Dexter Hardwoods Part I


Garrett and I have gone round and round on what to do with the hardwood floors at the Dexter House.  We originally hoped to have all the existing oak and fir floors refinished, but those hopes were dashed when I brought in a professional refinisher to have a look and she informed me that the floors were beyond refinishing.

Turns out the oak floors that are in the living and dining rooms are top-nailed, and they can’t be sanded without countersinking all one-billion nails first (she actually said it’d be cheaper to replace them).  The fir floors that run throughout the rest of the house have been butchered over the years – either by painting them a hideous maroon color or, even worse, covering with lineolum or tile.  Garrett pulled up the lineolum and tile a couple months ago, but what was left was not pretty.  And there was no way a sanding drum could deal with all the gunk and residue.

The Grit and Polish - Kitchen Demo Floors

We briefly considered replacing all the floors with new hardwoods.  Uncle Dougie had a lead on some inexpensive walnut (I know, it sounds like a unicorn…inexpensive and walnut), but the thought of removing the original floors – you know, one of the things I love about old houses – just didn’t sit well.   Plus our schedule and budget are tight enough as is.

So we were back to square one.  How could we make the existing hardwoods work and not spend a billion hours and dollars on cleaning them up?

Well we’ve decided to do a few things: first we’ll replace the kitchen floors with matching oak, then we’ll host a “countersink party” where we shamelessly ply our friends with booze and have them help set the nails, then we’ll have all the oak floors professionally refinished, and lastly we’ll paint the rest of the hardwoods ourselves.  It sounds like a modge-podge, and it kinda is, but trust me, it’s going to look great!  At least I’m pretty sure it will…

So last weekend we kicked off operation hardwood clean up by installing the new oak floors in the kitchen.  We went with 2 1/4″ red oak floors from Uncle Dougie, which runs about $4/sf (we got 100sf).  I originally wanted to match the living and dining room floors exactly, but turns out that 2″ wide floors are really rare (even back in 1905) and would have required a custom order, which means $$$$$.  So we went with the 2 1/4″ wide standard flooring, and I doubt anyone will notice the difference.

This is how the kitchen floors looked on Saturday morning.

THe Grit and Polish - Hardwood Install Before

We started by cutting back the edge of the dining room floors so that we had a straight line to lay the new floors against.

The Grit and Polish - Hardwood Install 1

Then we laid down red rosin paper on the subfloors.  Felt paper would have been ideal, but we didn’t have any of that, so went with the rosin. It should work the same as felt to minimize squeaks.

Next we got to work laying floor.  We started on the wall by the sink and worked our way across.  We have a handy dandy flooring stapler already, a very necessary tool for laying hardwoods, so no need to invest in any rentals.

The Grit and Polish - Hardwood Install Start  The Grit and Polish - Hardwood Install 2    The Grit and Polish - Hardwood Install 6

The hardwood install was definitely a two person job.  One person laid out the wood and cut the sections to length (we set up a chop saw in the adjacent dinning room for this purpose) while the other person nailed the wood in place using the flooring stapler.

Here’s what the space looked like after one day of work.  We still have smiles on our faces so it obviously wasn’t that bad…

The Grit and Polish - Hardwood Install Garret and I

This was actually my first hardwood floor install, and even though I’m 6 months pregnant and can’t see my toes, I have to say it was a really fun project!  We don’t get to do a lot of new floors – old houses tend to come with hardwoods as a standard – so it was a special treat.  Garrett and I both had sore hamstrings and banged up knees on Sunday, but totally worth it.  Wilder even got in on the action for a bit on Sunday morning, while we finished the floors up.  My how that kiddo loves his tools…!

The Grit and Polish - Hardwood Install W and GThe Grit and Polish - Hardwood Install with Wilder

Our new oak floors are solid, stunning, and match the old house feel I always strive for.  In a word, they’re perfection!  Here’s the finished product:

The Grit nad Polish - Dexter Kitchen Hardwood Install

Next up, the epic “countersink party” and then a professional refinish on the oak floors in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.  In the meantime, Garrett will be working on getting the fir floors in the bedrooms and hallway ready for paint.  I’m thinking black.  It may show every spec of dust, but they’ll look awesome!



p.s. Love Jersey Ice Cream Co’s renovation work!  Check out Percy and Tara’s interview on Design Sponge.

p.p.s. I made this grilled peach salad last week and it was incredible.  This recipe is going in regular rotation at the Poshusta household!  As a side note, how come no one told me about burrata before…?!

p.p.p.s. This Spanish style home in LA!  Check it out, it’s gorgeous.

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  1. Our old house had only one owner family before us and the floors have never been polyurethaned. We did a quick wax before we moved in and I figured I’d get them sanded later then refinish with a hard wax oil. After living in the house a few years though we’ve have a number of places where the top of the groove side has broken making me think the floor has been sanded as far down as it can be. We also have some nails that are exposed. I didn’t think that people with waxed floors ever sanded so I’m not sure what happened. Whatever happened in the past though I don’t want to replace the floors but I’m not sure I could sand them again either. I’ve decided to just clean the wax and grime off the floors with mineral spirits and then refinish with the hard wax oil. They won’t look new (and I’ll have to patch in some broken spots) but I think it will look better than new replacement boards.

  2. I love that you are keeping the floors – paint is a really interesting choice. Can’t wait to see how they turn out. We’re tearing our carpets out in the next week to see what shape the floors are in underneath – paint might be our fall-back option too, if they aren’t salvageable.


  1. […] This blog post is about a home in Seattle that’s of similar age to ours.  Their floors weren’t salvageable, so they are going to paint the wood.  I think that’s our cheapest fall back option if refinishing is a no-go.  I can’t imagine putting carpet back down, and paint will be much more economical than some sort of laminate or engineered hardwood. […]

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