Katy Elliott

A daily design journal about new england life, home decorating resources, and renovating a 257-year-old house in Marblehead, MA.

Stripping Wood Floors? Need Help!

Posted on | July 19, 2012 | 67 Comments

At the top of my renovation list to get done before baby is to have the floors stripped on the second floor of our house. The floors are all original wide plank, painted in an assortment of creams and browns.

I don’t know the best process to remove the paint and when I bring it up with Greg he gets frustrated and complains that the floors will be ruined and loose their character if I have them sanded. I realize it was common to have painted floors back in the day and it’s only recently become fashionable to have them stripped to just wood.

So I reach out to my readers because I’m starting to go crazy. I just want the paint off. Can you help? Have you had your floors stripped or whatever method you want to call the process? What’s the best way to preserve them so they don’t loose their old house appeal? Can you recommend someone who does this type of work?

We did strip the paint off the molding in our den using The Silent Paint Remover which works great! But the remover we have is small and overheats quickly when applied straight down which makes the process very labor intensive. If we could find a crew who does this type of removal that would be ideal since it doesn’t require sanding. I don’t need every little speck of paint off but something where most of it’s gone.

I found this list on Whole Living’s website on water-based and natural sealers as well as waxes and oils. I don’t want super slick floors with heavy poly but something soft and hopefully using a natural product.

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67 Responses to “Stripping Wood Floors? Need Help!”

  1. Gregg Germain
    July 19th, 2012 @ 2:18 pm


    When I had to strip the paint and varnish off my 90 year old, 27′ wooden sailboat, I used a heat gun and a good scraper. The heat makes the paint or varnish bubble, and it’s easily scraped off. There were MANY layers of paint. It left the patina on the wood.

    I have seen infra red heat guns that soften paint over larger areas than a heat gun.

    So this technique is slower than chemical strippers but I much prefer it for a variety of reasons.



  2. Katy Elliott
    July 19th, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

    Hi Gregg!

    Thanks for the comment! This is how we’ve done the molding in the house. Using this machine, The Silent Paint Remover.

    It works but sooo messy and insanely time consuming. http://www.silentpaintremover.com/

    I wonder if there is a better, quicker way that could be done in a week rather then months and months.


  3. amy good house
    July 19th, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

    I think it would be easier to hire someone to sand the top layer. I know just for a regular old sanding and staining on an existing floor a professional would charge about 2.50 a square foot or maybe less. You can have them come in and just do the sanding part and then maybe experiment yourself with the waxs and oils. At least the messiest part would be outsourced and the price would be lower.

    One note, and I’m sure I’m just stating the obvious, but be careful of lead contamination which I’m sure is present in these old floors. Especially if you are pregnant it is probably beneficial to hire someone else to do all the work and clean up.


  4. Geoff
    July 19th, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

    Last october I wanted to have my 70yr old white oak hardwood floors re-finished. As I was ripping up old carpet, I found one of the rooms had vinyl tile glued directly to the hardwood. After ripping up the tiles, I still had large amounts of glue residue everywhere. I started by using the heat gun method and then moved on to mineral spirits but both where extremely slow going. Finally I talked to the contractor I was going to hire to sand and re-finish my floors and he recommended Klean Strip KS-3 premium stripper. Warning: this stuff is pretty potent and will require lots of ventilation and skin protection. I just brushed this stuff on, waited a few minutes and scraped it off with a plastic putty knife. The glue residue, paint splatters, and stain all came off with minimal effort. The only drawback was after the floors were re-finished, that particular room had a bit of a greenish tint to it. The contractor seemed to think that was from the glue that had been sitting on it for 30+ years and not any of the chemicals I used. Hope this helps.


  5. Katy Elliott
    July 19th, 2012 @ 2:38 pm


    Thanks! Yes, I know to be careful! That’s why I’m hoping to get a crew who could do it a week and I would go away. If we use natural sealers I would be more ok with being back in the house.


