Refinishing 100 year old hardwood floors : Carpet recycling & choosing a greener finish

One of the most important things to me in this renovation is trying to stay as green and environmentally friendly during the whole process. I want to really consider what materials and chemicals I’ll be including in my home.

The second most important thing being cost effectiveness.  Green and cost effective don’t always go hand in hand now a days. So I’ve been trying to find a good balance between the two for my first home project.


I assume you’re familiar with the doomcarpet in the living and dining rooms of the house?  The absolute second I get those keys I’m ripping that bad boy up. I haven’t called The city of Cincinnati to see if they can handle recycling carpet, but if not there’s several companies in the area that will do it for a fee. Cincinnati did just get a killer new recycling plant, so I’m pretty sure they would be able to handle the job. I wonder if I cleaned the carpet maybe Building Resources would be willing to take it as well. Someones gotta be lusting over red carpets right? Hell, if I can find a piece worth saving maybe I’ll even get it bound at home depot and make an area rug. I highly doubt that any part is untouched by kitty juice though.

more pleasant kitty juice

Once the carpet is recycled or reused the hard part starts. I’m going to tackle refinishing the almost 100 year old floors by myself. Having looked into it since I put the offer in on the house I’m pretty sure I can handle it. While it won’t be a total walk in the park, lots of cleaning and sanding in between steps. It’ll be a good judge of whether or not I’ll be able to DIY larger projects in the house, or whether I fold and hire those out to contractors.  I’ve got faith in me though.

I’ve got it narrowed down to three choices as far as finishing the floors goes.

1) Tung Oil

2) Hard Wax Oil

3) Soy based polyurethane

1) Tung Oil

So Far this is what I’m leaning towards. It’s what could have been used on these floors originally. It’s a completely natural product, derived from nut of the tung tree. It’s a drying oil that hardens on contact to air. Touch up with tung oil is super easy. You just apply the oil to the area that needs it and it will blends seamlessly with the original finish. No sanding or stripping required, which is a serious plus.

There are several variations of Tung oil available today.


(around 115.00 a gallon) sells a version that has  more “stuff” added to it, and is the most expensive. I haven’t been able to figure out what other ingredients they’re adding, but usually that means I don’t want to know. Plus their VOC content must be pretty bad seeing as you can’t buy it in a lot of places for their VOC’s.  So Far this one is pretty much a no go for me.

Polymerized Tung Oil

(about 86.00 a gallon) is when they cook tung oil to the point of it’s highest threshold.  It results in the tung oil dryer to a harder and more durable finish. It does have extra solvents added though. But as per the website the website of

    “Our polymerization process helps to lower the toxicity of our Tung oil finish as it improves the curing ability     of the oil, reducing the need for additional chemical dryers.  The driers that are used in the formulations have been researched and found to be of the lowest toxicity available.  The Polymerized Tung Oil must also be formulated with solvents to thin the oil to maximize its workability and penetration.  We use the purest solvents available, reducing the environmental impact and minimizing a finisher’s exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals.  When the formulation is complete, the result is a Polymerized Tung Oil finish that is both finisher-friendly and environmentally responsible.”

Another plus is that I can buy this locally, which means no shipping, so this would be my  least expensive options

100% Pure Tung Oil

available (1 gallon is about 46.00, but with the gallon of citrus solvent it would be  more around 100 .00) through is exactly as sounds. It’s 100% the real deal. Nothing added. You do have to cut it with a solvent, but luckily offers an all natural citrus solvent. While completely natural, this would be probably the most expensive after shipping costs, but it’s the most green.

2) Hard Wax Oil

“OSMO Polyx-Oil (the original Hardwax Oil) is our favorite floor finish and is made from natural oils and         waxes. Key ingredients in Hardwax Oil include sunflower, soybean and thistle oil, plus two hard, natural         waxes—carnauba and candelilla. A Brazilian palm tree, Copernica cerifera, produces the carnauba in its         leaves, berries and stalks. Villagers cut down fronds, dry them for several days, and then beat off the wax.         The candelilla comes from the outer coating on a desert shrub, Euphorbia antisyphiliti, that grows in         northern Mexico. Farmers boil the leaves and stems with water and acid to release the wax”

This for a gallon would be coming close to 150 smackers. It sounds awesome, but that’s way more than the tung oil, and I don’t know if I could buy this locally so shipping would be added to the expense. It’s got all the qualities of tung oil . Unless I can find a deal, locally, I don’t think this is the route I’ll be taking..

3) Soy based polyurethane

I’m pretty sure I can get a low VOC verison locally (for around 50.00 a gallon). I might take this route if after I sand the floors if I really like the natural state. This would be one of the easiest to apply, and should have the strongest finish. But if I did need to repair any spots on the floor, this would be the hardest. Sanding would be required. Which I hate.

I think that I’ll end up either doing an option of number 1, or number 3. It really just depends on how nice the floors are after I sand them. I have a feeling I’ll go with Tung oil though. I guess we’ll see.

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