Friday, March 21, 2008

Waxing on (get it?) about floor finishes

It’s very possible that, unless you are a total old house geek like me, this post will leave you scratching your head in wonderment at my complete and utter geekiness. I have become some sort of finish-testing junkie. After I yanked the carpet in my dining room, I noticed two things: 1) the floor underneath was gorgeous, and 2) the floor underneath was dry and a little dull and in need of some big-time TLC.

On hand and knee I scrubbed the entire floor with a vinegar/water solution to get rid of the carpet pad residue. Uh-oh, now they looked really dry and in need of some lovin’. First, I took a homemade paste that I use to “feed” furniture that’s getting a little dry. It’s a mineral oil/beeswax/lemon oil mix and it normally does a nice job. It did…OK….on the floor but I wasn’t wowed by it. So I tried old-fashioned paste wax—several coats. Again, just OK. That’s when I started to realize that I needed something that would really penetrate and nourish that wood all the way down. I got to thinking about my butcher block cutting board and how spiffy it looks after a fresh spa treatment of plain mineral oil and an after treatment of the beeswax/mineral oil paste. So I grabbed my bottle of mineral oil and rubbed it in, then left it sit for 24 hours and wiped the rest off—not that there was much to wipe. Those floors were thirsty! After their mineral oil treatment I gave my test spot several coats of hand-buffed paste wax. Paste waxing is not difficult work and the rewards it brings aren’t usually obvious until the finish is completely dry (sometimes a few days later). But oh, how fulfilling it is when you see a lovely waxed-shined-buffed surface gleaming back at you.

My floor finish testing methodology reminds me of those old Pepsi commercials where they had the blind test set up. I have 6 test patches, each having different finishes and/or levels of finish (all wax-based and totally removable/reversible) and they each have a little accompanying placard. The back of the card notes what finish was used.

Right now the clear winner is the mineral oil followed by paste wax (4 coats). Doing that treatment for the entire floor is going to be a lot of work, and I’m sure my shoulders will be complaining puh-lenty, but when I have these spectacular-looking floors it’ll all be worth it.

I wish I could get pictures that show the differences, but they are very difficult to see unless you’re looking at them in person. I’ll post pictures of the finished product to compare with the “just pulled up the carpet” pictures.


Jenni said...

Mineral Oil what a good Idea!!
I bought a $20 car buffer to shine up the floor wax. My floors need another waxing. Please send us some pics...

stuffed said...

Interesting about the mineral oil. I inherited my floors and continue my grandmother's routine of paste wax and machine buffing. Luckily, I inherited the machine, too. :0)

Kate said...

I was having a look at your 'list of things to do' post and wondered; are you getting your windows done or are they already done?

I happened upon your blog while looking for home improvement sites because I'm also doing my house up, and looking for advice on windows!

So far I've found Anglian, here is a link to their double glazing.

Do you have double glazing or are you not changing your windows? Any advice would be welcomed :)


angie said...

Oh my gosh you are my HERO!! My floors need lots of love and I'm pretty sure you just handed me the answer to my problem!