In many sections of the country to-day, the housewife is confronted by a very perplexing problem. The refinishing of her floors has become a necessity. In this case the wood, its former treatment, and the new finish decided upon for it will determine the method of procedure. For years the floors may have been painted, varnished, waxed, oiled, or used without a finish of any kind. This last necessitated weekly scrubbing. Each one of these finishes brings up its own problem of daily care and its renewal.
If, upon examination, the old covering of paint or varnish is found to be in too bad condition to permit of "touching up," then all of the old paint or varnish must be removed. There are a number of methods by which this may be done. The one selected by the housewife will be largely determined by her location and the amount of money to be put into the work.
a) An electric planing machine will remove all finish and leave the floor in practically the state of new wood.
b) A workman may be employed who will scrape off all the old paint or varnish by means of a sharp-edged tool and then sandpaper the surface smooth. ' In this case your wood, if open-grain, probably retains enough of the original filler to need no new filler and you can treat it as you would a new floor that has been carried to this step in the process of finishing.
c) A prepared paint and varnish remover can be purchased from a reliable dealer. Use according to the directions on the package.
1 Adapted from Floors - Their Finish and Care. Extension Bull. 49. New Jersey State Agricultural College, 1925. For further information on floor finishes and coverings see chap. 11.
d) A number of different materials are recommended as being successful and inexpensive in the removing of paint or varnish from wood. Among these are ammonia, alcohol, washing soda, and potash (lye). The first and second are very slow for work with a large surface, washing soda is a little more rapid, but the quickest and easiest material is potash, which any housewife can buy in different size cans at her grocery store under the name of "lye." Use in the proportion of one pound of potash to six quarts of cold water. Use rubber gloves and overshoes to protect the hands and shoes. Take an old broom, cut the edges straight, and use it to apply the lye-water to the floor.
The equipment needed for this work is a scraper and plenty of old newspapers. Begin in the corner farthest from the door. Have a mop and bucket of clean water (with wringer attachment). Work with a small space at a time - about three or four square feet. Apply the lye water and allow it to stand until the paint or varnish softens (which is easily seen). Scrape off with the wide, sharp edged hoe or other tool. After all of the old finish has been removed, wash the floor thoroughly, making the second water strong with vinegar, and following this by a final wash with clean, warm water. When the floor is dry, sandpaper it smooth. This can be done rapidly if a weighted block is made and the sandpaper held in place on it by means of thumb tacks. Fasten a handle to this block if possible. This sandpapering insures a smooth floor; it also guarantees the removal of all lye from the wood. If any lye remains, it will begin its work the instant any new paint or varnish is applied. When the floor is clean, it should then be treated like a new floor. It will need "crack" and crevice" filler in case the boards do not fit well together.
A prepared "crack and crevice" filler may be purchased from any reliable paint store, or a very good filler may be made at home. Mix one part of turpentine and three parts of linseed oil (boiled preferred). Into this stir enough whiting to make a paste of the consistency of cold cream. This filler will be quite light in color. If the crack filler is to be applied to an oak floor, add a little yellow ochre and just a very small amount of burnt umber, in order to match the oak color. Clean all dust out of the crack. With a small brush apply varnish to the sides of the flooring. Pack filler into the crack. With a spatula smooth the surface even with the floor while the filler is soft.