  6. Karen
    July 19th, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    Katy — We’ve had our floors sanded and stripped in two different houses, but not to remove paint and they weren’t the wide pines. But, I think it should be the same kind of company — you should ask around locally for recs. It’s totally reasonable to talk with a few companies for estimates and talk it through with them (with pictures of what you want). Make sure you get *good* recs — we had one bad experience. Btw, if you definitely want to do this, you’re *smart* to do it now. The dust and mess is surreal (they’ll plastic it off, but still). Moving all of your stuff off that level will be a lot of effort too… + the noise… not so great for nap time). Good luck! Hope to see pics. (I’m actually thinking about painting a floor — starting to collect pics…)


  7. Alice
    July 19th, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    We painted our 1790s NE farmhouse floors. Most were painted original wide plank, some needed replacing. My husband (the architect/builder) wanted to paint for budgetary & historical reasons. We picked a light grey, used porch oil paint, two coats. It looks great to me and keeps everything light. Easy to maintain too. Stripping it all sounds like a crazy amount of work! Good luck, love the blog.


  8. John Harrington
    July 19th, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    We removed the paint from some of our 1780s wide plank floors and I totally regret it (or at least how we did it). Although the color of the refinished wood is beautiful, and we get lots of comments on the beauty of the floors, the preservationist in me cringes a little every time I look at them. Unfortunatly, 18th century iron nails can’t be sunk far enough not to be damaged by the sander, and you are left with broken and shiny nail heads. If I had it to do over again, I would either have left the paint, or done all of the stripping by hand to keep the nails heads intact and preserve as much of the historic wear patterns as possible. Chemical stippers might be worth a try, but my recommendation is to keep anyone with a sander far away. In terms of finish, if you have a hard wood, like oak, you don’t really need to put any finish on them. The natural patina is beautiful, and the 230 year old raw oak in our house has held up amazingly well. Good luck!


  9. Kater
    July 19th, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

    Katy- if you have any old linoleum tiling you should have it tested for asbestos – neither you or Greg should do that yourself. Our oak flooring came back negative for it, but positive for lead. Different states have varying rules but in general sanding or stripping of lead paint should be done by a listened company and refuse has to be disposed of and registered with the EPA. There are regulations about HEPA (sp?) filters and such. We live in California, and our floors cost about $4K (four bedrooms, hallway, stairs, and closet). They have so much character even after the sanding (some areas had to be planed due to the mastic) so the process was worth it. Took our crew four days. Feel free to email if you want more details. My baby was 4 months old at the time and tested negative for lead at his one year appt.


  10. Katy Elliott
    July 19th, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

    @kater no asebetos but yes, everything in my house has lead. It’s an old house. We are very aware of the problems and we always take proper precautions. I won’t be in the house or doing any of this work.

    I’m hoping to get a crew in here ASAP that could do the project. It’s messy, gross and something I want done so I don’t have to deal with it down the road.

    And yes, when you hire a crew around these parts they are aware of the EPA rules.

    Thanks for all the tips and double-checking with me I was aware. It’s nasty stuff!


  11. Sara
    July 19th, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

    the Kitka.ca blog recently shared info on stripping floors for their guest cottage and products to finish them with- all very eco friendly. I agree with those here who remind you to beware of lead paint! I’m glad you are aware already.


  12. Sara
    July 19th, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

    the Kitka.ca folks used a drum sander. If you start here, you can go forward to see their amazing progress.
    “Guest Cottage: Sanding Disaster”
    in the comments they share the products, this is what they shared with me:
    “They have downloadable PDFs on the left of the screen for instructions!”
    It was so nice of them to share this renovation and all the details, as you do. All of us are learning so much from you (both of ‘you’)


  13. Kickymarcia
    July 19th, 2012 @ 4:03 pm


    Have you seen this product?
    We are using their product to remove mastic from concrete.


  14. Kate Yarbrough
    July 19th, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    Hi Katy,

    Our 1810 farmhouse had all of its floors (wide plank pine) refinished 12 years ago, before we moved in. They look great, but are super easy to damage. Our floor is riddled with the mark of every chair leg, dropped object, dog toenail. Now we have twin sons and I can’t imagine what another decade will do to it.

    So, on the bright side, Greg will likely get his patina, but on the dark side, you may find you are left with sensitive floors. New paint might prove more durable.

    Good luck – beautiful blog!



  15. Katy Elliott
    July 19th, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    I’ll throw this into the mix.

    4 different methods to strip the paint off the floor.

    A link we’ve had bookmarked:


  16. Katy Elliott
    July 19th, 2012 @ 4:34 pm


    Yes, we’ve heard about the soy gels but never tried ourselves.

    Thanks for the tip!


  17. Steve
    July 19th, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

    This is a tough one. Knowing the look you’re going for, I think the sanding option is out. So it looks like you’re in for some kind of chemical stripping.

    I wonder if it might be worth using the Silent Paint Remover to test a few spots. It might be good to see what you’re going to end up with before hiring a crew.


  18. Katy Elliott
    July 19th, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    @Steve I know it is hard! Obviously why we’ve been avoiding!

    I’m realizing Greg is right and sanding is totally out. It’s going to be too invasive and mess with our beautiful rose head nails.

    So I think the option is Silent Paint Remover. But I really don’t want to Greg to do it because frankly he’ll take FOREVER.

    Not sure if any crews exist that use the Silent Paint Remover that I could hire.


  19. Erica W.
    July 19th, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    I really think you should hire someone — even if the pregnancy/lead paint wasn’t an issue, it’s a really hard job.

    I had the floors in my house sanded — wide (not as wide as yours) plank white pine. Many of the rooms were painted dark brown lead paint (the floors). There was sanding dust EVERYWHERE (a four story house — covered in sanding dust) afterwards, so make sure the crew you hire will clean that up (full of lead). It was still worth it — the floors look great, though they do scratch pretty easily. This is really not a DIY job unless you decide to rent a sander, and even then it’s pretty easy to botch.


  20. Tom Boyle
    July 19th, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    Ah, lots of decisions here! We live in a 1741
    Colonial on the Connectiuct shoreline and have all second floors painted and all first floors natural. None of this is probably original, we know the wide plank first floor wood came from the attic. The second floor dates from the original but no idea how long it’s been painted. All this background to indicate the choices you need to make. Depending on year-built, the floors may or may not have been painted originally. The earliest floors on antiques in New England were unpainted and unfinished, maybe oiled. Not sure when floor painting came into vogue, but it was usually a matter of dollars, paint was (and is) expensive. So, if you are going to re-paint, I’d just rough up the current paint by sanding or even a vigorous TSP scrub and have at it. If you do want to remove old floor paint, I honestly think professional sanding is the best bet, but it’s very messy, dust will be everywhere and lead paint is a true issue, especially with young (or unborn) children. I’ve used different kinds of chemical strippers with varying degrees of success, unfortunately the most effective are the most problematic for skin and fumes. Heat guns, in my experience, work better on smaller areas.

    Good Luck!


  21. amanda
    July 19th, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    Hi Katy, this is my first time commenting here, but it’s been a treat following along on your renovation journey! We’ve done a bit of our own renovating on a 200 year old farmhouse here in Maine. With four children (and pregnant with our fifth) at the time of floor stripping, we hired this job out. It seemed safest and totally worth the extra effort and expense. I wanted to mention what we ended up ‘finishing’ the floors with, as I love, love, love the stuff – Vermont Natural Coatings. Safe for all of us in its non toxicness, a very cool company (made with the whey left over from cheesemaking!), and the warm honey finish is dreamy. I love my floors. You can see our project here (we only did the downstairs and hope to do the upstairs floors someday soon. For now, those are painted.):
    Anyway….hope that’s helpful. Best of luck. and Congrats!


  22. Katy Elliott
    July 19th, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

    @amanda I love your blog!! Such an honor to know you read mine too!

    Thanks so much for sharing your post and tip for Vermont Natural Coatings.


  23. Lynda
    July 19th, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    Speaking as someone who has been renovating old houses for over 20 years (not finished yet!), and raising four children at the same time, I encourage you to take the easy way out with this one and just repaint your floors. All the bedrooms on my 1765 house are painted, and I think it is much cozier. More authentic,too., according to a friend of mine who is an authority . Use Farrow and Ball floor paint, it’s awesome, very durable..
    My daughter is having a baby girl also in mid Nov (first grandchild) and I am closely following your nursery ideas!


  24. Agnes
    July 19th, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

    Hi Katy
    We had pumpkin pine flooring in our brownstone in Brooklyn. We hired a guy with a lot of experience (not cheap) to sand and refinish (poly satin finish)and to fill in some gaps. The result was great and it took three days. Also a friend recently had the floors done in her old farmhouse and used this method http://www.osmona.com/as well as the ivory soap finish (popular on floors in Denmark)Both are green and non-toxic which may be a concern with baby on the way.


