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.
Hardwood floors finished with varnish, so as to bring out the natural color and grain of the wood, represent the highest class of floor finishes. Such a finish, however, is scarcely possible on anything but newly laid floors. An old floor, which has stood unfinished, is so marred and scratched as to show up badly through the transparent varnish. Such floors are better finished with Floor-lac, which material is mentioned in a later paragraph of this chapter. Newly laid parquetry floors, hardwood floors, or hard pine floors, in music-room, dining-room, reception-room, hallway, and stairs, should be treated in the varnish finish.
On open-grain wood, such as oak, ash, chestnut, etc., the pores should first be filled with paste filler. For the natural finish, transparent paste filler should be used, and for the darker stained finish, antique and golden-oak fillers are more satisfactory. For the natural finish, specification No. 21 should be followed. Specification No. 25 has been prepared for the stain finish on these open-grained woods.
Close-grained woods, such as maple, birch, hard pine, and sycamore, do not require a filler. They can be treated in the natural finish, or stained. It is not advisable to treat finished floors with a finish dark enough to show the dust. Any one of the Handcraft Stains can be reduced and used satisfactorily on either open or close-grained woods. The following specifications should be used, Natural Finish Specification No. 22, Stained Finish Specification No. 26. When any floor, after being in use for some time, shows the wear, a coat of clear varnish should be applied. The wood should first be cleaned thoroughly with a weak solution of ammonia and clear, cold water, and allowed to dry thoroughly. After being sanded with fine sandpaper, one coat of Mar-not should be applied. If the old finish is considerably worn, two coats of this varnish are essential.
How to finish soft-wood or hardwood floors that have been previously finished, or from which carpets have been removed, is not the vexing question it used to be. A painted finish may not always suit the scheme of decoration, and the floors may not be in good enough condition for natural finish with varnishes, or they may have been previously painted, and a change now wanted. Such floors can be best treated by the use of the right kind of stain combined with varnish, which covers up all imperfections in the floor, and produces a good varnish finish imitating a variety of natural woods. The same method of finishing may also be used on newly laid floors, especially where the floor is of soft wood or of unattractive grain, and not adapted to a clear varnish finish.
Floor-lac is a finish especially made for such purposes. It is a stain and varnish combined. It is what is known as a pigment stain - that is, a stain in which enough pigment is combined with varnish to insure stability of color. Floor-lac light oak and dark oak are colors which are particularly attractive. Floor-lac green is frequently used in living-rooms and dining-rooms. The cherry, mahogany, walnut, and rosewood are equally attractive when used in rooms where the other decorative details are in perfect harmony.
This finish can be used equally as well on new floors and old floors. On old, badly marred floors it is necessary to first apply a coat of Floor-lac ground, in order to cover up any imperfections in the floor, and to get the proper surface for producing any of the various colors mentioned above. Specification No. 28 is for new floors, and specification No. 29 furnishes the details for finishing old floors that have been previously treated.