Reclaim Your Hardwood Floors

How to Reclaim Hardwood Floors from Paint, Varnish, and Sticky Substances

November 9, 2021  |  floor maintainence, hardwood floors
Four images of damaged hardwood floors, 2 being repaired. Text reads "Reclaim your floors"

Hard Luck for Hardwood 


Modern fashion trends dictate that hardwood floors should be relatively naturalistic with a healthy, but minimalistic, coat of varnish. However, this has not always been the case.  


In years past, people have elected to paint their hardwood floors or cover them with a thick, unhealthy varnish. Otherwise, many people are finding that the shag carpet in their living room is covering up a beautiful hardwood floor, leaving a sticky residue on their floors. 


In this blog post, we will go over the different types of damage paint, varnish, and other substances can cause hardwood floors, and how to reclaim your floors from those damages.  


Removing Old Paint 


Old, chipped paint is one of the worst looks for a beautiful hardwood floor. In previous decades, when painting hardwood was a popular choice, many people used red, white, or brown paint to “finish” their hardwood.  


Painting your floor isn’t necessarily bad for the wood, but the issue is that since many people realized this fashion trend was a dud, they have allowed their painted floors to chip and scuff. This leaves behind a blemished, aged surface. 


To keep up with fashion trends, we recommend you remove the old layer of paint and let the natural wood underneath breathe. However, if you prefer the look of painted hardwood, there are several options to keep your floors looking modern.  


Either way, you must remove the old paint before you make any stylistic changes.  


Before you remove any paint, you need to hammer down any askew nails and clean any gaps between the floorboards.  


Next, you can begin working on the paint. Start by sanding the floor to give it a little bit of tooth. This will not remove the paint, but it will give the floor more surface area making the paint easier to remove.  


After that, you can begin to remove the paint. You have several options for how to go about removing paint. You can sand it off, use a paint scraper, or even scrub paint off with soap and water. Additionally, there are many products that are sold specifically to remove paint from your floors. Always purchase products specifically made to remove paint from hardwood rather than any home remedies.  


Before you select how you wish to remove the paint, you must correctly identify what type of paint has been used.   


If you’re hoping to avoid using any wet, or smelly substances, some paint can be sanded off, especially if your surface has been pre-sanded. You can also use a paint scraper once the paint has been softened.  


It surprises most people, but water-based paint can also be removed with soap and water.  


Before you attempt to remove any paint, make sure you understand what type of wood is underneath or else you risk irreparable harm to your hardwood. 


Refreshing Varnish 


A nice coat of varnish can add an extra dimension of color to quality hardwood flooring. Likewise, old varnish ages a floor and can make high-quality wood look cheap.  


If you are looking to apply a new coat of varnish, you must first strip away the old coat. Use a paint stripper to remove all paints and varnish, or a liquid varnish if you wish to keep the paint. Varnish will strip off easily after it is loosened.  


Work in small areas of one square foot as paint stripper dries fast. If you cover the entire floor first, the paint thinner will have dried by the time you get to the end.  


Once the varnish is removed, you can apply a fresh coat to give your hardwood a polished sheen. 


Wet Substances and Scratches


Wet or sticky substances can get left behind if you have had carpet over your floor for a long period, or if you have spilled a sugary liquid and allowed it to sit.


We never recommend home remedies to clean your floors. Each floor and situation is different and while some home substances can clean your floor, they're just as likely to cause more damage. When in doubt, always use a product specifically made to clean hardwood floors as they will not cause additional harm. 


That said, here are some general tips for cleaning up and preventing messes:


  1. Wipe up all spills as soon as possible. The long a sticky substance sits, the harder it is to remove.
  2. Do not wet-mop a hardwood floor. Water can cause cracks and warp wood. 
  3. Do not use steam cleaners either as steam will have disastrous effects. 
  4. Place rugs at the entryways to rooms with hardwood floors to pick up any harmful substances tracked in on the bottom of your shoes. 
  5. Regularly trim your pets' nails and claws as they can inadvertently scratch up your hardwood
  6. Shake out and clean rugs regularly, and remove your rug from hardwood immediately if it has gotten wet.
  7. Place non-skid pads under furniture to ensure it does not scratch up your floor when moved. 


Always err on the side of caution and eliminate the chance of harmful substances interacting with your floors whenever possible. 


Take Back Your Hardwood 


Fine hardwood floors can add a touch of elegance to any home. However, if your hardwood is covered with old paint, worn varnish, or sticky, tacky substances, it can become an eyesore.


Almost all floors can be reclaimed with a modest amount of work. Make sure you understand what has corrupted your floors and what you want the result to be. If you want relatively bare floors, it is usually best to remove paint and apply a fine coat of varnish.  


If painted floors are more your style, find a color and paint type which fits your wood and have it applied by a professional. 


While most floors can be saved, there are some that of course cannot. If it is time for new floors, contact A Step Above Flooring. We go above and beyond to get the perfect floors for your home.