Finishing with Fir Flooring

We decided that fir flooring would be the best material to use for the mid-floor bedrooms and the staircases that lead up to them as well as up to the top floor (the existing first half). We found 600 square feet of locally milled fir, 3/4inch by 5inch t&g, in ten foot lengths. It was very blonde, which was the only thing we felt we wanted to change.

We found an interesting technique on the internet which involved soaking steel wool in vinegar for awhile, and then using the strained vinegar as a stain on the fir. The steel turns the vinegar a deep red or brown colour, depending on how long it is left soaking. The vinegar then reacts with the tanins of the wood, turning it a varying shade of grey, brown, or red. The video we watched (and we found many!) showed comparisons of the vinegar mix on many different types of wood, which had a large variety of resulting colours.

We did a test patch after a week of soaking, and then again after another week as we wanted it to be darker. We decided in fact to do two coats with the vinegar. Coating the boards after with an oil stain also made the vinegar stain pop out and deepen the tones even more, and we did two coats with the oil stain as well. I did a lot of moving these boards around, using the open rafters of the ceilings as as place to lean many rows of boards in a organized way, trying to keep track of which ones had been stained once or twice!

The vinegar stain was a bit like a magic marker- it took about 20 minutes for the reaction to occur and the wood to deepen in colour.

It didn’t take too long to lay them down. I think we may have borrowed a floor stapler to make it even easier. The stairs were definitely a lot more work. Colin pre-glued up the stair treads with an unstained fir nosing, and then he glued up the rises (about 7 inches tall) and then glued them all down over the rough plywood stairs. The yellow fir nosing really helps with defining the edge of the stair.

I like how the darker tone makes the floor look old, and is also a nice contrast to the brightness of the ceiling and wall cedar which is quite yellow. We were so happy to find such a simple method of staining the fir.

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