Hardwood Floors Are Like Comfort Food

Chris Hubbard

A guest blogger describes a childhood experience distressing floors with his parents. It was a do-it-yourself job, which we don’t recommend, but it tells the story of how one family worked together to improve their home and its value with new flooring that looked beautifully old. We can do the same with your existing hardwood floors, including by wire-brushing, a technique that gives a warm, stylish, rustic look, as shown above.

My first memory of hardwood is from when I was about 10. Mom and Dad told me and my younger brother, Keith, that they were going to redo our kitchen floor with wood. I wasn’t sure what they meant.

But I got the idea when the 70’s-style green vinyl tile started to get covered over with reclaimed pine wood planks from old warehouse beams. (Pine is technically a “soft wood,” but it functions virtually like any other relatively pliable hardwood species.)

Day-by-day, for maybe a week, the boards went into place. Dad was an amateur woodworker and an engineer, with great skill on the saw in his small workshop. Using special tools, he cut tongue-and-groove into the boards, and Mom and Dad began diligently placing them in the kitchen before the wondering eyes of Keith and me.

Then came the fun.

My folks knew what a distressed floor was. Mom was a home-economics major who worked as an interior-design consultant, and Dad was happy to follow her guidance because he knew it was smart and they both shared the same tastes.

They gave Keith and me some nails, a hammer for each of us, and told us to start pounding our hammers and scratching the nails in under our shoes. Dad even gave us some bicycle chains to scrape along the pine before they applied the finish. Woohoo!

The whole time this renovation was underway, Mom was still cooking in the kitchen. As she cooked, and we ate, we all just stepped lightly from the boards to the old vinyl, which was becoming more obviously outdated all the time. Even after all the planks were in place, we could still use the kitchen—until Mom and Dad applied the dark-brown stain and finished it with polyurethane and we had to stay out for a day or two. (They didn’t even sand the pine down before finishing--that's how much they wanted the naturally worn look.)

Once the stain and finish were set, we had a new kitchen floor ready to live on!

Mom told me she wanted that look because the 70’s styles had become dated. She was inspired by the rustic country look that was trending. 

And my folks loved—and still love—home improvement. Not everyone is ready to spend their evenings sawing, staining, finishing, and distressing a floor. That was the last DIY floor project my parents took on, though. It was a lot of work. In their later homes, they let the professionals do it! But they always knew what they wanted. 

I’m glad, because I liked that distressed pine floor a lot better than those old green tiles. It was way cooler.

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