Soooo, one of our biggest mistakes during our renovation was deciding that one way of saving money and reducing our renovation costs was to take on the sanding of the floorboards ourselves. Big mistake. Firstly, the job itself was EXHAUSTING! And secondly, it is not a cheap DIY and because we made a hash of it we ended up spending more than if we had given our builders the job in the first place.
It must seem odd then that I’m writing a blog post about it but we learnt a lot during the process and did end up with a result we are really pleased with so I hope it will be helpful to share our experience.
When we bought the house all of the floors were covered in cheap laminate that was bubbling up here and there. On viewing the property because it was empty and very obvious that the whole place needed ripping apart we were able to take a peek under the laminate where it was coming up to see that the floorboards beneath looked pretty good. We had to cross our fingers that once all the laminate came up the boards in each room would be decent as we definitely didn’t have the budget to buy and fit new flooring throughout the house. Lucky for us the boards are good albeit a few weak points and quite large gaps between the boards downstairs. This is a big downside as there is no insulation beneath the boards and there was no cheap way of adding it because there is a 3 or 4ft chasm under the ground floor. As a result it can be very draughty downstairs so we really should have filled the gaps between the boards. To be honest, I have notions of replacing the flooring downstairs in the future if we extend so it’s never been a big priority.
Another issue that we uncovered was the fact that some of the original boards had obviously been replaced in the living room at some point. Once they were sanded the colour of the new boards was a lot lighter but lucky for us we had planned a big rug for this area so it’s not at all obvious.
Aesthetically speaking I adore original floorboards and it’s such an easy way to inject character back into a house, especially a 1930s house that doesn’t have all the period features of a Victorian home. They create a warm and lived in feel and practically speaking they can be very easy to look after as well as covering a lot of dirt and wear, which is something I always have to think about with a big dog. I would never recommend painted floorboards from that perspective as the paint chips and scratches so easily and unless that is the worn look you want it will drive you crazy and you’ll be forever re-painting.
The sanding process
Jules took a week off work with the aim of sanding the large downstairs room, hallway, upstairs landing, three bedrooms (two double and one single). He spent the first day getting together the materials he would need including driving to collect a floor sander from HSS (not our nearest branch) and sanding sheets.
Mistake number one: DO NOT HIRE THE SANDER UNTIL YOU HAVE PREPPED THE FLOOR! The hire companies charge you by the day or week so try not to have it in your possession unless you are using it. There is a lot of prep to do before you will be ready to sand such as knocking in nails with a nail punch and replacing certain boards (our builder salvaged a few lengths for us from a skip).
Mistake number two: BOOK YOUR SANDER AHEAD OF TIME. We couldn’t get a sander from our local HSS branch last minute so wasted a lot of time driving around London to locate one.
Mistake number three: BUY MORE SANDING PAPER THAN YOU NEED. HSS sell sand paper on a sale or return basis and they advise buying more than you need and we agree. We used about 15 sheets of each grit: 60 (some people suggest using 40 grit to start with but we didn’t need to as there was no paint or varnish on our boards and they were pretty smooth), 80, 120. We wasted more time buying more sand paper as we ran out. Do note, if you haven’t done enough prep with your nail punch protruding nails will rip up the sanding sheets.
Mistake number four: HIRE AN EDGING SANDER. We tried to save on the hiring cost of the sanders by using an angle grinder for the edges instead of an edging sander. This is just a horrible mistake and there’s nothing much else to say about it. The edging sander is essential to get right up to the skirting boards.
Jules did manage to sand the whole house with 60 and 80 grit in the week he took off. He planned to go over all the rooms with 120 grit the following weekend but it all went wrong at this point…
Oiling the floor
After the first week of sanding we decided to sort out exactly what finish we were going to use in advance. When it came to deciding on a finish for the floors my main concern was using any type of finish that would make the pine boards appear too pink/red. I also didn’t want to use a varnish that would make the boards shiny or slippy. I was leaning towards a white tint to create a Scandi feel, which is why I was keen to use Osmo Oil White. Jules tested it and it seemed like a very subtle white tint. However, I would say this was our fifth mistake.
Mistake number five: TEST FINISHES ON A LARGE AREA. As you can see from the photo below Jules tested three finishes on three small sections. The issue with this is that it is very difficult to get enough of the oil on such a small section of board and you can’t get a true representation of what the finish will look like on the whole floor. It’s a bit like the mistake of just using a paint tester on a little piece of paper. We believed that the Osmo Oil White was going to look ok on our boards based on the tester but it really didn’t!
