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Understanding and Sanding Historic Wood Floors

Posted on August 11, 2023

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The Art of Reshaping Historic Hardwood Floors

In the dance of reshaping hardwood floors, one must remember that each floor has its own story, its own heartbeat. Their resilience to the touch of sandpaper is a tale of their age, their construction, and the secrets they’ve kept beneath layers of varnish and wear.

The Floors Whispering Tales from the 19th Century

Imagine stepping onto a floor laid down before 1900. These floorboards, which have seen countless footsteps, are usually broad and thick, often approaching an inch in depth. Their design lacks the later innovation of tongue and groove, a detail that might, at first, appear as a shortcoming. But in truth, this design gifts them with endurance. They’ve born witness to the scuffs of generations and can endure many more sandings. Yet, the spirit of a house sometimes keeps secrets. How many times has a floor been sanded before? To listen to its story, one might need to find a hidden crevice, a silent gap between the boards. There, with a thin metal ruler as your guide, you can measure the heartbeats left in the wood, discerning if the floor can bear another touch of the sander’s grace.

The Song of the Tongue and Groove

Later, as carpentry evolved, the song of the wood changed. The tongue and groove construction, like interlaced fingers of lovers, brought a different kind of strength and beauty. Their sanding, however, comes with a consideration; the dance is governed by the layer above these joins. Sand them too deeply, and you’ll find nails lurking beneath, the silent anchors of the boards. Yet, just as with the older floors, there’s a way to converse with them. Introduce that slim metal ruler into the quiet space between the boards, letting it rest gently upon the tongue. In this whispering gap, you can decipher how much more the wood can endure, how many more tales it can tell before needing rest. Westminster WC1 Mr Sander® employing Bona belt sander on herringbone flooring, with HEPA dust system ensuring a clean, refined finish.

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