Unfinished Oak Floors

New here and getting started on a recently purchased 1961 house.
I've pulled up all of the old carpet and pad throughout the house, about 1900 sq ft, to reveal the original hardwood floors. The floors in the bedrooms were finished at some point in the past but appear to have been covered with carpet for a long time, as they appear to be relatively free of any defects [except of course the holes from the staples removed]. In the formal living room and dining room, however, the oak floors were never finished. I don't notice any un-level boards but they do retain their coarse texture.
At this time, I'm not wanting to pour a huge amount of money into the floors, as there are some other updates/repairs that I would like to make. For the living room and dining room, my question is, could I stain them or put a finish on them and have them look reasonably good without going through the sanding process? If so, are there particular things to be aware of? My main reason for wanting to avoid doing this at the time, in addition to the cost and time, is that my wife is pregnant and we don't want to deal with the mess of all the particles in the air. If I can get away without sanding and truly finishing at this point, is there any coating that would keep the boards from being a "problem" (i.e. dangerous) to our new daughter when she starts crawling around in several months.
As an aside, for the bedrooms, which have the finished floors, is there a good cleaner I should use on them just as general upkeep in transitioning them for use. Since I'm not refinishing them, I'm not filling the staple holes, but we will use area rugs.
Thanks for any guidance in advance.
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On Sun, 03 Jun 2012 05:11:49 +0000, startning_new

I had my floors sanded/coated a few years ago. 1959 house. You don't know what it cost until you get a few estimates. It helps if you know somebody who had it done and recommends somebody, which was my case. It was a lot cheaper than I thought it would be, so you should get the estimates, and advice on what process to use for the dining and living rooms. I never heard of oak floor being unfinished. Around here it always starts finished, then maybe gets covered later. The floor refinshers will know about that. Again around here - Chicago and nearby - there's Polish guys who work as teams and do a good job for a low price. Try to find the equivalent where ever you are, with referrals. No sense paying a general contractor's cut, or for the overhead of a big outfit. It's a small time setup doing floors. You might rethink the sanding "particles." The guys who did my floors left no dust anywhere. Sander was hooked to a huge vacuum that stayed outside. It's the fumes from the finish you don't want your wife breathing. So plan to be out of the house a few hours after each finish application. Three times. If you can do that, and the price is right, might be better to do it before the baby arrives. BTW, congratulations!

A wet sponge works. If they're really "dirty" add a couple drops of dish soap to the water. I had plenty of staples in the floor, but after refinishing you can't see the holes. A guy in this group passed on a good idea when I mentioned I had some dark spots from rusted nails which were used for carpet tack strips. Drill and put dowel in before sanding. 1/8 or 3/16 should do. Another thing to think about is the baseboard and shoe. We found the floors looked so good, we wanted oak base and shoe to match, because the original had been painted numerous time and was a bit beat up. If you're going to replace that, it's best to have it off when sanding. Makes it easier for the sanders, and you won't have to deal with ridges along the walls If you decide to do the baseboard, of course that's going to butt against old painted door casings. We did those too. What you need for that is some time, a tape, a saw, and a nail gun. You'll have to lightly sand and finish that oak with a couple coats. That's all up to you. Just warning you what might happen, The oak doesn't cost much. Keep in mind exact measurements, because trim sizes have changed since 1961. Some guys here have sanded the floors themselves, and will pipe in.
--
Vic


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On Sun, 03 Jun 2012 05:11:49 +0000, startning_new

I understand your concern, but equipment and dust collection had greatly improved. Have your wife visit friends for the duration, plus a half hour and the minimal dust will be gone. In the end you will have a much better looking floor.
If you finish the present floor and they are a little rough, they are more prone to harbor dust and dirt for when the baby crawls around in the future.
It won't take long and it is probably cheaper than you think to do the job right.
If I can get away without

Sand them, then two or three coats of poly.
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Agree.
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If you are set on not sanding the floor maybe just finish a foot or so around the perimeter and use a big area rug. for the kid to crawl on. (Don't stain it will just make it harder when you get it done right.)
Its not going to look at all OK for a finished floor if you don't sand, you may even get splinters. But yes today they have great machines that use HEPA and other filters to handle the dust. As for the finish you could go water based but I'm not sure what the latest finish technologies are.
As for why they weren't finished, I'm assuming its because they were always planning on putting wall to wall in those rooms so they just left them unfinished. This was the 60's, wall to wall shag carpeting was the hip floor finish of the day. As for the bedrooms maybe a prior owner finished them be fore you.
As for why didn't they just us plywood well I'm not sure when they started to use plywood for floors. My in-laws old house had oak floors throughout their 1930's house. Its wasn't because it was an upscale floor finish it was just what they used. Oak was the OSB of its day.
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On 6/3/2012 1:11 AM, startning_new wrote:

A baby crawling around on rough wood is inviting disaster in the form of splinters and dirt .. can't keep clean, and the baby's own messes and accidents make finishing a necessity IMO. Major disruptions during pregnancy are less fun than they are the rest of the time (BTDT), so, why not wait until the baby arrives and do it then? If the HOUSE was the major issue, I'd go along with suggestions for stripping out wood trim and all that others have suggested. Since pregnancy and new baby are the major considerations, I would do an "in between" project: seal off room with plastic tarps, take up molding that can easily be removed, sand, finish two coats. Done during warm, dry weather, finish will dry more quickly and good ventillation for fumes/odors can be accomplished. Two coats of finish, with decent care, will be fine for quite some time.
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On Jun 2, 10:11pm, startning_new

Lots of good answers.
step by step we did on a 1906 floor section::
put an 'exiting' exhaust fan in a window to run while creating dust. Put up some plastic paint drop cloths for curtains at the other openings to concentrate [and prevent wasting'] the air flow.
use a tumbler sander, not a large disk [get 'swirly patterns with those]
wood may have a wax residue from years ago, won't show up until you go to apply finish.
since relatively unfinished, use the finest grade paper, quickly, gently sand in X pattern on the floors to cut the top, but prevent unlevelness.
final sanding again using new papers and this time go with the grain as everyone says.
vacuum floor, walls, everything that dust wants to settle on or cling to.
then use 'tack' rag/cloth to remove particles, you'd be surprised how much dust vacuuming leaves behind.
Use oil based finish [I rarely stain, and like to use boiled linseed oil] and gently pour into throw away container [do not create bubbles], like the bottom of a cut down water bottle. NEVER return unused to can, throw away! The brush will pick up contaminants from the floor, [if you see any large ones, remove from brush] keep your brush out of the bottom of your reservoir to avoid picking any crud up.
Apply first primer cut 10-30% [when I know I'll do a lot of coats, I cut 50%] with thinner and FLOW IT ON! Dip brush, run off excess and flow on - I've done an 18 by 15 foot room in less than an hour. Do NOT 'paint' the floor three or four times by brushing and brushing. Best technique to get even coverage is to flow on at right angle to grain and then gently brush from unfinished into finished area to coat completely BUT NO MORE! If you spot a dribble bump, don't worry, you'll get it next time. As I said flow cross ways, brush with grain goes incredibly fast.
When finished allow to dry. Keep room dust and bug free [impossible to do] then Within 24 hours the floor's finish will be hard on tops but slightly gummy under the surface so be careful. You'll notice as you walk over the surface you may ease into it leaving foot prints. You'll also be very dissapointed with all the particulates stuck into the surface. Don't worry.
Now here is a key: Get 120 - 150 grain wet n dry sandpaper and use a FLAT HARD block and use a wetting agent [Jet Dry], or a Windex Window cleaner [Easy Off Window cleaner was the best, but no longer made] spray cleaner and sand away to flatten the surface and knock off all those little bumps you'll see, including bugs. The water seems to harden the surface. and thepaper being wetndry will NOT gum up from the not quite dried finish. Iused one sheet to do that 15 by 18 foot section, goes quickly. DO NOT GO DOWN THROUGH THE FINISH to bare wood. The surface must be abraded, else the next coat does not adhere well.
When done, dry, vacuum, but you MUST tack rag again.
Next coat, use uncut oil finish, flow on as before. This time you'll notice almost NO bumps! [I found each coat, got less and less until so few could flake off with finger nail and become invisible.]
If you want another coat, because it goes so fast, NOW you can use a soft pad for sanding.
The last coat do not sand. You're done, with a hard surface that can be invisibly patch repaired if any 'accidents' occur scratches, water, etc.
Do NOT ever use wax.
The floor finish will last at least 25 years.
I found I could redo heavy traffic areas using slightly cut finish, and the floor was back to looking new for another 5 years. Just avoid going down to bare wood at any time. With age, colors change and start getting color differences that are subtetly noticeable. Not letting go to bare wood keeps a uniform color.
You should be done in less than 7 days.
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put sheet vinyl over the floors you want to avoid refinishing at this time if its cheaper than refinishing......
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