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Tag Archives: Douglas fir flooring

  • The Lowdown on Stains and Finishes: Use on Douglas Fir and other Woods

    Posted on February 25, 2011 by nell

    Let’s discuss the application of stains and finishes on your Douglas fir. Unlike the stain on your best button-up or the frayed finish on your go-to denim, the stains and finishes we’ll be talking about beautify and protect your wood. But, researching stains and finishes can be about as much fun as deciding where to take the family for dinner when your mother-in-law is gluten intolerant. This is one headache we hope to relieve by reviewing the function of stains and finishes, how that applies to your project, and recommended uses. And we’ll throw in a little bit of extra information that we hope is useful to you.


    So, what function do stains and finishes serve? That answer is simple. A stain’s job is to accentuate the wood grain. Let’s say you’ve just installed your Douglas fir flooring and you feel a different tint will really show it off. Stain it. When it comes to a finish, it will protect wood from damage and deterioration and should be the last step in your DIY project. Think of it this way, a stain is like an accessory; it’s not required, but it looks nice. As for the finish, it is essential to extending the lifetime of your wood, like putting on your pants in the morning is essential to keeping your job.

    Your Project

    What are you working on? Are you replacing the siding on the sunny side of your house or installing wainscoting in the bathroom? It matters if your project is indoors or outdoors. Or if it's in the bathroom or kitchen, which have different conditions from the living room or your bedroom, for example.

    prefinished douglas fir

    Pre-finished, un-stained, CVG Douglas Fir Flooring.

    Also, what do you want the finished product to look like? Do you want a natural finish or would you like to add color without painting? The answers to these questions make a difference, especially if you want to save yourself from making multiple trips to the home improvement store. So, know before you go.

    Recommended Uses

    Let’s start with stains. Use an exterior stain for siding, shingles, decks, and patio furniture. To protect against mildew, decay, and warping choose a water-repellent stain that protects the wood against weather. Indoor woodwork, furniture, and flooring should get an interior stain. An oil-based interior stain offers smoother application with longer drying time, while a water-based stain dries more quickly, is less odorous, and makes for easier cleanup.

    Know your colors, too. Are you into au naturel or do you prefer bold and bright? If you want to accentuate the natural grains in your wood, a dye-based stain will penetrate the pores. Dye-based stains are ideal for very fine or close-grained woods like CVG Douglas fir. Pigment-based stains tend to hide the natural grain because they sit on the surface, but they do leave your wood with an impressive color effect. They work best on less dense woods.

    Wood finishes are generally referred to as either penetrating or surface. Penetrating finishes “soak” into the wood and leave you with a more natural look. They are also easy to apply, but can be messy. If looking to finish your log cabin, consider Linseed oil. Tung oil is food-friendly so use it for butcher-block countertops. To create a look of luster on your indoor trim and paneling, try Danish oil.

    Surface or topcoat finishes form a film around the wood and shield it from most everything. For woods that are bound to take a beating – siding, trim, patio furniture – use a surface finish. Expect to see shellac, lacquer, and polyurethane on labels while walking down the wood finish aisle. Again, save yourself the guesswork and frustration by knowing what you need before you go. For instance, decorative wood items get a glossy-shine from shellac. Lacquer also leaves a gloss, but it’s tougher than shellac and comes in multiple colors. It’s typically recommended for furniture.

    Two other popular finishes are polyurethane and spar urethane. Both are clear surface finishes, but spar urethane is recommended for wood in climates with extreme temperature changes. It has a higher oil-to-resin ratio that helps it work harder and longer to protect your wood from sun damage and water exposure. Although there are polyurethane finishes for exterior woods, its oil-to-resin content is lower than spar urethane. This results in reduced breathing room for your wood as it expands and contracts during seasonal changes, and it may be more prone to yellowing from the sun’s rays. Look for UV-resistant and water clear on the label to prevent this from happening. Polyurethanes are recommended as a finish for floors and cabinetry because they resist scuffing. As for choosing an oil or water-based finish, consider the item you are finishing and your preferences as the qualities found in finishes are similar in oil or water-based stains.

    Additional information to consider
    For DIY-ers looking for greener home improvement options, there are environmentally preferable products. Water-based stains and water-based finishes tend to be more earth-friendly, as are finishes made from plant oils and waxes. Other products boast low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) common in cleaning supplies, paints, and lacquers, which is certainly a breath of fresh air. Ask your home improvement specialist for greener products, or shop online.

