Brownstone Boys: New Life for Our Hardwood Floors

Several Bona finishes to choose from. We're going to try out Bona Traffic HD

Editor’s note: Welcome to the 31st installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary. We’re excited to publish their tale of buying and renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at

Hardwood flooring is one of the things that is the most important for us to get right. It’s one of the largest surfaces in the house and it can really change the look of every room.

The existing flooring was laid about five years ago. The original planks are under it, but they are unfortunately not in the best shape to expose. The new flooring is 3.25-inch-wide solid white oak hardwood with a whitewash finish.

The finish makes it almost look like it’s not real wood. It’s one of the things we immediately knew we wanted to change.

At first we thought we would get all new floors. We spent a lot of time looking at different options, some of which got very expensive. Eventually we realized the existing flooring is actually in good condition and we could just get more of it to fill in the gaps very inexpensively.

Of course it would be in the horrible whitewash finish so we would sand and refinish it. This saves us thousands of dollars. Since we plan to keep much of the existing floor we would only need to purchase about 400 additional square feet of flooring (the place is about 1,600 square feet total).

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The whitewashed finish we’re looking forward to sanding off

Now that the second story floor is sanded we can see what it will look like and we are very happy with it! Once the whitewash finish was removed, the beautiful white oak wood shows through. The next step will be to refinish it. We have the option to choose any color and any sheen level we would like. We spent the last couple of weeks thinking it over. Seeing what the wood looks like under the finish really helped.

We want the place to look light and airy while staying true to its history. So we don’t want a dark stain on the wood. We love the way it looks now so we are going to keep it natural and just put a finish on that will protect it and bring out the color and grain of the wood.

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Freshly sanded white oak floor in the master bedroom

The next step is to chose the sheen level. We’re using Bona Waterborne finish and it comes in four different levels of sheen, from least to most shiny: extra matte, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss.

We personally never liked the look of super glossy hardwood floors. They were more common a decade ago and we associate it with cheaply remodeled New York apartments after seeing it in so many of them.

Recently the trend seems to be a more matte finish. In any house, hotel, restaurant, bar or cafe I’ve walked into where I’ve admired the floors, they were matte to the point of reflecting almost no light.

It may not be for everyone but we’re going with the extra matte. The most popular finish is satin but even that reflects light at about 40 percent. The wood will have a natural sheen on its own so we will count on the wood to do its thing and we will use the least shiny finish.

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He’s not always so peaceful so we will need to make sure the floor will stand up to this love-able monster

Bona says the sheen level doesn’t affect durability but we’ve heard that a matte finish doesn’t show dust and scratches as much as glossier floors. Since we have a 90 pound lab who loves to run and slide on the floors we’ll need all the help we can get. We’re going to use Bona Traffic HD, which will provide commercial levels of protection.

If the floors just look they way they do since they were sanded we would be completely happy. We’ll be putting the coats of finish on this week so we’ll keep you posted on how it looks.

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