Varnished wooden floors in a period house are tough in character, easy to clean and look really attractive which is the reason they work great in any busy family home. It is still popular to expose the floorboards instead of carpeting in many of the older houses. Using a heavy duty floor sander brings about a startling improvement in the wooden floor and most of the times, the heavy duty floor sander result in the floorboards being finished enough for use, without requiring any further work.
But it should be remembered that these floorboards were meant to be covered with a thick carpet layer and some underlay. Therefore, without any carpeting, squeaks, gaps and draughts are exposed. We provide below some useful tips on dealing with these particular problems.
You cannot stop scratches on softwood floors as toys, pets and shoes are going to make scratches, no matter what you do. Also, even though the patina adds to the finishing of a wooden floor, it looks really bad when the varnish is peeled away. The look is especially bad when coloured varnish is peeled off revealing the pine wood lying underneath. Most of the time, you would be inclined to put some varnish on the particular area. But use the process below and this will result in a much longer lasting wooden floor finish with a little bit of more preparation.
A tip – do not use a wet mop to clean and get temporary shine on the wooden floor. Instead, use a dedicated cleaning fluid and follow it with a quality floor polish (such as Bona or Stikatak). The finish is much better and far more long lasting.
A few points to note:
- Time to finish the polishing depends on the floor area but to give you an idea; a standard 16 x 16 room can be finished in a weekend.
- One of the best varnishes is Bonakemi. This water-based varnish provides a finish very close to natural wood. A 4.5 L bottle of this varnish will set you back by around £100 and this quantity is enough to have two coats with each coat covering an area of 16 m².
- Durability of the finish depends on the usage of the wooden floor. A bedroom may stay good looking for approximately 10 years whereas a busy hallway may last only five years. To extend the life of the flooring, you need to clean it regularly as dirt and grime are one of the biggest reasons for varnish wear-off.
- Check your attic – while modern houses will usually need boarding over before you can use them, period houses often have floorboards – and sometimes fire places! This can be a fantastic space to utilise – a good loft ladder (I recommend Fakro) can provide access if there is no room for stairs.
- Doing all of it yourself will also save you a ton of money. Normally, a 16 x 16 room will cost you approximately £400 (without the varnish) whereas you will be able to finish the same area for approximately £150 with the help of the below tools.
- Once you’ve restored your floorboards, it’s important to choose the right vacuum for them, to minimise the risk of damage. This is so important that we would go as far to say that a separate vacuum is advisable – especially if the one you have already has rough plastic or vinyl bristles. The Furniture Connoisseur has produced a really good guide to choosing a hardwood floor vacuum with reviews of many of the top brands.
Restoring floorboards: what you need
- Drill and bits
- Electric sander
- Hammer and nails
- Replacement floorboards
- Screwdriver and screws
- Strips of wood for filling
- Wet and dry sandpaper
- White spirit and cleaner polish
- Wood dye
- Wood filler
- Wood plane
Restoring floorboards: step-by-step guide
- The first step is to fix the smaller gaps. Since the gaps allow the dirt and draughts through, which lead to wearing down of the varnish, it is important to take care of these. There are two ways to do it. The traditional way is to use papier mache to fill the gaps. If you mix some colour into this to match the colour of the floorboards, the traditional way is very effective way of filling in the gaps. The other solution is to use something like Gapseal. You just need to place it over the gap and then push it through the gap with the help of a very thin strip, like a credit card. This will create a V shaped barrier in the gaps which will prevent any dirt or grime from getting in.
- If there are big gaps, these need to be filled in with wood. Take a piece of wood which fits in nicely in and cover both sides of this piece with wood glue. After placing it in the gap, tap it lightly to fix it completely between the two boards. Now, wait for the glue to dry off. Take a planer to flush the new piece with the existing floorboards and then sand the new piece of wood. Now treat this with varnish and your gap is filled up completely.
- If there is a completely worn out piece in the floorboards, use a fresh piece of wood to fix it. You will need to use a matching dye to make it look similar to the existing floorboards’ colour.
- To eliminate the squeaks, you will need to drill a pilot hole into the joist through the wooden board. Follow this pilot hole with a screw. Now tighten the screw to fix the board. This will result in a much more secure board as compared to banging in nails directly into the floorboard.
- Varnish provides a hard-wearing durable top finish to the wooden floor but it does get damaged with constant usage of toys, pet claws and shoes over time. To repair the varnish, you need to follow these steps.
- First of all, the area needs to be sanded with 400 grade wet and dry sandpaper (used wet). This needs to be done until the area feels smooth. Now you just need to clean the residue and put white spirit on the surface.
- Now start brushing the varnish on the damaged area. The polishing should be done in a way which lifts the brush away from the damaged area when it meets the undamaged section of the board. Brushing in this way will help in blending the repaired area. You need to be extra careful with coloured varnish as adding more coats of coloured varnish will result in darker colours. Therefore you need to be careful.
- It is very easy to take care of the scratches on the surface. Just take a little bit of wood filler to fill in the scratches. Then just rub them down and treat as described in the previous steps.
- If there are any cupped edges, those need to be made good. Sometimes, softwood gets warped and forms a cup shape in the middle. This cup shape leads to a bit of curvature across the board. This also leads to exposing the floorboard edges. To take care of these cup edges, you just need to use a electric sander to sand down the edges. It will just take a couple of passes. Once you are finished, just use the varnish to finish it.