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Salvaged Floor Tung Oil Application

For the past several jobs we have used salvaged mahogany flooring. We salvaged 15,000 square feet of it a while back. It is very pretty stuff. Here we are applying the tung oil to it.

We are applying two types of oil, simply because that is what we have left over from the previous jobs. The first coat is a mix of citrus solvent and tung oil. The second coat is a premixed natural oil from Land Arc.

Mahogany is a very hard wood and absorbs very little. It is amazing how important it is to understand the wood you are applying oil to. If you put too much it creates a sticky film, if you put too little it looks dry and dusty.

We’ve really become natural oil flooring experts when it comes to finishing salvaged wood. We learned through our mistakes. Pine, maple, oak, fir, and mahogany all have different absorption rates. Their age and condition also make a difference. If they are old and stored in the sun then they absorb more than new wood salvaged from a lower floor brownstone.

It is an art. You’ll notice the applicator in the video above is using a fluid sweeping motion combined with small jerky motions. The fluid motions spread the thin layer of oil over the wood in a uniform way, the jerky motions push it into the wood pores.

Because it is mahogany we don’t use hardly any oil. If it were old pine we would literally splash it on and almost let it sit on the wood in puddles. Then after half an hour we’d soak up the excess. We’d do this to the pine up to four times over a week.

But with the mahogany we put two light coats one day after the other and that is all it needs.

Through our experiments with salvaged wood floors we are seeing that as New York green contractor we are developing a knowledge of the local woods. Compared to several years ago we have a deeper sense of the kinds of salvaged wood in NY, what neighborhoods or types of buildings have what species of wood, what different woods look like from different decades in the 20th century…

It is a little like being an investigative historian.

P1130106 Salvaged Floor Tung Oil Application

The old floor had of linoleum that we decided were better off where they were than in the dump. We simply applied our salvaged floor over it.

P1000935 Salvaged Floor Tung Oil Application

First we glue the wood down. It is our one sin and a pretty big compromise. Despite being hard as steel the wood is too brittle to attach any other way. We use the greenest glue we could find. It is zero VOC.

P1130108 Salvaged Floor Tung Oil Application

While one person lays the floor another cleans the salvaged wood. It is a very labor intensive process.

DSC 0424 Salvaged Floor Tung Oil Application

Once the floor is down we sand the old varnish off it with an industrial sander. Here you see the floor sanded, clean and ready for natural oil.

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We apply natural oil, in this case tung oil.

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We rub the oil into the wood with many passes of the lambs wool sponge.

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Notice how the wood lights up with the natural oil.

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The pale wood really pops once the oil is applied. It is literally like a dry plant being watered. They clearly go together.

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The interaction of natural oil and mahogany is magical, with a breathtaking variety of colors and tones. Unlike varnish, the oiled wood only gets richer with time.

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Even for us who have installed this wood many times, it is hard to believe the cracked and old wood from our yard can end up looking this amazing.

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2 comments to Salvaged Floor Tung Oil Application

  • SamF

    I’m looking at doing a long-buried-under-carpet doug fir and old growth redwood floor in my house with a raw tung oil/citrus mix. Planning on several coats and I suspect the wood will soak it up readily. Are you folks sanding between each coat? What stage of the drying/curing process are you doing the sanding?

    thanks for the great photos!
    samF

  • Gennaro Brooks-Church

    Hello,
    Because the floors we are repairing tend to be 100 year old New York floors we aren’t exactly talking delicate antique furniture. So we don’t always sand between coats. We sand with 100 grit and then put the coats on. The wood is so beat up that any extra sanding wouldn’t be noticed.

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