    Now that we’ve helped to pinpoint your project needs, you can be in and out of that home improvement store with plenty of time leftover to take your mother-in-law to dinner.

    - Nicole Morales

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, fir flooring, flooring stains, flooring finishes, stains, finishes

  • Patina on Douglas Fir Floors

    Posted on February 19, 2011 by nell

    Douglas fir flooring is widely admired for the way it looks after years of use. That use results in its distinctive patina. It’s like I’ve seen numerous times on Antiques Roadshow™. (No shame – I really like that show.) An antique furniture expert is appraising a 100-year-old table and says something like, “It’s really too bad this was refinished at some point.” Boom, the piece suddenly loses value.

    But why wouldn’t an owner want to refinish their furniture? Or floor? Doesn’t the refinishing process give the wood a new lease on life? Yes, but it takes away the original patina, that much sought-after condition that tells you something has a history. A Douglas fir floor that looks old lends a room character and charm. It’s one reason why they cause people to ooh and ahh over the warm feel of a place.

    Wood takes years to naturally patina. It happens through years of use, and exposure to the sun, as well as other environmental factors. Refinishing a floor may take away some original patina, but the wood has still aged, and will therefore look aged even when a few layers have been peeled away. In general, when new flooring is laid to patch or match older flooring, it will take a while for the new to blend with the old.

    For homeowners who want their Doug fir floors to have an aged look there are a number of methods used to patina floors. One common trick is to “fume” flooring with ammonia, which makes it darker. To make flooring look distressed, professionals and DIY’ers alike use tools such as hammers, steel wool, wire brushes, chains, and sandpaper. Another method for prematurely aging wood is by applying petroleum jelly, vinegar, or shoe polish. The list of tools and methods goes on and on. Anyone who has made a science out of aging wood has their own method.

    Of course, time also ages any floor, but waiting for it to happen would be like waiting for water in the pot to boil, times 100. All sorts of tricks will get the floor closer to an aged look, if done properly. Perfecting the process takes experimentation and, yes, time. But it can be a worthwhile route for homeowners wanting floors to look aged earlier rather than later.

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, douglas fir patina

  • Let’s talk about Doug fir’s Janka hardness

    Posted on February 3, 2011 by nell

    Douglas fir flooring gets called out sometimes on the topic of Janka hardness. We can’t help feeling the need to defend its reputation a bit. Before we get into it, a brief definition follows. Janka hardness is the amount of force it takes to push an 11.28 mm (.444”) steel ball into a plank of wood to half the ball’s diameter. In the U.S., numbers listed as a wood’s “Janka hardness rating” represent the pounds of force required to embed the steel ball halfway. It can also be measured in kilograms or newtons, depending on where you are.

    Our elementary Janka illustration.

    The U.S. Janka hardness rating for Douglas fir is 660. This puts it fairly low on the scale. Does that make Doug fir a bad choice for flooring? We don’t think so. It’s true that there are plenty of woods that are harder, but we don’t agree that makes a big difference over the lifetime of a floor. Douglas fir will last for decades with moderate maintenance (regular sweeping & an occasional cleaning). As with any wood, when the grain is tighter, the wood is harder.

    Janka hardness is commonly used to determine a wood’s durability, especially in relation to flooring, but it is not an absolute determinant. The best way to prevent scratches, dents and general wear on fir flooring (or any wood flooring) is to apply a quality finish and keep the floor clean and well maintained. In other words, start with a high-quality finish, take your shoes off when you enter your home, and keep the floor clean. Nothing does damage on wood flooring quite like shoes (high heels are like tiny powerful hammers) and neglect.

    What do you consider a good lifetime for a floor? Does 85 years work for you? My own house is that old, and still has its original Douglas fir floors. We refinished them ourselves when we moved in a year ago. They are still beautiful, and the previous owner of 30 years had dogs. We’ll keep those floors as long as we’re in the house.

    Ultimately, choosing Douglas fir floors comes down to taste. What we like about it is how it looks and feels. The color is warm, and the wood wears beautifully. Even when it goes for a long time without being refinished it remains a durable floor. The Douglas-fir is a heroic tree conditioned to withstand harsh coastal, mountain, and coastal-mountain weather for hundreds of years. This endurance does translate to the quality of the lumber, and the quality of the flooring.

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, janka, janka hardness

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