Staining pine floor mid brown

Pine floor stained mid brown

Location: Westminster, London.

Property: Georgian terrace.

Timber: Non original new pine boards

Age: Unconfirmed – possibly circa 2005

Removed finish: None

Applied finish: Two coats stain tints, shellac, one thin coat matt lacquer, one coat antique beeswax

Notes: I go to considerable effort before I even accept a job to manage expectations being as open and descriptive as possible but sometimes even this is not enough. This customer was a young artist and changed her mind constantly requiring me to end up hand waxing the floor with a coloured wax to meet her new expectations, which I did!

Description: This floor was a very badly laid newer replacement floor which had not been fitted correctly and was very dirty. The customer wanted a medium stain and she showed me an example via her neighbours house, although preferably smoother. I did smoother painstakingly sanding the floor by hand and after many colour samples in situ we agreed on a colour. After colouring the floor the next day I found overnight she had scrubbed some off with bleach. The next night she hacked out some of the filler. After the floor was finished she changed her mind on the colour. Again. Then she said it was too smooth! No amount of skill and experience can stop humans being human, but they can help resolve problems. Luckily I keep an old tin of Mylands antique brown wax on the van and was able to bring the colour round just enough to make her happy. I sanded and washed the floor again by hand and then applied the wax with fine wire wool to dull the sheen and give a traditional waxed look, this made the colour a more neutral brown.

Smoked oak hotel floor

Location: Abergavenny, Wales.

Property: Medium sized Hotel and Restaurant

Timber: Solid oak wood parquet block

Age: New install

Removed finish: None

Applied finish: Traditional bespoke water stain, shellac seal, primer seal, two coats Bona Traffic HD matt (5 coat system)

Notes: Restaurant floor including reception area was 128 sqm herringbone parquet pattern stained by hand. Business suite was 50 sqm, ballroom was over 100 sqm, bar was 40 sqm we also completed another 120 sqm of rooms and reception / cloakroom areas (only some of which is shown) over the course of two years, plus stairs, skirting, counter tops and handrails amounting to over 450 sqm.

Description: The bar (not shown) was difficult as was the restaurant, smoked oak colour (shown) due to the need to obtain exactly the right colour. I maybe foolishly decided to use a traditional water stain rather than an easier but less natural looking nitro stain which on such a large area was incredibly hard technically to pull off and I only just got away with it. The result, which my very poor pictures do not begin to show was dramatic and quite stunning. This gallery probably shows the greatest disparity between real life and the photographs which were poor even by my standards as the light was very bad, ideally the room would need to have been painted and professionally lit to take decent pictures, the pictures of the smaller 28sqm reception area came out slightly better. The specification I drew up included five coats applied very generously to give the best protection possible. Lost revenue attributed to closing of areas for maintenance or refurbishment in commercial premises often far exceeds any cost savings made from cheaper, less durable and less professionally executed finishing. That is before the unquantifiable reduction in stress is factored in.

You can see the large amount of tools and equipment required to undertake this sort of job, what you cannot see is how uneven the floor was before we started as the hotel got their own maintenance brigade to undertake the work which they did competently but with slightly less than optimal finesse. When a floor is not laid optimally it is very hard, if at all, to get it one hundred percent perfectly flat macroscopically, the problem is we needed one hundred percent smoothness, microscopically! Water staining shows up every mark or scratch and we were going quite dark so to make sure after the screening with the trio I decided, slightly madly, to go over the whole floor myself on my hands and knees with a six inch random orbital sander / polisher with a powerful head torch. This took over eight hours, literally non stop, there was no other way. You can also see from the pictures that the whole floor was coated by two people with one inch wide zorino shellac polishing mops. People do not believe us when we tell them how we work. It isn’t madness, it’s just doing the best job we can. On jobs like this night turns to day and we work when we can to get things completed in as short time as possible, luckily for us the client was very helpful and thankfully our noise nuisance did not extend to any of the guest room areas.

