Hardwood Floors – Determine Your Finish


To help you maintain or refinish your hardwood floor, you should know how the floor has been finished. The finish is the hard, shiny coat that protects the floor and is applied on top of any stain. If you don’t know what kind of finish you have, test it using a couple of soft cloths, one dampened with denatured alcohol (menthylated spirits, for example) and the other with lacquer, or paint thinner. This is an important step, especially with repair. Don’t worry, once you have re paired the floor, you can apply the same finish to complete the flawless look.

How to determine your finish:

1. In a clean, inconspicuous area of the floor, rub the alcohol in a small circle. If the floor’s finish starts to come off, it’s probably shellac.

2. If the alcohol doesn’t work, but the thinner does, the finish is lacquer.

3. If neither solvent works, the finish is a varnish, probably polyurethane.

Handy Person Tips

• When painting stairs, paint every other step first. When these are dry, paint the rest.
• To avoid cleaning paint brushes and rollers if you intend to use the same color later, or if you do not have time to clean immediately, place the brushes and rollers in a plastic bag, tie shut and place in the freezer. They will keep for several days without drying up.
• Protect hands from paint solvent by putting the brush and solvent into a strong plastic bag. With hands outside the bag, work the solvent into the brush through the plastic.
• After cleaning your paint brush, a few drops of oil worked into the bristles will leave the brush soft and ready to use.
• To clean paint rollers, fill an empty one-quart milk carton with solvent, put the roller inside and crimp the ends shut. Give the carton a few shakes, then let sit for a couple of hours.
• Simmer hardened paint brushes in full-strength vinegar. Re move the softened paint with a wire comb or brush.
• To remove oil or enamel paint from your hands, rub on paste floor wax and then wash with plenty of soap and warm water. There is no odor and it’s easier on the skin than paint remover.
• In time, a partly used can of paint will develop a skin on top. To prevent this, cut wax paper the size of the can and drop it in.
• To save partial cans of leftover paint, fill the airspace with a lightly inflated balloon before pressing on the lid.
• A coat of penetrating stain applied to a smooth wood surface may last only three or four years, but a second application after the wood has weathered will last as long as 10.
• To give bathroom fixtures a new look, paint with an epoxy paint, sold especially for that purpose.
• Never stir varnish. It has no color pigments which need blending and stirring will create air bubbles which can ruin a smooth finish.
• To frost a bathroom or garage window, make a solution of one cup of beer to four tbsp. Epsom salts and paint on the window. It washes off when you want a clear pane again.
• If you have a small hole in your wall (after moving pictures etc.) take a wax crayon as near the color of your wall as possible. Rub the hole with the crayon, polish with a dry cloth and the hole is invisible.
• Clean out old nail polish bottles and fill with ‘touch-up’ paint for scuffs and scratches that may occur on your walls.