7/10/2006

Shellac and Floor Sanding Madness

It's official: The floor refinishing madness will begin on Thursday. On last Thursday, Shayne and I stopped by a local hardware store to inquire about their floor sander rentals. I've decided that I do not want a drum sander, since our floors are in good shape and don't need any radical leveling. They also don't seem to have many layers of finish. Surprisingly (to me), they rent Varathane's ezV sander, which is the Medusa of orbital sanders. The ezV resembles an oversized carpet cleaner, and it has 3 smallish random-orbit heads positioned in a triangle. It is supposedly tough enough to strip the finish off a floor, but gentle enough not to leave gouges. I guess we'll find out on Thursday...!

I'm feeling pretty good about the sanding, but I'm very nervous about the finishing. Against many people's better judgement, we've decided to finish the floors with shellac and not polyurethane. Every time I tell people this, even old house people, they tell me how wonderful oil-based poly is and how weak a finish shellac is. Maybe I'm missing something here, but the original, 80+ year old shellac on the floor downstairs looks fine. It's not worn down to bare wood or scratched to hell, and it looks way better than the edges that were refinished probably inthe '60s or '70s with varnish. In some ways, it even looks better than the polyurethane upstairs, since it really brings out the texture of the wood. It looks like wood, not wood coated with something, if that makes any sense.

So, Thursday will be sanding, and Friday and Saturday will be devoted to shellacking. I'm going to go panic now...

8 comments:

Paul said...

Don't panic.

Yes, shellac is a weaker finish than poly, but it's not like you'll need to add another coat every couple of weeks. I've been using shellac on my oak floors as I've been refinishing them, and I'm pretty happy with it. It doesn't have that thick plastic look that poly can sometimes give floors--as you wrote, it looks much more like real wood, and, to me, looks much more authentic in an old house. Any scratches or chips can be repaired by touching up the shellac without having to sand and refinish, which is nice. And best of all is the quick drying time--you can easily do three coats of shellac in a room in just a few hours. I might not use shellac in a bathroom or kitchen, but I know it's been done.

P.S. I also used shellac on both sets of stairs in my house--no noticeable chips, flakes, or scratches, despite the foot traffic.

Di said...

Thanks Paul :) It's good to hear that I'm not the only one that thinks shellac can be okay on a floor. Since the dining room, living room, and kitchen all flow together, I will probably be using shellac in the kitchen as well, but maybe with a coat of poly on top. It depends on how well it holds up in the other 2 rooms...

cruzinz3 said...

David in Cedar Rapids. I just used shellac on my steps to the second floor and I love the look. My home was built in 1924. I laso think it is an authentic look in an old house. I used shellac in a bedroom over three years ago and it still looks great. I can't see any reason not to use it.

Anonymous said...

I just installed reharvested 125 year old chestnut boards 10 to 13 inches wide as a dinning room floor! Make sure you cut the shellac to 1 or 1 1/2 pound cut it goes on better without brush strokes but what is most critical is it goes on thin and drys qiuck whitch makes for a more durable and harder scratch proof floor also what ia extremely imperitive go on whith thin coats and let dry at least 1 hour between coats for the first few after that increase drying time to 2 to 4 hours between coats then 24 hours before you put on last coat! this thin coat and drying time is critical to have a toughest finish as possible with shellac! Also what is imperative is dewaxed shellac is more water resiliant and tougher under stress we have three cats that are active and slide and jump in dineing room I have seen no serios damage done by theses 3 brutal cats on the floor and they have claws!! Also if you want to use Amber instead of dewaxed shellan with no wax which is better all you have to do is take a nylon stoking and strain the amber shellac thru it several times it will clog and take the wax out you may have to change stockings once in awhile ha ha!! Thia will also give you a universal base for your floor that will axcept any finish on top of it after that!! good luck!!

Anonymous said...

sorry I forgot to mention if you use amber shellac that you strain thru a nylon stocking several times to make it wax free it will then be a unversal primer that will give your floor a beautiful look that you can put any finish over it also if you clean the present old floor with ammomia then follow by vinegar you can put dewaxed shellac of the amber color over mostly any finish and this will act as a primer that is beautiful that you can put poly or almost any finish ver it to make it more tough if you wish and it wont be so noticeable cause you will have the beauty of shellac below that clear finish sorry I forgot to add that to the last input I gave you

Anonymous said...

Can you give us a report on how the shellac on your floors has held up now that you have lived on them for a while?

Keith

Di said...

Keith - The floor has held up really well. We have some scratches from the dog (we have an 80 lb German shepherd), but those have been easily touched up. There were also some cloudy spots after said dog had an accident overnight, but again, a bit of touch up, and you can't even see them. The touched-up spots were just wiped on with a cloth, and they have blended so completely that they are unnoticeable. The dog's claws have left dents, but the same thing happened in our poly upstairs, so I don't see that as a negative point. Even in the high traffic areas, it's not wearing thin. I'm happy with it, and used shellac again on our entire upstairs.

john sena said...

Nice posting, thanks for sharing with us. Your blog is great and helped me feel better knowing about the floor sanding abrasives. Thanks again!