This section is from the book "Your Home And Its Decoration", by The Sherwin-Williams Company. See also: Nell Hill's Feather Your Nest: It's All in the Details.
VARNISHED and painted floors are coming into more general use each year in all classes of homes. The change from carpeted floors has not been a matter of taste and fashion alone. Cleanliness, healthfulness, and economy have had probably more to do with it than anything else. The dusty, germ-collecting carpet, so hard to keep clean, was doomed to be supplanted as soon as reputable manufacturers began to place good floor finishes on the market.
Quality in floor-finishing material is more essential, perhaps, than in any other class of paint or varnish material. Floor finishes are subjected to the hardest wear, and, therefore, require a greater knowledge and skill in their preparation than any other finish used in the home. There is no one floor finish suitable for every kind of floor. It is, therefore, extremely important that the right kind of material be selected for producing each particular finish, taking into consideration not only the kind of wood in the floor but its condition.
On new floors a varnish finish is most satisfactory, while on some old floors it would be practically impossible to obtain good results with clear varnish alone. On some floors a painted finish is best. This chapter is designed for the purpose of bringing out all of these points in concise form. Frequent reference will be made to the working specifications in Chapter XXL, and also to the information regarding wood treatment contained in Chapter XVI (Woodwork And Its Treatment).
A painted finish is most suitable for floors of soft wood. Hard-wood floors, such as maple, hard pine, oak, birch, etc., should have a varnish finish, unless badly marred. A painted finish covers up all imperfections in the wood and furnishes a surface which is extremely durable, and which can be scrubbed and cleaned frequently. A painted finish is especially suitable for kitchen or bedroom floors. Sherwin-Williams Inside Floor Paint is especially prepared for this purpose. On new floors or old floors, not previously painted, three coats of Inside Floor Paint should be used. On old floors two coats will be quite sufficient.
A wax finish produces a polished effect when used over a varnished or painted floor, and helps to bring out and preserve the finished surface. All the arguments to the contrary notwithstanding - never apply any kind of floor wax to the bare wood or over a floor that has been treated with a filler only. Floor wax alone offers no protection to the wood against grease, moisture, etc. Water should not be used on a floor treated simply with floor wax without the preparatory coat of varnish. Water used under such conditions will raise the grain and darken the wood. In order to revarnish a floor that has been previously waxed, all of the old wax must first be completely removed with turpentine. In order to obtain a durable waxed floor, it must first be varnished, in order to preserve the floor and protect the wood from moisture and grease. Sherwin-Williams Floor Wax should then be applied in a thin coat as it comes from the can. A soft rag should be used for this purpose, and the wax should be applied on about a square yard of the floor at a time, and polished before proceeding further.
If the floors are old and the boards have shrunk apart, if they have cracked and do not come together completely, it is advisable, before applying any paint, stain, or varnish finish, to fill up the cracks and seams. In this way a smooth and uniformly even surface will be secured. When these open cracks in the floor are filled, they cannot become clogged with dust and dirt, and the floor will be better looking and more sanitary in every respect, and it will be more easily kept clean. On floors of this sort it is frequently advisable to entirely remove the old finish. Taxite has been provided for just such a purpose. This material has been described more fully in Chapter XIX (Materials For Remodeling And Redecorating).