSARY!) or cloudy. They all had one thing in common. They weren’t my customers! My customers got a cute little care basket with a cleaning kit, feet & most importantly, instructions on how to use them, at the end of the job.
So here’s what I suggest- a long-handled Swiffer for every day dust & cat fur removal. Barefooted, it is exactly the right height for me. (With shoes on, I have to bend a little bit.) I use a robot vacuum every other day but it doesn’t get under & around everything, & the dust & cat fur do! I do not use one with a water tank. As you will see, I like to control my floor’s moisture level.
For a more thorough clean, I pull out my trusty canister Miele. It has a HEPA system, not just a HEPA filter. I use a soft brush attachment that I routinely check for any pieces of plastic that could touch the floor. I run this over the floor, using a wee bit of pressure, to ensure that the brush is loosening dirt from the grain. This is my second Miele canister. The first one was ruined by a housekeeper who ran it without a bag.
The word mopping conjures up visions of dripping string mops & buckets of soapy water. THIS IS NOT THAT!!!!
I highly recommend using Bona’s original cleaning formula with its basic mop. Here’s the whole system in a package on Amazon. There are other similar products offered by Bona but I am not a fan of scented cleaning products & their other, fancier mops that squirt, don’t allow me to clean as thoroughly as I would like, while protecting my floor. I also purchase several additional mop heads.
After I Swiffer & vacuum, I spray a section, starting at a far wall, about 6′ X 6′ with a little bit of Bona. I just mist it, really. Then I take my nice, clean dry Bona mop & going with the grain of the wood, I mop up the water. I get that floor dry. As I move from section to section, I check my mop head for dampness & dirt & change it for a fresh, clean, dry one at least every room. The purpose of the mop is to pick up the moisture & the dirt, not lay it down. I stick the mop heads in a plastic back as I go along. I don’t leave them on the floor. They then go in the washer & dryer with my other rags & are ready to go for next time.
Does all this sound too easy? Well, it is. Here are my only cautions:
1. Buy at least 6 extra mop heads.
2. Do not use a great deal of the cleaning fluid in any single area. If you have to spray it & wipe it again, so be it.
3. If you buy a gallon of the concentrated cleaner, do not make the mistake of using it without mixing it with the amount of water in the instructions. Ensure that your housekeeper understands this. I’m recalling now that I actually did get a call from one of our customers. Her floor was cloudy & sticky. Turned out her housekeeper used the fluid full strength instead of mixing it with water 7 to 1. For months! I told her to hide the bottle of concentrate & just rinse it a couple times every cleaning. This worked. She saw improvement with the first rinse.
4. Occasionally mop with just sprayed water. The Bona can leave a tiny amount of film that over time might become noticeable.
5. Keep an eye on your floor for the finish wearing in high traffic area. When you see finish wear, (loss of sheen) call your wood flooring company & ask them if it’s time for a re-coat of your high traffic areas. If you keep your floor coated, barring disaster such as deep scratches or water damage, you’ll never have to refinish it again. We are big on saving wood floors & like advise folks to keep them protected.
I recommend that you read all the articles in the WOOD FLOOR section so that you will have full understanding & appreciation from these gifts from Mother Nature.
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The finish is the material that goes on top of a prepared wood floor- a correctly & thoroughly prepared floor- that makes it look fresh, emphasizes the grain & protects the wood, a comparatively soft & porous material. There are many products on the market, & I think the best way to choose the right wood floor finish for your bungalow, is to examine some of these products & consider their pluses & their minuses. I am not going to talk about stains (changing the color of the wood) here. Historically, wood floors were not stained. They were left natural & have aged & darkened to a beautiful patina over the decades. So that’s what I am going to recommend- floors au naturel.
As with any material that you use, or is used by a hired professional, I suggest that you read the manufacturer’s data, the Safety Date Sheet for the product & if you have any questions after reading the material, call the tech people at the manufacturer. They are the ones that most likely to have all the true & correct information about the product- not the pro, not the distributor or seller, not little ol’ me, but the manufacturer. I once had a really good painter apply paint in a method that was different from the manufacturer’s directions. The paint failed. The company’s literature said it would.
