We're floored. . .a tutorial

From time to time, I get emails from people that have glimpsed our floors and wonder what they are all about. When folks come to visit, they most often assume that the floors are the original.
Our bungalow was built in the 60's and was moved onto our property in the 70's. . .we think.
I was looking for photos of our renovation and maybe soon I'll show some more of them. . .

I am going to give step by step instructions on how Terry did this so that the next time someone asks. . .I can refer them to this post. We had some friends who had done Pine flooring in their kitchen that I really liked.

Now, I must say first of all, that we don't think that our floors are the nicest or the best. . .Perhaps some day we will lay down reclaimed barn wood in a bungalow that is a bit bigger for our family when we all come together. We decided to do this floor in this house because it was economical and it will not show the wear and tear that a solid prefinished hard wood floor would show. . .the way we use ours. Our grands ride their cars over the floor and when a scuff appears. . .it is hardly noticed.

When we did our own floor I didn't even think to take pictures of the process so the picture above and below is of our youngest son's and daughter by love's home. We also put tongue and groove pine flooring in our eldest son's first house. It was wider 6 inch boards and because it was pine, it had a knotty pine rustic appearance. ..that I quite liked. Pine is softer yet than fir and so the distressing that I will tell you about was even more important. Fir is not a hard wood but is the hardest of the soft woods.

First of all. . .buy tongue and groove unfinished fir. Our flooring is 4 inch. We removed all the old flooring from the bungalow. There were multiple layers of old linoleum, tile and vinyl flooring. Next, very heavy black tar paper was laid down and stapled in place. This might not be necessary but we have a dirt crawl space under our floor and it was used for additional insulation. Then, starting in the hallway, a straight line was chalked in order to keep the flooring straight. We then worked our way across the living room towards the north wall. . .and then Terry cut tongues to insert in the groove on the opposite side and then we could continue to the south wall.

The floor was nailed using a nailing gun. The wood was 3/4 inch thick and we used double that length in nails. The boards were nailed on the tongue and then also on the top at each end purposely to be seen.

Once the entire floor was nailed, the uneven boards were planed and sanded to avoid splinters.
Then the distressing began. You will certainly be tempted to avoid distressing the wood floor since it looks so smooth and perfect. Why would anyone purpose to scratch and dent a wood floor.
We are so glad that we didn't eliminate this step. When we accidentally scratch or drop something on our floor, we simply use a cotton swab and a bit of stain to touch up the exposed wood. Most often, the varathane isn't even scratched and so the floor continues to have additional wear marks. . .that makes it unique.

To distress the wood, we brought in a large bucket of crushed gravel and dumped it on the floor in a area that could be covered with a sheet of plywood. The two of us. . . .did every dance move we knew and pretended to know to basically grind the rocks into the floor for maybe 10 seconds. Do a small test area in a place that is less conspicuous. Then, we would sweep the gravel over and repeat until the whole floor had been scratched and dented with the gravel.
The next step was scratching it in a few conspicuous spots with something sharp that would crease the wood. Terry used the end of a large plier. Next came a large chain that was dropped here and there for yet additional distressed looks.

Once we finished distressing, we together worked to stain the floor. We used Benjamin Moore Wiping Stain in Special Walnut. We worked together. Terry wiped the stain on with a large car washing mit with rubber gloves inside of the mit .. . and I came behind 30 seconds to a minute later, wiping the excess off.
Again, it would be wise to test an area and even test various kinds of stain and colors to find what you like best.

After allowing the stain to dry for 24 hours. Terry began to varathane the floor. The first coat we used was a gloss. We were told that this would give better depth. The next day we followed with Satin Varathane. We put three coats of satin Varathane over the single coat of gloss. In between each coat of varathane, Terry gave a very light sanding and used a tack cloth to remove every bit of dust.

This picture is a close up of the floor in a traffic area. You can see a scratch that was original from the distressing. You can see the nail marks that were put there intentionally to make the floor look old and original to the house. You can also see new marks that only add to the floors unique and one of a kind finish.
You can also see the difference in the different grain that fir floor has. When you buy your fir, look at the grain. If lots of the wood has large grain, the floor will have more distinct grain when it is stained. The wood that is top center has larger grain and the piece underneath had very fine grain.

