November 21, 2012

Red oak floors

About three weeks ago, we got our hardwood floors delivered for the main and second levels.  After much waffling between wide plank reclaimed floors and unfinished oak, it finally came down to budget and we went with the oak.  I was hoping to at least get 7 inch wide oak planks, but that didn't work out either.   
So in the end, we went with quarter sawn, 5 inch wide, unfinished red oak in lengths varying from 1 foot to 8 feet.


I had a lot of flooring companies try to talk me into pre-finished floors since they are easier to install and have a more durable factory finish on them.  But I'm a bit old fashioned when it comes to wood.  That's why I love reclaimed floors so much!  
Site finished floors can be sanded to a super smooth finish with no micro-bevels between the boards and you can finish them any way you like.




If I had it all to do all over again, I might have chosen white oak since it doesn't have the pink undertones that red oak has.  But the stairs were done in red oak so I wanted the floors to match.
The quarter sawn boards have a more lined look to them than plain sawn oak which can have a pretty funky pattern in the grain.  I like the quiet feel of the quarter sawn oak and that they are more dimensionally stable so they shouldn't have as much movement with humidity changes.


I also prefer the look of long boards, especially in large rooms.  So I ended up ordering a bit extra wood and asked our installer to pull all the pieces that were smaller than 2 feet (unless he needed them on an edge).


He did manage to use a bunch of the little pieces in our closet that will eventually be covered over with Ikea Pax units.  So now we have a few unopened boxes that we can return. 


You might remember me previously mentioning that Steve agreed to finish our floors for us.  
The first step was sanding.  This took way longer than I thought it would!  But Steve is a bit of a perfectionist.  
You have to start with a fairly coarse grain and move your way up to a very fine grain and finally screening.  The result is a floor that's as smooth as a baby's bottom!


I wanted to use an oil finish on the floors instead of the usual polyurethane.  I prefer the feel of an oiled floor underfoot and wanted a light natural or whitish colour.
Steve did a lot of research on this (since he likes oiled floors as well) and found a supplier of Rubio Monocoat.  This is a non-toxic, zero VOC, plant based oil that protects and colours the wood in one step.  They have 42 colours to choose from, but we chose "smoke".  It kept the oak pretty much natural but with a slight light grey in the grain.  As you can see in the picture, smoke has a hint of green in it as well which we thought would take some of the pink out of our red oak.  


We found the best method to apply the oil was with a sponge.


We then buffed the floor with a red pad and then with a white pad.


After about 12 hours, we could walk on it with socked feet and after about 48 hours you could feel how it hardened the wood.


I absolutely love the colour and the subtle sheen of the floor.  
So calm, warm, and natural.


And no off-gassing!  
It actually kind of smells nice when it's first applied, and has no odour at all after a couple of days.









26 comments:

  1. Your floors are gorgeous! I think the light, clear, straight-grained, wider boards really look amazing in your large open concept room. Very clean and modern looking, without looking stark.

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  2. looks fantastic! I would be jumping up & down...literally!

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  3. Thanks for your comments! I'm so glad you like them too.

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  4. I read your blog and found that it provides very useful information about red oak floors....Thanks for sharing...

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    1. So glad you find it useful, Peter! That was one of my biggest hopes for this blog since I found it so difficult to find information myself.

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  5. Thank you so very much for posting this blog.

    We are thinking of installing unfinished oak in the kitchen as well, so many hardwood flooring company are discouraging us from it (high traffic, scratched, etc...)

    This has really given me the courage to go ahead for unfinished oak flooring.
    Just wondering how happy are you with the end product now that it has been tested for a few months now?

    Do you also mind sharing your installer's contact info assuming that you are happy with his work. :)

    Thank you very much!

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    1. Our installer was a friend of one of the guys on our job, and he did our install on the side in between bigger jobs. We do still love our floors though, and get comments on them regularly from visitors. We have a couple of stains on them now-- one in front of the oven and another from a red wine spill, but they both cleaned up to a dull spot with Rubio floor cleaner. If you're looking for pristine, shiny floors, this might not be the right choice, but I actually don't mind a lived in look. And as far as scratching goes, I think they have held up extremely well! We have a new puppy and haven't noticed any scratches from her nails yet. Rubio floors have a more matte finish than polyurethane which I think is more forgiving to scratching. Overall, I would recommend Rubio for site finished floors and wouldn't hesitate to use it again myself.

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  6. Hello Keira,
    My installer just finished installing and finishing 1200 sq feet of Red Oak with Rubio Monocoat in Oak color.
    I also chose red oak because I had existing floors that I merged with the new one.
    I like the finish very much and it's what I was looking for but the color turned out to be a disaster. Too gold, orange and yellow. Was going for a natural look but I did not expect this! I based my color decision on two pieces of leftover wood from the installation that they sanded and applied color to. The final result doesn't even look like the sample pieces, but I now see that with so much variation in each piece of wood it's impossible to judge the color based on that small sample.

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    1. My installer agreed to redo my floors and will be sanding one 4x4 section of my floor to apply 3 sample colors directly on my floor. I do want a natural color without so much red and yellow. It sounds like you were happy with your choice of color. Do you feel that the photo posted has true colors? When I take photos of my floor, the reds and yellows are washed so you wouldn't notice the golden tones. What colors do you suggest I try? I got a sample of Pure but I did not like all the pink/red in that natural look. I want a natural look without looking to white either. It's so hard! I'm so overwhelmed! They'll be here in 3 days and I need to know what colors to sample. I would appreciate your advice. Thank you!!!

