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living with raw wood floors

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Back in November of last year, I had finally worked up the DIY gumption to sand down the oak hardwood floors in the front of our house.

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The polyurethane finish I had applied only a few years earlier was peeling off, taking the dark stain along with it.  I could literally peel it up in sheets with my fingers…like cheap nail polish, which might be fun when you’re 13 and bored in algebra, but it’s not fun when you’re an adult and it’s happening to your floor.

I knew it would be a miserable, dusty, messy, move-all-of-the-furniture, kind of job, but I talked Jeff into it and we got it done.

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I had no idea what finish I was going to apply, so I decided to move the furniture back and wait until I was sure.  I honestly felt a little burned by the peeling polyurethane, so I wasn’t eager to put down another finish.

 After looking into a lot of different products, I decided the all-natural Hemp Oil from my own line was going to be the best.  It’s not stinky, it’s easy to apply and I loved the fact that it wouldn’t ever peel and could be reapplied if ever the floor started looking tired or dry.

Here’s the thing, I’ve never gotten around to applying the oil and I haven’t felt an urgency or even desire to do it.  I have learned that the longer I live with the raw wood floors, the more I love them.  I sometimes feel strange about it…a wood floor is supposed to be properly finished, right?  But then I think about old homes in Europe, with their raw wood floors that have lasted for generations.  Is a finish really necessary?

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I don’t know.  Maybe I’m being a rebel in this, standing in defiance with my unfinished floors.  But I love them and it’s my house and there it is.

So, how is it living on raw wood floors, almost a year after we sanded them?

They felt a little rough at first, compared to the slippery poly finish we were used to, but they have become smoother and softer with use.  They were sanded smooth, so we’ve never had any issues with splinters.

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As far as caring for them, I just vacuum them and that’s about it.

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The foyer is the area that takes the biggest beating.  We gave it a good workout last winter with all of the snow we had.  At first, I fretted over the water dripping off snow boots, but I came to see it wasn’t a big deal.

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If you really look, you can see some water marks, but they just sort of blend in.

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I may try giving them an old fashioned scrub at some point, just to clean them up around the front door.

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If you love this look, here are some things to keep in mind…

Raw wood floors are definitely not right for every home.  They work in my house because of the age of the home and my decorating style.  It works and makes sense.  The wood is old, too, so it has a lot of character and any new gouge or stain isn’t noticeable.

You have to be okay with imperfections and watermarks and all of the things that come with an unfinished floor.  If those things send you into a twist, you will not enjoy raw wood underfoot.

One nice thing is that you can hardly see dirt or dust on it!  It’s so forgiving and livable.  I’m not ever worrying about a finish being scratched, which is a nice change of pace for a chronic furniture-scooter like myself.

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I’m sure, at some point, I’ll put some oil on them.  For now, though, I’m enjoying them as is.

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A few related posts…

Tips on Sanding Floors

My Floor Refinishing Story (round 1)

Related posts:

Comments

  1. Judith says:

    They’re gorgeous! Just a note about those old unfinished floors in Europe. In many cases, while they’re technically unfinished they’re actually saturated from years of scrubbing with an oil-based soap. We researched traditional Swedish floors (since we’re in Sweden, duh) when we built our new kitchen, and went with linseed oil soap. We scrubbed the floor maybe ten times before starting to use the kitchen, and that seemed to saturate the wood really well so that now if there’s a spill it’s super easy to clean up, instead of the floor soaking it up. Might be something to consider if you start noticing hard to clean spots.

    • carswell says:

      Funny – that was my first thought. I think soaped floors would probably be easier than oiling them and probably easier to clean in the long run.

      Leaving them completely unfinished is an invitation to stains and dark water spots eventually.

    • You may have just saved my life… I have unsealed hardwood floors, and the best thing I had found for them was to clean them with mineral spirits and then oil them with linseed oil. It takes forever, and it stinks. Based on your comment I ordered some linseed oil soap and I can’t wait to try it out! :)

  2. hi Marian – i have raw wood floors in my furniture studio and it’s perfect because if i spill paint or anything or scratch it I can just sand it off. Your water marks will sand right out I reckon. The house looks great, Fiona x

  3. One of my happiest memories is my aunt’s unfinished wood floors – they showed the life of a true hard working farm with six boys and dishes being hand washed at every meal and the scuffs of kids chasing each other through the house. Life was being lived and the floors reflected it. When I think back of seeing the worn areas in front of the kitchen sink and the stove where so much good food was cooked from scratch – I think about my own floors that always seem to need cleaning – and I cut myself a break and go live life.

