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What would you do with this floor?

We bought a 1906 house 6 months ago and pulled up the 40 yearold carpet to find Beautiful oak floors. They were even still kind of shiney. There are a few problems though...

This is the floor in the livingroom. It looks dark in some spots and light in others. There may have been a rug down at some point.
What would you do with this floor? I love the color and texture of the old floor and I don't want it to look too new.

Re: What would you do with this floor?

Here is another picture...

The first was a close up of the edge in the far corner.

Blue RidgeParkway
Re: What would you do with this floor?

if the carpet was 40 years old stands to reason the finish is at least that old.

clean the floor a small area at a time with mineral spirits and super fine (four zeros) refinishing steel wool pads. change the pads frequently as they will collect dirt and grime. do not pour mineral spirits on the floor but pour a bit in a glass bowl and dip the steel wool in it and squeeze it through. wipe the area clean with cotton towels (that you later put in a bucket filled with water outdoors). buff dry with lambs wool or pieces of an old wool shirt or blanket.

see what you have when you're done. you might even have a penetrating finish that was previously waxed.

Re: What would you do with this floor?

In your photos it looks like you have a shadow line. At one time the floor was partially covered by a rug. The rug shaded the area under it but the outside edge was exposed to UV from sunlight and is slightly bleached. You can either live with the shading until it evens out, cover that area with a rig again, or refinish the floor. If you can live with it, I would just clean the floor, buff it, and is necessary apply a new coat of finish, or try a floor rejuvenater.

Re: What would you do with this floor?


1906 house *likely* had a shellac finish on the floors and other woodwork. This would be easy to confirm by testing removal of the finish (in an inconspicuous area) with some denatured alcohol. Thoroughly wet/puddle a small area and allow to soak for 2 minutes or so. Then see if the finish will wipe off. If it does, it's shellac.

If it is shellac, then one could strip the finish from the entire floor this way without altering the "age" of the floor. Shellac is easy to apply again. Work fast and don't "re-brush" an area after a minute or so. Just keep moving on to the next area rapidly......so as to keep a wet working edge. Apply several coats allowing a minimum of a couple hours in between. (Allow more time between coats with each additional coat) Each new coat will melt/fuse into the previous one without any sanding between coats. (Do vac up any dust/dirt though)

Repairs are just as easy....and a good thing too. Shellac is not as water or chemical resistant as "modern" finishes, but the ease of rejuvenation and spot-repairs is as good as it gets.

(I suspect that the wandering edge of the finish "damage/cloudiness" around the perimeter is the result of repeated moppings of the exposed perimeter with water and detergent of some type...which would also be consistent with a shellac finish. Impossible to say with certainty from here, but that's my SWAG.)

If you are of the gambler-type inclination and discover that this is shellac.......you could try overcoating some of the perimeter with new shellac and see how that looks. If it works, you could save yourself the task of removing all the finish from the entire floor at this time. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Or....if it is shellac...you could try using denatured alcohol to strip just the cloudy perimeter area and then recoat that with shellac. *Should/could* blend in. However...it's impossible to tell from the pics whether this was clear/white/blonde shellac or amber/orange shellac ....or garnet....or whatever. Some experimenting with various colors may be required.

Blue RidgeParkway
Re: What would you do with this floor?

Edwardian vintage house/floor most likely had originally a tung oil slow curing varnish and hot poured wax finish brushed then buffed.

it seems obvious in both rooms they originally had central large square/rectangle (maybe oval in living room) rugs anchored or carpet that was not wall to wall then later the living room had carpet installed with a waffle type pad i can see the marks. when the perimeter was exposed it had more wear. you can see the edge lines in the dinning room and see diagonal tape marks at the corner in the living room.

the extra thick blotch in the living room was probably not only covered originally by the area rug or carpet but also protected by a sofa or other large piece of furniture.

although it could be shellac i doubt would have survived in any form. it could also be oil based poly or a penetrating finish that was waxed, cleaned, renewed with a combination of wax, turpentine and mineral spirits or other solvent or varnish. i think is most likely due to amber yellowing in the center of the floor in living room and overall look of dining room that the original floor finish was varnish made of slow curing tung oil and then hot waxed and buffed it may have been maintained that way then a lot of wax was poured before the last area carpet or rug was placed, then was carpeted or a new finish could have been done sometime before the room was carpeted wall to wall (this wasn't common to do until after WWII and wasn't popular until the late 50s). could also be a fabulon finish from the 50s or 60s in the center of the living room that would require special precautions. the alkyd resins and polys didn't show up till the late 30s at the earliest.

ammonia often used to spot clean traffic areas of wool carpet and in some amount in carpet cleaning could have also broken down the old style varnish/wax finish in the high traffic areas worn in the living room so would water. if they used dry foam to clean old carpet the residue black stuff should come off easily with the mineral spirits and steel wool method i described above. same for old rug tack adhesive, dirt that worked through carpet pad, and decomposed rubberized foam from that waffle carpet pad.

you can test the shiney finish with water, ammonia, lacquer thinner (acetone-based nail polish remover), rubbing alcohol, turpintine, mineral spirits, toulene, and a paper-based Q-tip (cotton swab).

the blackened and dull area in the living room main traffic area parallel to the wall the wood may have darkened due to water and chemical exposure and the deteriorating finish i hope it is just grime and old wax.


click on this link for an article that describes exactly how you can test and clean your floor and how you use the various liquids to test the finish so you can clean it.


it does a very good job of explaining the entire process. read through the whole article before you start. good luck.

p.s. for fun I link to a chapter in daily and weekly care of an edwardian dining room with wood floor. see also the second chapter on dining room and pantry chores. you'll notice a lot of work both daily and weekly to the maintenance of the exposed floor and area carpet/rug. http://www.alexanderpalace.org/waitress/index.html?c=3

Re: What would you do with this floor?

Well, it turns out that the floor was waxed. We just gave it a big time cleaning and then put down a liquid paste wax. We buffed it with a floor buffer with an old towel on it. The floor looks Great!!
Now I just have to work on the dining room... That is the worst floor in the house! Some parts are naked wood because I stripped paint and wax and stain off it. Other parts are beautiful, some parts have been stripped by cat pee...
It's a mess!! I'll put up pictures later.


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