Yellow pine, also known as Southern pine, is a popular material for furniture and flooring. Although yellow pine lumber can come from seven different types of trees, most people generalise the wood as one of three categories--shortleaf, longleaf and loblolly. You can note the differences between the varieties of yellow pine primarily in the appearance of the growth rings and slight variations in colour. All types of yellow pine, however, have a yellow tinge and absorbent properties that you must take in consideration when finishing yellow pine floors.
Choose a stain for your yellow pine floor. There are a variety of stain colours that complement yellow pine well, including brown, red and green. Since yellow pine is a soft wood that absorbs stain unevenly, darker stains typically look best, although a natural, weathered appearance can also look nice. Avoid grey-based stain colours because the yellow tones of yellow pine wood will distort the colour. If you are determined to achieve a grey colour on your yellow pine floor, choose a grey stain with significant purple tones to neutralise the natural yellow in the wood.
Fill any large cracks between floorboards with wood filler and a putty knife. It is not necessary to fill small cracks, as the wood naturally expands and contracts according to the environment's humidity. Allow the filler to set according to the time indicated on the product's instructions.
Sand the floors with a drum sander equipped with coarse grain sandpaper. Move the sander in the same direction as the yellow pine wood grain, taking care to keep the sander moving at all times. If you let the sander stay in one area of the floor too long, you can easily gouge the floor. Sand edges of the floor that the drum sander cannot reach with a floor edger using a left to right semicircular motion.
Repeat the sanding process using medium-grit sandpaper, then repeat again with fine-grit paper. This ensures that you remove all previous finish and leave your floor even and smooth. Buff the floor with extra-fine sandpaper using a buffer, and move the buffer with the wood grain. This prepares the wood to optimally accept stain.
Vacuum the floor, walls and ceiling to remove all dust created from the sanding and buffing processes. It is necessary to have a clean and dry area to continue finishing your yellow pine floor.
Rub your chosen stain into the floor with a rag and wipe away excess stain with another rag throughout the staining process. It may be necessary to change rags often to complete staining the entire floor. Allow the stain to dry according to the product's directions and avoid walking on the floor while the stain dries.
Apply polyurethane to the stained floor with a natural bristle paint brush and smooth out any brush marks with a foam applicator. Brush along the wood grain and work with small portions of the floor at a time. Let the polyurethane dry for at least 24 hours. You will need 2 to 3 coats of polyurethane to properly finish your yellow pine floor.
You can usually rent equipment like the drum sander, floor edger and buffer from home improvement stores if you do not want to invest in purchasing it.
When working with stain and polyurethane, make sure to ventilate the area as much as possible. The fumes from these products can be toxic.