  25. nicole
    July 20th, 2012 @ 6:30 am

    hi katy,
    we used this http://www.amazon.com/SoyGel-Urethane-Remover-Stripper-Gallon/dp/B0002Z11MO/ref=pd_cp_hi_0 on two of our rooms with white planks to remove the paint (several layers) with pretty good results. you should also be able to track it down at the home depot and the ingredients are pretty natural and totally biodegradable. it’s a gel that you paint on, wait anywhere from several hours to a day and scrape it off. It was labor intensive from the standpoint that we were down on the ground doing this work but the paint lifted away very easily and then i just mopped the floors a few times to clean up all the paint and gel remnants. fyi: our house is 1888. i also used it to remove about a million layers of paint from some old doors, including a screen and it did a great job.


  26. Nancy
    July 20th, 2012 @ 7:45 am

    We have an old sea captain’s house that was un-butchered when we bought it. It has old floors with stains on them and some painted floors. I was tempted to sand the wooden floors but decided just to use hot water and lots of ivory soap to scrub at them. I did this over and over again on my “office” floor. A lot of the doors and cupboards in the house were painted by itinerant painters in the late 1800’s. I’m glad I didn’t try to flatten out imperfections in the wood. Somehow the whole house remains like a choir of voices, some good, some bad. Every house I’ve even seen that got too worked over somehow loses it’s overall voice or tone…It’s cozy feel, if you like, especially if it’s an old house. This is just my opinion, it’s not a comment on what you have been doing. We underestimate the power and aesthetics of imperfections.


  27. redbrickbuilding
    July 20th, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    Hi Katy,

    I would urge you to listen to Greg re: sanding. It absolutely will take all (or virtually all) the uneven wear out, warping and buckling out of the floors. My husband told me the same thing about sanding old patinaed wood and I didn’t believe him until I watched the process. Definitely not the results I wanted – which seem to be the ones you do too.

    In terms of finishes, check out tung oil as an option. We used it on our (new wood) floors. It’s natural and feels really soft on bare feet.


  28. Kitty
    July 20th, 2012 @ 9:48 am

    I wonder if you know what the boards look like under the paint? My experience of old houses (eighteenth-century Dublin) is that the wood used for the upper floors even in very grand town-houses was not terribly good: it was painted over for a reason! I’m not at all knowledgeable about American houses, but it may be that, if these boards were in the public part of the house (entrance hall, drawing room, dining room), the original builders may well have used something cheaper and less beautiful. Paint seems lovely to me, but you will, of course, know best what will work in your house. Good luck!


  29. Katy Elliott
    July 20th, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    Thank you for all the great advice and taking the time to share your experiences!

    Where I’m at today with this project:

    I think I’m going to paint them Farrow and Ball’s Lime White: http://us.farrow-ball.com/lime-white///fcp-product/100001

    I plan to put antique rugs down covering almost all the floors. So I think my fuss of wanting them bare wood is a bit silly…at least now. If I paint them it still gives me the option to strip them in the future. And I can use the money I planned to spend stripping the floors to get some great rugs!



  30. Elizabeth
    July 20th, 2012 @ 11:24 am

    Katy, great idea to go with paint for now. We moved into our house with a newborn and I compromised on several things, including the floors for the sake of speed (and b/c I was seriously exhausted). Five years later the floors make me cringe on a daily basis.

    All that said, you’ll find that their will be less time for the house once baby makes his or her debut. So if you can figure out exactly what you want and how to get it now, it might be worth the pain.


  31. wendy
    July 20th, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

    Katy. Use Peel-away 7. It’s fantastic! I stripped our living and dining room floors of lead paint using Peel Away 7. It’s not toxic like regular stripper. It’s gentle. It doesn’t burn your skin or smell bad and it cleans up with water and steel wool. I did a 15 x 15 room in a weekend. You brush it on liberally (an inch thick) throw the paper down on it for 24 hours no more or less–then scrape off the bulk of the gunk and clean the rest with a lot of fresh steel wool and water. The floors came out beautiful–all the dings and character completly restored and because you’re using steel wool you can the paint off in between the cracks as well. You can hire this out or do it in sections. I did the dining in 5 x 5 foot sections every night after work and I was really only up there about a couple of hours–maybe less.


  32. nicole
    July 20th, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

    i think just painting makes a lot of sense, especially with the baby on the way. pregnancy goes so quickly and i remember being totally obsessed with having everything ready too. the push to get it all done can be maddening though and the stress is just not worth it. that paint color is gorgeous and will certainly look great. did you see this garnet hill rug? http://www.garnethill.com/eileen-fisher-ikat-soumak-rug/bedding-bath/eileen-fisher-home/view-all-eileen-fisher-home/236455?defattrib=&defattribvalue=&listIndex=7

    it kinda reminded me of the one you showed from the apartment in france. love the colors.


