Interior Wooden Doors – Top Tips on Care and Maintenance

September 15th, 2014

Interior wooden doors have a hard time of things. They have to put up with everyday knocks, bumps, shoe scuffs, greasy hand prints, dirt from passing pets and more, every day of the year, and they’re still expected to look good. If you’ve bought a set of lovely new interior wood doors, or are thinking about renovating your existing doors, our top tips will help you bring out the best in them so they look wonderful as well as protecting and preserving them for longer.

Antique Walnut Interior Doors

Antique Walnut Internal Doors – from simonemarro.it

Choosing the Right Interior Wooden Doors and Interior Wood Treatment

If you haven’t looked already, you’ll be amazed at the number of door sizes, styles and construction types. There are two, four, six and eight panel doors made of oak, pine, walnut and cherry, to name just a few, plus solid wood or hollow construction doors, and they all come either finished or unfinished, ie. pre-oiled, waxed or varnished… or left natural. As you can imagine making the right choice can be a challenge, and most people tend to base their final decision on the appearance and cost.

About Pre-finished Interior Doors

If you’ve chosen pre-finished doors, you can usually find out which stain, if any, and oil, wax or varnish finish the doors have been treated with by checking the manufacturer’s paperwork. If not, it’s a good idea to ask the seller or even the manufacturer themselves. It’s also worth asking if they can either supply the wood stain and finishing products used on the doors, or know someone who can. It comes in handy to have some handy, just in case the door ever gets damaged.

About Unfinished Interior Doors

Unfinished doors come with a world of possibilities aside from the door style itself. There are countless final finish choices, everything from a traditional natural oak look with a matt or soft satin sheen to something unusual, even unique. And there’s a huge variety of wood finishing products to use on interior doors, both clear and coloured, including varnishes, wood oils, waxes and stains.

Varnished interior wooden doors

Varnished Interior Wooden Doors – from TompkinsConstruction.com

Things To Be Aware Of When Finishing Internal Doors

A common issue we encounter at Wood Finishes Direct are calls from people who’ve bought veneered wooden interior doors, only to discover the door label advises against some types of wood finish. Sometimes they warn against specific products, for example Danish Oil, Teak Oil and other types of wood oil. Other times the manufacturer’s warnings cover a range of products including oils, varnishes and waxes. But does it really mean you can’t use the products and if so, do you risk damaging the wood?  It’s an interesting point, and one worth covering.

What is a veneer?

Veneered wooden doors are usually made from a hollow or solid wooden core. The core is usually particle board or medium density fibreboard, AKA MDF. A layer of high quality wood veneer is attached to the core of the door using powerful glues and bonding agents. The quality of modern veneered doors is usually down to the type of core, the type of wood and the thickness of the veneer.

About 20th century mass production

Wood veneers have been used for centuries to produce high quality finishes. But mass production in the mid to late 20th century saw quality take a tumble as the drive for cheaper, thinner veneers and glues took hold. This sometimes led to the veneers de-laminating, in other words peeling off the doors in extreme heat or when certain products were used. This is why so many manufacturers today include disclaimers on their products to discourage the use of products they believe might have an effect on the veneer. It’s an historical thing.

Stained and varnished wood interior

Stained and Varnished wood interior – from sevenspaint.com

Why do manufacturers still warn against using wood finishes on veneered doors?

More than 90% of veneered doors these days come from the Far East. We think it’s highly likely that all the manufacturers in the Far East have taken the lead from one large original producer, giving warnings about wood finishing products without checking whether the risk is genuine. Unlike the manufacturers, we’re well placed to talk about wood finishes – it’s our area of expertise. We supply a vast range of different products from different manufacturers, all of whom agree that stains, waxes, varnishes, oils, paints and so on DO NOT penetrate deeper than 1mm into a veneer.

Why does the thickness of the veneer matter? In reality, modern veneers are rarely less than a millimetre thick and because modern wood finishes never penetrate more than a millimetre into the surface of the wood, there’s very little chance of them interacting with the glue that bonds the veneer to the core of the door. In short, unless the veneer is very badly worn indeed, modern wood finish products simply can’t penetrate deeply enough to cause the veneer to peel off.

Modern wood finishing products designed for veneers

In our experience we’ve never come across anyone using a wood oil, wax or varnish that has caused the veneer to peel off a door. It just doesn’t happen. In fact companies like Osmo and our own Manns brand produce door oils and other wood finishes specifically designed for solid and veneered interior doors.

There’s just one common sense thing to bear in mind: while we can say with confidence that the products we sell are perfectly fine to use on interior doors, using them against the manufacturers advice will invalidate the warranty that comes with the door.

Reclaimed 1930s interior wood doors

Reclaimed 1930s Interior Wood Doors – from chesterpaintstripping.com

Always do a test patch first

Our advice if you want to stain, oil, wax or varnish any sort of door? Always do a test area first, ideally on an edge or on the door bottom where the wood can be cleaned or sanded if the product doesn’t deliver the finish you were expecting.

Follow the manufacturers instructions on the packaging, take the time needed to do a really good job and you can’t go far wrong. After all, because you use your doors dozens of times a day, it’s important to be happy with the end result.

Need expert advice?

We don’t just sell all the stuff you need to make a fantastic job of maintaining and renovating wooden interior doors. We provide expert advice, too. And when you use our Freephone number, asking the experts costs nothing.

Which Applicator Do I Use For My Wood Finish Project?

September 9th, 2014

All you have to do is check out our wood finishing tools and accessories department to see just how many different types of applicator there are to choose from. And we sell a vast array of wood finishing products. So how do you know which applicators to use for which wood finishes? We thought it’d be useful to take a look at what’s available, when to use it and why.

Beautiful Decking Stain

Beautifully applied decking stain – from deckingstaintoday.blogspot.com

Why Buy the Best Quality Wood Finishing Supplies?

Of course you could grab the nearest grotty rag or brush and make do. But it’ll make your life a whole lot easier if you buy good quality applicators, all of which are designed for different types of wood finishes. They’re specifically made for the job, created with your health, safety and comfort in mind. They make the right appearance easier to achieve. And you’ll end up with a much better wood finish altogether. You wouldn’t use a wire brush instead of a toothbrush. The same applies to wood finishing accessories. Your project is worth it, and so are you!

Our extensive product range includes specialist brushes, applicators, tools and rollers, to make your wood finishing project easier and more satisfying.

How we help you make the right choice of applicator for the job

We’ve included basic usage information on the product page for every wood finishes product we sell. This means:

  • If you already have a reasonably good idea of what you’re doing, you get the picture straight away
  • If you’re a novice, you get enough information to either search Google for the fine detail, visit our blog to see if there’s a guide there, check out the manufacturer’s guide or call our experts and ask them for help via our freephone number.

The applicators you need for different kinds of wood finishes

Abrasive products

Including sandpapers, steel wool rolls, denibbing and finishing pads, abrasives vary widely depending on the manufacturer. The best-in-breed abrasives ensure you make light work of sanding, whether it’s floor sanding, adding personality and patina to shabby chic furniture or tackling a wooden door in need of restoration. You can use abrasives on bare wood or between coats of varnish, lacquer, oil or wax.

Brushes

It’s always wise to buy brushes designed specifically for wood finishing. Depending on the project, you can choose from hand buffing brushes, foam brushes, floor brushes and the particularly high quality Mako brush, which comes with special hollow bristles to make application easier.

Brush application of varnish

Brush Application – from summitpaints.ca

Hand buffing and drill buffing brushes let you create a stunning deep shine and lustre with ease. Our low cost yet highly effective disposable foam brushes let you make a lovely, clean straight edge without leaving bristles behind. And floor brushes are perfect for applying any kind of oil, stain or varnish to large areas.

Floor applicators

Osmo Floor Brush Applicator

Osmo Floor Brush Applicator

Floor applicators are brilliant when you have a big area to cover. There’s no need to get down on your hands and knees when you use a clever gadget like the Bona Mop, which makes applying their wood finish products a dream, or our floor mop with its amazing ability to get right into the corners. Then there’s the Osmo brush, perfect for wood oils and useable time and time again. There’s a brush for every project, and using the right tool for the job will make the whole process easier and more enjoyable.

Rollers

Mako Microfibre Roller Sleeve

Mako Microfibre Roller Sleeve

A good roller helps you deliver a fast, professional finish, perfect for wood oils, stains and varnishes. We recommend our good quality microfibre and mohair roller sleeves. They’re particularly sturdy, last for multiple applications when you look after them properly and unlike some, the ergonomic handle comes with a convenient, quick and simple fit system.

Cloths

An old rag just won’t cut the mustard. You need a high quality stockinette cloth, microfibre cloth, foam sponge or cotton sheets for easy finishing, and picking the right one is very important.

