Question on an 140 year old Floor Finish
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petejoe



Joined: 09 Jun 2009
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 9:30 pm    Post subject: Question on an 140 year old Floor Finish Reply with quote

Hello everyone. As you can see I am new here and just found this forum during my investigation on choosing a floor finish.
I have a home with 140 yr old white oak flooring on the first and second floor(square nails and all).
It has a great worn patina and I do not want to refinish it.
We've owned the home for five years using a mop, water and murphys oil soap to clean it on a weekly basis.
Here lately we've notice the floor looks more white looking (bleached). I would like to give this floor alittle (only alittle) more color and revitalize it.
One time I tried the orange oil spray cleaner and found this to make the floors too dark. I am afraid to use a tung or linseed oil as to end up living with way dark floors with no grain showing. Please understand this floor has no or very little evidence of varnish and has a great worn look.
I will add some pictures of what I have...
The pictures do not truely show the white bleach effect. In fact the pictures pick up more color than the eye can see.
Needless to say the weekly mopping is stopping immediately.
does anyone have a good suggestion for me??



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rncx



Joined: 21 Jun 2008
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Location: Little Rock, AR

PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i'm betting the soap is removing old wax.

try re-waxing, and a light buffing, and see if it evens back out.
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petejoe



Joined: 09 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rncx wrote:
i'm betting the soap is removing old wax.

try re-waxing, and a light buffing, and see if it evens back out.


You are probably correct. The soap is removing the wax and the water is graying it.
What type of wax is preferred for this floor??
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johnleeke
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Joined: 20 Aug 2004
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Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Try doing this wet cleaning a third as often since this is probably what is causing the problem, and substitute a slightly damp mopping or dry 'dusting'.

What ever you do for treatments, test it first in a back room on one square foot at a time, then expanding to one square yard at a time, before doing all the floors. Let your tests stand for at least a few months or a whole year before deciding to go ahead.

Your floors are great and your approach of saving the character of the floors is excellent, so it's worth taking the time to get it right.

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petejoe



Joined: 09 Jun 2009
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you John!
Yes, it took 140 years to get these floors to look like this and any major refinishing would change the character.
I found the answer....
I ended up using good old "Liquid Gold" after alittle steel wool.
I haven't use this stuff in 15 years. I had a bottle left over found in the cupboard and tried a test area. It was perfect.
It brought the color back into the wood and didn't darken too badly.
I am sure with time the darken areas will lighten some.
Here's an updated picture.
Thanks everyone for your insight.
You guys and girls are stuck with me here :)
This forum is chocked full of information and knowledgable people.

Rick



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johnleeke
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Joined: 20 Aug 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's try to figure out why this worked.

Liquid Gold?

Does it say on the bottle what is in it or what it is made of?

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rncx



Joined: 21 Jun 2008
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Location: Little Rock, AR

PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

from the manufacturer's description it doesn't cut wax as easily as the alternatives out there designed to clean poly floors, but they don't have the ingredients on their website.
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SpinozaQ



Joined: 15 Jun 2009
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Location: Rochester NY

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know you said you didn't want to "refinish" them, because of the great character. I thought the same thing when I was looking at my old floors. However, there are some "light" refinishing techniques that will keep the look of the floor and provide protection.

My floors looked exactly like yours when I started, except the boards are thinner. I also realized the floor was very thin the other way. So there was no way I could use a floor sander on them, it would remove too much material and ruin the look.

I took the old finish off with a 21 inch belt sander with a 36 grit belt. I just let the machine do the work and pull the finish off. The old finish will gum up any paper higher then 36 grit pretty fast. I sanded the edges by hand. I went back over the floor lightly with an 80 grit belt. Then with a broom sander with 80 then 100 girt.

I used a wax free shellac sanding sealer. Sanding lightly with 120 grit between coats. Then two coats of water-based poly for durability. The floor really didn't lose any of it's old look. In fact, I think more character came out with the shellac sealing.



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Historicdoor



Joined: 08 Apr 2009
Posts: 94
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting that word "character"...really I suppose it is fundamentally in the eye of the beholder. Your post raises the question of what you are trying to "save" here. If you want to save the worn off finish look representing a 100 years of use to date and keep the wood floors sound for the next 100 years (preservation), you would not want to add a film forming finish to the top of the bare wood in the traffic areas or to the remaining finish that has not been worn off. At a minimum, to allow you to clean the floors (for both appearance and hygene reasons), it is best that you apply a past wax as was done to many wood floors throughout generations (you may have tried to sand floors without realizing that you must first strip off the paste wax that has built up over the years or heard stories of grandma on her hands and knees waxing the floors). Waxes can be clear or come tinted depending on the look you are trying to achieve.

