The Craftsperson Column: Five Mistakes of Historic Homeowners – Flooring

This is the second in a series of "Five Mistakes of Historic Homeowners" by Scott Sidler of Austin Home Restorations, Inc.

Living here in the Sunshine State it seems that folks have an unusual penchant for $0.69 sq. ft. 20″ tiles. The most popular colors are blah, boring, and blech. People love to toss these tiles down over red oak, irreplaceable heart pine, and any number of historic floors. And these tile are spreading like a wildfire across the floors of historic homes. Something must be done! Which brings us to the second worst mistake of historic homeowners…


Historic houses are having their floors covered up, ripped out, or trashed in any number of ways to make room for newer, inferior products. Only in America would we be ignorant enough to cover what would be a $15 or $20 per sq. ft. floor with a $.50 per sq. ft. floor. Are we really that shallow? Historic homes have some of the finest flooring available. Have you ever seen a 70 year old vinyl floor? I didn’t think so. How about laminate flooring that has made it even 30 years? Me neither. Todays floors, even the top quality ones, come with 25 and even 40 year warranties which isn’t too bad, but why would you replace a floor that will last centuries with one that lasts only a third that long?

And in today’s real estate market most of us are being ever mindful of home values. The typical buyer of an old or historic home is expecting hardwood floors. “Maintenance-free” tile is not a selling point for these kind of houses. And while a click-lock engineered wood or laminate floor may be considered an upgrade on a new home it is a definite cold shower to your historic home’s market price.


Before: Heart Pine before Scott's restoration began. There was some damage that had been covered by carpet, and the owner was ready to replace it all with tile.Photo by Scott Sidler.

Wood floors are prime candidates for refinishing and restoration. If you have pet stains, loose/missing boards, rot, termite damage, or other issues – these are simple repairs for a flooring professional. And if you get someone who says your floors aren’t repairable they are most likely either too lazy to do the work or trying to sell you new floors. Either way, RUN! I have yet to come across a solid wood floor that couldn’t be repaired. The same is almost never true for tile, laminate, vinyl or even engineered wood floors.

Before repairs

After: Scott removed carpeting, stabilized the sheeting and relaid historic boards to match the existing. Photo by Scott Sidler.

Probably one of my favorite jobs restoring a floor was this 1920s heart pine I came across. The home had been used as a business for a time and apparently there had been some damage to the original floors that was patched…well, let’s just say poorly, and then carpeted over. When the new homeowner found the damage she intended to tile over the entire house with the afore mentioned tile. I was referred to her when her tiling was about halfway done and convinced her (read: begged) her to save the remaining floors because they were not beyond repair. A week later after replacement boards were installed and the floors were refinished she had what looked like new floors!

Repaired and Restored Heart Pine Floors

Solid wood flooring, like this, found in most historic homes is extremely resilient. It can handle multiple refinishings (done properly) over its life and is easy to repair in a way that is almost certainly unnoticeable. And what’s best, it can last hundreds of years with minimal care! So before you jump to “upgrade” the flooring in your historic home take a minute and think it over.

Do you want a different color? Stain it. A different glossiness? Refinish it. You can even paint your wood floor to look like almost anything. The only boundaries are your own imagination. And if you are wondering if your floor can be repaired, the answer is almost always “Yes!” Search around for a hardwood refinishing specialist or restoration company and you will find someone up to the task of rejuvenating your floors. And trust me, it will be worth it!

Before + After: A repair and restoration job by Scott, preserving the oak hardwoods and preventing the spread of the tile across it all! Photos by Scott Sidler.

Tired of the same old wood floors? You can make quite a statement with some stain or paint! Go to Austin Home Restorations, Inc. online to see many of Scott’s restoration projects, including more about the restoration of The Kaley House including repair and refinishing of the oak floor shown above.

Scott Sidler is the owner of Austin Home Restorations, Inc. in Orlando, FL. (PS: His middle name is Austin, hence the company name!) Scott and his family live in a ca. 1759 Colonial-style home, the restoration of which kick-started his fascination with all things old. Follow more of Scott’s restoration projects at The Craftsman.

© HISTPRES, LLC + Scott Sidler, Austin Home Restorations, Inc., 2012

About the author: Scott Sidler

Scott Austin Sidler is crazy about all things historical, especially when it comes to the incredible craftsmanship that went into building the homes of years gone by. So crazy in fact that I started my own company, Austin Home Restorations, to restore these old beauties to their former charm.

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