Need suggestions for renewing old oak floor

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We ripped the carpet up in our dining room and found an oak floor. Originally we were going to refinish the floor but the wife decided she likes the patina of the old wood. The floor will have to have some sort of surface treatment because it is worn almost down to bare wood.
Many of the boards have separated slightly and left gaps 1/32-1/16". I would like to fill these cracks.
My wife just wanted to wax the floor but it needs a sealing topcoat. Someone suggested oil, but oil offers nearly zero scuff resistance and no moisture resistance.
My plan is to clean the floor very well. Use a wood filler that is similiar to the existing color or slightly darker to fill the gaps, then recover the floor with shellac. I chose shellac because it is easier to work than varnish, doesn't smell much, dries very quickly, isn't finicky about surface prep and is easy to repair.
Alternatives?
--
Mac Cool

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Depends on where you live. this is January and in many houses, it is dry now but wil be humid in July and the gap will disappear as the wood swells.

Shellac has been used for years. Be sure to ventilate well as the alcohol is flammable.
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On 1/12/2005 1:34 AM US(ET), Mac Cool took fingers to keys, and typed the following:

Yeah, do whatever the wife says, despite what you think should be done.
--
Bill

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I've seen floors where people tried to fill the gaps with putty. Those floors look awful.
Think twice (or three times) before you do that. It is more or less irreversable...
KB

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agreed. if its a small crack, just call it character. if its a big crack, get some wood that matches it somewhat close and start whittling. better to put new wood in and finish that than try and make the putty look good.
if you want a new floor, buy a new floor.
randy

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After you fill the gaps you will have to sand the floor to make the filler flush and to cleanup it up off the existing floor.
In the summer the floor will expand and the filler will start to pop out making it look worse.
As for shellac, I don't think it will hold up very well.
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Used for YEARS as the finish for floors. One of the easiest finishes to repair as new coats melt into the previous making one contiguous finish. Varnishes, poly is one, are bears to repair!
wrote:

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Mac Cool wrote:

I'll reiterate one of the other mantras...absolutely do <not> try to fill the gaps between boards--it will either restrict the normal movement of the floor and, at best, result in the filler popping out or, at worst, cause the floor to buckle.
I would also not use shellac on a floor--it isn't sufficiently hard to stand up to the traffic.
Not being able to see your floor from here to judge it's actual condition, I'd recommend you get a professional to evaluate it and suggest options.
Lacking that, it would at a minimum need to be stripped of any residual wax and cleaned. Depending on what the previous finish is, it may be possible to reconstitute that finish. If not, any finish would also need to be stripped and a light sanding prior to a re-application of a stain to blend in defects, etc., prior to finishing would be the ticket. A floor varnish will be the best choice. It can be be buffed out to the desired degree of polish.
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Shellac is not at all moisture resistant, it is damaged very quickly by any exposure to water.
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Nonsense.
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As someone once said, there is no beauty that hath not strangness of proportion; meaning, in your context, what turned on your wife are the imperfections of the floor, along with its other qualities. So live with it. Light sanding and a satin poly finish. Nothing could be easier, or probably as durable, and if you don't like it, it will be easy to sand off to the point where you started in the first place. What you are in danger of doing--I say confidently but not really knowing--is turning a beautiful patined (sp) candlestick into something bright, shiney, and ordinary.
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I've been told by a professional refinisher that you can't put poly over an old oil and wax finish (I assume that's is what is there) without a complete sanding. The wax in the pores of the wood will keep the poly from sticking and result in a floor with cloudy specks in it.
We have some oak floors that are oiled and waxed and some that are poly. For looks, I prefer the oil and wax. The poly is in the kitchen where water is a risk. For scuf resistance and general wear, they seem equal.
It's hard to tell what to do without seeing the floor. For sure, don't fill the cracks. If the old finish is oil and wax, I'd consider renting a floor buffer, screening it lightly, put down a coat of oil that is close to the exisiting color, let it dry overnight, then wax and buff.
-- Doug
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Douglas Johnson:

That is correct. Another advantage of shellac is that it will adhere equally well to raw wood, wax & oil or old varnish. I considered wax & oil but shellac offers greater scuff resistance. We cleaned and tested a small area with shellac and it looks great. We plan to go ahead after we put down the new kitchen floor.
--
Mac Cool

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If there's a chance that something else will be put over the shellac ensure you use dewaxed shellac. Not the easiest thing to find although Zinsser has a new Seal Coat dewaxed shellac with what they claim has 3 year shelf life.

