General Dance Discussion > Varnish or oil - best way to treat a floor?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by Lucretia, Aug 11, 2007.

  1. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    We are just now polishing the floor of our barn. Surprisingly the surface turns from dark brown to pale furtree. I couldn't believe it would work so well. I thought dirt and moist plus the agricultural machine that has been placed there would have stained it deeper.

    Now when it is so very bright - we need to treat the sufrace in some way. Or else every single fotstep will be visible. But how? We do not want the friction to get worse. We are having a big salsaparty next week. Do anyone know?

  2. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    if you intend to use it regularly-- a good paraffin paste wax, buffed in , wood likes to breathe .
    However, if exposed to weather , then water protective covering .
  3. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    The ceiling is OK - no water on the floor. But it will freeze and get moisty. No heating system in that buildning.

    I'll post some pictures soon.

  4. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    Work in progress




    WHat a difference...

  5. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    beautiful... lucretia, what are you going to use the floor for?

    i redid the oak floors throughout one of my houses, by myself. i ended up using no varnish but two coats of marine polyurethane, with a steel wool in between. it was gorgeous... loved the shine, and so easy to maintain.
  6. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    Mainpurpose is dancing ....and Party of course :banana:

  7. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Polyureathane-- aesthetic-- but the bane of all dancers .
  8. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    sticky on dance shoes?
  9. Al Gisnered

    Al Gisnered Member

    Sort of. You've danced on it at some competitions. Generally there's too much grip on soft soled shoes (think gym floor - quick stops and starts in basketball) but it can suddenly release and be very slippery. If a little wax, oil, or dust gets on it can be a horror. It can also be very slippery for hard soled street shoes. The better comp floors you've danced on have specially formulated second and third generation urethane derived finishes that are not available on the consumer market. And even at that, they're not perfect.

    Unfinished hardwoods provide a nice balance of the slip and grip that a dancer wants. So sealing the wood rather than applying a top finish is the most desirable process for dance floors. The sealer fills the open pores of the wood, but not much, if any, is left on the surface. You're dancing on the wood, not the finish.

    Paraffin wax will do this if well buffed so that none remains on the surface. Several wash coats of very thin shellac, lightly sanded or steel wool polished between coats, is very effective. Several coats of boiled linseed oil, well thinned with turpentine, allowed to soak in for an hour or two and buffed between coats will do also. Modern sealers, specifically made for floors, do the same kind of job. The point is that they need to be well buffed after application to remove any product still on the surface.

    All of the above are suitable for very hard woods such as maple or oak. If Lucretia's floor is fir (I suspect that it is - it would have been strange for the barn builder to "waste good wood" for a barn floor), it is softer than maple or oak. It will scratch, dent and show stains more than the harder woods. It will also splinter more easily. It needs a top finish. Unfortunately, urethane is the modern way to go. Satin finish, please. It won't be as shiny nice as she might like, but it won't show scuffs, dents and scratches as much. And, more important, the satin finish allows for a certain amount of slip as well as grip that the shiny finishes don't. It's not the absolute ideal dance floor finish, but if properly applied and maintained, it will give years of satisfactory service, good for party spills and social dancing. One of the floors I dance on regularly is refinished every year with a single coat of satin urethane and, after the first evening of dancing, it's not bad at all.
  10. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    Half the floor is fur - we built that ourselfes. The rest is fur or even worse - spruce. Spuce is even softer than fur. On the other hand - this floor is the old part and is very very dry which makes it harder.

    The floor we made ourselves we also used for our house a few years ago. We put an oil on top it mixed with white pigment. A beautiful satin top that workes quite well for dancing. But it is quite soft - it has to be renewed every 5:th year.

    The good thing about this white oils is that it stops up the ultraviolte sunrays that makes the fur turn into yellow/brown. Some kind of filter is built in. Quite nice.

    I just wounder how polyurethane will go with the changes of temperature and moisture. I think its not as flexible as oil or varnish. I believe a painter told me to use old traitional varnish/oil for the tables we have in the barn. (Actually I used the white oil we had for the floor inside our house. But the sad thing is that that oil turned yellow with time)

    Thanks or your contributions - I go to the shop tomorrow and discuss the matter with their handyman. Please tell me more - I will read this post again before I go shopping.

  11. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    how about tung oil?
  12. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I think polyurethane will do well with the temp changes as long as there is no other finish below it. If there is a different coating, the difference in thermal expansion tends to make the top layer peel.
  13. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    A friend told me that polyurethane is used for boats. Could that be true? Then there will be no thermal problem.

  14. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    I guess tung oil would work fine for the wood and the termal problem. But it is expensive. Do anyone know how it is to dance on?

  15. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    Right now I'me leaning to some kind of sealer - tungoil, linseed oil (works great in our house) or vax.

    To keep the bright colour we will use lye (this is a well known method in Sweden). After the lye has dried up you "bind" the remaining lye in floor-oil or example (or elser it will hurt when the floor gets wet - we do not want our guest to get corrodation damages).

    The reason why:

    -we probably will remove the old part of the floor next year. And we do not want to put a lot o money in more expansive methods like tung-oil or polurethan.

    - sealer moves with the termal expansion. Right know - considering the cost - I lean torwars a traditional floor oil based on linseed.

    - I have bad experiences of polurethan on soft floor. If the wood is too soft no kind of surace treatment may carry up the weight of a heal. The wood gives in and the polurethan surface as well

    Do any one know i I could add some kind o dance wax on top of a sealed floor.

