A Whitewash Christmas
Even the darkest wood floors can be transformed by a coating of whitewash to give the Nordic look that’s so popular at the moment. As well as looking clean and ultra-fresh, whitewashing creates the illusion of space and looks great in smaller rooms as well as large areas. What’s more, you can create the whitewashed look yourself, and it requires minimal maintenance and is easy to clean.
Once the room has been cleared you should inspect the floor for small repairs that may be required, such as loose or raised boards, protruding nails and tacks. When all repairs have been carried out the next step is to sand the floor. Sanding a floor, if you have never done it before, means removing the old veneer as well as a thin layer of the wood itself. This means you have smooth ‘new’ wood as a blank canvas upon which to paint your new floor covering.
Unless the room is tiny you should hire an industrial sanding machine which can be walked along the planks sanding as it goes. Both drum and belt sanders are readily available for hire at any decent DIY outlet, but make sure you completely understand how the machine works before you attempt to use it on the floor.
It is likely that the floor will require two or possible three sandings, depending upon its condition and how long ago it was last refinished. Rather than rush the job, you would be wise to take the machine for a couple of days to avoid making mistakes. When the sanding is completed the floor will feel very smooth and have a shiny appearance. It will also look lighter than before.
Whitewashing – The Technique
Apply some strip wood bleach product to the newly sanded floor exactly as per the manufacturer’s instructions. When this has dried completely then the floor is ready for the whitewash solution.
You can choose to buy ready-mixed whitewash, which comes in gallon tubs like paint – or you can mix your own. Most people will elect to use ready mixed whitewash, but for anyone who would like to try a homemade whitewash mix here is how you make it:
Assuming the room is average to large sized you will require 14 litres (approx 3 gallons) of white (mineral) spirit, 4½ litres (1 gallon) of white oil paint (matt), black woodstain and purple and ochre shade tints. If this seems like a surprising mix then remember these hues will neutralise the natural reds and brown inherent in the wood to allow the whitewash to do its job.
Begin by mixing 2/3rds of the white spirit with the white paint and black woodstain. When it has been sufficiently mixed it will look greyish and the colour tints can be added sparingly at this point.
If the mix is too grey then mix in more white paint and spirit. If the whitewash has a yellowish hue then add either the black stain or purple tint, and if you feel it is a little too white then simply add black stain and white spirit. Make sure the solution is completely mixed in before applying it to the floor and all mixture should be used immediately. Do not keep whitewash to use the next day.
To err on the side of caution you can apply it to a spare sanding floorboard or inside a cupboard area or even on a spot which will be covered by a rug or by furniture.
Whitewash is best applied by a lint-free rag or with a quality brush that is not going to drop bristles. Allow the whitewash to dry for 24 hours before applying sealant.