I do not like speaking ill of members of my trade, but I have seen some pretty angry homeowners complaining about the odd choices made, resulting in high-gloss floors that gleamed like beacons in the night, floors that peeled before they were even dry & floors with their beautiful grain obscured by too many coats applied by the overzealous finisher.
As a wood flooring professional, my focus, when I choose the right wood floor finish for your bungalow or decide on which technique or equipment to use, it to view their consistent workability & durability. After answering calls from tearful owners of old houses, seeing hundreds of attempts by others to do oddball stuff to save time &/or money, all the advice that I am giving you is based on my 40+ years of experience with professional products & techniques.
You have only so much wood layer left above the tongue & groove of your historic floor. Incorrect choices, over-aggressive or poor sanding can reduce your floor’s life by decades. I always recommend that any wood flooring tradespeople you hire be trained & certified by the companies that make wood floor finishes for your historic bungalow that they will actually use on your project. (Hopefully, they follow schooling that they learned!) The National Wood flooring Association has extensive training programs for installers, sander/finishers & even sales reps. Additionally, Bona a finish company whose products we used for many years has a topnotch training program for finishers. They train craftspeople in the use of their products, their state-of-the-art equipment & techniques, including removing the least amount of precious floor necessary to get the heavy marks out of it & create a surface with which the finish will tightly bond. I also recommend that you read my 7 VITAL Things to Know Before You Hire a Contractor.
I caution you against hiring someone to apply a particular type or even brand of finish for the very first time. The techniques & tools for applying each of these finishes varies hugely. They do not use the same skill set.
My pros & cons are based on the use of these products in an old house- either for the installation of new or reclaimed/salvaged, wood or for the refinishing of existing wood. Folks seem to have strong opinions about wood floor finishes. Please be polite in expressing these opinions. Everyone has different requirements for their floors based on budget, lifestyle, skill level & aesthetic preferences. And perhaps the phases of the moon.
Pros: Approximates the illusion of depth that old finishes- shellac, wax, & varnishes showed & it ambers over time, again mimicking those historic materials. Costs less than many other types of finishes.
If you follow my maintenance guide & don’t have any water intrusion horrors, you have a good chance of never having to refinish your floor again by periodically recoating it. Check out the section RECOATING to learn more about this useful option.
Cons: Strong odor that can linger for months. Long cure time. More environmentally harmful. Flammable, as are applicator rags. Some people don’t like the fact that it ambers over time.
Sheens: Available in matte to high gloss. (With matte, it is almost impossible to get an even sheen.)
Recommended brands: Bona & Dura Seal (Not available at big box stores.
Pros: Easy application & cleanup; low odor and low VOCs; several gloss options, including an easy-to-use matte; no yellowing over time. Good scuff, scratch and chemical resistance at full cure. Quick drying. Easy care.
The ones we liked best were two-partwater-based finishes, such as Bona Traffic HD, Dura Clear Max, & Basic Coating Street Shoe which are considerably more durable than most oil-based polyurethanes. They have much better abrasion resistance and will last longer when used on your bungalow’s wood floors. However, water-based finishes sold at the retail level are not two-part & are less durable than these better, professional grade water-based finishes.
Cons: Raises grain when applied for the first couple of coats when no stain coat has been applied. Grain raise makes the wood surface feel rough, both in appearance & to the touch. A trained wood flooring professional should be able to deal with grain raise & would probably suggest a minimum of 3 coats, lightly abrading between each one.
Lower sheen or matte water-based finishes make the wood look bare rather than creating a look of depth that old finishes impart. Semi-gloss or gloss water-based finishes do give good depth of finish.
Sheens: Available in matte to high gloss, except for Bona Traffic HD which is not made in high gloss.
Another good option when you choose the right wood floor finish for your bungalow, is to consider applying 1-2 coats of Bona Dri-Fast oil poly sealer, with 2 coats of water-based Bona Traffic HD (stands for Hard & Durable!) on top This combination gives you depth, ambering & durability plus avoids grain raise.