  16. Al Gisnered

    Al Gisnered Member

    Sorry, it's not an open and shut case. Your question about how polyester will do with temperature changes and moisture is good, and I understand the situation a little better.

    Does the inside of the barn get close to freezing in winter? If it gets cold, but not close to freezing it shouldn't be a problem. If it gets close to freezing it could certainly be a problem: the wood won't be able to breathe through the top surface and the urethane could get brittle and check or craze.

    Moisture is a different matter. I didn't think about that when I posted before, and you are right to be concerned. The underside of the floor is not finished, I'm sure. Unless there is a good moisture barrier below, the wood will absorb moisture from the ground below. If it can't breathe on top it will tend to warp. The old wood is probably not so much a problem, as it has stabilized to the conditions in the barn for years. New parts of the floor will want to move around a lot for a couple of years.

    As I alluded in my previous post, one of the classic finishes for wood is oil - vegetable based, such as boiled linseed or tung oil. Oil soaks into the pores of the wood and seals the pores. As it oxidizes, it actually forms a very thin varnish like film. (In fact, traditional oil based varnish is basically just a vegetable oil that has been cooked to make it thicker, and has dryers added to make it oxidize more quickly. It forms a thicker coating and dries to the touch more rapidly.) Both oil and varnish continue to cure long after they are dry to the touch.

    Oil and varnish do indeed turn yellow as they oxidize.. But it's not just the oil or varnish that yellows. Many woods darken from both UV and oxidation. Over the years, spruce definitely darkens to an almost amber color, and I think fir does also. Adding a little pigment does cut the UV, and makes the coating less translucent, so that you don't see the yellowing as much, but is still there. Both oil and varnish require refinishing. The oil needs refinishing more frequently just because the coating is so much thinner.

    By the way, polyurethane wears also. Probably not as quickly as an oil finish, but it will wear nonetheless. How quickly depends on how much traffic the floor has. With oil, you can spot finish any wear areas without doing the whole floor, and recoat the whole floor without stripping. It is almost impossible to spot finish polyurethane without seeing the edges of the refinish. Also, if the urethane has completely cured (several years), you have to strip the floor and refinish, because the new coat will not stick to the old one.

    So I take back my recommendation for urethane. The oil finish you like is probably the way to go because it will allow the wood to breathe gently, equalizing the moisture throughout the planks, even though the wood is softer than one might like.

    You might try to contact the manufacturer of the oil you like and get their advice, since your project is so specific.
  17. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Yes, it is used on boats. It was fixing up an old wooden boat that I learned that you have to match the old finish with the new finish to avoid thermal issues between the two different finishes. If you can get the old finish totally off, the polyurethane is super tough. I've never built a dance floor. So I would have to defer to others about whether it dances well or not?
  18. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    Al Gisnered - yes there will be moisture from both below and above. But perhaps not in the same ratio. And the floor will freeze to -20 degress if the air is that cold. So the coating must be able to expand. You are definitely right about that.

    Yesterday we prepared the floor with lye (lye turns it even lighter and have some kind of sunfiltereffect). This evening I will give it a slight rub with sandpaper - just to get rid of the small tree fibres that raise upright beacuse of the lye. Then I will add the linseedbased oil I just bought.

    I guess I have to work half night. It has to be ready tonight or else the surface will be too weak/soft on saturday.

    It is god to know that it is so easy to fix damages and wearn out areas when you use oil. I didn't have that perspective in mind at all. And this floor will sometimes be used for handicraft and other very "demaning" projects. So that is essential.

    Thanks all for you help!

  19. Al Gisnered

    Al Gisnered Member

    I'm glad you decided to go with oil - it is an excellent way to treat wood. When you apply it, make sure you it is as thin a coating as you can make and buff any surface oil off after it has soaked in for a bit. You may find that some of the oil seeps back to the surface of the floor after a day or so, especially if the weather is hot. This is normal - just buff it off. It should be stable within 48/72 hours of application.

    You may want to make a second (light) application before the winter just to help the floor get through.

    As for wax it, is wonderful for resisting staining. Not much will stick to it. If you are using the space for handicraft this might be important. But be very careful. For dancing, it needs to be mostly in the pores of the wood, otherwise it can be either very slippery or very sticky, or both at the same time in different areas of the floor. However, natural waxes, such as beeswax or carnauba, eventually cure to a smooth but not too slippery surface. It just takes time for nature to work.

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, natural waxes were be thinned with turpentine to the consistency of thin paint, and brushed on floors. After it was applied, it was buffed and buffed and buffed again to remove as much as possible from the top of the wood and then allowed to cure before it was walked on. Back then, labor was cheap so it wasn't a problem. Today, a good rotary buffer, with fine steel wool (changed often) and then a cloth pad, will do the job of ten men. But it will take a couple of passes. If you do decide to use a wax to help resist staining, make sure that it is a natural wax, which will be compatible with the oil. Also, make sure that the oil has time to cure before applying the wax, and the wax has time to cure before it gets heavy use. I can't tell you a product name in Sweden, but I would think it's available. Anything that has turpentine as an ingredient should be very friendly with the oil.

    By the way, I think you are involved in a fascinating project and I commend you for caring enough about the quality to investigate the best solutions to questions.
  20. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Are there any flammability concerns with the oil? I ask because there have been old cotton mills around this area that have gone up like napalm because of machine oil worked into the softwood floors over the years.

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