The floors on the second story of my house are old, but they are not original to the house. They are narrow-plank oak, and were laid over the original wide-plank pine, most likely in the early 1900’s—a decade or so after the house was built. The pattern of the boards is quite nice, with the borders running perpendicular to the center pieces.
However, they are in pretty rough shape. The finish is completely worn off in some areas, and there’s a lot of deep staining and damage to them. There’s also an awful lot of paint tracked over them, thanks to a careless paint job done by a previous occupant. There are burn marks around the nails from too-aggressive refinishing once upon a time.
Yes, they could be sanded and refinished, but why? I don’t love the color of the oak, and the planks are very thin (only about 1/4″). So I think we will paint the floors on the second story. White! (Of course.)
Just as I don’t think it’s a mortal sin to paint wood trimwork, I don’t see any problem with painting a wood floor. It’s not even out of context with the house—painted floors were common in Victorian homes, particularly when the wood was not of premium quality. I’m not worried about regretting painting the floors, but I AM worried about regretting NOT painting them! I think living with those floors for two years has convinced me that they are worth making into something more beautiful.
EDIT, 1/2009: I have since painted my floor white!
See, like this: