When we had a contractor working on the house for major things like re-wiring, plumbing, and structural changes (cutting new doors and taking out old windows), we also had the crew rip up the old tile that covered the floors in the kitchen, bath, and laundry. Underneath, much to our satisfaction was beautiful solid oak flooring.
While they were at it, we also had the contractor crew sand and finish these floors with polyurethane.
Now, we all know that wood surfaces finished with polyurethane can stand up to wear and tear, water, and all the abuse of normal living extremely well for a long time, with only minimal care. But there was a time when polyurethane was not available. That was the age when the dining room floor was laid.
The dining room floor is also beautiful oak. We think it was put down in the late 1950s, perhaps, but certainly in the days before polyurethane. When we got possession of the house, most of this floor was covered with a piece of linoleum Only about two feet all around the walls was exposed to wear. Once renovations started in earnest, we pulled up the old linoleum, swept with a broom, and covered the floor with large pieces of cardboard in an effort to protect it while all the work was going on. About a month ago, maybe, I started cleaning the edges of the floor. I'm still at it.
Now I know why perfectly intelligent people covered up their beautiful hardwood floors with carpet back in the dark ages before polyurethane! Without that miracle coating, the wood requires a lot of care to keep it rich and glowing and protected. And it requires such care often! And such care is a lot of work!! I tackled the crud with good 'ole paste wax and steel wool. It does do a good job, as wax is a solvent, and coupled with the steel wool, it dissolves away a lot of the grime. There were places I had to use a scraper to get up some decades-old paint splatters and other unknown stuck-on stuff, but mostly the wax, steel wool, and circular pressure did the job. Oh, and don't forget the buffing: using dry rags and yet more of that elbow grease to rub away the dirty wax and bring on the shine.
|It took a lot of scrubbing, scraping, and buffing to go from this...|
I'm very thankful I do not have to scrub the entire floor on my knees. The biggest area that was underneath the linoleum is in really good shape. A good mopping with soap and water was all it needed.
It will be covered again, this time with a nice area rug to make the room cozier and the floor warmer. The outer two feet or so will be exposed like before, thus all my scrubbing. The edges that were underneath furniture year after year cleaned up beautifully with the wax job, looking almost like new.
The doorways, however, show a lot of wear, even after all my scrubbing and buffing. Makes you wonder how many folks went in and out, and what they were up to all those years.
Now that I'm almost finished with this lovely floor, I've discovered another reason to have it sanded and finished with polyurethane as soon as we can afford to: it's hazardous to your health! To protect my hard work, I put down some scatter rugs in strategic places, only to find that the wax makes the floor so slippery that one step on the rugs will send your feet flying out from under you! Not good, to say the least. Before we open the house for guests, I'll be sure to invest in non-slip rug pads to prevent any falls.
It's said that experience is the best teacher. That's debatable, but in this instance, my experience waxing the dining room floor has been a good teacher. I've learned that I really appreciated the people who invented polyurethane, that waxing hardwood floors on one's knees is a young person's job (at least a person younger than me), and that when you've worked really hard at something and everything you have aches, the satisfaction of a job done to the best of your ability is worth all the time, trouble, and pain. Almost.