When we bought our Victorian terraced house the previous owner had already stripped and sanded them. Unfortunately they had also covered them in orange varnish in the 80s.
Our ginger cat was almost completely camouflaged when he lay on them – such was the intensity of the Tangoed hue! The heaviness of the orange also made the room look quite dark so we decided to make a change and drag the floors into the 21st century.
Painting or sanding floorboards?
We wanted pale boards so the options were really paint or sand. If you’re going to do the job properly and you’re starting with varnished floorboards you are realistically going to need to sand them anyway even if you opt for painting so that the paint can adhere to the wood.
We liked the natural look of bleached Scandi floors that are traditional in Denmark and decided to go for this.
Is it worth paying professional floor sanders to do the job
Having hired sanders previously to do the job myself my experience has of DIY sanding large spaces has never been pleasant. No matter how much time I spend on prep I always seemed to end up blasting through dozens of sanding discs, spending hundreds of pounds, giving myself RSI from the vibrations of the sander and of course covering everything in an inch think layer of dust.
So this time I decided it would be well worth paying a professional to do it in half the time with little or no mess. We found a company online who gave a quote based on the condition of the floor and square footage. They sanded the lounge (24ft x 13 ft) and the downstairs hallway (24ft x 3 ft) in about 5 hours. There was virtually no dust and the effect was immediate. Money well spent I’d say!
Bleaching floorboards using wood lye
Once we’d sanded our floorboards back to their original colour we wanted to make them even lighter so we opted to use a wood lye. This natural bleaching method is traditionally used in Scandinavia, it essentially strips the colour pigment from the wood removing the orange and yellow shades. Over time it goes greyer too.
We applied one layer of clear lye and followed this up with a layer of lye with a white tint in it. The trick is to apply the lye fast so that you get an even colour across the whole floor. We used a sponge mop to do the main areas of floor and a large hand held sponge to do the edges.
To seal the floorboards so that you can easily clean them in future we used a wood soap – we chose one with a white tint in it too. The wood soap closes the pores of the wood so that you can wash it down without damaging or warping the floorboards in future.
Maintaining pale floors
To be honest we worried about the practicality of maintaining off white floorboards in the hallway and lounge which both have fairly heavy foot traffic but keeping them clean has been surprisingly easy. They don’t show up the dirt as much as say floorboards painted white would do because the natural grain of the wood helps to disguise dirt.
We just give the floors a quick mop using a 1:50 wood soap solution once every two weeks and it works a treat.
- If you are sanding your lounge floor consider doing your hallway at the same time otherwise you might end up with clashing flooring where your doors open to join the two spaces.
- When applying the lye I’d definitely recommend wearing waterproof gloves as the bleach can irritate your skin and turn your nails yellow (not a good look!).
- Leave your floors for 48 hours before you start moving furniture back into the room.