I always think it’s a great shame when people overlay a beautiful old and possibly antique hardwood floor with a modern laminate one, rather than making the effort to restore the original floor. To restore antique hardwood floor boards can be as simple as just giving them a thorough clean and re-polishing; or it could mean carrying out some remedial work on the floor-boards themselves. However, as a DIY home enthusiast they’re jobs that are well within your capability.
Cleaning Antique Hardwood Floor
Dirt will make any floor look shabby and unwelcoming. Dependant on what has caused the dirt or marks, simply wiping with a damp cloth might be sufficient to clean the floorboards up; so don’t go looking for a complicated solution until you’ve worked through the simple ones.
If plain water doesn’t work you can try adding a mild detergent and see how much dirt that lifts off the surface; however, do not use an excess of liquid and only use a cleaner like white-spirit on painted areas or heavy grease marks.
If the marks are actually due to staining or are ground into the grain of the floorboards then sanding will have to be carried out. This is also the only way to effectively remove successive layers of wax that have discolored over time.
Unless the marks or stains are only over a very small area you might as well sand the whole floor, so if you haven’t got one of your own – hire out a floor sanding machine. When operating the machine, make sure you apply a constant and gentle pressure. You’re trying to clean an antique hardwood floor, not sculpture it!
Apart from sweeping up any dust also run a damp mop over the surface, allow it to dry and repeat the process. This will help prevent sealing in any dust later on. You can then seal the hardwood floor boards with a resin or polyurethane sealer. Thereafter, providing you’re careful not to scratch the floor-boards; apart from regular sweeping, to maintain its appearance it should only need polishing two or three times a year.
Mending Gaps and Loose Floorboards
Due to shrinkage over time gaps can appear between the boards of an antique hardwood floor, this is more often a problem with square -edged boards rather than tongue and grooved ones.
Cut a strip of matching wood to fit the gap and apply wood glue to both sides of it. Insert the wood strip into the gap and gentle knock it into place with a mallet. When the glue has dried use a block plane and then glass-paper to smooth it down.
Loose and creaking floor-boards are both a problem with antique hardwood floors and part of their charm and character. However, to fix them, taking care not to disrupt any supplies below the floorboards; drill a hole through the floorboard into a joist, hammer a nail into the hole and knock the nail head below the surface with a nail punch. Repeat as required.
Even if you have some damaged hardwood floorboards they can still be replaced as part of an antique restoration project. If you decide to replace any floorboards be careful not to damage any pipes or cables under the floor.
Your antique floorboards could be tongue and groove or squared-edge ones. For tongue and grove ones – using a metal cutting blade in case there are any nails, run a circular saw down both sides the length of the damaged floorboard, with the depth set to that of the floor board and cutting down through the tongue and groove.
Pry out the damaged board by resting the pry on an off-cut of wood. Remove the tongue from the replacement board with a chisel and fit it into place. Use lost head wire nails to fix it to the joists. Square-edge boards are easier to repair.
Mark pencil lines on the damaged floorboard near to the joist(s). Lever up the damaged floorboard and rest it on off-cuts of wood. Saw off the damaged portion of the floorboard.
Use the sawn off piece as a template to mark its replacements shape and cut out the replacement piece. With the replacement in position you can then secure it to the joist(s) with nails.