VICTORIA | OAK HOUSE

FLOORED

Since our house has had so few owners (maybe four families in over 100 years), it still has its bones — it has not been subject to 20 owners’ whims or sustained damage by short-term rentals. That means a lot of original features. Which can be overwhelming because — after 100 years — most of those features didn’t look so great right out of the gate.

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Take, for example, the floors in our den. They’re the original fir, which is a very popular flooring material here in Victoria for houses built before 1940. So many of the character homes I drooled over on MLS last year had beautiful fir floors and I was like gimme, gimme, gimme.

Oak House has mostly oak floors. They’re about 20 years old and beautifully installed, in very good condition and they’re consistent throughout the house. The living room, dining  room, both bedrooms and the alcove that leads to the bedrooms all have the same flooring. It’s a huge deal breaker for me when I tour a house with ten different types of flooring (or if it has one…and it’s laminate). I can’t complain about the oak.

We have linoleum in the kitchen and VCT in the bathroom. They don’t match, but they’re also hard to complain about. Very good condition, very easy to keep clean, etc. And then we have the den, with original fir floors.

I really wanted to run the oak floors into this room as it’s the odd one out and, in this instance, I prioritized cohesion over character. (We know the original fir is all underneath the new oak, but we’re practical people and never considered ripping out the oak floors to reveal fir in every room.) Pierre, on the other hand, really wanted to experiment with refinishing some hardwood floors. His uncle owns a hardwood flooring business (in BC, but not on the Island unfortunately!) and so Pierre’s always wanted to tackle a project like this. (I headed him off at the pass when we uncovered that hardwood subfloor in our basement in Toronto, so I felt I owed him this opportunity.) And this was sort of the perfect room on which to try. It’s small and fairly square. And if it turned out terribly, then I would get my matching oak floors.

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He rented a drum sander and an edger and proceeded to go over the floors with 36, 60, 80 and 100 grit sandpaper. I was amazed (and so excited) by the colour. The sanding revealed these beautiful metal cleats between the boards, too, which remind me of those old shelves Pierre refinished for our Toronto basement. (We later moved them to Frankie’s nursery and then we pulled them off our walls and moved them all the way to BC. Keeping them was a line item written into our sale-purchase agreement!)

As you can see from the photo above, once Pierre was done with the sanders, you could tell where the two tools had been used. The area sanded with the edger was much lighter than the area in the centre of the room, which had been sanded with the drum. I was still really happy with the outcome and reminded him the line would be less noticeable once there was furniture in the room, but Pierre decided to rent the equipment a second time and try to fix his mistake on another one of his rest weeks.

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He used both the drum sander and edger again, just 80 and 100 grits this time, and the result was much more even. He used an orbital sander to get into the corners and then used 220 grit sandpaper attached to a pole to really buff all his lines and mishaps out of the floor. He made a mixture of sawdust and wood glue to patch a number of the holes (cables and telephone wires running up from the basement) in the floor, too, and that worked out really well.

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He then moved on to the finishing stage. His uncle sent us a big bottle of Bona Mega, a foam applicator and a 2½″ brush for cutting in. After a very very good vacuum, we applied the first coat together, while Frankie napped. A few hours later, he used the pole sander again to rough up the whole floor and then a good vacuum while I bathed Frankie and put her to bed.

We decided to apply coat number two while she was sleeping, a poor idea as we’d lost all daylight. So my job, in addition to cutting in, was to hold the flashlight and keep our cat (who normally gets play time at that time of night) at bay.

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Pierre sanded and vacuumed again the following morning and, while Frankie napped, we applied the third and final coat of Bona Mega.

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The floors are basically dance floors now! Glassy, so smooth and such a pretty colour. I really can’t believe these were the floors hiding under those terrible dark boards. The refinished boards are actually fairly well matched to the oak that runs through the rest of our house. A slightly different finish and wood grain (our oak has lots of circles and wavy lines and the fir is more about stripes), but very close in colour.

Pierre will be the first to admit the job wasn’t perfectly executed, but we spent about $350 on tool rentals and products and we’re very happy with the result for the cost. Plus, Pierre got to tackle a project that he’s always wanted to try. Next time (if there’s ever a next time), he said, he’d do a few things differently — like hire this job out to a professional.

We need to wait three days before we can put anything like a drop cloth on the newly finished floors, but I plan to repaint the walls (got pretty dinged up with the second round of sanding) before our carpenters return to fix our electrical and add trim. We’re getting so close! I can’t wait to actually work in this beautiful room instead of on the sofa or at the dining room table.

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