  33. George
    July 21st, 2012 @ 9:36 am

    In the post regarding our library on our blog http://www.thevailhouse.wordpress.com we discuss restoring our wide plank floorboards by removing a layer of decayed varnish with a soy based stripper. This permitted us to come into contact with it without the misery of getting conventional chemical stripper on one’s clothes or skin. We used enormous quantities of steel wool to not abrade the boards. Lastly, we applied two coats of Tung Oil from Sunderland Welles, which imparted a warm finish we are very pleased with.


  34. Simone
    July 21st, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

    Hi! We had our 1780 wide plank and chestnut floors “lightly”sanded and then they used tung oil for the finish. Looks great. The chestnut floors had worm holes and I wanted to make sure they remained. They did. Call Carlisle flooring in Nh. They might give you the name of someone used to working with antique floors. We found someone thru them to install new heart pine floors and to refinish antique floors. They did hammer old nail heads a little too deep in one room..you have to be right next to them to say stop…sanded enough.


  35. Katrin
    July 23rd, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    We sanded our old pine floors and then did the lye/soap treatment. You can read more about it on my blog.
    During: http://takingnotes.squarespace.com/home/2012/2/13/floors.html


  36. Richard Purvis
    July 23rd, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

    It really depends on what type of paint it is as to the best method of removal, to be honest though there is no easy way.


  37. Brian G.
    July 24th, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    Looks like you don’t have a huge build-up of paint. Why don’t you try chemical removal of the paint by hand (lots of work, yes but it will control any possible lead paint contamination). Zip Strip in my experience is the best stripper and it is non-flammable. After removing the paint give the floor a scrub with TSP and see what it looks like. If you can live with it as-is seal it with wax or your choice of low VOC finish.

    If after stripping the paint you don’t like the look of the scrubbed boards there is a sanding method that is gaining popularity called ‘Dustless Refinishing”. There are many companies now specializing in this method so you should have no problem finding a local contractor. It is a much gentler, less aggressive form of refinishing that will leave a great deal of the patina on the boards which will probably make your hubby happy. Good luck!


  38. Nick Heywood
    July 24th, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

    Our house has floor almost identical to yours — for a variety of reasons (an impenetrable carpet glue covering everything), we had to sand them and though they are beautiful, not what we were looking for. If you do end up exposing the wood rather than painting, I have a few thoughts:

    You should absolutely not use tung oil — not very good for wood in the long run under any circumstances.

    We used a neat product made by Vermont Natural Coatings called Polywhey, which is highly nontoxic and made at least partly from whey, a byproduct of the cheese making process. I would highly recommend it with the caveat that it works best with at least 3 coats applied. Our floors do easily scratch and dent, but that has a lot more to do with the nature of pine floors than anything with the finish.

    I have images of the floors up on my blog if interested — http://www.nickhaus.com/2011/09/floors-still-in-progress.html — though frankly they end up looking just like any other basic clearcoated floor, just without the carcinogens or other toxins.

    Something we thought of using which is fun — made in the Netherlands, called Skylt, which for all intents and purposed looks entirely unfinished. It has NO light reflectance properties —




  39. Amylee (Paris)
    July 26th, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    Just few words that say to you that your blog is really great !
    Sorry, i’m best in paintings, i can’t help you for your problem to “stripping wood floors”. ;)


  40. Anonymous
    July 28th, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

    I would test for lead prior to stripping or sanding. If it tests positive I would highly recommend hiring a professional removal team. I also recommend investing in a HEPA VAC. Cleaning construction dust is very tedious but necessary. We live in a home built in 1890. We began having our baby’s lead levels checked at age 6 months. It is good to take precautions and limit exposure.


  41. mopar
    August 4th, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

    Sounds like a great idea to paint for now. If you want to strip the parlor level, you might hire someone to do it with a chemical stripper. We’ve used Peelaway 7 and soy gel, and found the latter was very easy to use. (We used it on slate, though, haven’t yet tried it on wood — or a floor). We sanded our late 19th century pine floors, and while I’m happy with it, I definitely would not recommend doing it with your very special floors, especially not with layers of lead paint.