Recommended brands: Bona, Basic Coatings, & Dura Seal. These products are available in extra durable product levels. (Not available at big box stores.)
Once again, if you follow my maintenance guide & don’t have any water intrusion events of magnitude, you can avoid refinishing your floor again by periodically recoating it.
While other finish systems sit on top of the surface of the wood, oil penetrating wood finishes go down into the fibers of the wood, then harden on the surface.
Pros: Offers a natural look because you do not look through it. Many contain no VOC’s. Easy application of non-pigmented products. We have found Rubio to have a moderate odor & WOCA’s to be stronger.
The use of these products requires periodic maintenance- re-applying oil, but may not ever need a full sand and refinish. If severely worn, a light sanding may be needed first.
Cons: The look is very matte & most people are accustomed to a bit of shine. It is a durable finish, however, we once used this coating on the floor of a studio of a painter. He worked in oils & his paint drips were not repelled by the finish but soaked right into the wood. It was awful!!!!
Pigmented oils require impeccable prep/sanding & are difficult to apply.
Clean-up is similar to that of oil-base finishes. You will need paint thinner to clean your hands, your brush or non-disposable applicators. All are flammable.
Recommended brands: WOCA, Rubio & Bona
In 40+ years in the trade, we did not have good luck with these materials for various reasons- cost, durability, toxicity, flammability, sheen choices, ease of use & ability to get a consistently good finish. There are no manufacturer recommendations for use on floors for some products. Floors lead a hard life & using a product designed to be applied to furniture is only going to lead to more maintenance. We greatly preferred the products mentioned above. If you should choose to use these product formulated with these oils, please ensure that they are specified for floors.
One more bit of advice- when it’s time to choose the right wood floor finish for your bungalow, no matter what the species, stay away from high-gloss sheens. They reflect so much light that you will not be able to see the beautiful wood grain. Additionally, they show even the tiniest scratches as well as dust & dirt. And the there’s the hairballs. Kitty’s urp is very high acid & will dull that mirror shine of high-gloss very quickly.
As always, whether you are hiring someone to perform the work or doing it yourself, study the manufacturer’s materials, the Safety Data Sheets & protect yourself & your family from chemicals & toxins in your home. And enjoy your beautiful wood floors!
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I consider historic bungalow wood floors to be the single most endangered historic fabric, well, maybe second to windows! As a tree-hugging, wood flooring professional, specializing in the restoration & preservation of historic floors, I’d like to pass on what I have learned in over 40 years in the trade. I’m starting here with HISTORIC BUNGALOW WOOD FLOORS 101- From the Forest to Your Floor, so that you will understand the value of your original wood flooring material that was gifted to us by the forest primeval.
“They’re not shiny enough.” “They’re the wrong color.” “I just bought my house & I want everything to be fresh & new.”
The value of this valuable material is often not understood & the poor floors often get attacked by a sanding machine at the hands of a person who doesn’t have a learner’s permit let alone a license to drive such a machine. (That’s a joke but there is training for the most conscientious craftsmen which saves floors & honors trees.) You can read about our viewpoint on when to sand here.
Let’s see what precious material, harvested over a century ago from the old-growth forests of our country, this wood actually is, that we may decide to treat it more gently.
Your historic bungalow’s wood floor began as trees. It is a product of Mother Nature, gifted by her warmth & beauty, but also subject to her whims. Consequently, to fully understand & properly care for your floor, it helps to know a bit about your floor’s life from its conception.
The seed holds all the parts of the tree as well as the nutrients it needs to get started. Given the proper conditions, soil, water, temperature, it sprouts into a tiny seeding. After only a few weeks you will see a miniature tree, complete with leaves, needles, bark & wood.
Like everything else on earth, ancient trees sprang from the sea & like all other life, are dependent on water. The entire tree has evolved to move water to all its parts.
