Refinishing wood floors to create a rustic look

Answered by Brett ~ February 6, 2011 ~ Comments

I am refinishing a wood floor and want to leave a little grain / rustic look to the wood, what grit of paper do I stop at? I am staining the wood with a white-wash type stain and finishing with a poly urethane. I am thinking that I can just use several coats of poly to coat the floor and protect it from splintering. Any advice?

Erik ~ Bozeman, Montana

Brett Kulina

Erik, one thing that you should keep in mind when refinishing your floors is that the grain pattern in the wood will most likely remain visible regardless of how much the floors are sanded. In fact when working with certain types of hardwood, such as oak, the grain pattern can be most visible when the wood is sanded the smoothest. If your floors are made from "circle-sawn" boards, or have aged cut marks from a band saw, then you are correct to skip the aggressive sanding in favor of leaving the rustic character marks clearly visible. In this case, you could just use a 150-grit paper to lightly knock down any burrs or splinters before staining the wood.

I am not sure what type of white wash stain you have chosen for your project, but make sure that it is approved for hardwood floors before using it. I know that Minwax Whitewash Pickling Stain, which is a very popular stain choice, in not recommended for large surface areas or floors. These types of water-based stains tend to appear splotchy when applied to large surfaces. Likewise, when choosing a polyurethane, make sure that it is compatible with the stain that you will put on the floor. There are some water-based polyurethanes that perform best when applied to bare wood, and the results can be marginal at best when they are applied over a stained or finished surface.

Minwax does make an oil-based stain which can then be covered with one of their polyurethane floor finishes. I like the Minwax products, because they are easy to work with and are readily available at most home improvement warehouses and local hardware stores. Regardless of which floor finishing products you choose, make sure to test a sample patch in an inconspicuous location, such as the back of a closet, before committing to the whole floor!

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