In fun news, we're considering our many options on how we want to refinish our antique heart pine floors!

However, this is not an easy decision, and not one to be taken lightly. We're fortunate in our new home to have beautiful 110 year "random width" heart pine throughout all three floors. Best of all, it's all in relatively good shape (save for a few bad patches, face screwing, and majorly in need of refinishing).

We were originally told the floor was likely antique southern yellow pine, but a more recent assessment from a vintage reclaimed lumber expert believes it's flat sawn clear heart pine...and we think he's probably exactly right. 

We've been debating the best approach and look we'd like to achieve since we purchased the house, and the debate sometimes feels endless. We want it to look less formal, more coastal, and more authentic to the house. Right now it's a darker brown stain with polyurethane. This masks a lot of the original richness of the wood and its natural color, and it makes the whole house feel less relaxed.

There are also a handful of places where the soft wood has splintered and lost its finish, resulting in more than usual color variation.

During the HVAC process I had to cut away a section of the floor for an air return duct, and while doing this I was able to collect several pieces of the original floor that had never been sanded or stained. Rather than continually guessing what it might look like to finish the floor with tung oil, I figured we should actually test it out.

I sanded down the four pieces of excess starting with 60 grit and working up to a 150 grit sandpaper.

Just look at the difference a little sandpaper can make.

Then I started applying the Waterlox with a foam brush.

In order to get a sense of the progression, I applied one coat over all pieces, then a second coat to three pieces, and a third coat to two pieces, etc. 

The end result is a pretty clear indication of both what our flooring will look like finished with just tung oil, and what each successive coat of the Waterlox will is able to do to bring out the luster of the wood.

The left piece has one coat and the right has four. Without a doubt three or four coats is a must with this finish. 

Laying the sample pieces on our current floor shows just how significant of a difference we're looking at. 

We think the natural color with traditional formula is going to look great! The Waterlox will truly bring out the beautiful color of the wood and achieves what we're going for in the beach feel and more relaxed look. Best of all, it's historically accurate.

We'll definitely see more of the imperfections in the floor with the Waterlox, and we'll also need to fix the bad patches in various places, but the payoff will be a great looking floor that breathes new life into the house. The really cool thing about Waterlox, it's easier to care for, maintain, and even correct minor issues than you can with stain and poly. After seeing what Lulu's nails have done to our floors in Old Town, we want something that is a little more maintainable.

So what do you think? Have you ever used Waterlox or another tung oil product to finish a wood floor? Would love to hear your experiences if you have.

Comments 18


6/30/2015 at 9:15 AM

looks nice! I wish I had known about this or the tinted Osmo Polx before I refinished my stairs in oil stain.

I am surprised at how yellow the pine is though. I thought pine darkened as it aged?

Jessica Hallmark
6/30/2015 at 10:15 AM
We used Waterlox in our dining room and love it, we plan to use it through out our house for our (100 yr. old) Douglas Fir floors.
Virginia Ford Hughes
6/30/2015 at 12:35 PM
Sometimes, you have to step back and see the whole picture.
Jeanne Bowes-dietz
6/30/2015 at 12:40 PM
Tung oil. then wax. is what I used when I had my Federal Georgian. built in 1810. had heart of pine from Georgia. I raised three children on it
6/30/2015 at 12:41 PM

Waterlox is an excellent finishing product. It looks much better in an historic home than other finishes like poly. It also works well with different aniline dyes or stand just fine on its own. Seems to be pretty durable, too.

And you're right - you need at least 3 coats.

6/30/2015 at 1:04 PM

I'm not sure I'm a fan, but I don't much like yellow looking pine in general. The one with only one coat will probably get more yellow with age and then look like the other boards. Maybe ask yourselves if you would paint a floor this shade yellow? It's just really intense coloring, and will have a strong influence on how you can decorate the rooms. And then there's the strong contrast you get with the woodgrain with this treatment. Over the wide stretches of floor you have, that could look very busy, especially where the ends of differently-structured floor-boards butt up to each other. The area of old floor under the lightest looking board in your picture is a good example for that. Overall, while the floors as they are look more serious, they're also visually a bit quieter.

I'd look into if adding pigment to the treatment is possible, maybe in white or in a way that would counteract the yellow a bit. You'd still get the whole relaxed vibe, but not as busy.

