Refinishing 100 Year Old Floors Using ONLY Oil

5 Materials
6 Hours

You read that right! No stain, no polyurethane, just plain ole oil!

When we started our laundry room renovation, I knew I wanted to save the floors. This used to be the front porch, and over 150+ years, it's taken a beating and had some pretty bad stains and gaps. I knew that with a good sanding a great finish, they could look beautiful so we opted to save them and ignore everyone who told us not to!

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

Taking a look at the before, you can see all the paint spills and stains, and how most of the finish had been worn off from foot traffic and never being refinished.

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

Here is a better look at how bad these floors really were. There were a few gaps around the perimeter of the floor, but I decided to deal with this since trim would cover most of those up, and I would be crazy to cover these beauties up!

We rented a drum sander and edge sander combo kit for the weekend which cost us about $120 including the sanding pads. We picked up 20, 36 and 80 grit sanding pads for both machines.

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

Step One:

Our first step was to clear everything from the room and start with the edge sander. We started with a 20 grit sandpaper and sanded the entire perimeter or the room. Keep this baby moving, or you will have gouge marks. Don't worry if you don't get everything sanded around the edge in the first sweep. Just keep going around the perimeter until all of the finish has been removed!

Do not move onto the next grit of sandpaper until you have used the 20 grit on both the drum sander AND the edge sander!

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

This is what our floor looked like after we had finished sanding the entire perimeter with the edge sander. See those black stains there? Cat pee. One of the hardest things to remove from wood floors. We actually ended up sanding even more after this photo and almost COMPLETELY removed the cat pee from the wood.

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

Step Two:

Once you've used your 20 grit sandpaper on the edger, use a 20 grit sandpaper in the drum sander and sand the entire center of the room that has not been sanded with your edge sander. DO NOT stop moving with this machine, it will literally eat your floor leaving massive gouge marks. It is easy to move the machine up and down to stop if you need to so don't be intimidated. Just don't stop moving while the sandpaper is touching the floor, and make sure to move with the direction of the wood.

Once you've finished sanding your room with the drum sander, go back to your edge sander and use your 36 grit. Keep alternating between the machines and grits, until you've reached your highest grit and your floor feels smooth to the touch! The entire sanding process probably took us about 4.5 hours for this one room.

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

Step Three:

Before you use your oil, make sure you floors are completely vacuumed and cleaned off so you are not sealing in any dirt or dust.

I picked up a can of Watco Pure Tung Oil and did much research on how to use this. There's not very many people who have sealed wood floors with this so we were taking a chance!

We used gloves and clean cotton cloths to apply this oil over the entire surface of the wood. In my blog post I go into detail explaining the differences between oil and stain/polyurethane. A big difference is it soaks into the wood actually hardening it instead of sitting on top of the wood as poly and stain would.

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

You can see the difference in the above picture between the part of the floor that had one coat of oil just applied, and part of the floor that has been sanded and is unfinished.

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

You can immediately walk on the oil with clean cotton socks! As you can see here, we had half of the floor oiled. The oil will also soak into the floor within a days time and after about 30 days will lighten to almost the color of the unfinished floor, which is really what I wanted to enhance!

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

The next day, our floors looked like this. This was with one coat of tung oil. I applied a second coat the next day using the same technique, and just after an hour or two, used a clean cotton cloth to wipe off any extra oil left on the surface!

refinishing 100 year old floors using only oil

This photo was taken after two coats of tung oil! Do you see how it really made the wood tones rich, yet there is absolutely NO stain on these floors!

Probably the best part of using oil, you can touch up spots as you want! Unlike polyurethane, where you have to strip the entire finish to touch up, you can touch up any spots that need it in less than a minute!

I linked all the products used on my blog as well as a few extra process photos. Head here to see them!

Suggested materials:

  • Tung Oil
  • Cotton Cloth
  • Gloves
See all materials
Hayden Scharrer

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 29 questions
  • Tanya Marks
    on Jan 13, 2019

    Do you have a picture of the room finished with baseboard trim??

  • Lori Kalbach
    on Jan 13, 2019

    Would this work for soft wood that has been worn from puppy paws, moving furniture and so on?

  • Jo
    on Jan 14, 2019

    Looks great. Hydrogen peroxide is very helpful in lightening wood pee stains. Only apply to stained area and reapply as needed. Can also try a wood bleach. Hope the oil hold a up well. Can it be buffed like a wax?

    • Robyn Garner
      on Jan 17, 2019

      There's a product at Home Depot called OdoBan. My elderly cat peed in inappropriate places -like on my chair! OdoBan took out not only the stain but the smell with just 1 application! Not sure if it works on wood but I would definitely give it a try!

Join the conversation

2 of 71 comments
  • Kimberly
    on Jan 19, 2019

    Yes! They look beautiful. Love the lighter tone. Thank you!

  • Steve Mason
    on Jan 30, 2019

    I want a retractable clothing rack like yours! What brand is it? Do you have a source where it can be ordered?

Your comment...