I am in the process now of laying softwood flooring in my new house. I live in Newfoundland, Canada and spruce is the most widely used construction lumber. It is also a fair bit harder than pine. A few years ago I laid a t&g spruce floor in my living room and it turned out quite nice, eventhough it opened up after a while because the wood was not properly seasoned. I have since built a brand new house and to be up front, I hate just about any new house designs, especially when they are wrapped in abhorred vinyl siding. I see them as people's attempt to have a home that looks almost too perfect. All vinyl siding looks alike (in my eyes) and it will look the same for years to come. The home does not have the ability to change or mature with age as it would with, say, pine clapboard.
What does this have to do with pine flooring you may ask? The new house I am building is based upon a 150 year old design - a design found in many of the fishing communities around here. When my wife and I were designing this house, we had it in our minds that this was a home to be built a) to live in comfortably and b) true to the iime period of the design. We decided to go with local slate flooring in the kitchens and bathrooms and spruce t&g in the bedrooms, living and dining room. I spent an entire month ravaging the local lumber yard picking out the best 6" t&g spruce boards I could find. During this exercise I came to realize what a nice wood this is. Here in Newfoundland, spruce is either used for structural construction or burned in the stove. Tell people you are using it for flooring and they say "Oh, you mean you are putting it down in your cabin?" and I say, "No, a brand new home" Talk about strange looks. I just finished one bedroom and when laying rough milled lumber as flooring, you have to work like a son-of-a-gun to get a tight fit. I just put on the last of the clear coat and now I am waiting for it cure before face nailing with cut iron nails. This sounds quite similar to what Tim proposes to do.
Here is my advice to Tim. First, a floor is a floor. It is going to be walked on, scratched and dented. If you are obsessed with the idea of a perfect, somewhat cold and processed finished product - avoid softwood flooring. Go with hardwood and have your floor look like everybody elses. If you want a unique floor that is more forgiving both to the eye and the feet, go with a softwood. I know that when I have my floors finished, I get compliments everyime someone new comes to the house. This would not be true if I had a floor that was bought at the local home improvement store.
As for refinishing, this, again, ties into your desire for perfection. A softwood floor will not "wear out" any quicker than a hardwood unless the clear coat wears out. The solution is apply a coat before it is too late. I guess, eventually you may have a overly substantial amount of clear coat on your floor but by that time you will be long gone and the job will fall to someone else.