How to refinish 100 year old floors over fifteen months

When I bought my place, in 2010, it came with flooring that  looked like wood, but was really pretty cheap laminate.  I hated it.  Now I know there’s laminates out there that are pretty good quality.   This stuff wasn’t it.  It was also eight years old at the time and starting to show wear–the seams were coming up and looking sloppy.  However, my place is over 900 sqft, and to replace all that flooring wasn’t going to be cheap.

I was envious of the other two apartments in my building (I live in a three flat) that had hard wood floors.  When chatting with my neighbor one day, she told me “Why don’t you just rip up the laminate?  There’s probably the original wood under there.  When they rehabbed these units, they were so lazy and cheap, I can’t imagine they bothered to rip out the original floors.

My BF, who is a union lineman turned general contractor, thought this was a great idea.  “Why not just pull up a laminate board?  Worst case is there’s not hard wood and we replace the bad laminates.”  We lifted up an edge near the back post, and below you’ll see what we found:


That’s right!  100 year old, original maple flooring underneath the blue padding which the laminate floated above.  We noticed it was in awful condition though.  We lifted up a few more choice boards around the house to uncover that the majority of the place was done in oak with the back hallway in maple.  For whatever reason, buildings of this era were built with maple in the kitchen and oak in the rest of the house.  The back hallway was originally part of the kitchen, but the floorplan has changed throughout the years.  More on that later.

After ripping out more of the old laminates, here’s some pictures of what we found:




Clearly this wood was going to need refinishing.  And also, note the light rectangles.  That’s where the wood was cut and patched with plywood.  When the place was originally built, the walls were put in first, and then the floors were laid around them.  Therefore, anywhere a wall was removed there was a hole in the floor!  This meant we’d have to patch all those holes….

This story to be continued this week….the BF is out of town visiting a friend so I doubt there will be any exciting cooking for me going on any time soon, so I thought it would be  a good time to post the story of the floors!



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