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<< Many of the boards have separated slightly and left gaps 1/32-1/16". I would like to fill these cracks. >>
Find a professional paint store that has a non hardening filler so that summer humidity doesnt' cause more problems.
<< then recover the floor with shellac. >>
Not a good idea. Shellac has poor abrasion resistance and this is a floor, right? Get acquainted with the modern finishes like water based polyurethanes. They are water clear, dry quickly and brush or spray incredibly well. No nasty yellowing afterwards, either. And polyurethanes are decently abrasion resistant, too. HTH
Joe
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Refinishing by a pro is best, forget the DIY aproach , get bids. Nobody here can see it.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.comtosspam (Joe Bobst) wrote:

As others have advised any between-board filler will not last except possibly an epoxy which will essentially convert the whole floor into one unit. Given that the epoxy bond to the wood is stronger than the wood itself the only way the floor can move is as a whole unit or, I suppose, it could buckle. I tried this on my stairs a couple of years ago and so far so good. The problem is matching the color.

The only point here that you're correct about is the abrasion-resistance but that's only important if the floor is in a heavily trafficked area. The amber glow and medium sheen of shellac is far superior to the plastic, my-only-taste-is-in-my-mouth, office or institution surface of the polyurethanes. Further the ease of application, ease of retouch, and speed of curing are so much better with shellac that one could question why anyone would use anything else (except in high-traffic areas).
You could even move the furniture to one side of the room, finish the open side and flip it after 24 hours to do the other side. Quick drying poly's are mainly a myth. Read the fine print on the can and you'll find full cure times of seven days or more. They achieve their vaunted "one day" finishing by counting "finished" as able to walk on in bare feet and by skipping things like filling, inter-coat sanding, and # of poly coats. Parks (the HD brand) suggests two coats of sanding sealer and one coat of poly for a done-in-a-day job (even then you have to wait for it to cure) which will give you a minimal surface depth. A couple of coats of shellac which can be done almost back to back depending on the room size, is thicker.
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Shellac takes about a week to fully cure as well. WB polyurethanes dry rapidly allowing three coats per day but cure time is at least a week, longer with heavy coats. Shellac was used for years on floors and repair is a snap but polyurethanes are a real PAIN to repair.
On Thu, 13 Jan 2005 05:20:12 GMT, SpamFree

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Joe Bobst wrote:

I agree with the point about shellac - it is soft, can be damaged by alcohol and it gets white spots from water drops. It used to be used on piano's to build the thick, glassy finish and then topped with varnish for protection. As the post above states, there are lots of modern finishes. Old fashioned varnish can last forever if applied and maintained correctly, and a buffable real-wax protection is also nice. Gritty dirt is the worst enemy. Pays to understand wood and how finishes behave. Old fashioned varnish tends to yellow on exposure to sunlight, but that might be the desirable color, and may not show if the stain is a darker one. Pine also shows more yellow caste. Poly tends to sit on top of the wood and look "plasticy", which I dislike. I personally like wood that looks "old", has some patina.
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If a cleaning is all that it needs, try fine steel wool and mineral spirits. I've used it on old furniture many times. If the finish is totally worn through, you might be able to repair it, although that takes skill and a bit of luck. If the wood is dirty, fine sanding and app of matching stain....very chancy but "doable". I've mixed my own stains using artist oils, linseed oil and min sp.
To clean it, vacuum thoroughly. If crud is down in the spaces between boards, dig it out and vacuum again. Damp mop - don't leave standing water on it - with tepid water and Murphy's Oil Soap. Sink protruding nails. Use fine steel wool and mineral spirits, scrubbing with the grain. Mop up the remains with clean rags or paper towels. Dispose of the waste appropriately. A good, buffable REAL wax coating may be all that it needs after that. They are nice and need only occ damp mop/rebuff. Re-wax about once a year, depending on traffic and soiling.
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