  42. mopar
    August 5th, 2012 @ 9:01 am

    BTW, we are also expecting a baby (in January) and I’m kind of worried because our renovation is not done and at this point is starting to look like it will never be done. We were supposed to finish two years ago. Immediate concerns are sewer gas (after three years, we finally found the source and will be redoing the original lead plumbing in one bathroom in September), rats living between our first and second floors (three years of an exterminator seems to have only made the situation worse), and replacing the replacement windows, which don’t close. Lead paint covers all the wood work, and the rest of the house is mostly unfinished plaster.


  43. Shirley
    August 6th, 2012 @ 5:47 am

    That sounds like a great idea!
    Thanks for the tips!


  44. Megan
    August 8th, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

    I would hire someone and move out to a relatives while the floors are being done. I worked for two architects who were renovating their house pre-baby and while she was pregnant. Their home was a turn of the century townhouse. They hired someone to do their floors, which had been painted similarly to yours. They remained in the house while the work was done. After delivery their baby had a high lead count in his blood tests while in the hospital. They had a friend who went through somethings similar and thought they had taken the proper precautions by hiring someone and not doing the work themselves. The baby is now a brilliant seven year old but it really was an ordeal and very unnerving. I am now refinishing a 100 year old fixer upper I purchased and my old boss/now friend was like get those floors down before getting pregnant. Sorry to be a negative Nelly.


  45. Megan
    August 8th, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

    As for painting them white… That’s what I want to do BUT I have a 140 lb dog that will scratch it up… I recently tried to talk my husband into the idea with these pics.
    An architect friend send me this link for paint suggestions.
    and I was pretty much told to use a tough enamel and that Benjamin Moore makes an oil based floor enamel…its labeled under their “maintenance coatings” but there’s lots of VOC’s… Killjoy!


  46. Page Price
    August 9th, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

    If you get some veteran wood floor guys, they can sand that off without ruining the patina you are going for. I had floors refinished in my pre Civil War farmhouse that had been covered with subfloor and shag carpeting for years. I did not want the high sheen new floor look, but they still had to be sanded to get whatever finish treatment you want to be effective…..otherwise impossible to clean!! Good Luck!


  47. Jenny
    August 9th, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

    Missing your posts! Hope you are doing well… :)


  48. Rosemary
    August 11th, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

    Hi Katy,

    Worried about you. Hope you’re ok.


  49. Katy Elliott
    August 13th, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    Hi everyone!

    I’m doing great! I’ve been away, super busy with my day job, growing a baby and trying to stay cool!

    I promise an update soon!!!


  50. Tim
    August 14th, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

    Katy, I loved seeing this post! It gives me hope in restoring an old house. I just moved to New England and am searching for an antique home of my very own. I love reading your processes and I can’t wait to see more. Good luck with the floors. My rental house was built in 1845 and has the ugliest paint on the original floors. If this were my house, that paint would definitely be coming up, but luckily I don’t have to worry about it too much longer!

    Best, Tim


  51. Hollie
    August 15th, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    Wish I had seen this sooner! We refinished our bathroom a while back with it’s original tiles bathroom tiles. We used a Martha Stewart paint stripper that was all natural and didn’t stink the house up. It can be used on all surfaces and you glob it on the floor, wait a few hours and the paint starts stripping off the surface without even touching it. I found that I did have to work at scrubbing a few crevices though.


  52. Anonymous
    August 17th, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

    Use Smart Strip.


  53. Anonymous
    August 18th, 2012 @ 12:19 am

    Not to be a kill joy but if you are preggers and contemplating stripping wood floor then you need to be VERY CAREFUL. Old homes contain lead paint and handling them, stripping (whether by chemical or heat gun) hell even sweeping them raises lead paint particles in to the air and can harm you and your unborn. Not to mention that you man is being kind of selfish if he is insisting that you guys try to keep them because of character.

    My advice is to rip them out and be done. You can always do something funky like put down plywood and paint it with an antique whitewash/paint if you want that old classic feel. But it is my opinion that your baby should come first. So tell your man to pony up some moolah. Send you to your parents for a few months and hire someone to come in and properly remove those floors and clean the house of any lead dusts. Good luck


  54. Carrie
    August 22nd, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

    Hi Katie!

    I really enjoy reading your blog. My husband and I have renovated our entire house (built in 1920’s) so I definitely understand your frustrations when it comes restoring old hardwood floors.

