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Restoring the floorboards

By admin | September 19, 2006

The floorboards in Galeş had lovely old pine floorboards, which had not been well looked after - they had woodworm, showed some signs of rot, and in places had warped.  We considered replacing them with new pine floorboards, but knowing that old wood can be restored to look amazing, trusted to our optimism that they could be restored.  We’d read the amazingly helpful SPAB documents about house and wood restoration, and decided to give it a go.

The advice was to deal firstly with the floorboards that were beyond repair because it is structurally unsound.  There were some boards we removed in the new bathroom and next to the front door, but we decided to keep the rest.  We were incredibly lucky because there were some floorboards in the barn attic that were as old as those from the house and cut in the same way, so we retrieved those and placed them into the house, thus doing a patch and repair rather than wholesale replacement - which agrees with the SPAB philosophy.

The next step was to lightly sand the floorboards (making sure we didn’t destroy the warps and knots that gave the boards their unique character) and then wash them down with light amounts of soapy water, being careful not to set off any rot but also removing  years of dust and our self-inflicted sander dust. 

Then we had to deal with the woodworm.  All traditional Romanian homes have a woodworm problem, although their attitude to it is probably more tolerant than that of West Europeans.  Almost a live and let live attitude…We had been looking for a Romanian treatment for woodworm but were told universally by everyone we spoke to that the only woodworm treatment available was to prevent, rather than treat existing, infections.  This was no good because we had plenty of holes throughout the house attesting to an existing problem! 

We finally found the only treatment in the whole of Romania being sold by the newly commercial National Institute for Wood.  I had asked Anca to ask for their advice and they said they made a substance, called Xylotoxin, which sounded suitably lethal!! They also sold a wood preserver called Rombai-G that seemed perfect for any final treatment to the floorboards - so we bought the lot!!

Injecting floorboards with Xylotoxin






Paul injecting the floorboards with mass genocide lotion!

So, we took the Xylotoxin and Rombai-G back to Galeş and got down to work.  The National Institue told us that for the Xylotoxin to be fully effective, we needed to inject EVERY SINGLE HOLE!! Yikes! You can see here my eagle-eyed mass genocide in operation…After the injecting, we painted it across the surface of the boards, and when this had dried we painted on the Rombai-G.

The last and final stage was probably the hardest…we wanted to bees wax polish the floorboards.  Again, we had problems getting proper bees wax polish, in fact we couldn’t…Romania doesn’t seem to have a great demand for it.  Beeswax would bring out the grain of the wood but also allow the boards to breathe properly, which they really needed, given the house has no damp proof course. 

Anca painting the floorboards with Rombai-G

 Anca painting the floorboards with Rombai-G

A wonderful fact sheet available from SPAB tells you how to make your own beeswax.  The two ingredients are turpentine and beeswax.  Well, the latter is very abundant in Romania, but again we came up against the lack of demand for turpentine, unless you are into painting and you live in Bucharest.  Yes, we had to go to Bucharest and buy turpentine from art suppliers and take it back to the house.  So, over the next few weeks we started making sufficient beeswax polish for all the boards in the house.  Once it has been applied and allowed to dry out, you need to polish it.  Electric polishers are hard to come by for rental, so we improvised by putting some smooth cloths on an electric sander and slowly working our way along all the boards.

 It was all very back breaking work, but we achieved amazing results which gave such a strong sense of achievement at the end of it all.

Will we do it again, in the Biertan house?………..we’ll have to wait and see………..

Topics: Transylvania, Galeş |