  4. They are beautiful. I think they provide a richness and play so well off of your decorating style. To me nothing is more beautiful than white, wood, and gray. Your dining room, in particular, looks so warm and welcoming.

  5. Alice R. says:

    Here’s my big fear: what happens when I don’t realize I dropped a raspberry and step on it?

  6. MaryE says:

    Love the floors, but I’m kind of picky so they might drive me nuts after a few stains 😉 Had to tell you that your door looks like a lot of the surfaces in our house! With two boys who love to draw and display their artwork, I’m always out of paper and tape! Also, we’re redoing a room in our house and debating if we should paint the old wood doors. The hallway that they’re in is very dark with no natural light, so I would like to paint them but the hubs says no. :)

  7. What can we say about the floors? I think it should be what Mark Darcy said to Bridget Jones: “I like you just the way you are.”

  8. Missy S says:

    I, too, love the look of raw wood floors but not the inevitability of stains that would need to be sanded out. This summer, we installed wood floors ourselves from boards milled at a Menonite sawmill not too far from you. I loved the matte, light look and wanted to preserve that natural beauty, but also protect the floors so they would stay lovely. After a LOT of research and reading flooring and woodworking forums, I decided to use Rubio Monocoat. It’s from Belgium and penetrates completely instead of sitting on top, leaving a beautiful matte finish that looks raw. The floors are lovely *and* protected so they stay that way! Good luck. =)

  9. beverlee says:

    I am so glad that this is your decision. I have loved them from the minute I saw them. and, they are subtle, like the rest of your things. Seal it if you must, please leave the color/colorless. I love them!

  10. Hi Marian, I too live with one room with an unfinished original hardwood floor. It’s been that way for 20 years. I have grown to love it with my style of decorating. We have collected antiques and a lot of large pieces of furniture over the years. So We just have not been driven to move everything. Mainly because it is the living room with the front door entrance. So it would be hard to go out back for a few days until the finish was dry. Furniture is really easy to move around too, but be careful it will definitely scratch. I would love to show you some pictures of it. You can see photos of my home on my Facebook page. I enjoy your blog. Even though I am bad about not leaving comments, so this is my first. Definitely a story that I can relate to. Your home is absolutely beautiful. Good luck with the floor :)

  11. Denise says:

    Love it! :-)

  12. Susan says:

    Hi, Marian —

    I love your floors. I love the arched doorways and the furniture. I just love your house!

  13. Patricia says:

    Um . Well. I guess I’m the one that doesn’t get it. If your hemp oil would work I would do that, but would the oil not make the floor too slippery? I guess since the floors are raw the oil will absorb.
    I like a light floor and had them in our previous house . But raw? I wonder if you decide to sell again and things happen quickly ( as it did with us) you will probably find yourself needing to finish the floors in a hurry.
    I’m sure whatever you do will be just right .

  14. stephanie says:

    Hi Marian!

    I love your floors. Question for you about your hemp oil. We are finally renovating our upstairs in our 1950’s and after the nasty avocado green carpet was pulled, the subfloor is raw tongue-n-groove pine boards! Totally psyched how amazing they are just plain raw! However,I was originally going to “gray wash” them, but after the drywall dust covered the floor, I changed my mind and thought “Oh, heck no, not going to be doing that to 1000 sq. ft. of free flooring!”

    So, I decided to try your hemp oil and I picked few test boards (some are new and some are old boards & all are sanded down) in a closet and YIKES! They are pulling yellow and some orange tones!!! I only did 4 rows of boards. Love the hemp oil on how it goes down, but what is the best way to “tone” this down on the raw wood floors??? Do I cover it with a light color “wash” or re-sand these boards??? Thanks in advance for the assistance!!!