Before I moved into my place, I refinished the floor in one room, but didn't have time to do the pigment-thing. I learned to live with the yellow, but I do notice still and would mind it a lot more if the boards had noticeable grain.

I used linseed oil for finishing, and if you do it the right way it's durable and also has the benefit that you can do spot-resealing. It doesn't harden the floor the way a poly-based treatment would, and that's something you'll have with all the oil-based treatments. Dog paws will leave marks, lots of little dents. But they also won't scratch off the coat the way they will with poly, so oil-based of some kind should definitely work for you. I'd just really think good and hard about the colour.

7/4/2015 at 6:44 AM

Rather than pigmenting it white, the Swedes treat the floor with Lye. This prevents the yellowing, then the floor is sealed with oil or even a soap finish. Some Scandi lyes and oils do come with pigments in them for special effects, a very pale or greyish look.

Franki Parde
7/1/2015 at 1:20 PM

That yellow look now really does "age into" golden...ours is 31 years a fine scotch... franki

7/1/2015 at 2:57 PM

Personally the yellow would drive me mad. For a coastal vibe I would much prefer the Osmo polyx oil with a white tint. It's great it takes that yellow or orange tinge off my European oak fire surround and various bits of hand me down furniture.
I don't understand why yellow floors might be considered authentic, but perhaps that's a U.S. thing?

7/3/2015 at 9:34 PM

It probably is a US thing. Along the east coast in particular, lots of historic homes were built using the yellow pine flooring -- that sort of pine was common, inexpensive, and durable back then. These days the tree species have changed and it's very difficult to find durable pine flooring unless you reclaim it from an old house. So for this region at least, it's considered authentic. In person it often glows really beautifully, but I could see how it would be bothersome if you didn't want a warm color on your floor.

7/1/2015 at 3:22 PM

I really like how you painted in the wood in a progression so we could see the difference. Good luck refinishing the floor! Thanks for sharing.

7/4/2015 at 9:51 PM

We used Waterlox in our home. The best thing about it is that you can do spot repairs and the new application blends nicely.

7/18/2015 at 9:44 AM

I did Waterlox on the second floor of our 1940 Arlington box. Oak floors. Screened off the old finish with a rented floor polisher. One room I went the extra step and did an extra pass on my hands & knees with card scrapers. That room ended up flawless. Another room I skipped the card scrapers and several spots cured with surface bubbles; not the best result. The other difference between rooms is that the one with the bubbles was done later in the summer when temperatures were higher (windows open for circulation). I think the Waterlox cured too fast in the higher temperatures and cured before the air bubbles could escape. Both rooms applied with lambs wool. Both finishes have been durable. The orangy tint was stronger than I expected, but that's an oak thing.

7/20/2015 at 3:24 PM
Waterlox is a great choice for your 110 year old floors! Our unique tung oil blend creates a durable, protective finish while enhancing the wood’s natural beauty. Please let us know if you have any questions along the way!
Linda Baldwin
10/15/2015 at 9:40 AM

We have 3 coats of Waterlox tung oil blend on our new kitchen floor. Wood is reclaimed long leaf pine. We will probably apply another coat. Do you recommend coats of urethane on top of this? Also were considering same for bathroom, assume Spar Urethane is needed on top for a bathroom.

Thanks for any advice.


8/6/2016 at 9:39 PM

We had antique heartwood pine in our last house and it was finished in linseed. We lived with it for a year before we sanded it off and put a poly on it. It just never felt or looked right with linseed oil on it. With 4 children and 20 years later it was still looking good. We just moved and renovated, we have put down antique heartwood pine thur out the new house. After much deliberation, we are going to use a poly again called fabulon.

Claire Beauchamps
2/24/2017 at 2:19 PM

Thanks for this. I've found it so helpful. I've just painstakingly scraped and sanded 130 years of varnish and wear from my old farmhouse bedroom floor. After reading your article, I decided not to stain and to just go with 4 coats of Waterlox. The first coat went Thanks again for your hard work and trouble.

Suzanne douglas
11/2/2017 at 7:19 AM

I have refinished countless floors with waterlox over the last 40 years. The best thing is you can refresh should that be necessary. I use it on furniture as well. It can be hard to find. Strykers Paint store in Flemington, NJ has been supplier all these years.

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