Cotton cloths are absorbent, perfect for applying oils and stains. Microfibre cloths have thousands of tiny fibres per square centimetre, so they work really well with wood cleaning products. There’s a specialist cloth for the job whether you’re applying, buffing or cleaning a wooden surface, and there’s a product designed for every finish whether it’s oil, a wax wood finish, lacquer, varnish or stain.

How to decide which wood finishing supplies you need

Our first piece of advice is this: always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Other than that, here are a few basic guidelines to help you make the right decision.

Solvent-based varnishes and lacquers

You want to get as much product into the wood as you can and spread it quickly and smoothly without making puddles. Traditionally, a China bristle brush, made from hollow hog hairs, was the way to go, or a lambswool or synthetic wool applicator on a block of wood. On the downside, new natural lambswool applicators can shed fibres and need a good comb or wash before use.

The latest applicator technology makes life much easier. A T-bar applicator, for example, is great for applying any finish, even fiddly bits like door frames, and tends to be faster than a lambswool applicator.

You can also apply the product with a roller. It’s fast and means you don’t have to mess with the finish too much, which can spoil the final effect. Different manufacturers recommend application with a natural bristle brush, nylon pad or even a spray gun. Always check the instructions.

Water based varnishes and lacquers

A special floor finish applicator is ideal for floors, and microfibre rollers come in two sizes. The 25cm version is ideal for large flat areas like the tops of furniture. The 10cm size is ideal for the areas surrounding a door, skirting etcetera. Fixtures like picture rails and stair spindles tend to be easier to finish with the Mako brush.

To apply soft liquid wax or thicker paste waxes like Supreme Wax, simply rub it on and wipe it off with a cloth. Some waxes respond better to being brushed on. If it’s a wipe-on wax, a stockinette cloth makes a good applicator. Slightly rough wood or wood with a slightly rough finish can be waxed and smoothed by applying the wax with a chunk of fine steel wool. Wipe the excess wax off with a clean piece of stockinette and, for extra shine, buff it with stockinette too. There isn’t a limit to how long a wax polish can be left before buffing, but generally speaking if you leave it for more than a day it’ll take more elbow grease. 

Wax finishes

To apply liquid or paste wax, all you do is rub it on and wipe it off (having said that, check the packaging because some products are designed to be brushed on). If it’s a wipe-on wax, a pad or a chunk of fine steel wool makes a good applicator. Wipe the wax off with paper towels and, for extra shine, buff it with a soft cloth. The longer you leave wax to dry, the more shiny the finished result will be.

Oil finishes

Apply your oil thinly using a soft brush or cloth, following the grain. Let it soak in as directed on the packaging, then even out any excess with a dry cotton cloth. Leave it for as long as the manufacturer recommends before carrying out a light ‘denib’, which simply means removing any trapped dirt or dust from the surface before adding the next coat.  You can either leave the final coat as it is or buff it to a sheen.

Stains and dyes

You apply water based stains and dyes with a natural or synthetic bristle brush, foam applicator or cotton cloth. Again, it’s vital to check the manufacturer’s instructions. Because solvent based stains and dyes can dissolve foam you’ll need a Mako brush or microfibre roller.

Ask the team

If the packaging and instructions don’t tell you which applicators you can and can’t use, and there’s nothing on Google, you can always call our crack team of wood finishing experts and they’ll be pleased to put you straight.

Oak Floor Maintenance – Top Tips for a Stunning Finish

September 2nd, 2014

Oak floors are hugely popular, no surprise when the wood is so beautiful, durable and easy to work with. This week we thought it’d be useful to take a look at oak floor maintenance, exploring how to tackle warped boards, fill gaps, finish and re-finish your oak wood floor to gleaming perfection.

Vintage Oak Floorboards

Vintage Oak Floorboards from earlyoakspecialists.co.uk

How to maintain an oak floor

Before we look at the real thing, here’s some information about oak laminate flooring, a product with an 8mm or so ‘skin’ of oak glued to a core of HDF, AKA High Density Fibreboard. It’s oak… but at the same time it isn’t.

About oak laminate flooring

Oak laminate is made using advance DPL (Direct Pressure method) technology, where the various layers are assembled first then squashed together into the right position. The best quality laminate flooring looks so good it’s hard to tell the difference between it and 100% oak boards.

Laminates are scratch and mark-resistant, warm, durable and very easy to maintain. There’s an excellent guide on the UK Flooring Direct website. Some oak laminates are guaranteed for as long as 25 years, and occasionally there’s a lifetime guarantee. But like all wood products, it’s all down to good ongoing maintenance.

One very important thing to remember: before you do anything at all to your oak flooring, is find out whether it’s laminate or solid wood. Over sanding can potentially ruin laminate finishes. Solid wood floors, on the other hand, respond beautifully to sanding.

Plastic Laminate Flooring v Engineered Oak Laminate Flooring

Which type of laminate flooring do you have, real wood or plastic? Plastic or photographic laminate floors are also popular. Their quality varies greatly with the cheapest versions being nothing more than a photographic image of wood  glued and then sealed onto a core or base, usually made of compressed paper or wood fibreboard.

At the other end of the spectrum you have high quality synthetic wood, made from very hard and durable plastic coatings. These are quality graded and tend to be anything from 0.5mm to 2mm thick. The advantage of plastic laminate flooring is they’re completely waterproof, making them perfect in bathrooms and other high moisture areas. The disadvantage of plastic laminates is that although minor scratches, dents and gouges can be repaired with a wax filler stick, much the same as a wood repair, they can’t be sanded and refinished like a solid oak or an engineered oak floor can.

About re-finishing a solid oak floor

Oak flooring maintenance and refinishing can be hard work. But if you’re fortunate enough to have a smart, real oak floor, it’s the only real way to return it to its original glory. So gird your loins and prepare for the long haul! Here’s how.

Getting rid of curling and warping

If your floor has been wet and dried several times, or is very old, it might have warped or curled. No problem – solid oak planks are almost always thick enough to take a really good, thorough, aggressive sanding to mitigate the effects of warping and curling. Be confident, have courage and sand ’til it’s suitably flat.

If it’s severely wonky, you can make diagonal passes with the drum sander, using a very coarse paper, until the levels look right. Just bear in mind that one of the charms of real wood is its natural finish. If you want smooth 100% perfection, you might be better off choosing a laminate in the first place.

Old Oak Wood Flooring

Ancient Oak Wood Flooring

Filling gaps in a wooden floor

You can use oak dust collected from sanding to fill the gaps in your floor. You mix the fine dust generated during the floor sanding process with a wood filler gel to create a paste, which you work into the gaps a bit like grouting tiles. Here’s a video showing you how.

YouTube Preview Image

They’re using pine dust to fill gaps in a pine floor, but it works exactly the same way with oak.

You can also buy special filling products, for example a colour matched filler which you simply squeeze into the gaps before cleaning off any excess.  Bona Gap Master, for example, comes in 14 colours and is specially designed for the purpose.

Sanding to perfection

  • If the floor is waxed or polished, use a wax and polish remover first to remove them otherwise it will very quickly clog up any sanding belts or disks.
  • Fill any gaps and cracks before you start sanding, simply because it’s easier to fill the old finish than it is to fill the wood after it has been sanded and keeps the sanding required to a minimum.
  • You usually need a couple of machines: a drum sander for the main floor area and an edger for the edges.
  • Unless the floor is very uneven, has many many layers of varnish or has the thick black, tar like substance around the edges of the room, try to avoid sandpaper coarser of 60 grit or less, which can cause deep scratches. The more coarse the first sand, the more passes you will need to do with progressively finer sanding grits
  • If your floor is level and the finish comes off with ease, you might only need to do two passes: one with 80 grit and one with 100.
  • Because small scratches in oak blend in with the grain and are usually taken care of by your final finish, there’s often no need to finish off with a 120 grit paper. The floor might be smooth enough with an 80 grit finish. Applying Meths to a test areas is a good way to highlight any sanding imperfections and indicate if further sanding is required. The purple colour of the meths will show up any pig tails (sanding swirls) in the wood before it evaporates, returning the wood to its bare sanded state. If a non solvent approach is preferred, water can be used but this will swell the grain which will then require a further light sanding.
  • The amount of wood that a drum sander will remove from the surface of the wood depends on a number of factors including the type of machine being used, the grit and type of sanding belt, the type of wood being sanding i.e. Pine, oak or other and the number of passes being made with the sander.
  • The edger will take care of hard-to-reach areas around the edge, although you will probably need to get down and dirty with a floor scraper and mini-hand sander for the really fiddly bits.

How to re-stain your oak floor

Now for the fun bit. This is where your floor suddenly starts to look really beautiful.