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    2. Hi Silvina, I am so sorry to hear this!! We were looking for a much lighter colour with our floors so I didn't actually sample the "oak" Rubio. I did find that some of our samples (clear for instance) looked too pink on red oak which is why we chose "smoke". It had green undertones that tamed the red oak quite a lot. From what I know of Rubio, I imagine you would unfortunately have to resand to change the colour at this point (or at least rough the surface with a black pad) but I highly recommend talking to someone that supplies it. If you are in the Burlington area at all, Exotic Woods is extremely knowledgable and could help you with options for toning down the orange. Staining, even with traditional stains, is such a difficult thing to get right. Different woods take colour so differently! I really hope it works out for you. I would love to see pictures of it, and if you are able to fix it without sanding. Good luck!

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    3. Thank you very much Keira. I live in Mukilteo, Washington (26 miles north of Seattle) and that's one of the reason why I also wanted to keep my floors light. Yes, it does need to be resanded which I'm ok with...I just don't want to get the color wrong again! I love your floors! I noticed mine are the regular red oak with the funky grain so I'm not sure that they compare. I may choose smoke as one of my color samples to see how they look on my floor. I will also contact Rubio Monocoat to see what other colors they suggest. Thanks a lot for your message! I love your house and love your puppy even more!!

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    4. Thank you, Silvina! I would try any of the cours that have a bit of green undertone to them. Smoke is probably the lightest (which us what I was aiming for) but there are surely others. I would seriously see if you could have a conversation with someone from the company or a supplier to see what they recommend. We sampled "pure" as well and found it too pink. They do sell small samples which is what we chose from. Although our samples looked a bit different from the real thing because they were buffed off by hand and not machine. I imagine regular cut red oak will look different from quarter sawn as well. You really have to test your wood. If you look at my "favourite things" post on transition strips you can see that even individual boards turned out different. Some still have quite a bit of pink in them. But overall I think our floors are great. Light, natural and warm. Let me know how it turns out!

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  7. Hi Keira. I live in Toronto as well and am battling with my red oak floors. Unfortunately, they are not quarter sawn so there's also the problem of subduing the funky grain. Wondering how much sheen your floors have? I like matt but nothing with no lustre at all. Could you describe them? Also, where did you buy the Monocoat. I haven't found anyone in the city who carries it. Thanks so much. Lorena

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    1. Hi Lorena, Our floors have a very subtle sheen to them. Not completely matte, but definitely not shiny. They have worn a bit around the sink in the kitchen and have lost that beautiful lustre that they still have everywhere else, but the colour is still the same. We bought our Rubio at Exotic Woods in Burlington, but Sullivan Source also carries it (we bought some "pure" from them for our walnut live edge counter). I hope this helps. We still love our floors and get comments on them regularly from visitors. Good luck!
      Keira

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  8. Hi Keira. Thanks for the info. I visited Exotic Woods today - extremely helpful and knowledgeable. The floors done in the Monocoat were incredible. So that's what wood looks like without that coat of plastic on top!

    I picked up a few sample colours of the Monocoat. So far I like Smoke the best. 5% White is a little too light and 5% Smoke and DC Smoke bring out the red too much. I'm wondering what other samples did you try that diminished the pink in the red oak? Also, I noticed that they have a pre-colour mix that can be put on the floor prior to the oil to get certain effects. One was an acqua green. Did you consider going this route?

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  9. Do you have any more related blogs or ideas related to like your this blog,it will help me in my further research work…Will keep following your blogs…I always prefer to read the quality content and this thing I found in you post. Thanks for sharing.A very good resource for everybody that wants to read a good blog.
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    1. Thanks for this comment, Kevin. I don't have any other blogs at the moment, but you never know what the future holds! So glad you find it useful.

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  10. Hi Keira, Did you apply the Monocoat yourselves or did your floor guy do this? How difficult was this step especially with the buffer - which I've heard can be difficult to control? BTW, thanks for all your great information. I have searched extensively and this post has more information on hardwax oils and red oak floors than anywhere else on the net.

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    1. Hi Lorena,
      Applying the Rubio is really a two person job. I rubbed the oil on the floor with a big sponge while our floor guy followed behind me with the buffing machine. The supplier we had suggested a squeeze bottle to squirt the oil on the floor and then follow with the buffer but we quickly discovered that this wasn't the best way to do it. If you let the oil sit for even a couple of minutes in a thick amount like that, it leaves marks. We have a few squiggles in the floor that are now hidden by furniture. An even application quickly followed with the buffing machine is key in my opinion.
      Oh, and that buffing machine is a riot to control! Steve did it for our hardwood but I rented another one for our basement concrete floors. I had to repair a couple of drywall dings from smashing into the walls! If you have someone that's used it before, get them to help. I was really in over my head trying to use it myself.
      So glad this post was helpful for you!

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  12. Can I have contact information where did you buy a hardwood floor, thanks

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  13. Hi Kiera, your floors look beautiful! We also have red oak, rift and quarter sawn. I love they way they look sanded and I would like to keep them as close to that look at possible without them being too pink. I dont like how a poly makes them look wet and therefore darker. I want to maintain that white, chalky look. I also like a little white in the floor but I dont want a totally whitewashed floor. I am considering Rubio Monocoat in White 5%, Smoke 5%, or Smoke. I tried Cotton White, White, and Super white and they were all too white. Are there any other colors that you would recommend I consider? Did you try Gris Beige? Is the green / gray tone obvious on your floors with the Smoke?

    Also, now that it has been 2 years are you still happy with the Rubio? Has the finish held up? Does it look worn out? Have you had to do any maintenance yet? Do you have dogs or kids? Thanks for any help and thoughts that you can offer! Eleanor

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