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Doing it up

Varnishing & finishing floorboards

If you’re reading this you may well have successfully sanded a floor. If so, congratulations. It’s one of the proudest achievements of my life and features fairly high on my CV. Compared with sanding, finishing the floor is a doddle. There’s various ways you can treat the wood but we opted to varnish our pine floorboards as it offers the best combination of finish and durability.


Prep

If you have gaps between your floorboards, get a flat-head screwdriver or stripping knife and scrape out all the gunk. This was a gross but undeniably rewarding job. A bit like squeezing a spot.

Decades of grim stuff

Once the room to be varnished is totally clear of dust and you’re ready to varnish, grab a bottle of white spirit and a clean rag and give the floor a good wipe down. This will remove any remaining dust and grime, ready for varnishing. The white spirit should have dried after a couple of hours, at which point you’re ready to varnish.

Varnishing

There’s not much to varnishing, just slap it on with a varnish brush as if you were painting a wall. Our varnish advised 3 layers and we left 24hrs between recoating which was plenty. Remember to varnish the floorboards by the door last or you’ll varnish yourself in.

After a fresh coat

Pine floorboards have a tendency to turn orange when varnished and we wanted to avoid this so opted for Ronseal clear matt floorboard varnish which gave a lovely, natural finish and seems to have protected fairly well so far.

Upstairs finished product
Downstairs before and after

Covering floor to skirting gap

Depending on the size of this gap and your preference, you could choose to leave this gap. However, our gaps were uneven and up to 11mm wide so we popped down to B&Q to buy some primed scotia moulding.

Before fixing in place, Haz painted the moulding with the same paint we used for skirting boards. The next step was to cut the lengths to size and press down into place with some grab adhesive applied to the bottom and back of the moulding. It’s worth getting somebody to help out with applying pressure to long lengths of moulding to make sure they’re evenly glued down.

When you arrive at a corner, fret not. It’s easy to make a smart join by cutting the moulding at 45 degrees with a mitre box and hacksaw. A mitre box basically holds the wood in place as you make the diagonal cut and costs as little as a fiver.

Once the adhesive has dried, you may find there are small gaps between the wall and moulding. Haz, AKA the caulk queen, applied a thin bead of caulk to conceal the gap. It took 10 mins and left a really neat finish so it’s worth doing.


And that’s it – time to sit back and admire your glorious floor. If there’s one key tip I’d give it’d be to varnish the floor as soon as possible after sanding as they’ll damage very easily with no protection, particularly if they’re a soft wood.

Equipment

  • Clean rag
  • Varnish brush
  • Flat-head screwdriver/stripping knife
  • Kneepads
  • Hacksaw
  • Small paintbrush
  • Applicator gun
  • Mitre box

Materials

  • White spirit
  • Clear, matt varnish
  • Paint for moulding
  • Moulding – we chose scotia-style
  • Grab adhesive

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