Oak accepts stains really well because it’s naturally pale. You can apply most good quality oak stains with a rag. Oil and water based finishes are both great to use on oak – it’s entirely up to you. The best way to avoid making nasty streaks, bubbles and brush marks is to use a floor finish applicator, which makes it easy to follow the grain.

You usually need just 1 or 2 coats of floor stain, with a light sand or denib in between coats, ideally using a floor buffer and sanding screen. Remember to let each coat dry fully before applying the next, and remove any dust using a vacuum cleaner so it doesn’t mess up the next coat.

What about varnishing a solid oak floor?

Polyurethane varnish is a popular finishing touch because it’s available in a range of sheens from matt through to super gloss and delivers a lovely deep finish and a fine lustre. Most modern water based varnishes give a clear finish unlike the super-shiny ‘toffee apple’ look of past decades. Depending on the on-pack instructions, you can either use a sheep wool or microfibre application tool. Most varnish products recommend a minimum of two coats, others may recommend more than two. Whatever you do, follow the instructions to the letter – the last thing you need is to have to sand it all off and start again.

Canadian Red Oak Flooring

Canadian Red Oak Flooring from sandandseal.co.uk

What if your floor has water damage?

Dark, unsightly stains are a sign of water damage, often just a matter of long-term seepage and involving moisture rather than actual flooding. When the finish is old and damaged, the moisture penetrates the wood. The only sensible way to get rid of the stains is to sand the old finish off then bleach the wood back to its original shade. The most popular wood bleaching agents are hydrogen peroxide and oxalic acid, both of which are easy to find. It’s worth noting that wood dust containing bleach is toxic, so it’s important to wear a dust musk or other breathing apparatus.

What about a wax finish?

Many modern hardwood floors come with a polyurethane or urethane/acrylic topcoat which protects the wood, in which case it shouldn’t need to be waxed.

If you love a wax finish, your floor will look great. But regular maintenance is important, since waxes don’t offer the same durability as varnish or hard wax oil. They tend to be a better choice on older woods or floor boards, where fine scratches and so on are less noticeable. On a new floor, a scratch in wax can stand out like a sore thumb.

Hardwood floor wax is free from silicone, lemon oil, ammonia, bleach, vinegar and tung oil, all of which can stain the wood or discolour it. Make sure you get proper hardwood floor wax. There’s a choice of wax types. Paste wax tends to require more hard work, while liquid wax needs a bit less elbow grease. And there are some very important caveats:

  • It’s not ideal to use wax on raw, natural planks if you plan to varnish at a later date. Waxes can be removed at a later date but it requires a ‘Wax and Polish Remover’ and lots of elbow grease – Waxes are commonly used to stain floors different colours and to maintain the colour and appearance of very old waxed floors.
  • Make sure distressed or reclaimed wood floors have been properly prepared before applying floor wax

Your first stop is to remove the existing wax finish, which you can do using wax and polish remover. Just grab a mop, some rags and prepare for some hard yet satisfying work. Again, it’s really important to follow the instructions to the letter. A sander can be used but the wax will melt with the friction and will quickly clog the paper meaning more sandpaper will be required.

You don’t have to stain the stripped surface before you wax, but you can if you like. It’s an aesthetic decision rather than a practical one. The floor can first be stained with a water based wood stain then waxed with a clear wax or alternatively, can be waxed with a coloured wax to both colour and protect the timber in one process.

Waxing usually involves several layers. It depends on the manufacturer’s instructions, but you almost always have to apply the wax in thin layers, with regular back and forwards strokes at an angle to the joints. When you do it this way you fill the gaps between the planks with wax, which can help prevent noisy creaking.

If you like a deep shine, fit a buffing pad to your sander… or just apply more elbow grease. The more you polish, the more it’ll shine.

Stunning Oak Flooring from peakoak.co.uk

Beautiful Oak Flooring

Need help? We’re always pleased to provide expert advice

Like all wood projects, maintaining oak flooring comes with risks. If you’re a beginner or first timer and could do with some solid, sensible, expert advice, feel free to call us. We’ll be delighted to help you pick exactly the right products for the job in hand and provide insights into exactly how to use them to their best effect. We’re on call 8am to half five, Monday to Saturday.

Is Your Wood Ready for the Ravages of Winter?

August 29th, 2014

Autumn seems to have come early this year in Britain, with much of August windy, wet and gloomy. Is your wood ready for winter? We thought now was a good time to look at why you should protect and preserve your wood from the coming season’s ravages… including cracks, blistering, peeling, rotting, flaking and warping.

UK Autumn Weather

UK Autumn Weather

Exterior Wood Preservative – Why bother?

You might think summer is a good time for exterior wood. But after a long, hot season of bright sunshine and powerful UV rays, occasional high humidity, heavy showers and summer thunder storms, wood left in the outdoors has already taken a hammering. Which means it really needs some TLC before winter sets in and makes things even worse.

What is wood’s worst enemy? It’s water. Water causes wood to swell, damages buildings and furniture and even shortens their useful lives. Which means letting it all go to hell in a handbasket can be an expensive business.

Water damage to exterior wood door

Water Damaged Wooden Exterior Door – from grayslakehomeinspector.com

Mould is another big nasty, and it can take hold of wood remarkably fast. All it takes is a light frost and any areas exposed by mould will soon be in big trouble.

How can you mitigate the effects of all this potentially disastrous British weather? Waterproofing is the bunny. As you’d expect we stock all manner of proven products to protect exterior wood throughout the dark winter months, including clever waterproof coatings that inhibit fungus and mould while letting the wood breathe.

What’s the weather forecast for winter 2014/15?

Last winter the UK didn’t get much snow. In some places in the south east the temperatures stayed above freezing for the entire season, although it was the stormiest winter for a couple of decades. The year before, 2012/13, was one of the coldest winters for decades. So there’s no place for wood treatment complacency.

While it’s still impossible to predict what the winter will be like with any real accuracy, or to any level of detail, the weather boffins can make educated guesses. So what’s it going to be like this winter?

According to the UK weather forecast website, which is sensibly vague:

“We have a devolving El Nino, which won’t guarantee a cold winter, but our winters during an El Niño tend to be drier than average. The last El Nino winter we experienced was 2009/10, which turned out to be a very cold winter, so the chances are that a repeat of 2013/14 will be very unlikely. There are some signals that this winter will possibly have some colder periods, however this is not a given with this time frame.”

In other words, nobody really knows! Which means there’s no getting away from it… ideally, you need to get busy with the preparation in readiness for wood preservatives before the clocks go back. How come? The later you leave it, the colder and wetter it’ll be and the longer it’ll take for the wood to dry so you can add a good wood preserving product.

What’s the best way to prepare exterior wood for wood preserver?

There’s no getting away from it. Preparation is everything. Wood treatment and wood preservative products will only penetrate into the surface of the wood if the wood is both clean and dry.

Almost all exterior wood will respond beautifully to a simple, thorough clean with warm, soapy water and a soft brush or cloth, and you can’t go far wrong with a little squirt of washing up liquid. Just make sure you thoroughly rinse the surface and let it dry completely before applying your chosen wood treatment.

What does mildew look like?

Mildew often looks like little black specks on the surface of the wood. But then again, so does dirt and soot. How can you tell if it’s mildew? Apply a tiny amount of household bleach with a cloth. If the spots lighten quickly, it’s mildew. If they stay dark, it’s something else.

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What about dry rot?

If, like last winter, it pees down for what feels like months on end, you might find you’re the unhappy owner of a home riddled with dry rot, which is actually far from dry. It loves moisture and totally destroys wood.

The experts recommend you do an annual inspection, checking for leaks, cracks, gaps and unpainted areas on the outside of your home. Find the places where water gets in, caulk or seal them, paint them with preserver or wood paint and you could save yourself an absolute fortune in the long run.

Black Mould on Exterior Wood

Black Mould on Exterior Wood – from city-data.com

How can you tell your exterior wood is wet?

Easy: it will look and feel wet.

What about vertical wood surfaces?

Horizontal and vertical wood surfaces both suffer in winter. But as a rule, horizontal surfaces need more maintenance than vertical, especially high traffic areas like garden decks.

What about old wood stain?

When an old layer of wood stain starts to break down, the fibres of the wood surface can become loose. You can take the fibres off the surface by lightly sanding, leaving it all fresh and lovely, ready for a new coat of stain or whatever.

Which wood preserving product to choose?

There’s such a wide choice, everything from tough exterior wood paint in a huge variety of colours to specialist wood stain, decking paint, shed and fence paint. It depends on the type of wood, its purpose and your taste. You might pick an outdoor wood paint in a jewel-like colour to give your outdoor space a beautiful boost when it’s all dim and dark outside. Or go natural and use a product designed to enhance the material’s considerable natural beauty.

