Floor Wars

“Stained wood with inch-wide gaps and woodworm waving”

So here’s the thing; I mull over new projects put off by worse case scenarios of what may go wrong. So when I wanted to expose my downstairs floorboards, I hesitantly pulled back the carpet dreading concrete or stained wood with inch-wide gaps and woodworm waving at me.

Beige carpet gone bad

At a quick glance, yes, there was wood. Score one. And a lot of woolly carpet dust. But I still had no idea of the condition of the floor. The reality was I just needed to commit. So whilst I may draw out the thinking process, when I act, I take leaps of faith on impulse with fingers crossed behind my back.

Hence finding myself one Friday evening logging off my work laptop and staring at my party-stained carpet thinking ‘that totally needs a good hoovering’ and then ‘f**k it I’m ripping it up’.  Five minutes later I’m on my knees shredding with a Stanley Knife which is a sight more cathartic than getting out the vacuum.

Living alone, I had to chop around the heavy furniture until I could blag a bloke with beer to help me shift it. The decrepit carpet came up in dry dust clouds that had my hypochrondria googling ‘toxic dust’ in carpets. But…hey presto! Decent floorboards! Score two!

One of the drivers for my previous procrastination had been the dread of the grubbiness of sanding. I had read of people emptying rooms out completely, putting up plastic sheeting and wearing Hazmat gear; my house is small, open plan and I don’t look good in a plastic onesie. I was screwed. I had to move furniture from one side to the other and do half the floor at a time. There was nowhere else to put it. I resolved to bulk buy Mr Sheen and not breathe in.

I was anticipating a jaunt to go rent a sander, when midway over the promised pint for my furniture-shifting friend, he casually mentions he has a hand-sander! He is the last person in the world you would expect to have a sander; his approach to DIY is ‘DI-why would I bother, I’ll just pay someone?’, but a freebie sander offered over your Sauvignon is not to be scoffed at, so I swallowed down my sarcasm about his unlikely tool collection and just said thanks. Sorted. Score three!

Which is why on the Saturday morning, I was on my hands and knees bewildered by a heavy piece of kit and gloves on the wrong way.  I should have worn goggles and a face mask. But I had a hangover and was still in my nightie, so I really couldn’t be bothered. Recklessly, I just nudged my glasses back up my nose, screwed my mouth shut and squeezed my eyes in to a squint. Yes, it was dusty, I won’t lie, but it wasn’t quite the apocalyptic mushroom-cloud of dust I was expecting. Mr Sheen saw to it.

I always knew I was going to paint the floor, as I wanted to bring some lightness to the room scheme, so I totally got away with a light sanding to key the boards. If I’d wanted to strip them right back, then, yes,  it would have been an industrial-sized sander and a lot more mess. And whilst I might have irreparably damaged my lungs, hand-sanding does wonders for bingo wings. Score four!

I spent hours sanding back wood filler that I applied with a bit too much liberal gusto before discovering I rather preferred the slight dips and dents that gave the boards character. I was lucky and didn’t need to fill between the floorboards or around the skirting boards; yes, I have gaps, but they aren’t big and nor do they seem drafty. Yet. Plucking underlay staples with thin nose pliers and a glass of wine turned in to my favourite pastime. Note I did this before sanding! However, gripper rods need brute force, so I ‘delegated’ that to the male of the species whilst I took a tea break. Oh, and the fly swat? There was a Kamakaze spider playing dare with me that day…and only that day. Don’t mess with me.

I primed/undercoated using Dulux Multisurface Primer and Undercoat In One. I’m planning on doing my laminate floor next and for that I’ll use Zinnsser Bullseye 123 for the primer as it isn’t a natural surface.  I probably should have rollered for speed, but I just used a really big brush because I rather like brush marks in paint; it feels authentic to me and I found it easier to control the paint thickness.

When you need help remembering which half of the floor has a dry coat

Multiple thin coats dry harder apparently and gives you more wear.  I picked up a stray sticker one day, glancing down to find it randomly on my knee; felt like a good omen.

I used Farrow & Ball Modern Eggshell to topcoat as it was recommended as being hardwearing by our resident painter and decorator, Kyla Magrath – basically you want anything that is exterior finish standard. I was that person that buys multiple tester pots in white and then squints at them not actually being able to tell the difference, until it only feels right to use oxygen pursuing more meaningful pastimes. Thus it was that when I visited the shop to purchase my pondered-over paint choice I knew there was no flipping way I was going back when it wasn’t in stock. So I took what they had. Just like that. Wevet was the winner! Score five!

Huge difference, huh?

Now I’m not going to rant about Frog Tape here, I’m rising above it. But whether yellow, orange, green or polka-dot with red stripes – all of it lifts paint in my experience. Even using the tape it to your clothes first method. And despite it supergluing itself to old paint, it sure seems to allow new paint to leak through! WTF.

Screw you Frog Tape!

I did use it in the dining room, but it just meant I had to go over the paint tears as a touch up job in so many places, I decided to risk freehand cutting in around the skirting boards in the living room and it worked a treat with a small 1.5 inch brush. Yes, it took time, but it was much more satisfying than shouting expletives at a reel of Frog Tape you’ve just chucked at the wall, I tell you. Cue a gratuitous close up of the floor, but really showing off my rather gorgeous gold shoes.

Finally, a word of small warning. Bitumen. I was lucky that it was only coated very thinly and I believed by painting over it I didn’t need to worry too much. I still sanded it, but I wasn’t overly fussy. Now rather strangely the dining room paint is reacting slightly and there is a barely discernible pinkish hue to the paint over the areas the bitumen was at its thickest. I don’t think anyone else would notice and repainting over it makes no difference, so I’ve decided not to stress about it. But if you are a perfectionist then I would warn you to not be blithe with bitumen. There are lots of online tips for removal, but they all involve elbow-grease. So weigh up if like me you are comfortable with a barely there colour shift in your paint at the far edges. I am…and for me there’s always gin at these times. And with that, I’m done. And was it worth it? Well, judge for yourselves…I’m really hoping you say ‘hell, yeah’ obvs.