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.

Exterior Finishes – How to Finish a Wooden Picnic Table

A wooden picnic table right at your garden is a fun dining venue on weekends. However, wooden picnic tables are exposed to outdoor elements most of the year and needs extra protection. One way to protect your wooden picnic table from outdoor elements is to apply finishing. Here are the materials that you will need along with the instructions on how to finish a wooden picnic table.

Tools and Materials Needed:

• Paint brushes
• Sanding sealant
• Sandpaper
• Wood stain

Step 1 – Sandpaper

Smooth the surface of the picnic table using fine sandpaper. Start at the table top and sand in a circular motion until your get a relatively smooth and even surface.

Step 2 – Apply Sanding Sealant

With a paint brush, apply a sanding sealant on the surface of your picnic table and dry for 30 minutes. Sand the picnic table again using the procedure in Step 1.

Step 3 – Apply Wood Stain

After sanding, apply a coating of wood stain on the picnic table using a fresh paint brush. For a lighter wood stain apply only 1 or 2 coats of wood stain. For a darker wood stain apply additional coating until you are satisfied with the hue of the stain. Make sure to allow enough drying time between each coating of wood stain.

Step 4 – Remove Excess Stain

Check your picnic table for excess stain and remove any by sanding. Excess stain often accumulates at the end pieces and corners of your picnic table.

Step 5 – Finish

Apply polyurethane finish on your picnic table using another fresh paint brush. Apply 2 or more coatings to protect your picnic table from outdoor elements such as rain or direct exposure to sunlight.

Exterior Finishes – How to Finish a Wood Table for Outdoor Use

In order to finish a wood table so that it will not suffer damage when it is used outside, there are several steps that need to be undertaken. With a little treatment, you will find that a wood table will last a lost time, despite it being exposed to the elements.

Tools and Materials Needed:

• Paintbrush or roller
• Varnish
• Sandpaper
• Rags

Step 1 – Prepare

The first step necessary to finish a wood table for use outside is to prepare the wood. Start by undertaking any repairs that are required and sand away any scratches. Follow this by cleaning the table so that no debris is present to get caught in the varnish.

Step 2 – Gather Materials

You should ensure that you finish a wood table using the correct method according to the type of wood. Some will benefit from oils that can be rubbed into the wood and will highlight the grain, while the use of varnish will be better for others.

Step 3 – Apply Treatment

Finish the wood table by applying the varnish with a paintbrush, working methodically to ensure that it is completely covered. Keep a rag in hand to wipe up any drips. Allow the first coat to dry before applying another.

Furniture Finish Damaged

Problem: Furniture has been blemished with water spots or rings, burn marks from cigarettes, or minor scratches.

Background: Almost any furniture that is used regularly suffers an occasional nick, scratch, burn, or water spot. Though a number of commercial products are available to correct minor defects, furniture-finish ex pert Homer Formby suggests many alternative home remedies, many which use products you probably al ready have in the house.

What to do: To treat water spots and rings caused by moisture trapped underneath wax, try applying tooth paste. Squeeze it onto a wet cotton rag and buff the spotted area. For stubborn areas, combine toothpaste in equal parts with baking soda, an other gentle abrasive. Buff until the spot disappears. Then with a clean cloth continue buffing until you can see yourself. For burn marks, such as those caused by cigarettes, try using nail polish remover. Dip a cotton swab into the remover and rub it lightly across the burn mark. This dissolves the black residue. If any burn mark remains, scrape it gently with a small knife. If a slight hollow remains, mix equal parts remover with clear nail polish and apply 1 coat at a time with the nail polish brush. Let each coat dry between applications (it might take up to 8 coats or so).

Special advice: For minor scratches or other mars on furniture, try using a color crayon which matches the finish. Melt the crayon over the scratch until it flows over the mar, let it cure for half an hour, then gently shave off the residue with a credit card. You can melt the crayon with a soldering iron. Or if you don’t have a soldering iron, tie a nail to a pencil, heat it over a flame, then put the nail to the crayon.

Helpful hint: To mask the musty odor in antique furniture, you can use red cedar shavings (not western cedar). Put the shavings in the toe of an old pair of nylons, tie the end, and cut off the excess. Then tack the sack along the back of the drawer or, if there are no drawers, on the back of the furniture or underneath it.