Finishing floors is like sausage; it is better not to see them being made

Our story so far: We spent lots of time and money sanding the floors of the 126-year-old Methodist church we were turning into our home.

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Now that we could see finally see the raw wood, it was time to fill some of the seams. On newer wood floors, polyurethane alone would do just fine, but as our floors aged, some of our seams had widened.

Tyler inspected literally every inch of flooring as we proceeded. Ever the Virgo perfectionist, he was a harsh task master. Near the end of the sanding phase, he directed me to remove all the dried water putty in the seams of the maple flooring in the master suite. Someone had used putty as some point to fill some of the wider seams, and it appeared white against all the wood. Still “wide” was less than an eighth of an inch. Leaning on my knees while seated on a rolling office chair, I used chisels and tiny screwdrivers to pry the plaster out of every last seam in those two rooms.

sawdust plus poly
Boil, boil, toil and trouble, sawdust mix and cauldron bubble.

Instead of using water putty, Tyler used a trick he’d learned on an earlier project: He mixed the last layer of sawdust (which was little bits of wood, not that horrible glue and varnish) with clear polyurethane and squeegeed the goop over the floors (maple sawdust mix on the maple floors, pine sawdust mix on the pine floors, and never the twain shall meet). Some of it had to be sanded off again, but the seams were therefore filled with a sawdust mixture that was essentially the same as the planks.

squeegee sawdust
Tyler with a squeegee, pushing sawdusty polyurethane over the bedroom floor.

For the very worst seam on the second floor, more than a quarter inch in width, Tyler stuffed twine before filling it with sawdusty polyurethane. It couldn’t be hidden so we went with the theory that it added character.

twine filled seam
It’s not pretty, but it’ll do.

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Tomorrow: Choosing stain. See how it turns out here.


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