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The Fixer Upper: Refinished Hardwood Floors

By Cozy.Cottage.Cute. on Jul 09, 2012

This was my sneak peek photo a few days ago:

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If you've been following along since we bought this Fixer Upper a few short weeks ago, you'll know that Alex's parents will eventually be living in it as tenants. In an ideal world we would have a good six months to fix up the place before they move in, but with a second mortgage to cover we need to get them in as soon as possible.

That creates a wee bit of a time crunch. We've been in a mad rush to get the interior in a semi-livable state by the end of July. That's the end of this month, folks. Ahhhhhh!

One of the biggest decisions we've had to make so far was whether or not to leave the floors as-is or to get them re- refinished. Let me explain.

As you can see in the original photos, the floors were in rough shape. You can see that the old wax finish was totally worn off in spots and the bare wood was showing through.


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When we bought the house from The Flippers, they had already refinished the floors. They chose to use a dark walnut stain (I think they chose a dark finish to make the house more modern looking). In my experience so far, I've noticed that really old floors don't take dark stain very well. I think that's what might have happened in this case.

The stain didn't really penetrate the wood. It created a layer on top of the wood, making it look more like black paint than chocolate brown stain. Because the stain and varnish were basically sitting on the wood, any scratches or marks took the stain right off. Black floors with orange scratches were not the look we were going for with the house. Also, there were random holes all over the house that were left over from wires, plumbing, and non-functional cold-air returns. From a design perspective, such dark floors in such a teeny tiny house made it seem so small and confined.  

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So we had a huge decision to make. We could keep the newly done dark floors that showed every speck of dust, every footprint, and every tiny scratch. If we were real house flippers this would have been the practical decision since they were just done.

Or, we could pay the extra money to have newly refinished floors in a natural colour that would open the space up and be more durable for the long term. We also considered that the house was already empty and the trim and baseboards were already off in every room making floor refinishing that much easier.

So, we went for it. We called the same company that refinished our second-story floors (if you'd like to know the company name just shoot me an email). They gave us a quote and we decided it would be worth it. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best, as there was a chance that some of the walnut stain had seeped down into the cracks. We also didn't know if the original floor had any stains or water damage on it.

Here is the only photo I have of the floors up close. You can see where the stain didn't absorb into the cracks in between the wood. You can also see a bunch of scratches and how the stain doesn't show any of the wood grain. (The floor guys had started to hand-scrape around the cabinets at this point.)

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Floors with dark stain.

The next few photos show where the floor guys had to repair the flooring. Luckily we had a stack of birch flooring in our basement that we salvaged from a house down the street.

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Floors being patched.


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Floors being patched.

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Floor patch where there was a heat register.


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Floor patch where there was a huge cold-air return.

Once we went in and saw how the floors looked after sanding, we knew we had made the right choice. Check out the difference!

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Floors after sanding.


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Floors after sanding.

The latest pictures I took were of the floors almost finished. They still need the third sanding and third coat of varnish. But I think you'll be able to tell what a HUGE difference this has made.

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Kitchen area with refinished floors.


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Dining area with refinished floors.


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Living room area with floors refinished.


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Two large floor patches were done in this area.


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Master bedroom with floors refinished.


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Small bedroom with floors refinished.

Now, let's do a comparison of the floors refinished with dark stain and the floors refinished with their natural colour:


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Living room area.


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Second bedroom.
As you can probably guess, this change has made a huge impact on the whole vibe of the house. The whole place is so much brighter and airier. The floors look almost brand-new (with the exception of a few small stains in the wood in two places). We are SO HAPPY that we splurged to get this done.

Could we have lived with the dark floors? Yes. But when they had so much more potential, we just had to go for it.

Whaddaya think? Another senseless splurge or worth the extra time and money?

P.S. Thank you to everyone who has left supporting comments on all of these Fixer Upper posts. Your encouragement is making this whole experience that much better and more exciting!

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