Due to the nap of wood fibres herringbone parquet can look different tones when viewed from different directions, staining accentuates this. In real life the floor looked three dimensional with one row appearing a dark grey steel smoked oak colour with the other row appearing a warmer richer American black walnut colour. Looking from the opposite direction the colours reversed and walking around the room the colours changed as you walked. Again, due to its chatoyancy and directional reflectivity photographs fail to do wood justice, which is why we love it! Only gem and semi precious stones have similar properties. That’s why we don’t mind working on our knees for hours on end and coating large floors with little brushes.

The ballroom which we completed a couple of years earlier was coated using the same four coat process as the restaurant but without the stain layer. The business suite was also finished like this naturally clear. The other extensive work (not shown) which we carried out included staining and finishing of stairs, handrails, doors, skirting to reception and cloakroom areas along with clear coating of apartments. Much of the work was carried out over bank holidays. Three to five operatives were on site at any one time.

I don’t do adverts and rarely recommend but having stayed there as a ‘guest’ on several occasions during the course of my work and having worked in many of the UK’s top hotelsI can say that The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny is probably the nicest hotel I have ever stayed or had the pleasure to work in. The locally sourced Welsh food is especially fantastic and the level of service and warm welcome offered by William and his staff beats all the five star hotels I have come across. Needless to say the man also has excellent taste! The bars, restaurants and lounges are decorated, as are the rooms, to a very high standard managing to be both traditional with a modern twist at the same time. William is a man who declined an extra star rating so he may under promise and over deliver to his guests and also runs a Michelin star restaurant close by. I have few private customers whose personal tastes meet with my own but very few commercial clients. William is one and a visit to his wonderful hotel is well worth it.

I will at some point return and ask for some proper pictures.

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.

Hand sanded pine floor

Location: Tottenham, London

Property: Late Victorian / Edwardian Terrace

Timber: Original period pine board

Age: Circa 1900

Removed finish: None applied / Bituminous perimeter stain, heavy dirt and plaster

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

Notes: Very light hand sand keeping all staining, deep scratches and colour

Description: This was very hard work. Due to my experience I knew what it would involve and I only have myself to blame as I frequently seem to accept jobs that few will take on and even fewer who will bother to do them properly. I still haven’t worked out whether this trait is altruistic or a more selfish need to challenge and prove myself, I like to think it is a little of both. Many of these type of jobs involve extra time and effort beyond what can be charged for and so to some extent much of my work is partly a ‘labour of love’. Even though this job was very arduous I knew that from the start and no major surprises ensued so the job progressed happily. It is much more frustrating when problems arise that either you were not expecting or were hoping would not materialise. The customer was adamant they wanted to keep the floor as close to original as possible so minimal wood was removed via hand scraping and sanding using a fine finishing sander. If you look carefully you can see the shadows of bruises and scratches which were preserved. The ones on my hands and knees thankfully were only temporary.

The floor also had considerable worm damage, had been badly repaired in the past and was coated in old oil paint, bituminous stain at the edge and deep ingrained dirt including plaster and rubble from recent building works. Almost all the floor was loose and had to be lifted, shimmed and reaffixed. The pictures only show a fraction of the total boards lifted, repaired or replaced (all with similar reclaimed pine which I sourced and which by a stroke of luck was almost a perfect match) It always makes me smile when customers want a ‘shabby chic’ floor but then get very fussy about badly cut boards and old repairs. This is human nature, which is often amusing, we all have our particular idea of how we want something to look, shabby, but in a particular way. I empathise fully however and so many of the old infilled areas were removed and new reclaimed boards fitted and ‘staggered’ to ‘tie them in’ which is a lot more pleasing to the eye. I don’t like the term ‘shabby chic’ as that implies forced patination that is often unoriginal, I try and finish my floors with a light touch preserving as much original character as possible whilst making them sound, smooth and durable.

I applied a very very light shellac tint  and two hand brushed thin coats of extra matt lacquer, trying to keep my touch as light as possible.

Very often the skill of applying ‘a light touch’ involves the most work, the result, which the pictures taken late at night do not do justice, looks totally natural like it had never been sanded or repaired at all and all that had been done to the floor was a good clean and wax. Customers often ask if I can simply clean and wax their floors but often the answer unfortunately (for both parties) is no, the reasons for which will take another article. All the work was undertaken on hands and knees and was quite arduous but the result was very pleasing, needless to say the customer was delighted.

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.