Finding and Restoring: Original Hardwood

When I first purchased my home, i was praying that original hardwood was hiding underneath the massive amounts of carpet that blanketed the house. Luckily, I was able to pull up the carpet and found beautiful 100 year old hardwood available for refinishing! After refinishing the floors in the rest of the house 2 years ago, I decided it was finally time to find out what was happening underneath the layers of linoleum in the kitchen.

Job Summary:

1. Refinishing hardwood can be a sustainable way to keep an old home’s character and restore the vibrancy of beautiful wood.

2. Perform demo by removing Linoleum, Tacking Nails, Underlayment, felt/tar paper, and glue.

3. Prep the floors, repair damaged sections, sand the floors, polyurethane!

Job Cost = $900.00 (demo by myself; refinishing by professional)

When pulling up glued linoleum, I always start at a floor grate. Remove the grate and begin chipping underneath the flooring with a flat head screw driver. Below you can see the beginning of this process taking place. Getting down two layers of linoleum to reach the underlayment wood (praying there would be hardwood underneath the sheets of underlayment).

Kitchen Floor Begin Demo 2018
Starting to remove the top layer of flooring

A crowbar is very useful for removing linoleum tiles. After getting down to the wood underlayment sheets, you can start at a doorway and get your crowbar underneath the wooden underlayment that was put down below the linoleum. These sheets are generally 1/4″ thick and are tacked down to the floor below. Using a crow bar as leverage, force the wooden sheets to pop up and try to avoid splitting them as much as possible. They should be roughly 4′ by 8′ sheets and they splinter easily.

Kitchen Floor Demo 2 2018
Getting down to the original hardwood

After removing all the underlayment materials, I found 2 more layers of linoleum glued to felt paper that was glued directly to the wood floor. These layers had hundreds of tacks through them from the multiple layers of flooring that were installed over the years. The best way to remove these tacks is a simple lineman plier. use the wire cutting section to get under the nail-head and leverage the nail out of the floor. This is the longest part of any wood floor reveal. Removing carpet tacking is the exact same process. I’ve seen people run a pry bar along the floor to rip up all these tacks….but personally I find using pliers on each individual nail does a better job and protects the floor from damage.

Kitchen Floor tack remove 2018
Pliers removing nail

We are getting close to hardwood and beginning to see the wood lines underneath all of this mess!

However, I discovered that my floors had some form of felt paper glued on top of the hardwood planks — probably about 60 years ago. This felt material was extremely durable and probably helped protect the floors from glue and moisture. However, it was also impossible to remove with a sander or scraper. It just would not budge off the wood and I knew even a commercial sander would just become immediately gummed up trying to cut through this.

I tried laying down wet towels to saturate the felt paper, I tried mineral spirits to break up the old glue, I tried scraping by hand….nothing worked to get this sticky mess off my floor.

Finally, I came across another blog that mentioned using a wall paper steamer to dislodge the stuck paper. After filling my steamer up with water, I let the steamer square sit on the felt paper for about 20 seconds. I then moved it to the next section and scraped the now wet/hot tar paper with a standard 2.5″ putty knife — it came off sooo easily now!

I worked in sections, moving the steamer square another foot and scraping the previous part of floor that was just steamed. The picture below shows my progress. I would estimate the entire kitchen took about 4 hours of this process of steam then scrape. Use kneepads to save yourself some pain.

Kitchen Floor Steamer 2018
Removing old tar paper with steamer

After steaming and scraping you can see the now uncovered original hardwood floors. They are ready to be refinished.

Kitchen Floor Finsih Demo 2018
After steamer and before sanding

I’ve tried to refinish floors myself in the past….and despite a valiant effort, I do not have the skill required. Sanding, finishing, and poly is an art form. I always recommend hiring a professional for your personal home. On rental properties, I have no problem sanding and putting on some polyurethane — However, I like my house to have a more specialized touch.

After performing all the demo and exposing the wood, I called my wood floor guy and scheduled the finishing work. He used his 240V sander to expose fresh hardwood, countersunk all remaining nail heads that were too deep to remove, and then putty’d the entire floor to cover cracks and holes. This putty is a special material used specifically to flex with wood flooring. It isn’t used on new wood floors but it is very useful on 100 year old floors with some splitting and hole issues. My floor guy did one level of sanding, troweled on the putty, and returned the next day for a final sand.

kitchen floor paste 2018
Floors with wood putty troweled on to remove imperfections and fill holes

After the final sanding, the only remaining steps are to apply the first coat of polyurethane — wait a few hours — apply a second coat of polyurethane — wait 24 more hours.

Kitchen Floor Poly on 2018
Floors after first coat of poly. BEAUTIFUL!

The Kitchen Floors are finished and it’s time to continue with the rest of the Kitchen remodel. Let’s get to cutting and replacing the floor trim!

Written By:
Luke Langhals


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