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Getting The Best Out Of Wooden Floors

May 31st, 2011

I was recently offered the option of free rent in exchange for refurbishing original wooden floorboards. Like many homeowners, the landlord believed the job too difficult for the unskilled. However, there are only three basic steps to follow to achieve polished wooden flooring from unfinished timber floorboards.

Step 1: Preparing the wooden floor surface. Check closely for any damaged timber. This will need repairing before you start otherwise the sander will simply make the damage worse. Ensure that all screws are tighted as much as possible and that neither they or any nail heads protrude above the surface of the floorboard. Pace the floor area listening for any squeaks and feeling for any movement. Noisy or moving boards result from distortions or bends in the boards. Do not use nails to fasten them down as they will move as soon as pressure is applied to the floorboard. Instead, drill holes and use screws. The final thing to check for is any gaps between the floorboards. You can use a silicon wood filler to fill the gaps or you can use the more traditional papier mache. Papier mache is easy to make. Add torn newspaper to a paste of water and flour plus a dollop of wood stain the same colour as your existing boards. Add small pieces of newspaper and and mix until all the paper is wet through. Using a credit card or similar, push the papier mache into the gaps. Make sure that the top of the mixture is below the surface of the floorboard.

Step 2: Sanding the floor boards. There is quite a range of wooden floor sanders available for hire. Typically, one would use a belt sander, which is a large machine almost like a lawnmower that you push along your wooden floors. You start with a chunky grained sandpaper and work your way through to a fine grade sandpaper which polishes the wood and leaves it ready for staining or varnishing. Corners and awkward spaces can be finished with a small hand held sander. The machinery rental firm you hire your sander from will be able to advise you regarding the type of sander (s) you require, the amount and grades of sandpaper you will need and also the amount of time you will need to hire the equipment for to complete your sanding project. It is worth reading the instructions accompanying your new tool carefully before you begin and also practising if possible. Otherwise, it is recommended that you start sanding in the largest and least complicated wooden floor space possible, to give you the opportunity to get accustomed to your machine to avoid accidents.

Step 3: Applying a wooden flooring finish. Whilst your wooden floors may appear perfect as soon as you have completed sanding, the necessary finishing touch for exquisite wooden floors is to apply a final protective layer. Wax, wood stain, varnish or lacquer; the choice is yours. Decide whether you want a matt or gloss finish and whether you will leave the wood its natural colour or if you would prefer to introduce some colour to the boards. Don’t forget that the right finish for one floor space may not be best for another. Polishing and protecting your freshly sanded boards with traditional beeswax will bring out the grain in the wood. It is also cheap and easy to reapply is high use areas such as hallways and it smells great. However, it takes time and effort to achieve a polished and even covering. Rather than simply applying a varnish, decide if the natural wood colour does the most form each room. It is worth taking into account the amount of light entering a space, the size of the room and what atmosphere you would like to achieve in the space. Small bathrooms for example are brightened with a contemporary white stain which freshens up the space. In darker areas it is worth using a gloss to reflect any available light. In high tread areas, it can be better to use a matt finish as gloss will wear off quickly. Large floor spaces can be warmed with a darker or pinker than natural finish. If you decide to lacquer your finished floorboards, don’t forget to purchase an extra tin. You will need this in the future to cover chips and scrapes.

Restoring timber floorboards is one of the most rewarding and satisfying aspects of renovating older buildings and installing new wooden floors adds a timeless quality to any building.

Sara Leadbetter is a Business Advisor based in New Zealand who specialises in Internet Marketing. This article was written about her work with Swinard Wooden Floors specialists in the installation of wooden flooring based in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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