If you want expert advice from someone who knows our products inside out we’re always happy to help, and because you can reach us on a Freephone number it’ll cost nothing except your time.

7 more handy wood-related tips to make your home ready for winter

  1. Check wood window frames for rot or decay, and repair it to maintain the windows’ structural integrity
  2. Check for draughts around exterior doors – and caulk it inside and out if you find a gap
  3. If your home is under trees, can you get them trimmed to ensure water drips off them onto the ground instead of deluging your house?
  4. Clean and dry wooden patio furniture and either store and cover it or use a wood preserver so it’s in good nick for next summer. As a rule it’s best not to leave garden furniture outdoors over the winter unless you absolutely have to
  5. Inspect your decking. Check for splinters, decay, warping, insect damage and dirt that collects between the planks. The more dirty your deck, the worse it’ll suffer in the winter and the higher the risk of funguses and moulds
  6. If you have exterior stairs or steps, check any wooden handrails to make sure they’re secure and in good shape. If your steps are wooden, check them carefully too
  7. A sensible guide: if it’s made of wood and it’s outdoors, it will need looking after
Broken down wooden shed

Shed of the Year? – from pelhamplastics.com

Specific guidance about decking, sheds and other exterior wood preservation projects

We’ve already written in detail about how to tackle a whole suite of wood-related projects. If you need specific guidance for decking maintenance, sanding wood or wooden floor maintenance, for example, there’s a specialist post waiting for you in our blog. Why not explore it?

If you have any questions you can always call our experts on Freephone 0800 7818 123.

What are Wood Oils and Where are They Best Used?

August 28th, 2014

There’s a lot of confusion about how, when and where to use wood oils. It’s no surprise really, when there are so many to choose from: teak oil, tung oil finish, Danish oil, oak furniture oil and many more, some of which are specifically designed for certain types of wood. Oil for oak furniture, for example.

We thought it’d be helpful to take a look at wood oils and how to use them, and answer some of the most common questions on the subject.

First, what is wood oil?

Oil is one of the most popular ways to finish wood. The protection delivered by oils isn’t quite as robust and effective as contemporary wood finishing products like varnishes. But on the plus side, oils tend to bring out the character of the wood better, they’re made of natural products, plus they’re very easy to apply and maintain.

Osmo Polyx Oil

Osmo Polyx Oil

Types of wood oil – And how to use them

Danish oil and teak oil dry faster than linseed oil, which is traditionally used on willow cricket bats. The finish they provide is also much more resilient.

If your wood already has linseed oil on it, it’s best to carry on using it. But if it’s a new project, something that hasn’t been oiled before, steer clear of linseed oil. While teak oil delivers a slight sheen, Danish oil leaves a more lustrous finish. As you can imagine, Ronseal teak oil is a firm favourite with our customers.

  • Apply Danish and teak oil with a soft brush or cloth, being careful not to use too much at a time or it won’t sink in. Sand the wood in between coats with a fine sandpaper. You will probably find 3 or 4 coats of oil is your optimum, delivering the best results

Standard linseed oil takes ages to dry, at two or least three days per coat, and you need multiple coats when applying it to new wood, normally three to five coats but in some cases, as many as fifteen to twenty coats can be applied. Boiled linseed oil, on the other hand, ‘only’ takes a day to dry.  But neither are suitable for outdoor wood.

Rustins Danish Oil

Rustins Danish Oil

  • Apply the oil with a cloth and rub it in well. Leave a day between coats and once you’re happy with the finish, buff it to a lovely sheen with a soft cloth

Mineral oil is actually a very effective laxative, which you should be able to buy at your local chemist. While it doesn’t give you the same sheen as the other oils we’ve talked about, it’s perfect for things like kitchen chopping boards where you  need a non-toxic finish.

Tung oil is thought by many to be the finest natural finish for wood, with its legendary performance and stunning end results. As the Tung Oil website says:

“In over 100 years of development of synthetic resins and varnishes no one has developed a coating that surpasses the overall performance of natural tung oil.

Tung Oil is a drying oil obtained by pressing the seed from the nut of the tung tree (Vernicia fordii). As a drying oil, tung oil dries upon exposure to air. The resulting coating is transparent, waterproof, and flexible, a property exploited in most of its applications, which include wood finishing and the composition of traditional oil paints caulks, mortar and india ink. Tung oil is used on wooden toys as it is naturally non-toxic when dry and is not affected by mould like linseed oil. Tung oil is able to move and flex as wooden surfaces expand and contract with age and changing temperature.

The Chinese have utilised the properties of tung oil for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, for caulking and painting of their boats, treating leather, and waterproofing paper and cloth.”

The tung tree originated in central and southern China, concentrated around the Yangtse River. and appear in the writings of Confucius from about 400 B.C.

You need to apply tung oil using a special method called wet-on-wet burnishing, more complex and involved than many other oil application methods. Most amateurs find this process difficult. While you apply tung oil just like linseed oil, you need to sand the surface after each application of oil and it usually takes at least 3-5 coats plus 2-3 days drying time in between each coat. If you’d like to attempt it, here’s an excellent video.

YouTube Preview Image

What is the difference between a wood oil and a varnish?

Oil is a natural product. Oils cure slowly and penetrate into the surface of the wood. Multiple coatings can be applied until the wood is unable to absorb any more. Additional coats can be applied if desired to create a surface build or coating of oil. Varnish is a synthetic product made by cooking a natural oil like linseed oil, tung oil or even soya oil with a resin like polyurethane. It’s used to build up layers on the surface of the wood to create a plastic like coating that gives a hard wearing, protective finish or seal to floors and other wooden surfaces.

Can I varnish over wood oil?

In short, the answer is ‘No’. Because most modern varnishes are water based, they are generally not compatible with oiled surfaces. The easy way to think of this is having water and oil in a frying pan, try to mix them and they separate. If a water based varnish is applied on top of an oiled surface, it’s highly likely that it will not bond with the wood and will therefore peel off very quickly. Some types of varnish can be applied over an oiled surface but the process is difficult and needs specific primers and varnishes to achieve this.

The easiest approach to varnishing a previously oiled floor is to use a floor sander to remove the surface of the wood including the wood oil. Wood oils never penetrate more than a couple of microns into the surface of the timber so it won’t require too much sanding to get back to clean, bare wood.

What is the best oil for oak furniture?

  • Oiling oak worktops provides the best finish. It adds more depth and character than varnishes and lacquers, is easy to work with, and provides a water resistant finish.
  • For other interior oak, an oak furniture oil like Danish oil is a popular choice for preventing stains and cracking and providing a beautiful, lustrous finish.
  • Danish oil makes an excellent wood floor oil, but modern proprietary products are sometimes easier to work with. If you’d like advice from the experts, feel free to call us.
  • A common question is ‘What is the best outdoor furniture oil?’ Use a high quality teak oil or other specialist garden furniture oil to protect wooden garden furniture.

Can I use olive oil on wood furniture?

Yes, you can. Use a cloth to work the oil into the wood grain, rubbing back and forth. When the wood has absorbed the oil, leave it for ten minutes then wipe the excess off with a clean cloth. Untreated wood tends to take 2-3 coats, but if you’re unsure just stop when the wood stops absorbing the oil.

What is the difference between decking oil, decking preservative, decking paint and decking stain?

  • Decking oil penetrates into the surface of the wood, protecting it from cracking splitting and warping, it also helps to repel rain and moisture – Available in clear and coloured.
  • Decking stains are usually a coloured varnish like coating that sit on top of the wood to provide colour and protection.
  • Decking preservative is usually a spirit based preserver that penetrates into the wood to protect against mould, algae, dry rot and insect attack, depending on the product you’re using. Many spirit based wood preservatives are available in a range of colours that can be overcoated with a clear decking oil.
  • Decking paint sits on the surface of the wood and helps keep moisture out. Decking paints are very similar to decking stains in that the paint produces a surface coating that sits on top of the decking timber.

Is there a substitute for linseed oil on a cricket bat?

Yes, but most cricket experts believe you can’t beat raw linseed oil. For a new bat with no finish, apply at least two coats of raw linseed oil to the front, back, edges and toe, using a soft rag. The face and edges of the bat should be rubbed down with fine sandpaper every 3-4 weeks during the cricket season and a light coat of linseed oil re-applied. When it has sunk in, wipe off the excess then buff your bat to a sheen using a clean cloth.

How do I refinish olive wood bowls?

If you’re using the bowls to store or present food, never use a vegetable oil. All you’ll get is a horrible smelly, sticky finish. Use a colourless, odour-free, light mineral oil instead, a safe and popular by-product of petroleum.

