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sgettin 11-11-2012 08:02 AM

poly on old plank fooring?
hello. haven't posted since i started my project and after about a year i'm finally ready for some polyeurathane(sp?) and am in need of some advice. thanks in advance for any help.
anyway here is my question. can i just varnish my 150yr old plank floor with poly or do i have to put on some wood feeder or prep coat of some kind? should i even use ploy? the wood is really soft so thought ploy is the way to go but don't really know since i have no experience in this area. not planning on sanding it.
i don't know what wood feeder does other than maybe make the poly stick better which doesn't appear to be an issue because my test board really sucked up the poly, i think i'll need atleast 4 coats. it looked good on the test board. turned really dark and kinda red. maybe wood feeder would help me use less varnish but wood feeder is expensive also.

here's what i got/did.
1850's house and floor. tongue and groove with 5"(+/-) floorboards 15/16" thick. i think it's soft pine of some sort because it's very light weight.
wanted to retain orignal distressed look so i'm leaving all the dents, scratches and old finish etc. not much original finsh it's mostly worn off and doesn't appear to have ever been refinished within the last 100yrs(long story- room was basically closed off from general use since 1950).
20'x40' second story floor with no span support underneath so it had sagged 3" in the middle. took up and saved old floor. leveled joists with nailers on top then screwed plywood to both sides of the joists. put down 1" subfloor. relayed floor (destroyed a few original boards in the process so had to mix and match with some similar old flooring i found).
thanks again.

oh'mike 11-11-2012 08:50 AM

Without sanding you are very likely to have your new poly fail to bond-----

there may be wax or loose finish there----you mentioned having some scraps of the original wood----

Experiment with finishes----I would start with Minwax Wipe on Poly---see if that bonds-----you will want a thin flexible finish----a thick brushed on finish may be to brittle for the soft pine---and scratch off the first time you drag a heave piece of furniture across it.

sgettin 11-12-2012 06:05 AM

thanks mike i'll check out some wipe on poly.


user1007 11-12-2012 08:42 AM

If not at least a light sanding, consider power screening the floor before finishing.

You don't gain much but expense having the flooring suck up polyurethane the way you describe so I suspect a sealer would be a good idea.

I hope you are sure you like the distressed look. I think to some it may end up looking you just wanted to skip the sanding? Now is the time to sand before you get 4 coats of poly on the surface.

Awoodfloorguy 11-12-2012 10:32 AM

Without sanding the best way to get the new poly to bond is to use a base coat of a universal sealer. I prefer DuraSeal brand. Then coat on top of this with the finish of your choice. Oil or waterbased should bond after doing this.

mnp13 11-12-2012 11:01 AM

I have extremely soft floors. They dent very easily and the finish then flakes off. If you look at some of my other posts, you will see photos of the floor. Our house was built in 1873, the floors are the original wide plank pine, with no sub floor.

If you put a hard finish on a soft floor you'll likely end up with what I ended up with - a floor with no finish at all. That floor is really beautiful, if you like the rough, rustic look you might consider an oil finish.

tacomahardwood. 11-12-2012 09:45 PM

Home depot has 5 gallons of cheap poly for under 100$ If I was to gauge risk versus expense , I would lay that down with a Dove roller , it's lint free but not really so roll it in tape and unroll it then vacume it ,Trim the edges with a cheap brush and roll it , Put the brushes into a small garbage bag wrapped tight , Put that in a cool place , Do it again in 24 hours , If this reaqll sucks , Put the poly in a cool place , Go rent a sander and sand it off and start over , Or just succumb to common sense and sand the floor nice and clean m Then you will know it will be a lasting job . If you like the disteressed look , Try buffing with a 120 screen , Then try the poly , But don'tbe surprised if this fails if you don't sand the floor properly

sgettin 11-15-2012 06:17 AM

thank you all for the advice and i'll consider the options you've given me. mainly it's looking like i have a soft floor so a hard poly coat on top of that may not be a good idea unless i'm willing to put up with easliy scratching it. guess i have to make a decision in that regard.
as for sanding it would pbly be best but i am a bit of a purist so i'm wanting to save what original finish is there. kinda weird i know but i also saved all the original sqaure nails amoung other things so i'm pbly a bit anal in that regard.
also i'm a bit of a tight wad in that a new hardwood would pbly have been better but after i priced it installed on a 20' x 40' room i realized not in my budget. the original floorboards saved me a ton of $ so i'm happy with whatever i get. looks good enough so far i guess.

thanks again

user1007 11-15-2012 06:51 AM

So you know, it was not uncommon in the days of the antique homes I worked on to put expensive hardwoods in the the downstairs and public rooms and pine upstairs.

I would take the comment about a non-flexible urethane finish on top of a soft pine or fir floor into consideration and adjust your maintenance expectation. If you buy quality materials, not those from a box store, I don't think you will experience the failure level mentioned. And with four coats you will have good protection for the floor. It will not peel off in chunks.

I had a client that wanted to experiment with adding subtle transparent color not available in typical wood stains to their old pine floor. I used Dr. Martin's watercolor and it turned out unbelievable. It got 4 coats of poly and I am told it held up to kids now grown and with waxing and buffing still looks great. That floor is 20+ years old.

So steer the course you had in mind. I was just concerned that you might not like the look but you have tried a test board or two so move on with the project.

Of course nicely chosen area rugs are nice and will prolong the finish of any wood floor.

sgettin 11-16-2012 12:10 PM

thanks sdsester i think i may go with ploy sinse i'm not very particular and and i'm ok with some floor maintenece and scratches etc. i'll post some pics when done for information.


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