My dilemma with our floorboards that although our floorboards needed sanding, I really wanted to find a way to keep their character. I struggled to find any clear guidance so here is my guide to sanding and renovating old floorboards, helping you keep, enhance or even create that old, time-worn finish that I know so many of you long for. Here's our finished floorboards...I'm so pleased with the way they've turned out.
And now let's look at how you can do it too! The back reception room, aka our family room, was initially a kitchen, shown here when we first viewed the house. It had a horrid layer of cheap laminate...
...that we ripped out faster than you can say Jack Robinson (along with the accompanying kitchen which we managed to find a new home for locally) and were left with the floorboards underneath in, huzzah, good condition but definitely needing a lot of charm added.
First of all, I tried in vain to scrub away one hundred and ninety years of dirt (yes, laugh if you will..!) but had to face facts: old floorboards need sanding to make them usable.
BUT, rule number one, do not, under any circumstances over-sand. This is the biggest mistake you can make with an old floor. We hired a sander and went over the floorboards with only a medium and then a fine sandpaper, missing out the first step of using coarse grit. If you must use really rough sandpaper, be careful as it'll remove the beautiful patina that has taken so long to build up.
Old floorboards have usually warped somewhat over their width creating a gently rainbow-shaped surface and, if you sand over the surface to get a smooth finish, you'll remove this hard-won curve. What you should be aiming for is to only skim off the top of the highest points of the floorboards, leaving the rest unscathed.
We did this job ourselves to ensure we got the finish we wanted, despite being told on numerous occasions that it was the worst, messiest and most time-consuming job in the entire world. Verdict: actually, it wasn't that bad...So long as you tape up every single tiny opening into the rest of the house and make double and triply sure that the sand-collecting-vacuum-bag on the machine is AT ALL TIMES attached securely or you'll be faced with a sandstorm (thus speaks the voice of bitter experience!!).
So, once the sanding stage is complete, it's time to decide on the colour. My advice here is to, most certainly, veer away from orange. This is easier said than done.
You're looking to capture the mellow feel of old oak, which doesn't generally age to orange but, rather, to an elegant warmth. Fining the right varnish was like finding a needle in a very orange haystack. I tried various varnishes and then some products from the Osmo Polyx Oil Tints range and finally found my holy grail! Ladies and gentlemen, here is your wooden floor saviour: Osmo Terra.
Here are four that we tested. See how Osmo Terra (top left) as a beautiful bonus manages to pick out and highlight the subtleties of the grain:
Here's another shot of our sanded floors (with Osmo Terra bottom left), showing clearly what I mean about keeping the natural shape of the floorboard. See the clean stripe down the middle of each board? That's the newly revealed surface. The dark stripes down each side are where we've been able to leave most of the signs of age in tact It doesn't look like much now but just you wait until the Polyx Oil is applied!
When applied reasonably thinly, Terra is the colour you've been dreaming of: not too light, not too dark, a gorgeous mellow hue. At times, I used a paintbrush, as instructed, at others I found the process easier with a cheapo kitchen sponge.
I applied one thinnish coat of Polyx Oil, working in strips up and down the room and making sure I had access to an easy exit path! Here's the look of what you should be working towards:
Finally we applied a coat of Osmo Clear in Satin Matt, which we chose because I didn't want the floors to look as though they'd been newly varnished; I wanted it to look as though we'd stumbled across genuinely old period floorboards in incredible condition. You just don't get that look if you have them stripped and varnished professionally. The Osmo Satin Matt gives an old matt look with the merest hint of a sheen.
This was, again, easy to apply and brings out the lovely richness in the wood, without compromising on the colour. All you need to do is get a good coating on the end of your brush:
Wipe the brush one way across the floorboards and then the other way to spread of the excess on both sides, like this:
...and then brush it on....and repeat until you have the biceps of a warrior! I found this method ensures the most even coverage.
You'll end up with quite a glossy finish when its still wet but don't worry. A satin matt finish will be yours in no time!
Although the Osmo products are on the expensive side, a little goes a surprisingly long way so it actually works out as good value.
We had our floorboards stripped and varnished in our last house and this way of sanding and renovating old floorboards is so much more suited to enhancing the period details.
All Images Modern Country Style