What to Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Before & After

What to Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Before & After

I love looking at “before” and “after” photos of the bungalow renovation.

It recently occurred to me that I don’t share nearly enough “before” photos when blogging about the remodel, so before fully unveiling the refinished hardwood floors, I wanted to tease you with a sneak peek of the MAJOR PROGRESS this particular part of the house has undergone. Not only did this space prove to be the biggest challenge when installing and refinishing hardwood floors, but it’s also the single most transformed space – completely unrecognizable when compared to its original less-than-thrilling condition, above.

A proper “before” picture should be as disgusting as possible, so I’d like to take this time to thank the original owners who abandoned this house for nearly 20 years before deciding to sell it. THANK YOU! If it wasn’t for the disgusting piles of decaying leaves, that haunted fireplace that resembles the mouth of a dragon, and the horrifying population of bees living inside of these very same walls, this house would look quite normal – if your idea of “normal” is “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

I mean, look at the picture below!

With the elimination of a few walls, what used to be the living room and master bedroom became one large open living space, which now includes the kitchen in an alcove to the left, the dining room behind the fireplace and the living room, from where these photos were taken. If you’re curious to see a comparison of the original floor plan to how it looked once we were done with it, you can do so in a previous post that is all about the floor plan re-design.

What to Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Before & After

The living room had original, solid hardwood floors dating back to 1930, when the bungalow was first built. The floors actually came from a local high school gym – a school that, decades later, I attended and graduated valedictorian from, believe it or not. Needless to say, we weren’t about to get rid of one of the few original charming details of the house.

However, we were faced with several challenges when looking for matching hardwood:

  1. The room that used to be the master bedroom (and was now becoming the dining room) only had plywood on the floor. The space that was becoming the kitchen had concrete floors. Both rooms were slightly lower than the living room, so at first glance it looked like we could install hardwood and have a minimal transition from the living room into the dining room.
  2. However, the original hardwood floors in the living room had an unusual width – a fraction less than 1.5 inches, which is the standard width for hardwood boards in old homes. Cutting out a few boards from the living room to make the transition into the dining room less noticeable was, unfortunately, out of the question, because we’d be left with gaps between the old boards and the new ones. There was just no way around it: We would need to install a perpendicular transition board between the two spaces.
  3. We were told that the original floors are a mix between white and red oak, and despite searching high and low for a lumber yard that carried white oak, we could only locate red; that, again, presented another issue, since white oak has more of a golden hue and red oak has a pink hue.
  4. As I already mentioned when I shared my tips for DIY hardwood floors installations, wood tends to change in color as it matures, so the flooring that was installed back in 1930 simply couldn’t match the flooring installed in 2016 – even if we were to use the exact same wood, grain and stain.
  5. Even if we wanted to get rid of the original hardwood flooring, we simply didn’t have it in our budget to do so at this time.

What to Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Before & After

Hopefully your hardwood experience won’t be so challenging, though!

At any rate, here are a few other things to expect when refinishing hardwood floors:

  • Be prepared for A LOT of dirt and dust to cover every possible surface in your house. I never thought I would say this, but I’m thankful we haven’t moved into the bungalow yet, because I cannot imagine refinishing hardwood floors while also living there. Having to move out the kitchen cabinets, along with absolutely everything else that had made its way into the house, was a total pain. We stored whatever we could in the bathrooms, and everything else had to be locked in an outside shed. We covered the chandeliers and light fixtures with garbage bags, but everything else is pretty much covered with a thick layer of hardwood floor shavings.
  • The installation process takes SEVERAL days. We spent almost an entire day moving everything out and sweeping all floors to prepare them for sanding. Then, both the new and old floors had to be sanded, which can take several days, depending on the size of your house, the damage on the original hardwood floors and how quickly you or your hired help can work. Then comes the wood stain. Then, a coat of polyurethane is applied, and after 24 hours – another. Sometimes a third coat of polyurethane is applied.
  • Then you have a minimum of 48 hours where you’re not allowed to step foot inside the house. Then another three to five days before you’re allowed to place heavy furniture on the refinished hardwood floor. All in all, it’s a week before your life can go back to normal, which is, again, why I can’t imagine living inside the house while refinishing hardwood floors.
  • The stench from the polyurethane coating is unbearable. Even with windows opened and nearly a week passing since it was applied, the entire house still reeks of chemicals.
  • We were told that turning the heat up speeds up the drying process. You know what else turning up the heat does? Discourages you from stepping foot inside the house. Even though we’ve been given the go-ahead to walk on the floor for the past few days, the 85 degrees inside the house has made working impossible, so everything has been at a standstill until the floors are completely dried.

What to Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Before & After

Given all of the afore-mentioned factors, I think we did a fabulous job with the floors; we got to keep an original part of the house and made the new floors as close of a match as possible. Sure, as someone who struggles with extreme OCD, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster with these floors, but at the end of the day, they’re just floors – and I’m more concerned in designing a happy and inviting home where friends and strangers alike can feel welcome at any point, rather than obsessing over mismatched hardwood.

Besides, it’s likely that as the new floor ages, it’ll look more and more like the original wood, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed! “Hope,” as they say, “dies last.”

What to Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Before & After

So there you have it: A few things to consider and expect when refinishing hardwood floors. If there’s anything I didn’t cover, or you decide to tackle it DIY-style and run into a question, feel free to reach out! Hubby and I are far from being subject-matter experts, but we do have some experience under out belt and will do our best to help you solve your hardwood problem!

Here’s a side-by-side comparison – because TALK ABOUT A TRANSFORMATION!

What to Expect When Refinishing Hardwood Floors: Before & After

I’ll be back oh-so-soon with more updates from the magical world of bungalow renovations, and in the meantime, please keep your fingers (and toes) crossed for us to make lots of progress over the next week. To catch up on what we’ve renovated so far, you can browse “Our Bungalow Renovation” series.

For more interior design inspiration and advice, check out 12 Things to Look Forward to After a House Remodel10 Essentials for Mid-Century Modern LivingMirrors of Every Style for Under $20012 Tips for Buying IKEA Kitchen CabinetsStep-by-Step Guide to Choosing Paint for the Whole HouseHome Renovation Progress Report: Choosing Lighting Fixtures10 Small Kitchen Design Ideas to Maximize SpaceMy House Wish ListHome Renovation Checklist10 Best Home Decor Websites to Bookmark Now, and 10 DIY Projects to Add Character to Your Home.

I’d love to hear from you about any home improvement projects you’re tackling this summer! Also, can we talk about that eyesore of a fireplace? If you have any fabulous ideas on what I can do to it, I’m all ears!

Oh, and if you’d like behind-the-scenes sneak peeks into the progress at the #StrelkovBungalow, come hang out with me on Snapchat (My username is @foxyoxie), where I bare it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly.



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  4. It looks amazing! We spent our first evening working on our 1927 home tonight. It took untold amounts of caulk, wood putty and plaster for just one room… I showed my husband your blog tonight and we both thanked the stars we weren’t having to install floors. But truly it looks fabulous. You guys are doing an amazing job.

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