In Part 1 of our Wood Floor Sanding and maintenance guide, we talk about floor preparation and sanding techniques to achieve the perfect blank canvas for your floor finish, be it varnished or oiled. In part two, we’ll be 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.
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 and brush.
Next, use a wood floor cleaning product from our wood floor cleaners range, applied with a mop or foam pad as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Woodleys Wood 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 Woodleys Wood 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
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.
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, which is 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 Woodleys 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 of 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 you 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.
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 give us a call, we’re always happy to help.