    • marian says:

      Hemp Oil is colorless once applied, but it will bring out the natural colors of what it’s being applied to. So, if your wood has yellow or orange undertones, it will look more yellow or orange when finish is applied. You can definitely put a wash or stain on it first to make it the color you want. Or you can just leave the floors raw as I have! :)

  15. I had raw floors in a circa 1950s bungalow I lived in many years ago. I ripped out the old, gross carpet to find hardwoods underneath. I sanded them smooth and clean with every intention of finishing them. But I never did. And I liked them as they were. I only lived there about two years, so I have no idea how they held up. But I had two dogs at the time, and they did fine for me!

  16. Brooke says:

    I just built a new home last year. New homes lack so much character, But my family offered us land on their farm and i love the location. after living in a restored historic home I knew I wanted to make the new house “old”. Most our door are old, from my dad’s stash in the barn, and our harware, lighting and fixtures are all vintage or relpicas. My biggest splurge was the reclaimed wood floor that I was adamant not receive a finish. Why get beautiful wood and cover it with a plastic like finish??? We did put an oil on top but it’s still raw. And it’s so so so amazing. I love it. There’s been no fading under rugs, it’s worn amazingly well, never looks dirty. I vacuum regularly but have only mopped once in 15 months. That’s how amazing it is. Highly reccomend. And if an area ever needs some attention you can spot sand and treat instead of having to commit to doing your whole floor. I love the look and get sooooooo many compliments..

  17. Charlene Crable says:

    I lived in Europe in the 60’s, the women on the farms fed the men first, then they ate and then they took the bucket with hot soapy water and scrubbed them down. Obviously no finish on those 200 year old floors either and yours look really natural and nice. Don’t worry about it.

  18. Hi Marian,

    I did some upholstery and design work for Tea Leoni 2 years ago and when she moved into her new home she had the floors sanded and kept them raw. It was the first time I’d heard of this or seen anyone do it. She doesn’t like the look of yellow hardwood floors, said she thought it looked like nicotine stains. I absolutely love the look of both of your floors and I’m thinking of doing the same to our floors. We have two large dogs and they really do a number on the coated floors. Please let us know if you decide to protect them with anything but I love the look in your home!!!

  19. Diane says:

    When we lived in the UK we had a 350 year old blacksmiths shop with a 150 year old farm workers cottage attached to it, in the middle of a farming area (think thick mud most of the year from the vegetable fields and dogs) Over the years it had been added to with a stable block and a hay barn on top of the shop. We eventually turned this into a 4 bedroom house with 3 full bathrooms which is quite unusual in the UK. The living room joined onto the kitchen through an arch and it had a large oak plank floor which was unfinished when we moved in and water damage had occurred through an open velux window so the oak was grey and the edges were curling up. We sanded it down and varnished it with diamond hard boat varnish which lasted for a long time no peeling or anything like that but where the archway to the kitchen met the living room and around where we sat the wood started to go very dark and was stained from general wear and tear. We did think about oiling it but we just knew that it would get very dirty again. We tried the bare wood in the family room but that didn’t work very well because again dirt from the dogs and walking through to the kitchen..so bare wood is ok and it looks lovely but after a while it starts to get dirty and even scrubbing it wont get the ingrained dirt out!

    PS I love your home

  20. Lisa Mothersead says:

    I like the lighter color in your home. I don’t know about the unfinished part. Hope the floors are “happy” being bare.

  21. Terri says:

    Beautiful floor!

  22. SueSchneid22 says:

    I say, whatever works! No rules!

  23. I live in a 150 year old farmhouse, and the floors are raw simply from the finish being worn off from use. The boards are old wide plank heart pine and have many, many scratches and dings in them. The floors were laid with hand cut square head nails that sit above the surface, so sanding would be a delicate and detailed process. No big power sanders or the heads of the nails would be removed. Whatever old finish that was on them has flaked off, but a little remains in the corners.

    I once mentioned getting them refinished, and my friends were horrified that I would even think of it. It is a look that takes some getting used to, but the patina and history of the floors is just beautiful. I just hope that whenever I do move, that the new owners love the floors just the way they are and don’t change them.