You should NOT be applying water to bare wood for many reasons, soap or not! If your floors are oak, you probably already have evidence of black in the wood from water damage (doesn't take much). However, if the floors are waxed, you may certainly mop them with water and a cleaning solution. But you must wax them well. You may be surprised to learn that you could apply a modern floor wax sealer and wax to the floors with a mop instead of using paste wax, but the look will be different. You can get these modern floor care products from any janitorial store; but again, the paste wax is what grandma (and maybe grandpa though I doubt it) used to protect her wood floors so that she could clean them.

If you are looking for a restoration of your floors (i.e. what did the floors look like when they were first installed without the wear evidenced in your photographs...a look that I believe evidences LOTS of character in its own right), you will want to strip the floors of all finish and wax and dirt, and apply either several coats of paste wax or (what I prefer to keep maintenance to a minimum) a varnish/tung oil finish that goes INTO the wood rather than building a film on top of the wood...my choice of product is Waterlox (original sealer finish used on famous wood floors world wide).

I don't think that you are necessarily implying that only worn floors exhibit "character", but I wanted to urge Forum Readers to consider that "character" can be discovering the look and beauty of the wood as it was first installed (with some added color...not damage ...from the normal oxidation process of wood over time). Old worn floors have their place in certain settings, but a beautifully restored finish on a floor can also have its place as part of preserving the past.

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rncx



Joined: 21 Jun 2008
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Location: Little Rock, AR

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i'm of the same opinion, and also use waterlox.

unfortunately my floors were too far gone to preserve the original finish, previous owners decided to stain them almost black to try and hide dents and dings, so they had to be sanded and refinished.

either way, a penetrating finish will not only last longer but look more authentic.

wood doesn't come out of the forest looking like a sheet of painted glass. so i don't think a floor needs to look that way either.
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BenS



Joined: 08 May 2018
Posts: 8
Location: Victoria, British Columbia

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2018 2:47 pm    Post subject: Fixing partly polyurethaned Douglas fir floor? Reply with quote

I am renewing this discussion as I am in a somewhat similar situation to the original poster.

Bottom line for me: can I get an acceptable repairable finish over a partly polyurethaned, partly unfinished, fir floor?

I have a 100 year old house with approx 800 sq ft of Douglas fir 3.5" wide tongue and groove flooring. About 300 sq ft are still covered by vinyl/plywood and a parquet floor. When I moved in 7 years ago, I had the exposed floors refinished and despite my better judgement I went with a polyurethane finish rather than a repairable shellac and wax option.

In the following years, dog nails and general wear have caused my hallway (approx 50 sq ft) to be severely damaged (top part of groove missing on many boards, scratches, etc). The remaining portions (living room under furniture, bedroom) are fine.

However, a recent visit by a floor refinisher showed that I have little of my floors left to work with (i.e. to sand).

I am disinclined to sand anyway, as the undamaged floors look acceptable to me and I see sanding floors as a part of the "polyurethane pirate" (to borrow a phrase) approach to floor finishing, but not necessary to all floor finishing.

Here is the end-state of my project:

1. I want a reversible/repairable finish on my floors. Ideally it is non-petrochemical but this is less important.

2. I want to expose the fir floor under the vinyl/plywood and parquet, so the main floor of the house is consistent material.

3. I will repair the severe damage of the hallway.

4. I am adding in new (salvaged) matching floor in my 150 sq ft attic and stair treads to that attic.

5. I want something that has a reasonable amount of resistance to water in the area of the kitchen.

6. I am willing to have a "patina" or "worn" look throughout the house, within reason.


So I have a few problems to solve:

-Can I get a consistent colour/look across my polyurethaned, replacement, and previously unfinished (currently covered) floors?

-Can I get a repairable/reversible finish to work on top of/alongside the polyurethane on the intact floor?

My initial thought is to repair the damaged bits, install new flooring in the areas that need it, and clean up the floors currently covered by vinyl/parquet.

Then I could put either (1) dewaxed shellac and a oil-based varnish (such as Waterlox) or (2) shellax followed by wax, with regular waxings.

Shellac sticks to everything (so I hear) so this should not pose an adhesion issue but I am not sure about colour consistency between the polyurethaned areas and the previously unfinished areas. Am I looking at trial and error?

I'm also curious about "natural" oil/wax products such as Osmo http://osmo.ca/ or Oli-Natura https://www.oli-lacke.de/en/. The manufacturers' sites point towards sanding off polyurethane first but this is undesirable for me.

