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Can Douglas Fir Floors Be Sanded

Homeowners frequently ask if their old, beat-up Douglas fir floor can be sanded. They often think that, just because it looks terrible now, it can’t be salvaged. But, in reality, these old fir floors are often a gem waiting to be polished. Ok, it takes a little more work than just a little polishing; however, many fir floors do still have a lot of life left in them.

Douglas Fir floor sanding
Old Douglas Fir floor being sanded

3 1/4″ (or 3 1/8″) vertical grain Douglas fir is found in many 1940 homes and prior in the Fargo/Moorhead area. This was considered the “less expensive” option for flooring since hardwood was pretty much the only option at the time (not entirely true, but close enough). Because it was less expensive, older homes often have Douglas fir in the less visible areas, such as upper levels and kitchens.

Douglas Fir is a beautiful wood; however, it is very soft. For this reason, we do occasionally run into fir floors that are too far gone to be salvaged. Typically this occurs from heavy wear or water damage that can’t be sanded out. If the area of damage is small enough, it can often be repaired, but it may not be cost-effective to repair if it is throughout the floor.

Refinished Fir floor
Fir floors are very soft, but they look beautiful when refinished

Since Douglas Fir is a softwood, we often find four deep gouges that make a rectangle on upper-level floors. These gouges are from old bedposts wearing away at the same spot for many, many years. Sometimes these areas are shallow enough to sand out, but other times they require repair. Alternately, many customers have requested to leave these as part of the history of the floor.

Customers are often surprised at how light Douglas fir becomes after sanding

Customers are often surprised at how light Douglas fir becomes by the end of the sanding process. However, it does darken quickly, and within a few months to a few years, the fir takes on a deep, earthy tone. This darkening is caused by UV exposure and reaction with the oxygen in the air.

Fir flooring after sanding
Fir floors become very light after sanding. Over time they darken again.

In heavy traffic areas, this deep color doesn’t always sand out. In the flooring trade, we call this bruising. Its where the wood has been exposed more to oxygen, and the color in the wood has deepened.

Bruising on a fir floor
Fir flooring is prone to bruising, as you can see above

Because of this bruising, fir can have patches of darker color when the majority of the floor is relatively light right after sanding. This can also be seen on the butt-ends, which are highlighted by this dark coloring due to being exposed to more oxygen. Over time, as the floor darkens, the coloring evens out to take on a beautiful color.

Staining a fir floor
Fir also takes stain well

And remember, you can always choose to stain a fir floor darker if you want to minimize the bruising and even out the color.

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