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Subject: Floor finishes

Floor finishes

From: Bonita Mueller <Bonita_Mueller>
Date: Monday, August 2, 1999
Pete Sixbey <psixbey [at] max__state__ia__us> writes

>I am a conservator in the Midwest looking for
>options/recommendations for floor finishes that can be applied to
>historic floors

I have a couple of comments. If you are looking for a good list of
articles regarding wood in historic structures, I'd like to
recommend that you look through "Preserving Wood Features in
Historic Buildings,  An Annotated Bibliography", Compiled by Erica
C. Avrami, US Department of the Interior, National Park Service,
Preservation Assistance Division, 1993. It covers everything, so you
can pick and choose.

About the treatment itself: We have a lot of historic structures in
the National Park Service which are open to the public. The areas
that get a lot of wear are typically protected by some kind of
sacrificial layer, whether that be carpeting, urethane, paste wax,
etc. It depends on the significance and the use of the structure.
Are you opposed to urethane as a final surface, or is the problem
just that it's currently chipping?

Although wood floors are often sanded first to get down to a uniform
layer, I understand from your message that you don't want to do
that, probably to guard against the loss of historic fabric.
Urethane isn't a bad finish because it is so hard. If you don't want
to strip the entire existing finish (because you'd like to avoid
chemical means), then you could minimize your use of chemicals by
just feathering the flaked areas back to where the urethane is
solidly adhered. If you didn't do that, you'd get a rough, uneven
finish, although it would probably stick. I don't think you'd want
to settle for a marginal appearance, however. Then you could put
down more urethane in the bare spots.

I'd rather see you start with a uniform surface that has been
stripped and then either apply urethane or paste wax uniformly as
the sacrificial layer. If you want to guard against flaking in the
future, then paste wax would be the way to go, or even paste wax on
top of the new urethane. That might be overkill, however. Of course,
the paste wax requires maintenance. Since you have very heavy
traffic, I'd probably use a carpet walking strip in the worst areas.
Of course, you need to choose the carpet strip carefully so that you
don't detract from the historic scene, if your structure is being
interpreted. Part of your solution needs to take into account the
kind of maintenance you will have available on an ongoing basis. I'm
assuming that the preservation of the historic fabric is your
primary concern since you don't want to sand the floor. Since you
didn't mention what your building is used for, I don't know how
people visit the structure and for what reason they do so. If it is
practical and if this is appropriate to your final use, you might
consider minimizing future wear by operational means once you have
refinished your floor. You can request that people use the booties
that you slip over your feet before entering the structure.
Good luck with your project,

Bonita Mueller, R.A.
Historical Architect
National Park Service / Denver Service Center

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:12
                 Distributed: Wednesday, August 4, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-13-12-007
Received on Monday, 2 August, 1999

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