Tuesday, February 5, 2019

An Old Fashioned Wood Floor Tutorial

With all the crazy weather last week nothing got done at the Brick House. Other than running by a couple of times to check on pipes, I stayed home and kept warm! So no progress to report. But I do have my tutorial on shellacking floors. I am sure there is multiple different ways to do each step, but this is the way I do it. I purchased my shellac from Shellac.net. Their website is also chock full of useful information!

This was the first time I used Shellac Buttons and I must say it was easy to work with! I love the way the finish turned out and how hard it already is. Very different from the pre-mixed shellac. Read THIS to learn why button shellac is harder and better for floors.

I bought a five pound bag of buttons, which is a lot of shellac! To make it easier to mix I pre-weighed the buttons into 1/2 pound bags.

 Make the Shellac.
Measure your denatured alcohol. I bought a bunch of paint mixing buckets and lids. It made it so easy to measure the right amount of alcohol! Since I was mixing a 2-pound cut; I needed 1 quart per 1/2 pound of shellac. (A pound cut refers to how thick one makes the shellac. A 2 pound cut is a standard starting point. It is really personal preference and project preference. Shellac.net has a handy chart HERE.)

Crush the shellac buttons. My favorite tool of choice was a large adjustable wrench! A hammer works good too. I tried to at lest break the buttons into quarters. (It makes the shellac melt a little quicker to have the buttons crushed.)

Add shellac and mix well. This is where an extra paint stirrer comes in handy! Place your container out of the direct sunlight in a warmish place. Since it was cold out, I put my containers on the warm radiators.

Wait and Stir. If you happen to be nearby to your shellac containers you can stir every hour or two. If you happen to only be nearby once or twice a day, that works too! It takes a little longer to stir it up and a little longer for all the shellac to melt.

24 hours after. The one on the right has not been stirred, the one on the left has.

3 days after. Opps! Missed a day stirring. The shellac was a large gooey mass on the bottom. With a bit of stirring most of it broke up. You can see it is looking thicker!

While you are waiting for your shellac to melt, I hope you are prepping your floors! I scrubbed mine down with denatured alcohol and a green scrubby sponge. Depending on the condition of your floors, you just might want to wipe them down with denatured alcohol and a rag.

5 days after. Nice and thick and no more clumps on the bottom. Now we are ready to strain!

Tip: If you have a couple of buckets of shellac going at the same time you might want to label if the are Dirty=unstrained or Clean=strained.

 I wasn't sure if I needed to strain at first, but when I ordered the buttons I also received a couple of paint strainers. Once you strain a batch you will see why it is essential! I was sent fine paint strainers with 190 microns, when I ordered more on Amazon that is what I looked for.

 Strain shellac. Pour shellac into a paint strainer over a "clean" bucket.

 When the shellac got clogged up I used a paint stirrer to scrap the crud off the filter area. Sometimes I used two filters per bucket and sometimes for top coats I strained it twice.

Look at all the debris! You don't want that in your floors!

Shellac those floors! Now you are finally ready to shellac! It dries very quickly so work in small areas at a time. I would usually start in the back corner of a room and work to the opposite end in a 6-8 floor board wide swath. Then I would crawl back to the beginning and do another swath. The living and dining room I treated like two rooms and stopped in the middle. If you look very very close there is a line in the shellac (With the second coat I stopped about 6 longer so the line wouldn't be in the same place for both coats.), but I knew this when I started and it doesn't bother me.
I used just about every type of brush on these floors and really couldn't tell much difference in the finish. The one type I didn't try was a lamb's wool applicator. I have used this in the past and did not get the knack. Too many drips and lines. Foam sponge brushes work fine, but it goes on thin. A chip brush works good and I used it for the majority of the floors. I felt like I could get it on quite thick for the first coat, which I liked. Then I invested in an expensive natural hair brush which I used for the top coat downstairs. It put the shellac on a little tiny bit thinner than the chip brush which was fine for a top coat.

 For all the floors in the house I put two 2-pound coats down. If I had more time and more shellac I might have put three coats down and thinned the top one more. There are visible brush strokes in some areas if you look close. But I think it just adds to the beauty! And a super smooth finish was not my main goal, I just wanted to bring these old floors back to life and make them the look the best they could!


  1. Gorgeous! And I remember my dad using shellac buttons. The old things often are much better than the new.

    1. Old things are often better, especially for old houses! Was your Dad a carpenter or a really handy guy?

  2. I have never heard of shellac buttons. The process is fascinating!

    1. It is such a fascinating product with a fascinating process! I love that it doesn't matter how many coats you put on, you can always spruce it up with another top coat of shellac!

  3. This is incredible! They look beautiful. What a lot of work, but I'd bet the second time would be easier. I'd never heard of shellac buttons before. So fun to read this!!

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