When we look at a historic bungalow wood floor, we see the tree’s trunk & branches. The trunk’s function is to support the tree’s limbs & to move water & nutrients from the roots to the leaves. As the tree grows taller & taller in its reach for the sun, allowing its leaves to photosynthesiz to make food for the tree, it expands in girth to increase its ability to support its increasing height. Each year the cambium (See the diagram below.) adds new layers of woody tissue which create the tree’s annual rings which you are very visible.
The bark covers the tree to protect it from pests & disease. Just under the bark is the layer called the cambium. It is made of growth tissue cells & these cells divide to increase the tree’s diameter.
The sap wood, on the outer edges of the tree is made up of the youngest layers of wood. Its cells carry moisture & nutrients- sugars, amino acids, vitamins, hormones, minerals & micro-nutrients from the tree’s roots to its leaves.
In an old tree which has lived many centuries, like the ones from which the lumber was cut to produce our bungalows, most of the trunk is dead. This wood, on the inside of the tree, is called heart wood. It has ceased transporting nourishment for the tree, & has become a repository for various chemical compounds. The heartwood is often much darker in color than the sapwood. The heartwood gives the tree support, but in some species, as the tree grows, it rots away leaving a hollow, living tree.
Heartwood tends to be more durable than sapwood. It is less subject to attack by certain insects & by stain & mold-producing fungi. This wood at the center of the tree, is usually more highly colored & therefore considered more ornamental. It is more highly prized for historic bungalow wood floors, than the white sapwood. Heartwood is also less permeable to liquid, containing more resin than the sapwood.
The meduliary rings are ribbons of cells running from the inside of the plant to the outside which carry nutrients & chemicals which fight invasion by insects & fungi, & block any damaged areas, out toward the surface of the tree. The pitch is found in the middle of the stems & roots of many plants which store & transports nutrients. It is the oldest part of the tree.
The intrepid men who logged our wood from the forest are long gone, but here’s a shout-out to their efforts in ensuring that we have our cozy little bungalows to live in for the next 100+ years. There’s a very cool group who graciously allowed me to use their photo. Click on over to read the fascinating history of logging here.
I ask you to remember the miracle of the forest. Honor those men & those trees by preserving your floors.
TIP: If you love wood floors, there’s plenty to learn about them here!
There are several species of wood flooring most commonly found in historic bungalows. I have seen others but the species below are the ones to consider first when you do not know what your floor is.
It is important to know the species of your bungalow wood floor because different species have different properties & should be treated differently. For example, Maple is difficult to stain while Oak takes stain readily. This article takes a look at these characteristics so that you can determine the species of wood in your house & better know how to restore your floors.
With regard to pictured below of the species of wood flooring found in historic bungalows, realize that the old growth wood that you find in your home, is often harder & darker than newly harvested wood which is what is pictured here. The hardness of the species listed below pertains to newly harvested, mostly farmed wood. And, different finishes change color differently over time, so you can get an idea of your species from the color of the images, but also you’ll need to study the grain patterns.
When I’m referring to staining properties & I state, …”stain & finish application extremely well when the proper techniques are used,” my meaning is that it’s difficult to apply stain color without a great deal of practice, following the manufacturer’s directions to the letter with regard to material preparation, temperature, material & condition of applicator, etc. You can read about different types of finishes here.
I am listing these species by order of popularity, i.e., how often I have seen them used in houses built from 1900-1930.
And, don’t forget to use the GLOSSARY!
White Oak (Quercus alba)
This is the species of wood flooring most commonly found in historic bungalows in almost all parts of the country.
Color: White Oak’s heartwood is light brown; some boards may have a pinkish tint or a slight grayish cast. Its sapwood is white to cream. In this species you can see considerable variation among boards in both color & grain texture.
Grain: Open. There are several ways to cut the wood from the log, each resulting in a different grain pattern. Most old floors will have combination of grains. A closed grain wood, White Oak tends to be more resistant to water damage than is Red.
Janka Hardness: 1360
Staining & finishing: White Oak’s takes stain & finish application extremely well when the proper techniques are used. It is usually left natural in older houses which displays the grain most beautifully as well as the contrast with other species that might have been used.
Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
White Oak was used in floors until the 1940’s at which time Red Oak predominated, so your original bungalow floor is unlikely to be Red Oak. However, we have often seen White Oak floors replaced with Red, later additions with Red & we have seen many instances of floors having been patched with the wrong Oak, even by “professionals.”
Color: Red Oak’s heartwood is a light to medium brown, commonly with a reddish cast. Paler sapwood is not always sharply demarcated from the heartwood. White oak tends to have a slightly more olive cast than that of Red, but color alone isn’t always a reliable method of determining the type of oak.
Grain: Grain is straight, with a coarse, uneven texture & large pores. As an open grain wood, Red Oak tends to be less resistant to water damage than White.
Janka Hardness: 1,290
Staining & finishing: Stains easily is but usually left natural in older houses.
Maple (Acer saccharum)
Color: Heartwood is creamy white to light reddish brown; sapwood is pale to creamy white. Unlike most other hardwoods, the sapwood of hard maple lumber is most commonly used rather than its heartwood. Over time, even the lighter wood it can darken to brown.
Grain: Closed, subdued grain, with medium figuring and uniform texture. Occasionally shows bird’s-eye figuring. Because of its delicate garining, Maple floors are on the formal side.
Stability: Although Maple is a very hard wood, it does not have great stability, meaning that compared to other woods, it can absorb water more easily & warp.
Janka Hardness: 1,450
Staining & finishing: Very difficult to stain. Old Maple floors were never stained. They were always clear coated. I would recommend that if you like the light color of Maple, that you apply a water-based finish rather than oil. The water does not change color over time while the oil finish ambers.
Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)
Color: Heartwood color can vary a fair amount, from a pale pinkish brown to a darker reddish brown, tending to darken with age. It has an amazing & beautiful 3D look that changes as you look at the wood from different angles.
Grain: Mahogany’s grain can be straight, interlocked, irregular or wavy. It’s tecture is medium & uniform, with moderate natural luster.
Staining & finishing: Stains easily but why would you want to? For centuries fine furniture makers have used it to make grand pieces & also as an accent wood. They did not stain it, but just allowed to glorious color to display.
We saw Mahogany in some of the larger, more upscale bungalows in Los Angeles. This makes sense because an imported wood must be transported from a great distance which adds to the cost. We saw none in Florida.
These two species below look very similar in color & grain. The best way to differentiate them is by the area of the country in which they are used- Doug Fir in the West & Heart Pine in the East. Both were regarded as more common in these areas to which they were indigenous, & often used in private areas, while the mosre expensive hardwoods were used in the public spaces.
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
Color: Freshly cut Doug Fir’s heartwood is yellowish tan to light brown, while the sapwood is tan to white. Heartwood may be confused with that of Southern Yellow Pine. You can expect radical color change -getting darker & redder- upon exposure to sunlight. When you sand a Fir floor, the floor will become lightener because you are removing the oxidized layer. It will darken again for a period of decades. The sample on the left is more like what you would see after sanding than what you’re likely to see on your home.
Grain: Normally straight, with occasional wavy or spiral texture.
Janka Hardness: 660
Staining & finishing: Takes stain & finish application well when the proper techniques are used, but not as easily as Oak. It will patina to a beautiful rich color. I don’t recommend staining it.
Heart Pine (Pinus palustris)
Color: Heartwood is yellow after cutting & turns deep pinkish tan to warm reddish brown quickly due to high resin content. Sapwood remains yellow, with occasional blue-black sap stain.
Pine & Fir look very similar to each other each other but Pine is more common in the East & Fir in the West.
Grain: Dense, with high figuring.
Janka Hardness: 1225
Staining & finishing: Takes stain & finish application well when the proper techniques are used, but not as easily as Oak. But please don’t stain your Heart Pine floor. It has spent 100 years developing its beautiful, rich color & even if you sand it, it will turn color again.
Use this bungalow wood floors restoration glossary when you’re ready to have the wood floors of your bungalow refinished or when you need some installed. After having dealt with myriad contractors, you have learned a great deal about each trade & realize that the next time you restore a bungalow, it will be a dang sight easier!