Olive Wood Fruit Bowl

Olive Wood Fruit Bowl

Tips for using wood oils safely and effectively

  1. If you want to stain the wood before you oil it, use a water based stain. If you use an oil based stain it’ll block the pores in the wood and prevent the oil from doing its job properly.
  2. Never, ever leave an oily cloth rolled up. It can easily generate heat and catch fire. Dry it flat outdoors before storing it or chucking it in the bin.

Any questions about wood oils?

We’ll be more than happy to answer them. Just get in touch. There’s a Freephone number available as well as a regular number and a call-back form.

Wood Floor Maintenance Guide – Part 2

August 13th, 2014

In Part 1 of our Wood Floor Sanding and maintenance guide we talk about floor preperation and sanding techniques to achieve the perfect blank canvas for your floor finish, be it varnished or oiled. In part two, we’re looking at the maintenance side of things, the stuff you need to do once you’ve sanded, sealed and finished your beautiful wood floor.

Wooden floor maintenance – Preventative measures

Whether you’ve finished your floor with a lacquer or an oil, you’ll need to carry out regular preventative maintenance to keep it looking great and ensure it remains in the best possible condition.

Hickory Hardwood Floor

Hickory Hardwood Floor – theconstructionguys.com

It’s surprising how dramatic an effect small dust and grit particles can have on the way your floor looks, and its overall long term condition. Even tiny particles can seriously shorten the useful life of the floor, simply by the wet and dry abrasion they cause when they’re brought indoors and tracked around the house by people’s feet. The particles act like miniature sandpaper, dulling and scratching the finish.

In wet weather foot traffic also brings water in, which seeps into the damaged grain to cause even more havoc. All of which means your first stop for wood floor maintenance is a simple one: to keep it clean, sweeping up dust and grit regularly to prevent the ‘sandpaper effect’ causing too much damage.

How can you stop dust and grit in their tracks and mitigate the risk? It’s common sense. Simply put down a good quality doormat or some other kind of mat at every door, so the particles stop there instead of being tracked indoors on people’s shoes. Keep the matting clean too, for a belt-and-braces approach that’ll give your wood floor an even longer and more attractive life.

How to maintain lacquered floors

What about maintenance for lacquered floors? Your first step is to clean the floor, removing all the abrasive dust and grit using a hoover, a soft bristle broom or dustpan & brush.

Next, use a wood floor cleaning product from our wood floor cleaner range, applied with a mop or foam pad as per the instructions. Manns Floor Surface Cleaner is a great product, easy to use, simply diluted with water.

Because lacquered floors eventually end up mucky, often stained by shoe marks, you’ll benefit from using Manns Floor Surface Cleaner to give the floor an initial clean then follow up with Bona Freshen Up, a floor revival system that helps to revive lacquered floors. Bona Freshen Up can be used every 6 months or so to help restore areas that are perhaps looking a little dull and to prolong the overall life of the floor varnish.

How to maintain oiled wood floors

Oiled floors give you a gorgeous, natural, open-grain appearance but the finish can suffer through high foot traffic, making it more sensitive to moisture and more prone to lasting damage. Luckily oiled floors are really easy to maintain.

Again, your first step is to clean off all the grit and dust to leave a spotless surface to work with. Then use a damp mop impregnated with Manns Floor surface Cleaner to clean the wood to perfection, followed by an application of Osmo Liquid Wax Cleaner which will help to revive and protect tired looking areas.

It also helps to give the floor a regular dry buffing, either by hand or with either a rotary buffer, with a white scotch bright pad attached, for a lovely, super-smooth finish.

Interior floor sanding troubleshooting

Scratch Marks 

You might not notice scratches until you apply your wood stain, oil or lacquer.  They’re most often caused by:

  • Switching from a coarse grit to a fine grit too soon, without working through the various grades in sequence, or missing some grades out. Patience is a virtue! You’ll ordinarily need to use a 36 – 40 grit to remove the old finish, dirt and marks, then 50 – 80 grit to take away the marks the coarse paper has made, then a final sand using 100 – 120 grit for a lovely, smooth look and feel.
  • Loose bits of grit caught between the sander and the floor, usually because you haven’t vacuumed thoroughly enough between each change of sandpaper.
  • Coarse grit stuck in cracks between the boards, which are flicked back onto the floor’s surface by the sanding machine’s vibrations. Again, a thorough vacuum should remove them.
Beautiful Hardwood Flooring

Beautiful Hardwood Flooring

Chatter Marks

Chatter marks also only become visible when you apply a finish. They are most often caused by:

  • The seam on the abrasive belt of the sander overlapping so it abrades more on the overlap.
  • The sandpaper not being fitted properly to the machine’s drum, or not being fitted tightly enough so there’s movement.
  • The machine’s drum itself not being properly balanced so it shudders and vibrates, leaving an uneven finish.
  • The floor itself flexing as the sanding machine moves across it.

Darker and paler edges around the floor 

Sometimes you get a strange halo effect where the edges of the floor are either darker or lighter than the centre,  often only obvious when you add your finish. This tends to happen when:

  • There’s a difference between the grit coarseness used on the edges and corners and the grit you use in the centre and main areas of the floor. Because coarser grits create a rougher surface more of the finishing product penetrates, giving you a darker colour.
  • Lacquers and oils which don’t stick properly to the surface because it has been waxed, oiled or polished in the past. In this case you’ll have to ensure that you have fully sanded right back to the bare wood or your floor will never looks its best. You could also use Manns Wax and Polish remover to help remove any traces of old waxes or polishes if you didn’t want to over-sand some areas more than others. A test that can be done to see if all of the wax and polish has been removed is to dampen the wood with a damp (not wet) cloth or sponge. If the wood absorbs the moisture, the boards are wax and polish free, if the water beads on the surface or there are patches that don’t look uniformly damp with the rest of the wood, there may still be some wax, oil or polish in the wood that needs to be removed. Be sure to allow dampened wood to fully dry before attempting to sand again or apply a floor finish.

Most pre-finished floors can be finished with a lacquer, but now and again a floor simply won’t accept it, no matter how well you prepare. Rather than waste time and money why not do a test patch first on an off cut that you may have or try somewhere inconspicuous? When everything is 100% dry, see if you can rub the finish off with a gentle rub using the side of a coin. If so, you’ll need to think again.

The finish is poor and doesn’t perform very well

What if the finish just isn’t good enough? Or it looks fantastic but performs poorly, looking tatty again in no time? This is often because of:

  • The quality of the finish itself – always choose the best quality products you can afford.
  • The quality of its application – poor workmanship always delivers sub-standard results.
  • The quantity – Lacquers / Varnishes - If you don’t use enough of the product, less than recommended or fewer layers than recommended, it will be less durable. Most Lacquer or varnish systems usually require one coat of primer plus two coats of varnish or three straight coats of varnish if a primer isn’t used as a minimum requirement. A primer isn’t a necessity but can save some money if doing areas of 50 square meters or more. In the case of flooring oils which work by penetrating and hardening in the surface of the wood, if you apply more than the recommended amount (usually two coats), the finish will actually be softer and mark more easily as there will be a thicker coating on the surface of the wood, not what the product is designed to do.
  • The wrong product for the job – There are loads of wood floor finishing products to choose from, each with a specific use. Make sure you buy the right product for the job.
  • Sub-standard preparation – As with so many DIY projects, preparation is the most important element. Take the time and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning finish.
  • Storage – if you stash your floor finishing materials in the wrong conditions, or apply them in bad conditions, they may not perform as they’re supposed to. Temperature extremes of hot and cold can affect products so storing them in the shed is not the best option.
  • Poor maintenance – Floors, by their very nature, get a lot of wear. When you look after them properly and carry out regular maintenance, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful finish.
Hardwood Kitchen Flooring

Hardwood Kitchen Flooring – carsonhardwoodfloors.com

Wooden floor perfection can be yours!

When you prepare your wooden floors to perfection, choose the right finishing product for the project and do everything by the book, you will create a lovely finish that directly reflects your care and dedication. Get it right and your floor will last for years and years, looking as good as new.

What if you want to retain that lovely patina?

A patina adds value to antiques… and it can also add value to your home. If you live in an old house with worn wood flooring, you might want to hang onto that lovely historical patina. Which means cleaning it and making the best of its looks without ruining the character.

Because grinding off the old finish might be a bit too aggressive, ‘passive’ restoration is the perfect solution. This is what one floor finishing expert says about retaining a floor’s historic patina:

“The first step is to clean the wood floor well to see what you really have. A damp (not wet) mopping with a dedicated wood floor cleaner such as Fiddes Floor Surface Cleaner mixed in with some warm water will clean-up most of the dirt and grime. After doing this you may discover the old finish is in great shape. If the finish is in poor condition, go to the next step. Rent a floor buffer with several 100 grit sanding screens. You will also need some non-flammable wood stripper, some rags and a wet/dry shop vacuum (you must use non-flammable stripper so the sparks in the buffer motor don’t blow you up!).

