How To Restore Old Floorboards

After decades of dodgy plaster repairs, layers of gloss paint on wood, and modernising, it is now (thankfully) trendy to keep or restore the traditional aspects of a period property.

One of these trends is to get original wooden flooring right back to its true state. This involves sanding, staining, and sealing the floorboards and then maintaining them. Luckily, this is a relatively simple job once you know what to do and what you need.

You will need:


Original floorboards will probably not be perfect. Knots, bumps, and gaps are all common. In fact, in some cases, they were designed to be covered due to draughts and creaks.

You need to check that the floorboards are actually worth restoring before setting your heart on them, too. Sometimes, if a previous owner has covered the original flooring, there may have been a good reason which wasn’t necessarily aesthetic.

Always wear PPE when carrying out any DIY task. When restoring old floorboards, this will include:

Protective clothing, gloves and eye protection will keep your hands and feet safe when ripping up old flooring, as you don’t know whether you’ll encounter sharp nails and tacks.

Eye and breathing protection will be required when sanding and using cleaners, gap fillers and dyes or varnishes.

Luckily, Speedy Services has all you need to get your original floorboards looking their best if it is possible. From floor and edging sander hire to all of the nails, glues, and PPE you need to buy, no job is too much.


How to restore floorboards (without a professional)


Step 1: Take up the existing flooring

If this is carpet, it should be easy enough to part it from the grippers around the edge of the room. Once this is done, you also need to remove the grippers with a crowbar. Be safe when doing this, remembering that grippers will be dangerous and sharp.

If you need to remove vinyl, tile, or laminate flooring, a floor surface preparation device may be required. This should make the job quicker and easier.


Step 2: Knock in any nail heads

Before you begin, use a cable locator to check for pipes underground. This includes electrical cables, or gas and water pipes. If you hire one of these and are also going to be working on your walls in the future, it is a good idea to also check for any wires and pipes under here too.

Then, you want to go around your wood floor and check for any nail heads or tacks which stick above the floorboard surface. Use your hammer to tap them in.

This needs to be done for two reasons. Firstly, it is safer to walk on; you don’t want injuries from old nails. Secondly, when sanding the flooring, the sanding sheet needs to work on a flat surface, so it isn’t torn.

  • SPEEDY TOP TIP! This could cause floorboards to become squeaky as the grip of the nail is loosened. Not to worry; another nail or two, or a pilot hole through the board into the joist followed by a screw, will make things even more secure.


Step 3: Fill in the gaps

Floorboards will sometimes have large gaps in between them, either due to their uneven nature or because they simply need to breathe. You can fill this in using a dedicated floor gap filler or draught excluder product. This will stop the room from feeling so draughty.

Bigger gaps may require additional wood to fill them in. Use wood glue and then tap it in between the two boards with a mallet, before using a handheld wood planer when the glue dries to even them out if needed, so they’re flush.

You may find it easier to replace an entire floorboard, especially if there are a few damaged boards. This can become pricy if there are quite a few which needs replacing, though.

Reclaimed pine boards are often the cheapest option to buy but try to stick to the original board material to get a consistent finish when they’re sanded and stained.


Step 4: Sand

All the above should give you a safe, clear layout to start sanding with. Always follow the instructions on your hired tools before you begin. It is no different when using a floor sander.

Luckily, most floor sanders have an internal vacuum system, so mess should be kept to a minimum. It is a good idea to have a separate vacuum to hand, though.

Use the smaller floor edging sander for any edges around the skirting boards or any smaller corners such as around chimneys in alcoves.

Then, vacuum and brush the floors again. While most should have been collected, dust can still remain, which affects the laying of your varnish or other product.


Step 5: Apply the product

This should give you a suitable base to apply your wood dye or varnish to all floor boards. Use a brush to get this onto the boards.

  • SPEEDY TOP TIP: Which do you choose? A wood dye will penetrate wood further and enhance the grain, whereas coloured varnish or wood stain tends to make the grain disappear after a few coats

As above, you will be using a dye or stain. A dye will maintain the natural look of the floorboards, but a stain will update or change them completely. If you have Victorian pine floorboards, you may opt for stain for instance, as they can go orange and require re-sanding after a few years.

You can also choose to paint them, say white or black, which is trendy depending on the look you’re after.

You can also use a paint sprayer to apply product if your room is particularly large but do consider the fact this could be messy, so you’ll really need to protect your walls and furniture.


Step 6: Leave to dry

Only when the product has dried will you see the result. Will you maybe need another coat of product? Only when it is dry is it safe to walk on—and this includes paws.


Step 7: Seal and lacquer

This will make your product stay, and your floorboards shine. You can choose matte or satin finishes, whichever you prefer.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using seals, varnishes or paints and allow plenty of ventilation when applying these products. Open a window to encourage airflow, and also wear a mask to prevent the inhalation of fumes. You will also want to protect clothing and skin.

They will each take a few hours to dry, so bear this in mind.

Then all you need to do is finish off with a large rug! This will make it feel a bit more homely, and also will cover any small gaps in the floorboards which can still let in a draught. Also, be aware that you may need to protect your floors when moving the furniture back in.


Can I DIY my floorboard restoration?

Yes! With the help of Speedy, you can hire all of the products you need, for as long as you need. If you’re tackling one room, a weekend (or even a single day) should be long enough. If a whole house, you may need a week.

The good news is, you don’t have to buy expensive sanders – or get down on your hands and knees to do the sanding. You can also buy other accessories you need, like PPE or additional floor sanding discs.

Tackling DIY yourself rather than hiring a professional could save you some serious money, and will make your home’s new look even more rewarding.



Thank you for reading our Speedy Services blog on how to restore your floorboards.

If you’ve taken up your flooring and realised it is beyond repair, read our guide on how to lay laminate flooring instead.

Please visit our Skills and Projects page if you have more DIY tasks to do, too.

You’ll find all the power tools and hire equipment you need right here. Start planning your next DIY project today and open a Speedy account online or instore for all your tool hire needs.


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