My purpose is to educate you sufficiently so that you will know more about this particular phase going in, instead of after it’s done & you’re wondering why it’s not exactly like you wanted it to be. I can’t make you an expert, but I can impart enough information in this wood flooring glossary so that you will understand the process before it begins, giving you better control over the final product. It starts with knowing the terminology.
So, when you get your wood floor refinishing proposal, make a nice cuppa ginger tea (hot or cold) & really read it. You also might want to get my 7 Vital teps to Hiring a Contractor e-book that you can get for FREE by just signing up for my mailing list.
I’m also thinking reading my hubby’s article on refinishing would be good too.
Let’s make it easier this time! And if you run across words in the any that I have missed, let me know & I’ll add them to the bungalow wood floor restoration glossary. I spent 45 years of my life educating people about historic wood floors so I want to get it right!
Allowing wood to adjust to the humidity in your home before installing & then again before sanding. This is important because wood expands & contracts based on the amount of moisture in the air.
A red/yellowish color change in a floor from certain finishes. Your existing floor has ambered over the years. When your floor gets sanded, it will be a much lighter color.
A molding designed to be attached to the wall to cover the edge of a floor.
Nailing at a 45 degree angle into the tongue so that the nail is not seen on the top of the floor.
Simple or intricate designs which frame & customize a flooring installation.
Extreme warping of a wood floor from moisture, where some of the boards are actually lifting up off of the subfloor.
Patterned markings left on a floor by improper handling of a drum sander.
A convex or raised appearance of individual strips, with the center raised above the edges.
A concave or dished appearance of individual strips, with the edges raised above the center. Cupping is always caused by a moisture imbalance and is often the sign of a water intrusion or wet crawl space issue.
There’s dry & there’s cured, which is when a finish has reached its fullest hardness potential. Different types of finishes dry & cure at different rates.
Wood is a natural product & reacts to changes in humidity and temperature-warping, expanding, shrinking. Different species of wood react & change in differing degrees.
These woods are harvested from trees that are native to & grown in the United States.
Drum sander (AKA big machine)
A type of sander used to smooth the floor, using replaceable abrasive sandpaper sheets to the surface of wood flooring to prepare it for finishing & sometimes staining.
Today’s technology features machines that have an integrated dust collection system. Most companies promote 99% efficiency. Many of our former customers reported 100% satisfaction.
A powerful, large, orbital hand (It spins around & around, flat against a surface) sander that allows you to sand the edges of floors, right up to baseboards and walls.
A wood flooring product that is made of layers of wood pressed together, with the grains running in different directions. Do not
Woods that are from trees native to, & grown in countries other than the U.S.
Wood is a product of nature & is affected by changes in the environment. It expands when it is exposed to water or humidity.
A space is left at the baseboard to allow for the floor to expand, which occurs with moisture. The space is covered by the base shoe molding.
Material which fills cracks or nail holes in a floor. It is tinted the color of the floor.
Protective coating applied to a wood floor.
Gloss level (Also known as sheen level)
The amount of light reflected by a particular finish. Your choices are satin or matte, semi gloss and high gloss.
The appearance of wood is judged (graded) by the number of visible knots & other natural markings.
Refers to the strength of the hardwood species, based on a scale which measures the amount of force it takes to drive a .444 inch steel ball into a plank of wood .222 inches.
Use of equipment that will give you the flattest floor. It will remove high spots, such as chatter marks, without taking out soft grain.
A botanical group of trees that has broad leaves as opposed to needles. The wood of these trees is normally harder than needle bearing trees. Common hardwoods found in bungalow floors are oak, maple, mahogany.
Wood from the center of old-growth long leaf pine that is darker, denser & somewhat harder that newly harvested wood. Heart pine is much valued amongst bungalow owners.
Slightly harder & darker, non-living wood at the center of a tree at its center.
You want to ensure that the finish will be well-bonded to the floor’s surface. In order to achieve this bond, each coat applied must be lightly abraded after it is completely dry- so dry that the finish will form a powder when it is abraded.
Floors that are sanded, stained & finished in your home.
