Antique Heart Pine Restoration – Sand and Finish

Before and after photos of refinished heart pine

Before and after photos of refinished heart pine


My last week of 2013 was spent working on a pretty unique and special project.  I was contacted by a young couple to restore the hardwood floors in their new home, a home that had previously been in their family for many years.  Her uncle had originally installed the floor.  Little was done to maintain the floor over time and it had been pretty well worn by the time the young couple took it over. (click here for proper care and maintenance tips)  The finish was worn through in several areas, there were signs of water damage, and overall the floor just looked pretty dull and lifeless.

We discussed several options and decided to completely sand and refinish the floor with 3 coats of a natural (no stain) water based satin finish.  Since the couple was expecting their first baby and already had two small dogs, this was going to be an active household.  The satin finish works well in this situation as it shows less wear than higher gloss finishes.  They choose the unstained look to brighten up the space and showcase the natural beauty of the woods grain and color variations.  The water based finish is a nice choice as it has very low VOC’s, little odor, doesn’t yellow over time, and adds great durability.

During the consultation, we believed the floor to be common Southern Yellow Pine.  It was not until we began sanding that we realized it was not Southern yellow but, in fact, Heart Pine.  While we were working there, another family member confirmed the fact that the uncle had actually sourced the wood from out of a river in North Carolina.

“Heartwood,” such as heart pine, comes from the innermost part of old growth trees and is much harder than the outer “sapwood” layers which are more commonly used in flooring and furniture.  Thirty years of growth yields approximately 1 inch of heart wood lumber.  Today, heartwood is rarely harvested due to forest management issues, but can still be found in reclaimed woods.  Some reclaimed wood is actually found at the bottom of rivers. Before the 1900’s loggers would float their harvest down the river to a mill.  Some of these logs sank.  There are some flooring companies today (such as Goodwin Heart Pine) that are sending divers to find this wood and reclaim it and mill it into flooring.

To restore the floor, we had to sand down a significant amount of the wood.  But once we got through all the wear and damage, the floor came out very smooth and looked brand new.  To avoid having to sand the floor again, it is important to keep a strong finish coat.  The finish can be recoated every couple years to keep a strong, protective finish layer on the floor, preserving this unique and special wood.

The owners were very pleased with the results.  With some simple care and maintenance, this floor should last them many years to come.

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