    Your husband sounds pretty handy, so I think he could handle sanding it himself. When we did our kitchen floor, we rented an industrial sander from Lowe’s – very inexpensive and very clean – left no dust at all. It is fairly heavy though so he would need assistance lifting it up the stairs. Because we have heart of pine floors which are very soft – we decided instead of staining the hardwood, we would paint over them. So we used an oil based paint to go a black and white checkerboard floor. It looks great, holds up well, and took us less than a day to complete this one room. We did spend the night to avoid paint fumes, but by the time we returned the next day it had dried and there were no fumes. If you want to know what paint we used, let me know – my husband is a commercial painting contractor=:)http://www.theyuilllog.com/2010/09/diy-painted-hardwood-floors.html


  55. Gwen
    September 13th, 2012 @ 3:03 pm


    We were afraid of the same thing when stripping wood in our 1875 house. We opted to skip strippers, heatguns, sanders etc. and just used a hand-held scraping tool similar to the one below:



  56. Dana
    September 28th, 2012 @ 10:13 am

    My aunt restored an 1800 home with 12 ft ceilings and lots of molding to get paint off. She got it down to bare wood and stained it with oven cleaner! She swears by it. I used it on one project and it worked great. Tried it on another and not so great but still worked. Like another writer said I think it depends on the type of paint.


  57. tamara
    October 2nd, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

    HI Katy,

    Vermont Natural Coatings doesn’t yellow. It is non-toxic.
    Made from whey, that is nice. I find it durable. I sealed my floors with it in 2008. The company was more than generous when there was a mix up. They sent me a free gallon!

    I hope the paint removal goes well.


  58. Lindsay
    October 3rd, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

    I second the person’s comment about Smartstrip. That stuff is amazing and non-toxic. I work in historic preservation and have recommended it to people for removing paint on their original wood windows. It will even take paint off concrete and brick. I plan to use it to strip some furniture.


  59. Krystal
    October 8th, 2012 @ 6:35 am

    I’m glad I stumbled accross your blog. I too have a 100 something yr old cottage. So I will be interested to see what your doing with yours. I’m slowly starting to document my cottage http://www.krystalelliot.blogspot.com

    Cheers Kystal


  60. Tonya
    October 8th, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

    This is a great tutorial, if you don’t follow them already.



  61. Lizzie
    November 2nd, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

    Our 1868 floorboards in Maine look fabulous! We sanded using hand sander & orbital sander. Then Tung Oil followed by Bison Wax. Gorgeous!!


  62. Titus Contracting
    November 7th, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    Have you made any more progress with stripping the floors?


  63. Leslie Sullivan
    November 9th, 2012 @ 9:22 am

    Hi Katie, this may be falling on deaf ears as this is an older post. I live in New Brunswick Canada on the east coast! we have tons of historic homes in our area I live in a 1890’s victorian. Our neighbours spent years refinishing there home to its original character we have learned so much from them.They actually hired a man to sand there wide plank pine floors and he had a specific sander that did not damage the nail heads, made especially for this type of restoration. Might want to look into this. Love your blog!


  64. Chris
    December 2nd, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    Hi Katy! Hope you and the new family are all well! :-)

    My partner and I just bought a house on the South Shore of MA. Most of the flooring had carpet and when we ripped it out, we found painted, large plank hardwood floors underneath, just like the picture you have posted above.

    Our friends brother does hardwood floors for a living so we called him up and got our floors redone…they were sanded and then stained and they came out BEAUTIFUL! Since there were deep grooves in the floorboards, the sanding process wasn’t able to remove 100% of the paint (sanding them to remove ALL the paint would’ve destroyed the boards). He then stained the floor a natural color stain and the end result is great! Shoot me an e-mail and I’ll e-mail you some snapshots of our new floors! The small spots of paint left behind look exactly like the naturally dark circles (I forget what they’re called) in the wood.


  65. darren cook
    December 19th, 2012 @ 5:25 am

    Informative post! From personal experience, I would recommend Rigas Builders In Bedford .They undertake these sort of renovation works.


  66. Nicole @bklyncontessa
    March 6th, 2013 @ 12:27 am

    I know it is months and months later, but I have researched this extensively because we have this same issue with the country house we are in the process of buying and I learned that many wide plank floors were not hardwoods and often softer woods like pine were used and hence need to be painted to not be damaged or destroyed. I have found a finish which is a bit the best of both worlds, did you know you could wax milk paint?! The finish is BRILLIANT … it is what I plan to do!


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