Monday, November 1, 2010

After 8 Long Months...

The front parlor floor is finally finished!  I put the last coat of varnish on it Saturday afternoon.  It was worth every hour put into it.  This was one of my "little projects" while Donnie was working elsewhere.  It turned out fabulous!

Now for the month-long wait so we can put the furniture back. I want it to be well-cured before adding any weight to the new finish.  After the months of work, I don't want to blow it at the end!

From the Peacock Parlor

From the Foyer

You can't have the after pictures without at least something to compare it to, so here is the just waxed floor right after we bought the house.  As you can see, the design was very subtle due to the deterioration of the 30 year old finish.

I didn't keep track of the number of hours this took, but I'm guessing at least 2 hours per square foot.  Worth every second!

While the following won't be very interesting, this was the process I used as well as some of the things I discovered by experimenting with various methods.  The method I ended up using was the most time consuming, but provided the best quality result.  Hope it lasts a very long time.

The process and outtakes:
This entire project was done on hands and knees.  Since part of it was top nailed and the 2x2 squares aren’t real thick, I didn’t want to use one of the big sanding machines to sand off the old finishes due to the amount of wood surface they remove. 

It was February and cold, so I thought I’d see how the heat gun worked on it.  It worked well and warmed p the room which was great, but didn’t get the residue out of the grain and it became apparent that I was probably going to have to go over it again with a liquid stripper and a wire brush to get the old stuff out of the grain.  I tried a section by sanding off the remaining finish with the orbital sander and skipping the liquid stripper.  The end result was lighter in color and it seemed like the sanding kind of embedded the old finish into the wood as opposed to removing all of it.  It would have been OK, if I hadn’t seen what complete removal looked like.  Needless to say, I had to restrip that whole area. 

 Most of our projects are learning experiences with experimentation of various methods just to see how they turn out and what happens if you approach them different ways.  It seems nuts, since most people like to just get it done, but I like to play and learn while I work even if it means doing something over again.  Here’s the process that gave the best result.  Since this is something I just made up out of what seemed to be common sense, I have no idea of its longevity.  Guess we’ll find out in a couple of years.

Around here, we like oil-based products for hard surfaces.  It’s a personal preference that we believe provides the best durability, cleanability, and accentuates the natural characteristics of the wood, so this process will be based on oil products.

Here were the steps I used that I found produced the best results:

Step 1:  Preliminary stripping of old finish using Kutzit and a putty knife to remove the majority of the finish.

Step 2: Second coat of Kutzit with a fine bristle wire brush to remove old finish from the grain until all the finish has been removed.

Step 3:  Scrub with paint thinner and a vegetable brush to deactivate the stripper and remove the gray color caused by the wire brush, wiping everything clean with a shop towel.

Step 4:  When stripped area is dry, sand with the orbital sander with a 60 grit pad, sanding down to raw wood and removing any remaining ashy places.

Step 5:  Resand area with the orbital sander and with an 80 grit pad.

Step 6:  Mix linseed oil and turpentine mix at a rate of about 2/3 linseed to 1/3 turpentine.  Apply to prepped section with a paint brush and let it soak in for several hours.  Adding the turpentine thins the linseed oil and allows deeper penetration of the oil into the wood.  Adding the oil to the wood intensifies the richness and grain of each species of wood far beyond the results obtained by skipping this step.  Once most of the oil has soaked into the wood, wipe the excess off with a shop towel or that area will become gummy.

Step 7:  Apply another coat of linseed/turpentine mix.  Allow to penetrate for several hours then spread the remaining oil evenly across the finished area.  If desired, apply additional coats using the same process.

Step 8:  I applied 2 coats of Minwax Tung Oil Finish to the completed sections to seal those areas from the dirt, dust, and shoeprints and also to begin applying the sheen.  The MinWax tung oil dries solid like a poly or varnish, but not as hard so it makes a good temporary finish on something like a floor.  I use it on furniture as a finish coat all the time as furniture doesn’t get the hard use that a floor does.  I really like the stuff.

Step 9:  Once the entire floor was stripped and had a couple of coats of tung oil on it, I allowed it to dry for a few days then went over the whole thing with varnish.

Step 10:  Then varnish was allowed to dry for a week, then I sanded the whole thing down with the orbital sander and a 220 grit pad which knocked all the little nubby bits and dust particles that had settled and left a silky smooth surface on which to apply the next coat.

Step 11:  I vacuumed the floor then ran over the whole thing with a tack cloth to remove the extremely fine sanding dust that the vac didn’t pick up.

Step 12:  Before applying the finish coat, I ran over the area again with the tack cloth in small sections, maybe 18” wide and the length of the room, immediately before beginning to apply the varnish.  For this coat, I thought I’d experiment with the 9” foam roller which worked out pretty well.  After rolling on a section, I used a brush to help even out the finish, removed the bubbles, and knock off the “orange peel” effect that the roller tends to produce.  I did the whole thing in sections about 18” wide, the length of the room, and immediately cleaned with the tack cloth prior to the application of each section.   It worked great and got the job done in a more timely manner than using the brush alone.

Step 13: (optional) Given that there are several layers of protective coats on the floor already, I could forgo an additional coat.  We have a huge mess we need to make in there when we work the rest of the room.  There will be a lot of dust and grit that will likely create tiny scratches in the finish.  I’m considering doing one more coat once we’re finished making the mess.  I like at least 3 coats of finish on a floor, so at some point yet to be determined, I want to put on one more coat.  I imagine I’ll decide to do another one next week and maybe a fourth once the room is done.  We’ll see.

If we were going for a semi-gloss or satin finish, the final coat is the time to apply it.  I had heard this once from an old refinisher and I also discovered it on a project that I worked a few years ago as well.  Must be some truth to it.  Gloss finishes have no additives for changing the characteristic of the product from a visual perspective.  Semi-gloss, satins, and flats contain additives that produce a duller finish which is why it is important to stir them often while you’re using them.  Those additives add a little bit of a milky (for lack of a better word for it) quality with each coat that is applied.  Several coats of a non-gloss slightly obscure the characteristic of the wood which reduces its richness.  Applying the undercoats in a gloss and the final coat in a non-gloss helps retain the clarity of the wood characteristics while giving the satin of semi-gloss finish desired. 

The project I was working on when I discovered this was a walnut colored faux finished door.  The gloss was just too loud, so I decided to go with a satin.  There is a little pool in the corner of one panel where a small drip occurred.  It’s a tiny bit milky and is really bugging me, but I remembered what the guy had told me.  Had I been working with something that was lighter in color, I never would have noticed, but looking at that area with the thicker finish, it all made perfect, provable sense.   Just in case you were dying to know.  :)


  1. wowsers!!!! that's a LOT of work, but it looks amazing!

  2. That is one gorgeous floor!!!!! (I'm Charcoalsmom, don't know how to comment with that name.)

  3. Christine,

    Wow, what a difference from what it was before. You are such a stickler for details, but it all pays off in all the projects you've done here! Eventually I'll need to refinish all my floors (not parquet, just plain old oak strips) and I'll remember your technique. I would just love to live in your house! It has great details, and you are really doing it proud by the work you're putting into it. SUPER GREAT JOB!