Tips for using Shellac or Varnish on Hardwood Floors

Please Read Before Applying Varnish or Shellac On Hardwood Floors

One of the main purposes of applying a final finish to hardwood floors is to protect the surface of the hardwood itself. Another purpose is to reflect as much light from the surface as is necessary for the desired effect, such as high gloss, semi gloss, or satin look.

Varnish is available in many grades of color and quality. Quality grades will expand and contract with the floor without cracking. Colors can range from clear to dark brown. Spar varnishes are available with additives to give it some resistance to salt water. Varnishes can also be thinned with turpentine.

Before varnishes can be applied to hardwood floors, it is key that the floors are completely free of dust and debris. If particles are left from the sanding or foot traffic during the actual sanding process it will leave small bumps in the finish once dry. When having varnish applied to hardwood floors the work areas should be free of dust as possible. It is also worthy to note that minimum air currents should be enforced throughout the process.

When using varnish on bare wood floors it is good to thin the first coat with 1 parts turpentine to 4 parts varnish. Make sure to let the first coat dry thoroughly as it will act as a sealer and should be applied as a sealer. This first coat should dry very thoroughly before doing a light sanding. Be generous about drying time, don’t rush it. Additional coats can be used straight out of the container, no thinning should be necessary. The harder the varnish the smoother it will sand. Always remember a tack cloth should be used after sanding wood floors.

A good full coat of varnish levels out on wood floor. However, to much varnish will increase the drying time and run the risk of dust accumulation. When too little varnish is applied during the coating process it will dry faster. In return, quicker dying times may lead to bare spots. These bare spots may need sanding to blend in between coats.

When shellac is used as a hardwood floor finish it is easy to work with. It dries dust free in less than a hour in most cases. And is mostly ready for sanding in less than one and a half hours. Do consider humidity levels as it contributes to drying times as well. Another thing to consider is most shellac has a short shelf life of four to six months. When stored longer than six months it can began to deteriorate. Indications that the shellac has begun to deteriorate is excessive drying times. As with any floor finish you definitely want to check the manufactures dates of production and expiration. Shellac works best when the appropriate cut is known to suit the job at hand. A basic rule to considered “more thinner coats of shellac may be better than a few thicker coats” on hardwood floors.

Orange and white shellac tend to be popular colors in the North American region. Orange gives a deeper grain tone on hardwood floors than white. However, white shellac can be tinted with aniline dyes. This can produce different effects and can be used for blending or matching existing hardwood floors.

Shellac should be applied freely so the wood surface is good and wet. During the application process work towards the wet edge. If you notice visible laps they should disappear as the shellac softens and blends. Always remember shellac should be applied with short, light strokes, then leveling strokes across the grain. Light stroke with the grain helps to smooth out the finish.

Shellac can also be applied to hardwood floors by brush or lint free cloth pad.

Contact us if you’re in the Raleigh, NC area and need help with wood floor cleaning & buffing.

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