This picture has a good view of the rock smashing that we did with the plywood. This floor was initially a bit of work. We lived in the house when we did the floor renovation. We moved everything from room to room . . . sleeping here and there and everywhere. I didn't have a kitchen for over a month. . . but I had a sink in the laundry room and a hot plate and the fridge was plugged in where ever there was room for it.
I hope that this tutorial is helpful. If you have further questions, I'll try to answer them and put the into the post to add additional information.
The wonderful thing about this floor, is that it does not give me grief. I never worry that someone will damage my floor. . it is after all just a floor, meant to be walked on. Every week, I vacuum and give a light water water mop. . . .in the traffic areas and I'm done. We put the flooring in five years ago and have found that the traffic areas are becoming shinier and have lost the satin look. We plan to give the floor a light sanding soon. . .and give those area a new coat of satin. I asked Terry if he had anything to add. . .he said that you should not start the project with bad knees or a bad back .. .
I've been in a closet and drawer cleaning frenzy again .. .oh it is so good to declutter. Today's job is the filing cabinet. . . .which is close to my computer. . .so, I'll try to pop by some of my favorite blog friends.
All for now .. . .with love,


  1. I'll bet you two looked cute dancing on the plywood-and-gravel-covered floor!

    I do love your floors. I like a floor that can be lived on, and that is allowed to age gracefully. I've often wished for wide-plank reclaimed flooring in my home...always my "next home," as we never seem to stay in one house for very long.

  2. Oh boy! I can hardly wait to get the carpenter to read this one. It's exactly what I would do, but he'll cringe. LOL!

    I love the look of your beautiful floors!

  3. Well the results of all your labor are fabulous! Great teamwork!!

  4. Beautiful floors! Someday I would love to have hardwood. I grew up with that in several houses but now we have carpet. Michael likes warm carpet under his feet :) but I don't like it with children and mess. :) I do think hardwood looks so classy!

  5. Your floors are wonderful!

    How did Terry learn about these techniques?

    Is it an "Old Mennonite Traditional Floor Finishing Recipe" (trademark pending-no Mennonites were injured in the creation of this flooring)?

  6. A lovely floor indeed! And while you were busy laying and finishing your tongue and groove fir floor...we were re-claiming old fir timbers from our barn...which are now our fir floor. We didn't know about the 'dancing to distress' step though...so we're just distressing as we go.

  7. Judy .. . I'd love for you so show your floor sometime .. it is gorgeous and when I saw your floors I came home and told Terry that I had just seen my dream flooring.. . simply beautiful and so meaningful since is was from your barns.

    Jill .. .Terry smiled at your comment. . .he thinks and then begins a project and learns as he goes. He also looked at a few other floors and saw what worked and what didnt' work.

  8. Wow, I think I'll send this blog to my husband who is refinishing the fir hardwood floors in a rental home.
    Myself, I prefer to go and help my friend at the hospital. I feel like we've done so much remodeling in our life, that I'll let others enjoy the finishing touch. They are absolutely beautiful and durable.

  9. I think that even my dear "non blog reading husband" would be interested in this! I wonder what he could add? He has a chinese agent that imports wood and he tells him what he wants etc. I too love the fact that when we get a mark on the floor we just get out the shoe polish and cover it up...it just becomes part of the look.
    I was listening to a conversation where a customer complained that the floor was marking up too easily. So, on the side, I just said that "you're making memories" (referring the scuff that our 4 year-old-son put on our brand new hardwood floor 20 years earlier)When the customer heard that, he liked that . ..
    By the way, your floors are beautiful and extra special because you worked on them together!

  10. So much work but wow..what a beautiful floor! Worth the work I'd say Lovella..
    I'd love a floor like that but the work?? Not sure I'd want to tackle that job.

  11. I'll attest to the beauty of Lovella's floor.. and I love the fact that it cannot be harmed by wear! It only gets better !
    Excellent tutorial! Maybe you could sell it to a lumber yard! smile...

  12. Thanks for the tutorial! The Professor and I dream sometimes about building a home and we could use your tutoriall to lay our floors (although it may all be a pipe dream...).

  13. Your wood flooring is beautiful! Well worth the work you put into it.

  14. What gorgeous floors! ;)
    You must be pretty excited about them!!
    I just found your blog and look forward to visiting again. I also really enjoyed your food blog, I love to cook too!! ;)

    Many Blessings to you,
    Miss Jen

  15. I think that there will a lot of husbands being shown this blog! The Great Dane doesn't 'get' the distressed look at all - he's from 'the old country' and new means new, unless it's a real antique. I love your floors and think the whole idea is brilliant!

  16. Wooden floors are so practical, we have them in our entry and salon, and they are so easy to keep looking good.

  17. Your floor has held up very well! The tar paper can be substituted for an industrial like freezer paper, or wax paper. From what I witnessed, it allows the wood to slide up tight beside the next piece so there are no large gaps between boards. Your kitchen looks so lovely! Have a good day decluttering!


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