A Victorian Home

Faux Floor Finishes Part 2

A Victorian Home
A Victorian Home

This blog post is for Robert and anyone who owns a Victorian house with original floors.If you read my last posting I gave directions on how to restore or touch up existing faux finishes. That information can be used for furniture of the faux fumed oak variety. When I finally received pictures from Robert (that is his beautiful Victorian home on the left – I’m so jealous!) I realized that his floor is quite different. He had mentioned oak in his original email and that was the only faux oak finish I knew of.But Robert’s situation / floors are different. Of course it’s hard to know exactly what they are without seeing them in person however based on the pictures I have an idea of what he has.The directions I gave in the first post were for repairing a printed design which is under the final topcoat or finish. The faux oak I mentioned was created by printing an oak grain on planks of wood using commercial printing processes. The “colour” of the wood came from the varnish or lacquer that was applied to protect it. These finishes turned an orangey – yellow over time which is why it looks like they are coloured – but they are not.But these are different.

Faux Floor finish
Faux Floor finish

These floors appear to be without much grain – I can’t tell exactly what wood these would have been but yellow pine, birch or beech comes to mind. There’s a good chance that the wide plank floors are made of a local, less expensive wood.

Now for the interesting part.

It looks like the design is part of the finish. This means that the wood is plain (or with very little grain) but the varnish used on top of it is where the design is. This is exactly the opposite with the faux oak. This technique could be done in a variety of ways. It is possible that the original painter added a retardant to the finish. This is a chemical that slows down the drying time of a paint or varnish. It appears that he ( painters were typically men) also added a colour to either an underglaze or to the varnish before applying it to the floor. Once the varnish (or underglaze) was applied the painter would have placed something with texture on top of it and then removed it when the look was right. The retardant would help the finish dry slowly without “filling in”. Today we create this type of texture using large sheets of plastic. This is known as scumbling.

Once the layer was dry the painter would have simply added another topcoat of varnish to protect the pattern and the floor. I have applied this technique myself (although not on a floor) several times during the 17 years I taught faux finishing. So how can you repair this? Well if I am right, you can only minimize the damage so that it does not show as much – you can’t really repair it.

Wow - what an entrance!
Wow – what an entrance!

I would clean the floor in the same way as I indicated in my first blog post – and be sure to test to see what finish your floor has. Is it varnish? Probably but you want to be sure. It will be an oil based varnish so don’t use a water based product.

Once the floor is clean and dry I would get to work trying to minimize the light parts of the wood by covering them with a stain that is the same colour of the rest of the floor. Use a stain pencil if you want but a small pad with a coloured Danish oil like Deftoil will darken the bare spots to match the areas around the patch.

Use your eyes and squint to see if the colour of the patch “melts” into the background. If it does you will have found the right colour. Touch up all the spots in the floor.

Now for those gouges in the floor. You can simply apply the stain and keep the gouges as they are – as an indication of an old floor or you can try to fill in the gouges. Do not use a wood patching product because some of these products will resist the stain and you won’t be able to darken it at all. There are powdered wood fillers that are neutral and in which you mix some of your colour to tint the wood before putting it into the cavity of the gouge. As I said before TEST, TEST, TEST! Check with your local painting specialists for the right products.

Once you have done this everywhere apply a topcoat to protect your floor. What you use will depend on what the original finish is. If some of you are reading this to the end of this post perhaps you can add your comments to this blog – especially if you have experienced this kind of floor before.

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