    Love your home and your blog. So much inspiration!!

  24. Marlene Stephenson says:

    The only thing different i did was put a sealer on them,because i had read that even if you polyurethane them you still need to put a sealer on. But like you i didn’t know what i wanted to do next,so they have been this way for 10 yrs. Nothing stains them and i love them,i just mop and sweep them. Of course my grandkids can’t slide on them like they do on the ones in their room.

  25. I learn something new every day!! If after a year of no big deals I’d say you’re doing fine. Live and let live!! I like that part “doesn’t show dust nor dirt”. With busy life that is truly a plus. And who knows. You sanded but some of the original finish is seeped into the crevices offering some protection from warping etc!

  26. I was excited to see this follow up to when you sanded the floors! We have original hard woods from 50’s skinny planks kinda orange with very little varnish left from years of wear and tear in many areas. We have been torn for 10 years with all flooring options. Now we have a greyhound who loves to stretch, slide and drink from his water without wiping his muzzle (imagine that!) so raw is not a good option. I lightly sanded the very worn areas and applied your hemp oil. Yes, it brought out some of the gold/orange tones in the wood but I decided for financial reasons to just decorate to compliment it and work with it. I love how distressed and matte they look. They are cozy and I feel they look timeless.

  27. Hi Marian,
    I stopped by your blog and read this post which is very interesting. Two years ago when we moved, we had all of the floors sanded down to the raw oak and I really loved the color and feel. I asked the wood guy what type of finish he could apply that would best simulate the raw wood color. I didn’t like the oil based polys that yellow over time. Yuck.

    They used Bona Mega Waterbourne Hardwood Floor Finish in Satin. It’s designed for high traffic areas and has held up beautifully with no yellowing over the past two years. Just thought I would share!

  28. I would be concerned about resale, some may not like the look of raw wood floors, and if anyone decides to stain the floor those watermarks will show more than ever once you put the stain on. It does not sand out.

  29. I love your house but for some reason the raw wood floors and the lack of drapes just looks unfinished to me. I kind of favor the hemp oil or something on them just to make it look a little bit more finished and I still miss the drapes. For some reason I just loved the homey look with the drapes in your home. If a house was on the market and I walked in and saw the raw wood floors, I would think that somebody just didn’t get around to refinishing the floors. Just my two cents, lol.

    • marian says:

      Yes, I would most likely oil the floors when we put our house back on the market (in a couple of years, probably).

      As far as the curtains, I go back and forth about them. Sometimes I’ll look at pictures with the curtains and I miss them, but I love how light and airy it feels without them.

  30. I had my old pine floor in my French cottage sanded and for now, I’m keeping it raw as well, except for the bathrom where I painted it… I’m just too tired to decide on a finish and I kind of like raw as well, though everybody around me tells me I’m nuts!

  31. I think the light colour of the floors really goes nicely with the white and blues in your house. They do look very Scandinavian. Water on oak will eventually turn grey or black which doesn’t show much now in your floors but will pop up with the hemp oil or any thing that penetrates the wood. I have the original oak floors in my 1965 house which had been covered with thick gold shag for 30 years. When I pulled up the carpet they were perfect but were golden coloured so they obviously had stain on them; the only not perfect area was in the front hallway where there would have been water and salt from snow. It had some grey areas. All I have ever done with my floors is put paste wax on them. It gives a soft glow and provides some protection as things will wipe up easily if spilled. Scratches buff out because they tend to be in the wax; you can’t do that with poly as you know. I reapply the wax in the high traffic areas about once a year. You know all about wood and know what you can live with so good on you for finding something that you enjoy

  32. Kathryn says:

    Any stains from spills from things like red fruit punch or grape juice or mustard? And in Europe don’t they wax their floors? I love raw wood and wonder how to live with it in our new build or if I should wax it…which darkens the floors (don’t want them darkened).

  33. Steffanie says:

    This is a bit off topic but I’m considering doing plank subfloors and staining it with curio. I’m wondering how the stain will hold up with the foot traffic?

  34. Christine says:

    Came in via Pinterest. :)
    I have just laid reclaimed pine in my kitchen. 12″ planks, bug-kill packing crates and of course, a few pallet pieces.

