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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Finishing And Care Of Wood Floors

( Originally Published 1918 )

The Treatment of Wood Floors, Old and New-The Use of Linoleum, Tiles, and Cement for Floor Coverings.

The floor is the decorative foundation of the room, the starting point in the ascending scale of color tones, and as such should always be darker in value than the side walls, in the same degree that the side walls are darker than the ceiling. The floor should not be inlaid in complicated designs and covered with patterns which prove distracting. It should be as inconspicuous as possible and should be a restful background for the rugs and for the furniture of the room.

In the more inexpensively constructed homes of to-day the light oak, maple, or pine floor is often used, varnished or waxed until its mirrorlike surface compels attention. The most beau tiful rugs and the finest of furniture are dimmed by its saffron splendor, which is at once the pride of the enterprising landlord and the despair of any tenant who wishes to create a homelike interior. Fortunately, however, all houses are not owned by landlords and even occasionally, when the house is rented, the owner may be brought to see the error of his ways and may allow a stain to be applied which will darken the floor to a satisfactory tone.

Wood stains may be purchased in various colors which are already dissolved in alcohol, or a good stain may be made by mixing oil paint and turpentine. Color cards of wood stains can be procured which may be brought into the room where the floor is to be darkened and the desired hue and value decided upon. Shades of brown, of silver-gray, or of brownish green are usually best, giving the effect of Flemish oak, weathered oak, brown weathered oak, or green weathered oak. If the stain purchased is too dark, it may be lightened by the addition of a little wood alcohol, and the dye may then be applied with a camel'shair brush. Open ground woods should have the pores filled with a paste filler. These fillers may be purchased containing any stain desired, and should be used on oak, ash, and chestnut floors. Maple, birch, hard pine, and sycamore are close grained and do not require a filler.

The finish for stained floors may be either wax or varnish. Varnished floors are the most easily cared for. Durable, water and heat proof varnishes are now on the market, and two coats applied once a year are all that are needed for the average floor. Waxed floors are more beautiful, but require constant care. For waxed floors a ready prepared wax may be used, or beeswax melted with turpentine to the consistency of lard is equally satisfactory. Two coats of wax are usually necessary, and they may be applied with a soft rag or, better, with a weighted brush which is manufactured for that purpose. The wax should be rubbed on only a few feet of the surface of the floor at a time and this portion polished before proceeding farther. One coat of varnish should always be given to the wood before the wax is applied, for the wax alone is not a sufficient protection to the wood against grease and moisture.

The floors should be rubbed about every two months and additional wax applied to all worn places. If a floor is allowed to become worn down to the bare wood, dirt is ground into the surface and cannot be removed without scraping. All grease and dirt should be thoroughly removed before any new finish is applied. On varnished floors this is especially important, and a good scrubbing with strong soapsuds is most effective.

Very poor floors may be successfully stained and then varnished, if first all nails are removed and every crack and chink filled with putty. When floors are old, or badly discolored, it is often best to use another finish which is made especially for this purpose. It is a varnish and stain combined, called floor lac. The pigment is retained in the varnish instead of sinking into the wood, so that the floor with its imperfections does not show through to any great extent. If the floors are very badly marred, however, one coat of ground paint is necessary before applying the varnish stain. The painted surface covers the rough places in the wood and furnishes a surface which is extremely durable.

Oiled hardwood floors are suitable for the kitchen and the bathroom. Oiled floors have the advantage of not being slippery and may be mopped up with water each day. A good quality of raw linseed oil should be used, and two coats each year are generally needed to keep the floors in good condition.

A practical covering for the kitchen and the bathroom is linoleum. It may be kept spotlessly clean with frequent washings and is attractive in appearance. It comes in simple inlaid designs of white or cream, combined with a light color. The best grade of linoleum is the wisest purchase, for it wears well. A good kitchen floor covering of this material will usually be found to be in excellent condition ten years from the time it is first used. Linoleum is rather awkward to handle, so it is best to have it laid by the firm from which it is purchased. A narrow molding should be placed over the edge next to the baseboard of the room.

Tiles, of course, make an ideal sanitary covering for kitchen and bathroom floors. They may be kept clean and are beautiful. They are, however, too expensive for the average small home, so it is fortunate that there is a very satisfactory substitute in cement. A cement floor is often now laid in any one of a variety of colors which will harmonize with the rest of the room. It may be left in one plain surface, or may be lined off with a small tool in tile effect while the material is still soft. It is the most sanitary of all floors in one respect, for the edges are usually rounded up to the baseboard in one continuous curve, thus facilitating cleaning. In one corner of the room an outlet for water may be placed. The one disadvantage of both tile and cement floors is that they are rather hard on the feet if there is much standing to be done. In the kitchen when floors of this kind are used rubber mats may be found a great comfort when placed before the sink and work tables.

Comfort and suitability should both be considered in choosing floor finishes. The floors of the home will then take their place as a subordinate but very important element in the general scheme of decoration.

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