Reclaimed pine floor fitting

Location: Greenwich, London

Property: Georgian Terrace

Timber: Original period pine board

Age: Circa 1850s

Removed finish: Not applicable – Replaced floor

Applied finish: One coat shellac tint, two coats Junckers matt lacquer

Notes: Remove concrete hearth, salvage original timber, colour match mixture of several different boards

Description: This was indeed a challenge not made any easier by the reclamation yard who supplied short boards of three different types. The original pine boards had previously been replaced over the majority of the floor with very poor quality new boards which didn’t fit properly and had little character and it was therefore decided to fit a reclaimed floor. I managed with a little effort to reuse the very thin original boards around the perimeter which were damaged and covered in lots of paint and bitumen.

The room had subsided, like so many older buildings in London and the height difference both across the length and width of the room required a bit of adjustment. The four different types of boards each required their own particular amount of dimensional modification along with the general regulation across the room axes which was challenging. The four board types were all disparate colours and matching them in involved the use of many colours and tints, some boards receiving four or five tints to bring them ‘into line’. The result looks totally natural, like the floor is totally original and simply cleaned and waxed, that is always my aim, getting there sometimes is a little harder.

All the work was undertaken on hands and knees and by hand, including all sanding, this retained the depth of the fragile original Georgian pine boards and retained some of the three dimensional patination (the undulation of individual boards) The amount of adjustment required coupled with the need to colour individual boards sometimes several times and the removal of nine rubble bags worth of concrete and debris and all the waste wood down two flights of stairs meant this was a somewhat tiring job. The quality of the wood involved was very good and the customer most appreciative so the final result was very pleasing for both of us. Now he and his family have a floor that should last another one hundred and fifty years.

Fitting dark oak floor

Location: Camberwell, London.

Property: Detached residence

Timber: Supplied FSC certified European oak 20mm thickness with 6mm wear layer

Age: New

Removed finish: None

Applied finish: Traditional bespoke water stain, shellac seal, two coats matt lacquer

Notes: Floor was fitted perpendicular over older floor which was too damaged to save

Description: The original floor was too damaged to save as it had been destroyed by the actual installer during the installation and sanding, who also managed to fit a pine floor sold as oak. Very sad.

A new installation of FSC certified European engineered oak with the maximum wear layer of 6mm was fitted which is nearly down to the tongue and so to all intents and purposes can be sanded as much as a solid board of the same thickness. This was laid at ninety degrees to the existing installation for mechanical integrity, we also fitted a high quality thick, sound and heat insulated metal foil backed rubber underlay to even out any irregularity with the previous install. High quality raw oak was chosen and the colour bespoke mixed in situ using traditional water stains which have better permanence, lightfastness and a deeper colour than factory applied or bought oil or nitro type stains. They are harder to mix and apply which is where the experience comes in, but the result is a depth that is different to shop bought stained oak floors of which there are many. Buying raw oak and staining on site allows you to choose the highest quality timber stock and apply the exact shade of colour you require. You may notice the small amount of stain on the skirting, the pictures were taken before additional ‘piggy back’ skirting was painted and attached as a clever solution to covering the essential expansion gap and looks just like a part of the original.

Although the finish was very dark, almost ebony in appearance the look changed when sunlight hit it which you can see in a couple of the pictures including the coating of the sample board. This effect is harder to achieve with factory applied pigmented finishes, only the clarity and depth of water stains allows a timber to at once look both very dark and have subtle lighter highlights. This is due to a transparent dye allowing more of the light to pass through the finish to the wood before it is reflected back to the viewers eye, whereas a pigmented finish reflects most of the light off the pigment before it reaches the wood. Shop or factory applied nitro stains have a clarity and two tone nature that is in between water stains and pigmented stains. Many contractors these days only have the limited skill required to apply pigmented oil finishes. You can ‘water pop’ all day long but a pigmented oil finish will never come anywhere near this level of depth of colour. Many contractors say it simply isn’t possible. It is.

Why do these contractors and factories not use water stains? Because they require more skill to apply.

Oak takes a stain very well and can be coloured from white, including liming, through grey, to dark colours including natural tints like golden oak, medium oak, and jacobean, dark oak. I always try and use some traditional van dyke or walnut crystals in my stains as the hue mimics the colour of the natural ageing process of oak. Wood being naturally fibrous and growing in a specific direction has a nap (like the stripes on a golf putting green) and therefore a luminosity and reflectivity that is angle dependent. Photographs, as always cannot begin to portray the changing flip flop of colour and light that these types of floors produce in situ and one has to rather imagine the richness and warmth below the dark exterior. Needless to say floors like this look much better in real life.