How to revive a wooden floor

With a sander and some new finish to hand, restoring a worn kitchen floor is surprisingly easy, as Period Living's DIY expert Helaine Clare demonstrates

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Above: Newly-restored wooden flooring in the kitchen

When these reclaimed floorboards were first laid, their mellow wood and blonde good looks suffused the room with a warmth and beauty that can’t be replicated by modern products. This is a household where nothing is ever thrown away if it can be reused, so when it came to constructing kitchen storage, odd doors, broken furniture and off-cuts of wood were utilised to create a bespoke kitchen.

Nearly a decade on, however, the area around the sink and cooker is showing signs of wear. The high tap and shallow sink result in frequent drips on the floor, which have penetrated the boards’ scratched finish and caused ugly dark stains.

Patch repairs to a varnished floor are rarely successful; for an acceptable finish, scratched or worn varnish must be completely sanded back. If you have a lot of floor space, you may want to consider bringing in professional help.

When deciding on a finish, consider the wear the floor will get. Floor Gel or Floor Oil will enhance the colour of the wood and give a hard-wearing finish. When you notice signs of wear, clean thoroughly and apply a couple more coats. A wax finish is another option, but unsuitable for kitchens or bathrooms. These products will darken the wood a few shades.

This floor has been coated in Aquacoat HD (heavy duty), a water-based, quick-drying acrylic coating without spirit-based solvents. It will darken the wood imperceptibly, and won’t yellow over time. Follow the user advice and you’ll have a durable finish that’s suitable for a busy kitchen.

You will need…

  • Floor cleaner
  • Sander
  • Wood stain
  • Aquacoat HD and white bristle brush
  • Lubrasil abrasive paper and sanding block
  • Lint-free cloths

Aquacoat HD is available from Classic Finishes in Norwich (01603 760374;, as is Lubrasil abrasive paper

1. Thoroughly clean the floor: Clean the floor with heavy-duty floor cleaner, using hot water and plenty of elbow grease. Don’t allow the water to pool on the boards – mop up the surplus as you work so it doesn’t trickle down between them. Wipe over with clean water to remove dirt and soap residues, then allow to dry thoroughly.

2. Sand away dark marks: Use a sander to remove dark stains, but don’t take off more wood than necessary – start off with a medium-grade abrasive paper and only use the coarsest grade if the stain has penetrated deeply. Switch to a light grade and finish with a fine grade, going a little beyond the affected area to blend in the repair.

3. Remove any layers of sawdust: If your sander doesn’t have a bag, try gaffer-taping a sock around the outlet; it’s surprisingly effective. Then thoroughly vacuum the floor to remove escaped sawdust. For a really good finish it’s important to get rid of every trace of sawdust from surfaces, so wipe with a tack cloth or a damp lint-free cloth.

4. Apply new wood stain: If the original floor was treated with wood stain, it’s time to re-stain the bare wood. It’s tricky to get an exact match, but experiment on off-cuts (ideally left over from when the floor was laid); it may be necessary to mix two or three wood stains together. Wait for the test patches to dry before assessing the results.

5. Apply the first coat of finish: Apply Aquacoat diluted with 10% tap water – or three parts stain to one part Aquacoat if using a stain. Apply with a brush and immediately rub into the wood with a lint-free cloth until none remains on the surface. Follow the grain of the wood along a single board – don’t overlap and risk an uneven finish.

6. Allow Aquacoat layer to dry: Leave to dry for two to three hours, or longer in colder conditions (don’t apply if the temperature is below 10°C). Wrap some 240-grade Lubrasil paper around a sanding block and gently rub over the area to create a mechanical as well as a chemical bond. Use a tack cloth or damp rag to pick up sawdust.

7. Apply a second coat of Aquacoat: Apply the full-strength Aquacoat, shaking the bottle before use and stirring during application. Work along the boards, keeping a wet edge to achieve a smooth finish. Again, wait two or three hours, then lightly rub with the Lubrasil paper. Remember to wipe away all traces of dust with a damp rag.

8. Put on the final coat of finish: Apply another coat of Aquacoat, making it three in all. The coating can take up to a week to fully cure, so treat the floor carefully at first. Keep it looking as good as new by sweeping or vacuuming every day to remove dirt and grit. Occasionally wipe it with a damp mop, and clean up spills as they occur.