The new floor is in! With a few hours of work on Friday, several on Saturday, and a few yesterday, Scott and I managed to get the whole floor down and I love the way it looks. It is 4-inch wide utility-grade oak from Lumber Liquidators. Lots of color variation and knot-holes (which I am planning to fill with an ebony colored wood filler called Timermate in order to match the dark color of the wood around the holes). The floor looks rustic. Like wood. Which is what it is, after all, right?
I was originally planning to paint the floor white or stain it white to keep the room light and bright and because I knew the oak floors wouldn't go so well with my old pine sleigh bed, which is what Brynn sleeps on now. But, I'm so in love with the floors I think that the bed is going white instead. Let me know what you think about that. I'm a fan of painted cottage floors but I'm not sure I can do it to this floor.
In debating the floor finish with...um, myself, I've been putting in some serious time on Google. I'm looking for a non-toxic (or less-toxic) approach to finishing Brynn's floor. One that will still look good. That part is important. Water-based stains raise the grain of the wood, which is not thrilling to me. Oil-based stains are smelly and hard to clean up. Or so I thought.
So in my research I started learning about tung oil. It is arguably the oldest and least-toxic way to preserve a floor (and smells like the oil we used to use to work in my softball mitts). Tung oil is only non-toxic if you can apply it without the use of mineral spirits as a thinner. Ahhh, but therein lies the problem. In modern times, we've turned to solvents like mineral spirits to dilute tung oil by half to make it penetrate the wood better and dry faster. But mineral spirits aren't exactly non-toxic.
The current alternative to mineral spirits appears to be orange oil. Like, in Goo-Gone. There is actually a kind of orange oil solvent, called Citrus Solvents, that is 98% orange oil with 2% water emulsified into the orange oil. It is used as a non-toxic, eco-friendly thinner for tung oil, but also as a general cleaning agent, goop-remover, brush cleaner, and thinner for oil-based paints and stains. Of course, the big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes don't carry this special stuff (although they do carry lots of bogus orange oil products). Woodcraft doesn't carry Citrus Solvents either. But they do carry pure orange oil which seems to have the same properties as Citrus Solvents. So, yesterday I bought Woodcraft's tung oil and their orange oil and mixed them together and tested some on scraps from Brynn's floor. The oil seemed to penetrate well and dry quickly. I think I've found a way to avoid using mineral spirits on this project!
Now, the issue of color...tung oil alone makes the wood a bit more orange-toned than I think I would like. Of course, the samples aren't totally dry yet, so maybe that will change, but I doubt it.
Here is a photo of a milled barnwood floor that was finished with tung oil. Tell me what you think.
Today and tomorrow I think I will experiment with using a super-thin white or maybe gray stain under the tung oil and see what happens. Wish me luck!