Has anyone had experience with fixing polyurethane "mistakes" without sanding?

I also haven't had much luck bringing up shellac with floor refinishing contractors. "No one uses that" has been a response... So I may be looking at DIY.

Thanks for any help or discussion that can be generated. I will try to post photos soon but I have other renovation detritus on my floors at the moment.
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johnleeke
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Joined: 20 Aug 2004
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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ben, Welcome to the Forum!

Follow all safety protocols for interior finishing. (effective ventilation, oily rags in water, etc.) Always test your materials and methods in a small area in a back room. Wait for a few weeks or months to judge the results of your testing.

Quote:
1. I want a reversible/repairable finish on my floors. Ideally it is non-petrochemical but this is less important.


Non-Petrolchemical: Shellac, made entirely of renewable resources: Alcohol (typically from corn), lac resin (from bugs on trees), reversible (by washing off with alcohol), repairable (simply clean and wipe or brush on more shellac), but has a shorter maintenance cycle than an alkyd resin oil-based varnish

Quote:
5. I want something that has a reasonable amount of resistance to water in the area of the kitchen.


I'd suggest an alkyd resin varnish, such as Pratt & Lamberts 38 Clear Varnish,

http://www.prattandlambert.com/product-selector/homeowner/stains_clears/38_clear_varnish

Quote:
-Can I get a repairable/reversible finish to work on top of/alongside the polyurethane on the intact floor?
6. I am willing to have a "patina" or "worn" look throughout the house, within reason.


I suggest "spot finish repair", something like this:

You might apply this treatment just to bare spots, or over the entire floor. Always test in a small area first, in a small back room.

Clean Thoroughly
Wet Abrasive Scrub, http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=7636#7636
the video shows this on exterior wood, but the same materials and tools can be used on interior floors, rinse with sopping wet rags or mopping, drying with old cotton bath towels and fans.
If water cleanup raises the grain of the wood when testing, do this cleanup with turps or mineral spirits.

Dry Thoroughly
Dry down to less than 10% moisture content (measure with a moisture meter)

Mix Pre-treatment for bare wood
mix oil-based alkyd resin varnish 1:1 with mineral spirits (petrol-chemical) or balsam gum turpentine (made from trees, use real turps, such as from American Rope & Tar Co., not fake "turps" from the local paint shop)

Wipe pre-treatment onto bare wood
brush or wipe on with rags, just one application, it is fun to watch it soak in, but don't keep applying more and more. After about 30 minutes, and before it starts to get tacky, wipe off any that has not soaked in. Allow to dry, ventilate well, until there are no more vapors from the turps or varnish.

Apply Varnish
On bare wood spots apply one coat of straight varnish, allow to dry, sand, clean up sanding residue.
Over the whole floor, apply one or more coats of straight varnish, sand and clean up sanding residue between coats.

Quote:
-Can I get a consistent colour/look across my polyurethaned, replacement, and previously unfinished (currently covered) floors?


Probably not. But you can tend to even out appearances by adding a small amount of pigment to your finish materials, and by use matte or flat sheen materials rather than gloss or shiny materials.

Any finish you put over polyurethane varnish is likely peel off, so be prepared to deal with that with routine maintenance. A good strategy might be to not varnish over poly, and to make your finish on the bare wood match the adjacent poly, and not coat over the poly. Getting matches like this and developing a finish method involves as much art as science and practical procedures.

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by hammer and hand great works do stand
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BenS



Joined: 08 May 2018
Posts: 8
Location: Victoria, British Columbia

PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 4:55 pm    Post subject: Refinishing partly-polyurethaned fir floor Reply with quote

John,

Thanks very much for your informative reply. I have an unfinished kitchen floor which I can use to test finishes under where cabinets will be and I can test colour matching to the polyurethane in my hall which will be replaced.

What is fake turpentine and does it perform poorly compared to the real stuff?

Some questions on the alkyd resin varnish:

1. What maintenance cycle timeline could I expect with this on floors, assuming I am not waiting until the finish wears through?

2. This thread http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2290&highlight=shellac+waterlox+floor suggests success with the use of shellac, followed by a resin varnish like Waterlox. Would the addition of the shellac layer make this a shorter maintenance cycle than what you've suggested?

3. Can wax be used on top of this alkyd resin varnish?

I am aware that this means removing wax to re-varnish but I am considering wax for a sacrificial layer of protection that looks to be easier to maintain. (Although perhaps I am wrong about the merits of wax and it is no easier than spot maintenance of varnish.)
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