Any questions about maintaining your floor?

Our experts know everything there is to know about wood finishing products. And if they don’t know they’ll find out for you. Just ask – we’re available on the phone 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and we’re always happy to help.

The History of English Oak – A Very British Wood

August 13th, 2014

The ancient oak forests of old England hold a special place in our hearts. Some would even go as far as to say that  say that England was built on oak. The Christmas Yule Log was originally an oak log decorated with mistletoe and holly. Our ancestors carried acorns for good luck, and to ward off illness. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Celts and Druids all thought the tree was magical. Roman soldiers even wore oak leaf crowns when celebrating victory.

English Oak Tree

English Oak Tree from inhabitat.com

Bearing in mind the star-studded place the not-so-humble English oak tree has played in the nation’s development and ultimate success, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at the history of the tree and explore what it has done for us over the countless centuries we’ve been exploiting it. From prestigious oak wood buildings to beautiful, ancient oak furniture, it’s an impressive story.

A short history of English oak

A member of the beech family, the English Oak tree’s formal name is Pedunculate oak, AKA Quercus. It’s our national tree thanks to its extraordinary height, venerable age and legendary strength, all of which have given it the reputation of being king of the forest. But oak trees have been here for much longer than humans, with remnants of the trees dating way back to the interglacial period about 300,000 years ago. It is still the commonest tree in our shrinking woodlands.

About the oak tree itself

Oak is most common in the South and East of England, with its wide, irregular, rounded crown and grey fissured bark. Because the branches often develop low down on the trunk, oak trees have been adored by tree-climbing children down the generations. And the shape of the leaves is so familiar it’s more or less imprinted on our national psyche.

When an oak grows on open land it spreads out. When it’s surrounded by forest it stays slim and slender, and grows taller. It has very deep roots so tolerates drought very well and dislikes shallow soil. Give it a moist, mineral rich soil with a pH value of 4.9 to 5.4 and it’ll be at its happiest, growing as tall as 45m. Oak trees don’t even mind being waterlogged, even for long periods, so they’re remarkably resilient, even to salty water

Find the tallest oak tree you can. It’s likely it’ll be less than 300 years old, since older oaks were traditionally pollarded to provide firewood and timber for building. The biggest ever recorded English oak tree, the Newlands oak, reached a breathtaking size, with a trunk measuring 45 feet around when it fell down. Today’s biggest oak tree lives in Sherwood Forest, with a girth of 33 feet, weighing 23 tons and an estimated 800 to 1000 years old. Wow.

English Oak Leaves

English Oak Leaves from treesandhedging.co.uk

Oak wood is remarkably sturdy and lasts for ages. You can still pick up 14th century and earlier oak furniture… at a price! It’s perfect for making the frames of buildings. It’s used to make barrels for wine and spirits and to make charcoal. It is used to smoke cheeses and hams, with its distinctive flavour, and the bark is used in the leather tanning process. It is indeed a tree for all seasons and all reasons.

In the 1700s oak trees were in high demand by ship builders, and were grown especially for the purpose. In fact every ship commissioned by Drake and Nelson used up the wood from around 2,500 trees. Luckily they grow especially fast for the first 80-120 years of life, which means shipbuilders didn’t need to wait hundreds of years for it to be big enough.

The tree doesn’t produce acorns until it’s between 25-40 years old, and produces the most seeds in middle age when it’s between 80 and 120. It starts to decline into old age from 250-350  years, slowing down growth and eventually losing branches.

The First World War resulted in an acute shortage of the wood, and in 1919 the Forestry Commission was set up to protect existing woods and create new ones, returning our heritage to its former splendour. They have planted countless new forests since then, as well as helping landowners replenish their stock.

Today oak is still one of the most popular hardwoods in Britain, used on an everyday basis for interior joinery and furniture.

Carved English Oak Door

Carved English Oak Door

20 cool facts about oak wood

  1. In olden times oak leaves, bark and acorns were used to treat ailments like diarrhoea, inflammation and kidney stones.
  2. The Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire has the biggest girth of any English oak. It’s hollow, there’s enough room for 20 people inside and it’s around 1000 years old.
  3. The River Severn’s ancient oak breakwaters, still used today, were originally set by the Romans.
  4. Woodpeckers bury acorns, storing them for winter. They’re also eaten by jays and squirrels, and are a rich food source for British wildlife.
  5. Oak’s Latin name, Quercus robur, means ‘strength’.
  6. King Charles the Second famously hid from his pursuers in an oak tree at Boscobel House.
  7. The oak’s open canopy means forest-floor flowers like bluebells can thrive beneath.
  8. An oak tree can shorten itself in response to the ageing process in an effort to live longer.
  9. Oaks support more wildlife forms than any other native tree, including more than 280 kinds of insect.
  10. The oak has been a national symbol of strength and survival for centuries.
  11. In prehistoric times humans used to make flour from acorns.
  12. Bats love to roost in old woodpecker holes in oak trees.
  13. Often the tallest things in a landscape, oaks are frequently hit by lightning.
  14. The oak was sacred to the Greek god Zeus, the Roman god Jupiter and the Celtic god Dagda.
  15. Loving couples were married under ancient oak trees during Oliver Cromwell’s time.
  16. There’s an oak on the 1987 pound coin.
  17. Britain’s oak trees are threatened by several pests and pathogens including the oak processionary moth, a foreign pest. The moth’s hairs are poisonous and if you breathe them in, you might suffer from itching and respiratory problems.
  18. Mistletoe lives on oak branches.
  19. Acute oak decline (AOD) and chronic oak decline (COD) are two more serious threats to Britain’s oak trees.
  20. For more information about our wonderful national tree, explore the excellent BBC Nature web pages.

The Fine Art of Sanding – Wood Floor Sanding Guide Part 1

August 4th, 2014

You’re the proud owner of a beautiful wooden floor, whether it’s a gorgeous old parquet masterpiece or something contemporary, perhaps in glorious solid oak.

The great thing about wood floors is you can sand them down when they get scuffed, stained and grubby, bringing the beauty of the grain and the depth of colour back to life so it looks brand new.

If that sounds appealing, it’s time to get sanding. Here’s our simple guide about how to sand a wooden floor, finish and maintain it. But first, a quick word about letting it lie. If you prefer, you can always leave your wood floor to slowly build up a gorgeous, battered patina. While sanding and re-finishing delivers a sleek, beautiful, new-looking appearance, there’s no reason why you can’t leave your floor to do its own thing and wear naturally. It’s a style thing.

Beautiful Wooden Floor

Beautifully finished wooden flooring from Stenhouseflooring.co.uk

Why sand and renovate your floor?

Newly laid floors are sanded to make them 100% level and old floors are sanded to get rid of old, tatty wood finishes and level out worn areas. If you want to apply a finish to your floor it will always have to be sanded and prepared first.

Wood floor sanding, finishing and maintenance

You’ve decided you want to renovate your old wooden floor. Or give your newly-laid floor a beautiful, durable finish. In our two-part guide we’ll reveal how to tackle the sanding, preparation and application of lacquers and oils, as well as aftercare and maintenance.

Step one – Sanding and preparation

Before you start sanding back to the bare timber, you need to remove or countersink any screw or nail heads that protrude. The sanding itself takes several stages, depending on the floor’s overall condition, and there are a few important things to take into consideration:

  1. Is the floor solid or engineered? If your floor has already been sanded in the past, can it take any more? You might need to remove a section of the door threshold or skirting board to find out.
  2. For drum or belt sanding, you need to decide which grit grade you need. This also depends on the condition of the floor as a whole. If it’s badly worn and uneven, you’ll probably have to start with a rough sandpaper followed by successively less rough papers. You can get sandpaper in grades 16, 24, 36, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100, 120 and 150, with 16 the most aggressive and 150 the finest.

Most sanding jobs start with around 36 or 40 grit sandpaper, working up to around 120 grit for the final sand. If you or your contractor aren’t using a dust free sanding machine, remember to remove all the dust with a vacuum cleaner between every sandpaper grade change. If possible, save some of the fine sanding dust for later, you’ll need the finest stuff later on, if your floor needs filling.

Start in the middle of the room and work your way to the edges. Guide the sanding machine carefully around the floor at a middle-range speed, keeping the speed constant and remembering not to leave the machine on one part of the floor for too long, which can lead to difficult-to-even-out gouges.

