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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

3 of 37 questions
  • Vicki Walker Vicki Walker on Jul 25, 2019

    can we use tung oil over two coats of minwax stain?

    will it seal or soak in through the stain?

    Its a dining room table

  • Shawna Shawna on Feb 26, 2020

    Hey I have had nice wood 80s floors all shiny not scratches . But now 8 years later and different house keepers ALL used moo and glow and never truly cleaned my floors but they looked nice !! I had a rain storm and a leak then a huge spot that was white on the wood . It was plastic like but under is still gorgeous. There so dirty looking ugly WHAT CAN WE DO? What will take this mop n glow off ? We tried vinegar that’s suggested but it’s 700 or more SF and nope it’s a tiny little bit comes up only . My hubby is a 20 year combat vet disabled we can’t do it we can’t find any answers . You seem to know a lot . Anything we can mop on it so that plastic wax build up will be gone and we can enjoy our home again !

  • Christina Bates Christina Bates on Feb 24, 2021

    I've been trying to figure out what to do with our damaged 90's era wood floors. Our house is open concept, and we are many people and pets living here, so figuring out where to put the furniture, and not walking on it for days at a time, is not an option. Your post is making me think I could sand sections at a time over a matter of a few weeks to months, and use the tung oil to repair and refinish them. Thoughts? Thank you!


Join the conversation

2 of 88 comments
  • Sandy Rolon Sandy Rolon on Jun 29, 2021

    Beautiful, I love it...I wish I could restore my 122 yr old wood floors but too many wide gaps in between the floor boards and $$$wise not in my budget to get a professional to bring them back.

  • Mary Mary on Jul 25, 2021

    Love this. ForSandy use sawdust missed with glue to fill gaps. Or cork strips if they are really wide.