    I am also loving the raw wood look and refuse to put anything with -thank or oil in the name. I’m not interested in “that golden glow.”

    That said, I might eventually seal them with paint base. If you pick up flat, exterior, latex DARK paint base, you can seal something with such a completely matte finish. Goes on frighteningly white, but dries so invisibly matte I have to mark where I left off. That’s to keep my raw floor, but protect it a little bit. (This works on chalk and mud paints beautifully. On chippy pieces, it glues them down INVISIBLY, so they don’t look gummy as with other sealants. you cannot pick the chips off!)

    You didn’t mention a cool benefit of a raw floor: dents. If you get a dent on your floor, like when you drop a can of tomatoes (don’t ask me) you can just squirt water on it and leave it alone. The wood fibers swell up and Gone is the dent!

    Just a couple thoughts. I always love your work and how you put things together.

  35. Rebecca says:

    Hi Marian
    We love your site. It is so unique and special.
    We built our house 3 years ago in a small Louisiana town ( giant oaks, b&b’s , and old bridges along the river ) . Our house was designed to look old from the beginning. Soft pine floors were installed new . No finish was ever applied . Sometimes we mop with mint oil soap because we have a big dog , dirty work boots, and kids over. This is my favorite flooring. It’s comfortable underfoot . The fruit and cooking oil stains can be buffed out with a sander
    however
    my teenager likes the patina !
    Keep having fun . Your blog is entertaining .
    Blessings
    Rebecca

  36. Like the flooring. Good color.

  37. I just happened upon your website this morning because I was looking for inspiration and HELP in redecorating my bedroom. (Very “stuck” with this particular room and feeling that panicky just-want-it-done feeling.) Anyway, when I saw this bit about your raw wood floors I had to laugh. My husband and I stripped our living room hardwood going on 12 months ago. We just couldn’t get around to staining and finishing it and so it has remained bare. Like you, I just put the furniture back until I could get to it. I, too, worried about “protecting” it. We have four dogs and two children. So far, nothing terrible has happened to it and an occasional damp mop hasn’t ruined it as I’d feared. Our raw floor is the first thing anyone coming into our house mentions and compliments. They thought we did it on purpose! At first, I quickly offered the disclaimer that we just hadn’t gotten around to finishing it, but now I’ve stopped saying that. I added an area rug to cozy up the seating area and a runner behind the sofa where most of the foot traffic is. At this point, it’s doubtful that we will do anything with it. It is perfect for our little 1940s cottage.

  38. We have unfinished, landfill diverted white oak throughout our home (5 1/2″ planks) & we live them!!! They suit our ‘french farmhouse’ perfectly! They have knots and beautiful characteristics and lovely grain detail; I just couldn’t bring myself to applying a finish to them. They are extremely low maintenance and are aging beautifully. I vacuum and damp mop them once a week & our Roomba is programmed to vacuum every day to keep up with the dog hair and dander (we have and English and a French bulldog). Our flooring supplier is quite mortified that we have left them raw and unfinished; but I don’t care. Everyone who see and experiences them absolutely loves them. I have several reasons for not finishing them: 1. Any finish, even clear, would darken and change the existing color – which I love as is. 2. Maintenance. Finished floors require periodic refinishing. No thanks! The day to day maintenance and cleaning of unfinished floors is ridiculously easy. 3. The age and patina of an unfinished floor is second to none! Our home feels like a very very old home despite its true age. Even pre-finished floors that are manufactured to look old, cannot hold a candle to our unfinished beauties.

    NB: unfinished wood floors are not a good choice if you require perfection and are squeamish about spills and scratches. To me, those things simply add beauty and patina.

  39. I just found this post as I was ‘googling’ about what to do with the now exposed raw wood sub floor in the dining room of my new (1863) farmhouse. I wasn’t sure if I could just rub a thin layer of wax on it to help protect it from wear and tear of my kids and pets. I’m painting all but 2 of the floors as I’d like to keep some original and ‘rustic’. I was really only worried that one of my kids might spill something greasy then it might leave a big oily dark patch. ?? Hmmmm?? ~always inspired~Mel from Rustic Farmhouse

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