Refinishing the hardwood floors was the last step in remedying the odor issue. Once all was said and done, the smell disappeared and the flooring was revived – win win!
As a reminder, here’s what the flooring looked like.
The 100-year-old quartersawn oak was actually in pretty great condition throughout most of the house. However, the urine stains (the dark spots seen above) and termite damage warranted repairs. Plus, there's no better time to restore the floors than when not living in the house.
The very first step was to make a mess. All drywall, painting, and bathroom construction (stay tuned!) occurred before the flooring crew set foot in the house. There's no sense in making that oak perfect and shiny, to then drag a bag of demo debris over it. I've heard professional painters say to paint after floor refinishing because dust can get into the paint, but I sided with the hardwood guys that said to paint first. It makes so much more sense, I mean, I've been known to drop a cup of paint from the top of a ladder.
Oops. Thank goodness for rosin paper. Once I was done spilling paint, the sanding process could begin.
That freshly sanded oak makes my heart skip a beat! I also have a crush on this sander. Ain't she a beaut? Looking back, I think that retro pale green influenced my kitchen cabinet color.
The floors had previously been refinished, but in the back of the closets was the original wax finish. It was pretty dull, but there's something so special about finding a part of the house that hadn't been messed with over the years - even if its a small bit of dingy flooring. Below, you can see the wax finish transition to the glossy polyurethane before getting sanded down. Also, note the termite damage.
All of the boards that were brittle from termites gnawing on them had to be replaced.
It's no surprise to find a few boards that are beyond repair, but the bummer was discovering that termites had eaten through the subfloor, too. It was so chewed on that I could easily poke my finger straight through to the crawl space. Half of the master bedroom flooring had to go. This is where I can't stress enough the importance of house maintenance. This back corner of the house was termite heaven because of the moisture that built up in a non-vented crawl space. There's also no record of termite treatments after 1982. People, these are BUGS inside of your floors/walls/furniture/etc. Get them out before they do this!
Local suppliers were out of the quartersawn oak and tried to convince us to use plain/flatsawn wood. We insisted on using the same type of cut as the existing flooring, and even though it delayed our move-in date, it was well worth the wait. Once the matching hardwood arrived, it had to acclimate to match the house's humidity.
During the acclimation time, we brainstormed how to finish the floors. The sanding did wonders for the small stains and scuffs, but the urine damage was still noticeable and would stand out even more when coated in polyurethane.
I was prepared to stain the wood a dark shade in order to hide the stains. But at the last minute, Ross made his biggest design contribution to date - he declared, "no stain!"
The ghosts of urine blemishes remain, but we couldn't be happier with the choice to keep the white oak light and natural.
After an application of wood putty and another few rounds of sanding, the floors were coated in an oil-based satin polyurethane. The finish is just shiny enough without being glossy, and its amber tones add to the patina of the 100-year-old wood.