Framing members, often a 2″ x 8″ pieces of lumber, which are usually spaced every 16″ to 24″ & support the sub-floor & flooring. Joists usually ‘sit’ on a sill beam (the structural beam that lays on top of your piers) or, toward the center of your house, right on the piers. In older homes, the flooring is often laid directly over these joists, with no subfloor.
The practice of replacing boards that are discolored or damaged, while leaving the remaining floor. The new boards are of the same wood (ideally reclaimed) & same width as the exiting boards.
To cut wood into a desired shape, e.g., strip or plank flooring, etc.
A special device for testing moisture content in wood floors. Moisture issues should be detected & addressed before sanding your floors.
Pieces of wood milled to install in a floor, giving it a finished look.
A hardwood molding used to cover the outside corner of a step.
An acronym for the National Wood Flooring Association which sets the standards for, & provides education & training for the industry.
Lumber that has been cut from trees that grew in America before the settlers came. Some of these trees were hundreds of years old when they were harvested. This is the wood we treasure in our old houses.
A wood tile composed of individual slats assembled together, forming a pattern.
Penetrating oil sealers
These oil-based sealers are spread across the floor, allowing them to penetrate the surface, offering a stain and a finish to protect it. Excess is removed with a sponge or cloth. They offer differing levels of protection.
Refers to the likelihood a wood floor’s color will change as it is exposed to light. The existing floors in your bungalow have spent 100 years doing this!
Wood flooring boards 3” & wider designed to be installed in parallel rows. In random width plank, the boards vary in width from 3” to 8”.
In very old floors, these planks can be just boards, nailed side-by-side. Newer floors have a tongue pattern cut into 1 side & a groove on the other side.
The usual way of cutting a log. It gives a random mix of grain patterns.
Type of finish for hardwood that does not require waxing.
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A type of trim used between vertical walls and the floor.
Wood which has a grain that runs parallel to the length of the board. (It is sometimes called “vertical grain”.) In oak the boards have ray-like markings running diagonally across them.
Wood near the outside of a tree. It is usually lighter in color than heartwood.
Screen and Coat
(Also referred to as “Recoat”.) A light scuff sanding of the existing urethane finish, followed by application of a coat (or coats) of urethane.
Any finishing material that seals the wood.
A resin substance secreted by female lac bugs. Used to form a cocoon, the resin comes from India and Thailand. Processed as dry flakes, it can be added to denatured alcohol to create a liquid. This liquid is then used as a food glaze or floor finish. It’s a natural option which is highly resistant to stain and odor. It provides a high gloss finish.
Made from boards which are single pieces of wood from top to bottom.
Can occur at the side of the boards when a floor is at the end of its useful life, or otherwise damaged.
The act of changing the color of wood without disturbing the texture or markings, through the application of transparent, pigmented liquids.
Solid or engineered boards, “1 & 1/2” – “2 & ¼” wide, installed in parallel rows.
A foundation for a floor in a building. It can be concrete, plywood, or in older homes, pine planking.
Tongue & groove
In strip, plank and parquet flooring, a tongue is cut on one edge & a groove cut on the opposite edge. As the flooring is installed, the tongue of each strip or unit is interlocked with the groove of the adjacent strip or unit.
Top nailing (face nailing)
The old plank floors were nailed from the top of the planks while tongue & groove floors are nailed into the grooves so that the nails are hidden.
The finish moldings, such as baseboards or base shoe.
Most common finish for wood flooring, available in various gloss levels
A material, such as foil, plastic film or specially coated paper, with a high resistance to vapor movement, used to control condensation or prevent migration of moisture.
The sandable wood surface above the tongue and groove. On 3/4″ solid wood floors, the wear layer is typically 6 millimeters (0.23622 inch). This is why you want to take good care of your floors!
Hopefully this bungalow wood floors restoration glossary helps you make sense of what you are seeing in your flooring proposal. If you still have questions, feel free to send them them to me & if I can’t answer them, I can pretty much guarantee that my brilliant husband can.
STAY IN THE BUNGALOW KNOW!!!