What about the grain? It’s always best to sand with the grain rather than against it, which can leave you with a slightly furry finish because you’re disturbing the grain instead of going with the flow. If it isn’t possible to follow the grain because of the way the pattern is laid, there’s a way to overcome it:

  • For complex herringbone pattern floors, sand in the same direction as the light source.
  • For Parquet flooring, sand at a 45 degree angle to the pattern.

Once the central area of the floor has been sanded, it’s time to tackle the edges. This is where edge sanding comes in, removing old finish from the room’s perimeter where the belt or drum sanding machine won’t reach. Kick off with a 36 or 40 grit paper then work your way up to the finest.

It’s best to work in gentle, slow circular movements, working your way steadily through the grits from heavy to light. If you miss out grit levels you could end up with a strange-looking halo effect, which shows up even more when you apply the wood finish.

Merv, our resident sanding expert says “When sanding herringbone or Parquet flooring, it’s always important to sand in the direction of one set of the blocks, usually 45 degrees to the room. Be sure to apply the lacquer in the same direction, this will help prevent demarcation lines (sanding marks) in the final finish.”

Sanding Direction Herringbone

Sanding Direction

Step 2  – Mixing and filling

You should have plenty of fine sanding dust left over from your efforts, created by the 80-100 grit sandpaper. It’s exactly the right colour to match the floor so mix it with a clear wood filler gel such as Bona mix and fill or Fiddes Wood Filler Gel and use it to fill any small holes or gaps between the planks or parquet tiles, anything up to 6mm. If you have bigger gaps, fill them with a one or two pack wood filler instead.

Step 3 – Buffing to a high sheen

You need to carry out a series of final sands to smooth your repairs and make the surface finish-friendly. Use a circular motion and bring 100 grit into play, followed by finer 120 or 150 grit grades. Remove all the dust in between every stage, otherwise residue from the rougher papers can catch under the sander and leave nasty scratches.

Parquet floor sanding

Parquet floor sanding from Simplyfloorsanding.co.uk

Step 4 – Applying wood finishes to floors

Staining

  • Products like Manns standard light-fast stains are great for delivering beautiful wood grain definition and an excellent overall colour. Because they’re spirit based and dry pretty fast, it’s best to only apply them to a small area at a time to avoid patches. Take it easy and you should be fine.
  • Apply your stain with a brush, rag or special mohair pad. Get rid of any excess with a clean, dry cloth to help the final lacquer finish stick properly.
  • Never use an exterior wood stain designed for decking, fencing or garden furniture, since they contain water repellents which also repel water based floor lacquers.

Sealing

  • Always choose a water based floor finish that includes a primer/sealer, designed to enhance the wood’s natural colour and reduce the risk of ‘side bonding’, where the planks or parquet tiles get stuck together. If the wood shrinks – which it often does because of atmospheric conditions, central heating and seasonal temperature changes – the lacquer film gluing the wood together cracks, which looks awful.
  • Apply your sealer with a t-bar applicator or a short pile mohair roller. Apply the sealer thinly and evenly and don’t put pressure on the roller. Be gentle, applying no pressure, and let the roller do the job it’s designed for.
  • When the sealer is completely dry, which usually takes anywhere between two and four hours, you can apply your first layer of water-based topcoat. You don’t need to do any more sanding.

Lacquering

Did you know that varnish and lacquer are the same thing? The trade tend to refer to varnishes as laquers while the public more commonly refer to these products as varnishes.

  • Again, use a t-bar applicator or a short haired microfibre roller to spread the product evenly over the floor. Remember not to use any downward pressure, instead letting the roller do its job. If you press down you can form annoying pools of superfluous lacquer.
  • Leave 2-3 hours to dry completely, after which you should sand the lacquer with a rotary sanding machine (often called a de-nib) and a 150/180 mesh screen.
  • Clean off all the dust and debris and you’re ready to apply the top coat.

Top coat

  • Do you use a single pack varnish such as Manns Floor Varnish or a 2 pack lacquer system such as Manns 2 pack Lacquer? And do you choose a matt, semi-mat, satin or gloss finish? As a rule your lounge, bedroom and so on are best given a coat of something like Manns water based Floor Varnish or Bona Mega while hallways, bathrooms, kitchens and other heavier wear areas will benefit from Manns 2 Pack water based varnish or Bona Traffic HD. That said an additional coat of 1 pack lacquer is also a common way to finish high wear, residential areas.

A typical domestic application in 7 steps

  1. Apply one coat of sealer or primer onto the pre-sanded surface
  2.  Let it dry for 2-3 hours
  3. Apply one coat of floor varnish by microfibre roller or floor finish applicator
  4. Let it dry for 4-6 hours
  5. Rotary sand the surface with 150/180  grit paper and remove the dust (de-nib)
  6. Add a second coat of water based floor lacquer, again using a roller
  7. If you want a deeper, fuller finish, you can apply a third top coat of varnish.

Oiled floors

Instead of sitting on the surface of the wood, oils sink in for a warmer, more natural look. Here’s how to achieve it.

  • Sand through the grit levels until you reach 120, which leaves the wood’s pores open enough to accept an oil finish
  • Apply a thin coat of oil using a mohair roller, floor applicator pad, lint free cloth or special solvent-safe squeegee
  • Leave it to dry for 4 to 8 hours depending on the product being used
  • Lightly sand or de-nibb the floor with a scotch pad or fine grit paper
  • Vacuum to remove all traces of sanding dust created when de-nibbing
  • Apply a second thin coat of oil
  • Wait 12 hours for everything to dry and settle
  • If required, buff your floor to improve the sheen
Sanding the edges

Sanding the edges from SheffieldFloorSandingCompany.com

 

Part 2 – Coming next week

Next week, in part two of our Wood Floor Sanding and maintenance guide, we’ll look at the ins and outs of wooden floor maintenance. In the meantime if you’d like to discuss how to bring your wood floor back to life with an expert, feel free to call our experienced staff. They’re always happy to show off their skills, advise our customers about the best products and pin down the best method for your particular project.

How to Use Interior and Exterior Wood Filler

July 22nd, 2014

You could throw away your old wooden furniture and fixings. Or you could mend it. These days, as the reclaiming, recycling and repurposing revolution rumbles on and our throw-away culture dies a long-deserved death, more and more people are prepared to make do and mend than throw something perfectly good away just because it’s damaged, old or less than perfect. As a result we’re seeing a significant increase in wood filler sales. But why, when and how do you use them? Here’s our dummies guide.

Applying Wood Filler

From DIYNetwork.com

Using Wood Fillers – What You Should Know

First, what exactly is wood filler, AKA ‘wood putty’, ‘grain filler’ or ‘plastic wood’? According to Wikipedia, it’s:

“a substance used to fill imperfections, such as nail holes, in wood prior to finishing. It is often composed of wood dust combined with a binder that dries and a diluent (thinner), and, sometimes, pigment.”

fillers can also be made of synthetic materials that will often accept wood finishing products. Sometimes, these are available in pre-tinted colours which cannot be coloured further, other than by painting over them.

You can completely hide holes and other damage using filling products, which is great news if a beloved piece of furniture, expensive wooden floor or exterior wood needs some TLC to bring it back to vibrant life.

About special oak wood filler, pine wood filler and more

You can buy pre-coloured products especially for certain woods. Take Osmo Wood Filler, which comes in a wide variety of attractive colours designed to match woods like antique oak, beech, cherry, ebony, pine, spruce and even exotica like jatoba wood.

Osmo Wood Filler

Four key ways to use wood filling products

The best quality products are incredibly versatile. You can use them in four key ways.

  1. To fill holes and cracks - You need a thick filler to fill cracks and holes in wood. But you have to prepare the inside of the hole or crack first so the filler sticks properly. Sand the inside of the hole of gap if you can and remove every speck of dust – vacuuming is ideal. Then use a putty knife to force the product into the hole. Smooth the top surface and once it’s dry sand it until you get an even finish, flush with the surface of the wood. You can use this method for wood flooring, furniture or anything else prone to cracking. Remember you can paint or stain the finished surface afterwards to make your repair invisible – just wait until it’s 100% dry first.
  2. To fix damaged furniture - Furniture demands some careful thought before you start. First are you mending the surface – a cosmetic repair – or a load-bearing part? The best product for surface repairs is a combination of thick and thin filler, with larger spots of damage needing thicker filler and smaller areas a thinner product. To mend essential load bearing elements a special wood hardener rather than an ordinary filler is probably your best option.
  3. Morrells-two-part-filler-black

  4. To fill gaps between boards - You can even fill large gaps between your floorboards and skirting boards. There’s a specialist product for it called Bona Gap Master, available in a choice of popular colours including white and black as well as a load of natural-looking wood tones.
  5. bona_gap_master_chart

  6. Fillers that look like wood – When filling wood you need to ensure that the filler is 100% dry before staining or varnishing it. Filler gels are popular as they tend to keep repairs looking more like wood rather than a piece of white or coloured plastic. Filler gels work by mixing sanding dust, preferably from the wood being sanded and repaired, with a clear gel that binds the dust together. This forms a wood filler, that is partially made from real wood that can be stained, varnished or oiled. The thickness and consistency of the gel can be altered by adding more or less sanding dust but the normal mixture is usually 50% gel to 50% sanding dust. Two popular filler gels that receive good customer feedback are Bona Mix and Fill and Fiddes Wood Filler Gel.
  7. bona-mix-and-fill-5ltr

 

About Ronseal High Performance Wood Filler

Ronseal High Performance Wood Filler is a unique two part product that delivers incredibly tough, strong and durable repairs to more or less any kind of interior or exterior wood.

