It’s been a little over five weeks since we sanded our floors and we only just got a second coat of finish on last week. Now the floor in our living room is completely finished, with a Scandinavian white-oil finish, by WOCA Denmark, and we are so very happy with the results. My last post has a lot of before pictures, but below are a couple of before and after comparisons for reference. In the first, note the filled in holes, which were previously covered with a rusty tin can top!
We’ve started a couple of other projects in this room, so it is still a work in progress. My husband is replacing the baseboards and we’ve decided to go ahead and paint the wood paneling and walls white and the window frames grey. Please, pardon the ugly, blue tape.
Our little house has a lot of small windows and, though I’ve been quite vigilant in watching the light, I haven’t happened upon a moment where there isn’t an array of shadows cast over the floor. It’s difficult to capture just how clean it turned out; hopefully the detail shots help. Of course, being a hundred years old and quite abused before, the results aren’t perfect. There are grey marks left by staples, scars left by previous inhabitants, which we couldn’t sand out, and a couple of slightly darker patches. Yet, the outcome truly exceeded my hopes and expectations. It feels clean and fresh. We love living with wood floors and there are no more tears over spilled milk at dinner.
It was definitely hard work. My mom watched our daughters for a day and my husband and I sanded for nearly fifteen hours straight, with a short soup and sandwich break in the middle. When we finished at 1 in the morning, we were nearly dead! For sanding tips, Pete’s Hardwood Floors was the most helpful website I could find. The best piece of advice I picked up was start at a lower grit than you think you will need. At first, I was planning on starting at 60, because that was what I read another blogger had done. However, that would not have gotten us very far on this floor.
We started with a 24 grit, with a diagonal cross-grain pass. And repeat. Then we went over the whole floor at 24 twice more. We then went up incrementally to 100: 36, 60, 80, 100. We did two passes at each of theses grits, completing about twelve passes total. If I had it to do over again, I would have started at 16 grit, but the Home Depots (we ended up going to multiple stores for supplies) we went to didn’t have it in stock and we would have had to rent the drum sander another day to have the energy to get it done.
I really enjoyed using the drum sander. I was scared of the prospect at first—it weighed almost as much as me—but this video gave me the courage to try it out. I ended up using the drum sander even more than my husband, while he did all of the work with the edger. Actually, we walked all of the passes with the drum sander together, one of us holding the cord out of the way while the other sanded. Of course, this isn’t necessary, but it worked well for us. It was a meditative process, complete with earplugs! While he worked with the edger, I vacuumed and made a supply run.
The next morning, when I returned the drum sander and edger, I rented a floor maintainer, which I wanted to use to make the floors extra smooth. That did not go so well. We did our very best to hold it steady and parallel to the floor, but it always jumped out of our hands and we couldn’t manage it. I got a slight sprain across the top of my left hand on my first try, which took several weeks to heal, and when my husband tried out the machine, it flew and put a hole in the wall. Do not recommend for beginners! And really, the floor turned out to be plenty smooth after it was buffed with a small orbital buffer to work in the finish.
My husband did not enjoy using the edger (and neither did I, when I briefly tried it) and it died half way through the job, due to a faulty cord connection (when we returned it, the rentals manager kindly gave us a discount, due to the problem). He ended up finishing the edges with this detail sander. We were both sore for several days after all of the sanding.
This job produced over thirty gallons of dust. We did our best to take preventative measures, blocking the vents with old towels and taping plastic over the doorways. Still, dust seemed to permeate everything in every room—even the dishes in the closed cupboards—so it was like spring cleaning all over again.
While I did the prep work of tearing out carpet and staples and nails, my husband did all of the finishing work. I took our girls to Nana’s house to get them out of the way. I did a lot of research on whitewashed and soap-finished floors beforehand and came across an amazing line of products by WOCA Denmark. Not only are their oil products VOC-free, but they produce beautiful results. We used their Softwood Lye and Color Oil in Extra White.
To prep the floors, we used WOCA Wood Cleaner. We washed them twice after sanding, scrubbing the dust out of the cracks in the floor with a scrub brush and then wiping with a wet rag, which we rinsed very frequently to remove virtually all of the dust.
My husband applied the lye once and then decided to do one more coat, to even out a few spots and lighten the floor further. Make sure to remember to mix frequently if you use this product. We weren’t originally planning to do the lye process, but we were so glad we did. It neutralizes the yellow tones in the wood and reacts with the tannins in it, which, in this case, brought out the rosy and grey tones in it. We really love the color. I realize in some pictures it look off-white, while in others it looks more grey; this is true to how we experience the variation of the color during the day, depending on the light.
The Extra White Color Oil furthered the driftwood effect. Being VOC-free, it didn’t give off any untoward fumes. We started out with one coat of oil and then decided to apply the second a few weeks later, to give the floor a little extra protection. The white pigment in it creates the whitewashed look. At certain times of day, in particular light, the finish looks matte, while in other light it has a soft, velvety sheen. My husband and I are both enamored with it and so happy that we found such a gorgeous product to complement all of the hard work we did on sanding. I can’t recommend the WOCA products enough. They have an exquisite palette of colors to choose from and I’m thrilled with how their products perform.
I was worried that a wood floor might feel dusty and unpleasant underfoot, but this has actually not been my experience. I dust mop once or twice a day (as I had vacuumed the carpet once or twice a day before—little daughters are mysteriously messy) with a microfiber, bamboo-handled mop that I found at Home Goods. The floor feels clean and smooth. We’ve been living with the finish for several weeks and it cleans up very well. Thought it appears matte and one might think it would absorb spills, the oil creates a barrier to the wood and spills are easy to wipe up. It’s really lovely.
If you are considering refinishing your floors with a Scandinavian, whitewashed look, I hope you find this post to be inspiring and helpful!