Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Natural wood floor refinishing

We were happy to find hardwood floors in surprisingly good condition under the old carpet.  The floors needed sanding and a few repairs and we wanted new hardwood laid in the back main floor hallway to replace the original tiles.  We hired a local contractor to sand and install the new hardwood.

We love the rustic, natural hardwood floor look but were shocked to learn that almost all widely used floor finishing products are toxic and release large amounts of VOCs. We knew that we didn’t want to use any renovation product that could be harmful to our health. I searched extensively for a natural product and settled on unrefined Tung Oil, which is a natural wood finishing oil used on ships in China for centuries. It took a few conversations to persuade Misha that using natural oil on our floors was a great alternative to polyurethane.  We bought the Tung Oil and citrus solvent thinner from the friendly folks from Homestead House in Toronto.  Misha was concerned about the maintenance and durability of the oil, but became a convert quickly as the oil application began.

Once the floors were sanded, Tung Oil was surprisingly easy to apply. The first two applications were cut with 100% citrus solvent to increase penetration and applied with buffing machines by the contractor. 

Tung oil being applied by the contractors.

The citrus solvent smelled great, but is a natural irritant, so I had to stay out of the house for a week, while it gradually evaporated. Misha, with the help of a friend, applied an additional 3 layers of pure Tung oil (without it being cut). Each application took about 90 min. to complete.  The result was a rich, bronze, matte finish that astounded even the contractor. 

Finishing up the Tung oil application.

The contractor was so smitten by the look that he was going to recommend it to his clients.  Any scratches from pets or heavy use can easily be eliminated with the wipe of oil on a rag. One year later our floors looks like the day we applied the oil. The oil brings out the natural grain of the wood and we love the feel of the natural wood under our bare feet. Using Tung Oil as a floor refinisher was, so far, the best green renovation decision we have made.  By Mia

BEFORE  - Stairs with the original polyurethane finish. Notice the yellow tone of the wood.

AFTER - Stairs sanded and finished with Tung oil

BEFORE - Living room floor with original polyurethane finish.

In process - Just after sanding, ready for the oil.

AFTER - Tung oil applied to the floor. 

Bedroom 1 after Tung oil application.

Bedroom 2 after Tung oil application.


  1. Wood floor refinishing means when a home is already lined with wooden floors that have seen a lot of wear and tear like deep marks, scratches, stains, chipped tiles etc then these floors need to be sanded over with heavy sand paper and the upper coat of earlier finish and wood must be taken off.

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  3. Hello Misha and Mia!

    I realize you haven't posted to this blog for about 5 years, but I don't see any other way to reach you, so here I am leaving a blog comment. I was researching using natural tung oil as a sealer for our floors that we are planning to have sanded, and landed here. May I ask how your floors have held up over the years? Have you had to reapply the oil frequently? Would you use tung oil again if you had to do it all over again? I really loathe the idea of putting a plastic film on top of the wood and would love to use a natural, more historic-based product. Would love to hear any additional comments you have regarding your floors!

    Kind Regards,