I am refinishing wood floors on the smallest budget possible. I believe the wood is a red fir. It was installed in the late 50s and I think it has a worn layer of urethan. It has been under carpet for appox 20 years.

The goal is a rustic, rougher look - in as much that it reduces labor. I dont want a high gloss / glassy smoothy. If costs were not such an issue, we would spend the effort distressing it. I am leaning towards a hardening penetrating finish, but would like to get out of sanding it to wood (time, PITA, I dont want it perfectly smooth).

Q1. What determines if I can get away with scouring the surface of the existing urethan (some type of poly?) adding more build up layers of a polyurethane?

If I do have to sand down to wood, I will go with penetrating oil. Im not going to spend a weekend beating the floor with chains and wielding an ice pick, but I would like to highlight some of the existing distressing.

Q2. Can I put a dark stain on places of distressing before the initial sanding or do I really need to standings?

Q3. What are the trade offs of a hardening penetrating oil finish?

  • 1
    You are likely to get more and better responses if you separate your multiple questions.
    – mac
    Dec 9, 2013 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


A1: Whether you or another appearance critic (spouses are common) can stand the way it looks. You pretty much have to try a spot and see what you think.

A1a: Don't use poly if you don't want a high gloss "look". Use an oil and see what you think. Even "matte" polyurethane is pretty shiny, as things go - but also look for yourself, that's my opinion.

A2: Sure, if you don't sand that deep and remove it all.

A3: a hardening oil finish will actually get dry. A non hardening finish, won't. Much easier to get the floor somewhat clean if it's not sticky. There is some problem of marketing confusing the issue - some vendors sell a "hardening oil finish" that others (more truthful) would just call a varnish. At the most basic level you have raw linseed oil and "boiled" linseed oil (not actually boiled, for the most part) - the raw never hardens, the boiling (or other chemical treatment) makes the boiled harden. Or "salad oil" (soy or canola) .vs. walnut oil - walnut naturally hardens, salad oil never does. But salad oil can go rancid...

Most of the stuff sold as "tung oil" or "Danish oil" is better described as a wiping varnish


A1: "you can only screen when the finish is worn, scratched or dull but the wood beneath is not stained or damaged."This old house If you want to change color you need to sand past the existing color. If you do not sand out stains, then they will still be there (maybe that is ok, maybe you have a dark finish..)

A2: Answered by Ecnerwal. But It seems like you can just do your regular sanding pattern such as 60, 80, 100 and do you highlights between the last two.

A3: Only think I have found is that they take a bit more work and are slightly less forgiving on the install.

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