We are refinishing our wood floor and want to make sure that we make the right choices. Initially, multiple people suggested that it's pine wood but now after sanding our flooring guy thinks it's maple but he doesn't seem entirely sure.

What type of wood is this?


Edit: The house was built in the 1880s and is in the Boston area. Not sure whether the floor was ever redone.

After sanding with high grit

Sorry, some stain test in the pic.

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After sanding with low grit

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Before Sanding

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  • You can choose to omit stain altogether and just apply polyurethane. Water-based poly will produce lifeless bare looking wood. Oil-based poly will give it an amber glow like you currently have.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Feb 12, 2019 at 16:28
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    Maple sands into a powder. That's pine.
    – Mazura
    Feb 18, 2019 at 23:22
  • Maple isn't a single thing. There are many (dozens?) of varieties. I'd think pine/fir also, but a soft maple is a possibility.
    – isherwood
    Feb 19, 2019 at 14:56

6 Answers 6


I will agree with the general consensus that it is a type of pine. Definitely NOT maple... In the 1880's the wood that was used in homes would be something taken from the area usually a longleaf pine, also called heart pine, and there was an abundance of white pine too, although it is much more softer than heart pine or ponderosa pine that was used a lot on the east coast.

Any pine product used for wood floors is not the best choice, but with availability and possibly cost, it was used in many many homes back then and well into the 1900's. It is a much softer wood than many other choices of specie that would have been locally available. Oak, Black walnut, maple and a few others come to mind that are much more dense (resistant to damage) than any specie of pine grown in that area or region.

Now onto the actual type of pine.The pictures you present tell me it is a white pine, but there are more things needed to be known before that can be confirmed, like the smell when cutting it for example... hard for me to do from here. The thickness of the floor may help too and if it is T&G as Lee Sam suggests, In my experiences, in old homes such as yours, the floors can face nailed originally, and not necessarily T&G. Sometimes the flooring is much thicker, 7/8" thick or more. Wood was plentiful back in those days. I have not seen a old home done in white pine, but many that were done in heart pine and ponderosa pine, but that wood has a slightly different look about it, and the hard and soft wood of the annular rings have more contrast. The darker grain is much more harder than the lighter soft wood. In white pine the annular rings have the dark (hard) and light (soft) same as the heart and ponderosa pine, but the density of the rings/grain is more consistent between the hard and soft rings, making it the least desirable of the choices of pine. A simple test I failed to mention earlier was that you can take your thumbnail and press it into the wood across the dark and light rings and it will leave an impression, a small one, but it will leave one. Something not so easily done with oak, maple or on the dark rings only of ponderosa pine or heart pine.

Just another mention, you thought the floors have never been refinished, they have. The score mark across the wood in one of the pictures tells me it has been. When the finish or stain gets into a cut like that, it darkens that way. If the cut occurred after the finish was applied, the cut would be much lighter. Sanding may remove the cut so it will finish out well. Another note, if the floor is white pine which I think it is, and the builder knew how soft that floor is, the flooring may have been cut thicker to allow for more refinishing over time.


Poly will wear faster than a standard floor urethane product. Stain color is your preference. Any stain will work on any wood. If you want to compare stains on wood, visit a store with stains, they should have a sample chart with different wood species and show how the stain absorbes into each one. You will need to sand the floor completely with a floor sander before attempting this work.

More info on hardwoods used for flooring

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    @isherwood the question was edited and removed a question about refinishing options :( Feb 19, 2019 at 14:53

With the open grain and how it fuzzed up I would say fir. On the west coast it was very popular for many years. The grain and fuzz look after sanding looks like what many homes on the west coast have. Douglas fir is not as tough as oak or maple but pre-1940 the grain was super tight. My guess if your home is 50's-60's would be Douglas fir. But if your flooring guy is a pro he is probably correct as I have only renovated a few maple floors. Lots of oak and fir I just haven't seen hardwood fuzz up like that.

  • House is from the 1880s and on the east coast (Boston area). Not sure whether the floor was ever redone. Feb 18, 2019 at 23:21

I think it's aged yellow pine. I'm going with this because I got a pile of the stuff that was used for bleachers back in the 60's. It was apparently very common lumber back then. I used it to make a 11' by 5' table supported by 2" gas pipe. For a pine it's very strong and scratch resistant. I stained it and used polyurethane if I remember correctly. My Dad still has it since I moved to a smaller house and it is totally free of any defects. enter image description here this is the only picture I could find.

And this is from just Googling yellow pine. enter image description here


It’s probably Eastern White Pine or Poplar.

Here’s an article to help: https://www.oldhouseonline.com/.amp/interiors-and-decor/authentic-wood-flooring-early-homes

BTW, that floor is T&G and was originally “blind nailed”. At some point it was soaked with water and started to curl. That’s why it’s “face nailed” on both sides of each board. They were trying to keep the boards flat when they dried out.

You’ll have difficulty sanding the boards without hitting some of the nail heads. (Some of the nails are driven deeper than others.)

If you proceed, I’d use “pre-stain” in order keep the boards uniform in color.


Yellow pine was plentiful in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the northeast US, it's very durable, and it was inexpensive. I have seen a lot of modest homes that were made with all yellow pine floors. Homes built by people with a little more to spend often had a local hardwood in the formal living room or parlor and the formal dining room, yellow pine in the kitchen and bedrooms. In the old mansions you see hardwood everywhere except the kitchen, the kitchen was the busiest room in the house and was almost always yellow pine.

It's hard wood - surprisingly hard - noticably more difficult to drill and work than other woods. For big holes over an inch, regular hole saws don't work well, the wood is so hard and the pitch is sticky. You can't miss the distinctive pine smell when you work it. I think you'd have noticed and mentioned the smell in your question if it was yellow pine.

Yellow pine really soaks up stain. If you have hardwood and pine floors and want them to come out close to the same final color, you have to dilute the stain a lot for the yellow pine.

So I'd concur with another answer, if I had to guess, I'd guess poplar / tulip. But I wouldn't pretend to guess with much confidence based on your pictures.


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