Unlike some it can fill holes to any depth as long as you take it easy, filling half a centimetre at a time and waiting for each layer to dry before adding the next one.

It dries rock hard in just half an hour. You can screw screws into it, sand it, plane it, file it, bang nails into it and drill holes in it. You can paint, stain or varnish it. It kills wet rot and prevents it coming back. And when you use it with Ronseal’s special Wet Rot Wood Hardener, you can even mend rotten wood with it. Awesome! As you can imagine it’s an enormously popular choice with builders, carpenters, DIY-ers and craftspeople.

Practice makes perfect

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do a few test runs on old bits of wood before tackling the real thing. The human brain is an amazing machine and it’ll soon build new neural pathways that make you more confident and competent. That way you stand the best chance of doing a great job.

Can I remove the filler once it’s dry?

Fillers are often harder than the wood itself. But you can remove them, and there’s some top guidance on the UK eHow site about how to do it.

Want to watch a video about how to use wood filler?

Youtube has the perfect video about how to use fillers.
YouTube Preview Image

 Any questions?

If you’re not sure about which product to buy, our experts are always glad to help. You can chat to them via our Freephone helpline number during working hours: 0800 7818 123.

51 Weird and Wonderful Facts About Wood

July 14th, 2014

Wood must be one of humanity’s oldest natural resources. It has helped keep us safe, comfortable and warm for millions of years. But trees graced our beautiful blue planet long before our ancestors were a twinkle in the universe’s eye. Imagine a world with absolutely no human-generated noise, mess or disruption, just endless seas of gently-waving trees and plants as far as the eye can see. It would be a splendid and moving sight.

Aerial Forest Flyover

Aerial Forest Flyover from elreay.blogspot.com

We’ve used wood for so long that most of us don’t really ‘see’ it any more. It’s part of the cultural scenery. But in the same way the starry night sky blows your mind with its eternal vastness, looking at a tree with fresh eyes brings its miraculous nature back into focus: enormous, powerful plants whose origins lie way back in the depths of geological time, some of which live literally thousands of years. If trees could tell a story, what would they say?

In May 2014 the Weird and Wonderful wood festival took place in Haughley Park in Suffolk, a celebration of wood in all its glory. More than a hundred artists, craftspeople and musicians gathered to reveal their skills and passions to a keen-to-learn and fascinated public, a sign that our relationship with the planet’s biggest plants still means a great deal to us.

We thought it’d be interesting to hook out a bunch of fascinating, weird and wonderful facts about wood and the trees it comes from. Enjoy!

Firewood Stack in Bavaria

Bavarian Firewood Stack from etcconnect.com

51 facts about trees – Weird and wonderful wood

  1. Wood is made up of a combination of living, dying, and dead cells.
  2. The world’s shortest tree is the dwarf willow, which lives in northerly and Arctic Tundra regions and rarely grows more than a couple of inches high.
  3. The tallest trees can grow as high as 100m, more than 320 feet. They include the Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, Sitka Spruce and Australian Mountain Ash.
  4. The world’s tallest living standing hardwood tree is a mountain ash called Centurion in Tasmania. It’s about 329 feet 8 3/4 inches high.
  5. Trees never die of old age. Insects, diseases and people are usually the killers. 
  6. The mighty Giant Sequoia is thought by many to be the biggest living organism in the world, although a 2,400 acre fungus mycelium in eastern Oregon – almost ten square kilometres of it – is a strong if less-visible contender.
  7. The world is home to more than 23,000 different kinds of trees.
  8. The terms softwood and hardwood describe the leaves, seeds and structure of the trees rather than the type of wood they produce.
  9. Redwood bark can be as much as two feet thick.
  10. City trees tend to live for an average of 13 years less than country trees.
  11. The Amazon Basin is the biggest area of tropical forest on earth, a whopping eight and a half million acres. 
  12. The plane tree, common in London’s streets, is excellent at absorbing pollution and sheds its bark regularly so it can absorb more.
  13. Just one tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and can sequester a ton of CO2 safely by the time it’s 40 years old, which is why they’re so important in the battle against climate change.
  14. Balsa is actually a hardwood!
  15. Every US state has its own official tree.
  16. Softwoods are not always softer than hardwoods.
  17. White oak is the easiest wood to bend using steam.
  18. Buddha experienced enlightenment under the wisdom tree. And ancient British graveyards often contain a yew tree, planted by pagan worshippers before the Christians took over and built churches on the same plots.
  19. The Osage Orange tree’s wood generates the most heat when burned.
  20. The tree with the widest diameter trunk is the African Baobab, just under 50 feet across with a 155 foot circumference.
  21. Kingley Vale in West Sussex contains a host of ancient yew trees, some of which are more than 2000 years old.
  22. The tree called “General Sherman” is not only the biggest giant sequoia, but it is also the biggest tree in the world. He is 83.8 m (274.9 feet) tall, his girth at breast height is 24,10 m (79 feet) (near the ground it is 31,3 m or 102,6 feet).
  23. Oak woodland was the most common vegetation in Britain before humans got their hands on it.
  24. British oak trees can live for 500 years. We’d have a lot more of them if Henry VIII hadn’t cut almost all of down to build warships.
  25. The world’s heaviest wood is Australian Bauhinia Red.
  26. The bark of the Cork oak is used for bottle corks and cork flooring.
  27.  Some bristlecone pines are thought to be more than 5000 years old. But the famous lime tree at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire is probably nearer 6000 years old, and The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire could be as old as 9000.
  28. Softwoods come from gymnosperm trees (evergreens), while hardwoods come from angiosperm trees (deciduous types).
  29. Softwoods don’t have vessels like harder woods. Their cells are open, and are used to feed water and bring nutrients to the tree.
  30. Because softwoods take wood finishes so well, they were responsible for the pine furniture boom of the early 80’s to late 90’s.
  31. Trees trap 50% of all the sun’s energy caught by living organisms.
  32. All wood is biodegradable.
  33. Wet wood, unlike dry wood, can conduct electricity.
  34. The world’s blackest wood is ebony, the world’s whitest wood is holly.
  35. Lignin is what makes a wood hard. Softwoods have less of it, hardwoods contain more.
  36. The heaviest American wood is Lignum Vitae Holywood, particularly rich in Lignin.
  37. Softwoods are usually a lighter colour than hardwoods.
  38. Pine is denser than some hardwoods so is an affordable alternative.
  39. Softwoods account for about 80% of the world’s timber production.
  40. Well-maintained trees can increase a property’s value… some say by as much as 27%, others hang their hat on 14%.
  41. Place trees in the right way near a property and they can cut air conditioning by 30%
  42. Hardwood is denser than softwood and burns for longer, with more heat, as long as it’s properly seasoned.
  43. Softwood is not as dense and doesn’t burn for quite as long, but it can still give off as much as 75% of the heat than hardwood.
  44. As long as forests are properly managed, wood fuel is renewable. Modern appliances can achieve a 90% burning efficiency, and the net carbon emissions from wood tend to be less than for fossil fuels.
  45. Trees get 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and only 10% from soil.
  46. Trees grow from the top, not the bottom. Watch for 100 years and you’ll notice the branches only move a few inches up the trunk as the tree grows.
  47. Insects hate the taste of tannin, the tea-coloured chemical trees contain in varying amounts.
  48. Some trees talk to one another. When willows are threatened by insect pests, they emit a chemical warning to nearby trees, who secrete more tannin to put the invaders off.
  49. Trees mean rain. Every day, just one acre of maple trees emits as much as 20,000 gallons of water into the air.
  50. In the USA the shade and wind-proofing that trees deliver reduce annual heating and cooling costs by $2.1 billion.
  51. Some ironwoods are so dense, with a specific gravity of more than 1, that they sink in water.

Stack of Firewood

Do you have any fascinating wood facts?

Whether it’s hardwood and softwood facts or a remarkable piece of information about a particularly amazing tree, we’d love to hear it. Feel free to leave a comment.