Maintaining Real Wood Floors

  

I LOVE our house. Sure, it’s insulated with straw (in at least one place), every wall has a crack in it (usually multiple), and the windows rattle every time the wind blows, but it’s my little piece of history, and I’ve loved pouring so much energy into making it ours. However, owning an old home also comes with a major sense of responsibility. I felt it keenly just after we closed on our mortgage. Tony and I were walking through the nearly empty house and I felt this tremendous weight on my shoulders. This house has stood for longer than any person living, and it’s my responsibility to make sure it stays that way for another hundred years! I couldn’t help thinking, “Holy crap. What have we done?!” 

So we’ve been cautious during our renovations. When Tony found that some of the beams under the master bathroom floor had been cut to shreds by past remodelers (the ones supporting the 500 pound cast iron tub, mind you), he had metal bars custom made and added additional joists to reinforce the damaged areas. He’s replaced siding and outdoor trim that had wood rot and replaced subflooring in the downstairs bath/laundry. Yes, most of these jobs fall to him. šŸ™‚ One area that’s my responsibility, and something I haven’t been as vigilant about, though, is our wood floors. 

With the exception of cleaning, I have done almost nothing to maintain them over the last year and a half. I knew I should be doing something, but I just didn’t know what to do… so I sort of let it slide and worried about other projects. Well, I’m hosting a bridal shower this weekend, and it’s time to Spring Clean the floors anyway, so I’ve been spending the last few weeks thinking agonizing over what to do. Every source I’ve checked has a different answer, most of which are completely unapplicable to a floor as old as ours. This is further compounded by the fact that I know nothing about our floors’ history. I’m relatively confident that they have been redone at some point in the last 100 years but that they’ve never been sealed with polyurethane, which probably means they’ve been waxed, right? Yeah, I don’t know either.

I almost went the route of paste wax and renting a buffing machine, as that’s what was most commonly recommended. I actually purchased the wax and brought it home. Then my Mom found Johnson’s No Buff Wax. She remembered her mom using this stuff, so I ordered a few cans from Home Depot.  

 

Here’s a patch of floor in the library during the waxing process. The top portion has had the wax applied and dried for about 20 minutes. The bottom part had just been dry mopped.  

The jury’s still out on this product for the long-haul, but I’ll share some pros and cons. 

PROs: 

  • This was relatively easy to apply – pour a little on the floor (It looks like a spray bottle, but it’s a liquid) and wipe with a soft cloth.
  • It was relatively quick. I was able to complete 1 room in about an hour, not including moving the furniture, but for something that’s done once or twice a year, that didn’t seem terrible to me.
  • The shine was definitely there, but was a nice muted shine. I didn’t need to apply multiple coats to get it either  – just one. 
  • It brought back the beautiful chestnut color to my floors, which I wasn’t able to do recently with my normal vinegar, water and vegetable oil solution.
  • The product dried in about 20 minutes.
  • The rags could be washed in a bucket of water and didn’t need to be thrown away. I think they’ll forever-more be floor waxing rags, but that’s fine with me. 
  • One bottle goes a long way. I was able to complete the dining room, library, and staircase with just 1 bottle. 
  • Price – Each can was about $7 and since I didn’t need to rent any equipment, this product was very reasonable.

Tony and his mad camera skills caught an action shot in the living room.  

 

CONs: 

  • Smell – This stuff does smell pretty darn bad! We left the windows open during and after application.  Luckily we haven’t had much rain lately, so that was fine.
  • The floor looked fabulous right after it was done, but as soon as Charlie came into the room, we could follow his path with the dusty footprints! I think the protective wax layer made it a little sticky, but a damp dry mop did seem to take care of them.

We’ll see how this hold up over time, but at least the floors will look fab for the shower on Saturday!

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