Saving very old hardwood floors

Q: We recently bought a 60 year old house. We have never owned hardwood floors. The hardwoods look good, but old. There doesn’t seem to be any major damage and we love the medium to dark color and natural looking finish (is possible the finish is worn off?) We have removed the trim around the edges and can tell that the exposed floor is considerably shorter than the edges covered by the trim. I am not sure it can take another sanding.

We do not want to gloss them up but want to protect them. Do we need to refinish them? Can we leave them alone and just keep them clean? What is good to use on a weekly basis?

A: I think the first step is to try to determine what sort of finish was last used on these floors. IT is entirely possible they have a wax or oil finish. You should be able to tell if there is a varnish/polyurethane. If you place a few water drops on the floor and in 10 minutes or so you have a white mark, it is wax. Dura-Seal makes a good product to clean this type of floor up, called Renovator. See their web site at

Swing Paints also makes a floor cleaner that they say is safe for all kinds of finishes, called Bare Floor, and sold under the Circa 1850 name. I am waiting for a sample of this product from the company so I can test it first. (click the welcome link at the bottom of the page.)

If it is a polyurethane/varnish coating, you have to hope there have not been “bad” cleaners used on the surface. These would include oil soaps, pine oils, furniture polish, etc. Such products will likely cause a further coat of finish to peel off. There are treatments from floor finish manufacturers that are designed to remove such products and prepare the existing surface for coating without sanding, but I understand they are fairly expensive. Basic Coatings makes one such product, called Tykote. See

Is it possible to save these old floors?

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I recently bought a house and ripped up the carpet because I wanted to redo the hardwood floor. When I ripped up the carpet, I found a few areas where the previous owners had nailed 2×4’s or 1×4’s down to the floor where the wood must have been damaged when they replaced the carpet.

I really want to have hardwood floors, but I am concerned that I will have to replace the whole floor. Is it possible to salvage these floors, or will I most likely have to spend big bucks to replace them?

A: If the existing hardwood floors are thick enough to take a complete sanding, repair the areas needed. If the wood is too thin, replace the entire floor.

Original / moved link