Choosing the wrong oil
Jules started the oiling in our bedroom as he had already done the last 120 grit sand in there. I wasn’t there so didn’t see it being applied but he sent me a couple of photographs the next day once it was dry and I HATED it.
The boards looked dull and had a horrible purple tinge. I really, really did not like it in the photos and when I saw it in real life I still hated it. It had to go!
At this point Jules threw in the towel. He was exhausted after a full week of sanding, followed by a full week of work, oiling in the evening, travelling for an hour back to where we were staying and the idea still having to do the last sand throughout the house AND re-sanding a whole room sent him over the edge! Did I also mention it was the extreme heatwave of 2018? Ha! We very quickly made the decision to hand the job over our builders.
We gave up the idea of a white tint as we just didn’t have the time within the building schedule to do another round of testing. We had already tested Osmo Oil Raw and we both really liked it so we just went with that and it turned out really well. Untreated sanded pine has a light, pale character from its natural ‘raw’ appearance. Osmo Oil Raw is designed to retain this appearance. Yes, it does make the wood slightly darker but it’s very subtle, has a lovely matt effect and it makes the wood feel warm and characterful. We used one application of Osmo Oil Raw and then a top coat of Polyx-Oil Original.
One of our builders re-sanded the bedroom that we didn’t like, did the final 120 grit sand throughout the house and then once we had had the house cleaned top to bottom he did the application of Osmo Oil Raw and the top coat of Polyx-Oil Original. However, it was agreed that he wold leave the hallway and kitchen not oiled so he could access the house (i.e he couldn’t oil himself in upstairs or outside, for that matter) and that we would do that bit as soon as we moved in. The plan was to do an application of oil one evening before bed so that it would have enough time to dry overnight.
Mistake number six: OIL EVERYWHERE AND DON’T SKIP THE HALLWAY AND KITCHEN. Urgh – can you guess what we did? Yes, that’s right, we didn’t get round to oiling the hallway and kitchen. Moving in was busy and stressful and there was stuff everywhere and we just never got round to it. Two years later we now can’t do it as it needs sanding again as it is so dirty.
You can see the big difference between the oiled floor on the right and the un oiled floor on the left in the photo above. Now try to imagine two year’s worth of dirt being ground in to an untreated floor. It annoys me every day and how we go about fixing it remains to be decided (I actually want underfloor heating and tiles in the hallway as it’s such a cold space). Watch this space.
Here a few pics of what the floors look like in our ‘finished’ home. I would say we have a rug in every space so at no point can you see a huge amount of the floor…
So, there you go; the story of our floors. I get messages every single week asking me how we restored them so I hope this is helpful in one way or another. Do drop me a line if you need to know anything I haven’t covered.
This was such an informative post, Thankyou for sharing the highs & lows!
This is such a fantastic post! So much excellent information. Thank you for writing. Let us know how your PAX wardrobes go!
Thank you so much for posting this! I have just bought a 1930’s house in the NL and was trying to convince my husband to do the original floorboards and your post “nailed” it for me! We will definitely learn from your mistakes and take all your advice onboard when doing our project.
Oh great! Good luck xx
Thanks for sharing – I love the way it looks. We were thinking of restoring our floorboards ourselves but will now investigate a professional coming to do it for us! Thanks for the warning.
I suggested this to mum who annoyingly replied “won’t that be cold?”. Could I ask if you find it a little cold or is it ok?
We’ve been looking at laying a new wooden floor but it’s well out of our price range. We’ve also looked at various other options but they all look a bit too fake for our taste.
Thanks a lot!
It is cold in the winter as it lets lots of cold air in through the cracks 😬 We weren’t able to insulate underneath our boards as there’s a very large gap between the boards and the foundations so that’s our main problem. We have lots of rugs and upstairs is very toasty but downstairs is definitely a problem during the winter.
I’m about to oil my floors, wish me luck!
Just a hint – You can put insulation between the joists either with battens or netting depending on which type you go for.
To seal the gaps you can hammer in pine slivers or use Bona mix and fill along with some sawdust. I went for pine slivers. Big job but looks great. If you ever try it again yourself hire from a proper floor sanding hire shop, the machines are much better.
Thanks for the great post- I have now booked in a tradie to come & sand our floor for us & my partner is very happy. Is there any reason you used Osmo oil & not lacquer? My tradie is telling me it dries quicker & is more protective. Have you had issues with scratching etc? Thanks
No, it’s been great. I wanted natural matt finish which osmo raw has given us. x