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Dear Lynne, i know i am out of your area (Keynsham, between Bath and Bristol) so i will have to tackle it myself!  i would like to sand and varnish several rooms and the hallway.  it is a large old victorian house finished in 1861. my initial thoughts are(1) how do i know what kind of wood I have; and (2) how do i deal with the problem of floors where they seem to have been stained/dyed round the edge (and strips each side in the hallway) and must have had a carpet in the middle.  i think this is very, very old.  i would prefer to get rid of the stain/dye - but how?!  does the sanding remove it?  also, the skirting boards are very deep (about 18") and elaborate, i don't think i could safely remove them.  will that be ok?  i think i am going to need your dvd but am trying to work out if i can afford to do it first.  I was advised to paint the floors but when I rang a supplier they advised me to consider varnishing because if i painted them there would be no going back - problem is the dye round the edges and I don't know what the wood is - i think it is all original.  the first room i want to tackle is about 18 x 16. would be very grateful for any directions you could give me!  have spent all afternoon on your site, which is brilliant for information but i can't find out how to work out what the wood is  - it is so much lighter on the non-dyed/stained centre parts. best wishes Holly

Dear Holly

Your floor boards will be pine, they all were at that time.

The edges area bitumus boarder. This can be quite difficult to remove if you don't know how but the techniques for removal are demonstrated in the DVD or sanding download and knowing these techniques will make the job so much easier.

I would advise against giving a painted finish to your floors  as it wont be long before it looks worn, scratched and awful, I have seen many such floors and to be quite honest would not be able to live with it myself.  Removal will then be a painstaking, expensive job.

I would advise a varnish finish, preferably Bonakemi Mega which is a top quality professional, hard wearing, easy to use, water based varnish which will give you many years of wear.

You will not need to remove the skirting boards but again I would recommend you watch the instructions first.

Hope that has been helpful.

Good luck and all the best Lynne.

Dear Peter and Lynne,

I have found your web site invaluable.  I have two items of information you might find of interest.

Firstly, in our property we have saved one floor but a second was of very poor quality timber that split very badly on lifting.  It needed replacement and in November 2009, I was all set to purchase a new 14m2 FSC American white ash floor from Henry Venables, a firm I found through your links section and that had proved a joy to deal with.  Sadly, Henry Venables had just ceased trading (although it has since re-incarnated as Venables Brothers Ltd).   This left me with a search for a new supplier.  You would not believe how difficult (well you would!) it was to find a firm that could supply FSC timber I got all the usual excuses:

"its not FSC but it is from sustainable sources",
"the USA does not do FSC",
"yes it is FSC - do you have a chain of custody certificate? - no what's that!", etc..

In the end I found Smee Timber ( ). Ian McFarlane, the flooring manager, was extremely helpful and gave excellent advice.  I collected the timber from their premises, what a revelation. The staff were helpful, the yard was immaculate, my order was neatly palletised and ready for loading, which was done with care and consideration that showed this was the normal way of doing things.  I cannot recommend Smee Timbers highly enough should any of your customers or site visitors be needing a new floor (and Smee has an excellent range of FSC timbers).

Secondly, sourcing of 2mm MDF.  Now I thought this would be easy. WRONG. 

All my local timber merchants stated that this did not, and never had existed!  The importers were only able to supply a pallet at a time, which might be OK for you but is far too much for a DIYer.  Then success. The picture framing world uses 2mm and 3mm MDF as backing boards.  I obtained mine from Lion Picture Framing Supplies ( ) and ordered this pack .  To qualify for the £30.00 minimum order I just added a few disposable knives (always useful!).  Goods arrived quickly, well packed and undamaged. Brilliant!

I hope this information will prove as useful to your site visitors as their comments and stories have been to me.

Steve Hipkin

Dear Steve
many thanks for taking the time to put this information together for us, I will put it on the site straight away.
It's good to hear that you have taken the time and effort to find FSC stamped wood. With climate change on our door step it's of the greatest importance that we stop the work of the chain saw in the rain forests and that will only happen when the public stop requesting tropical hard wood from unsustainable sources. The rain forests are more use to us alive than they are on our floors.
We know that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find 2mm MDF so many thanks for your suppliers link.
You will be able to see your email here
Happy new year and kindest regards Lynne


Hi Lynne
I work as a conservator and restorer in london and specialize in wood finishing and gilding on historic buildings. I used to do a lot of floors in the 80's but now need to brush up again for a couple of projects. I found Peter on the internet and he seems to be the only one (and I mean the only one) who knows how to restore a floor properly. I look forward to learning from him.


We have an old Victorian house with original floorboards. Having removed the fitted carpet from our first floor bedroom it's apparent that in the past, when the room has been decorated, the floor has been splattered with paint. The boards are ingrained with years of dirt and polish, which we quite like the look of. How do we retain this character but at the same time remove the paint stains? Is it going to be necessary to sand the boards back to the bare wood again, and re stain? With many thanks Caroline

Hi Caroline
It is possible to retain the character of your floor without sanding but it does involve some considerable effort. First hoover the floor. Next wash and scrub the floor with a stiff brush to clean off as much dirt as possible.
Use as little water as possible to avoid soaking the boards. Don't use any cleaning agents just clean warm water.
Whilst the boards are still damp try removing the paint by scraping with a sharp decorators scraper. (If you buy the floor sanding download, £5, from my site you'll see one in action). You'll find that much of the paint will pick off quite easily. Kitchen scouring pads, are also useful for removing paint. Watch out for splinters.
When you've got the floor clean allow to dry. Now you need to varnish.
For the first coat use polyurethane varnish, available most diy stores. Thin with white spirit as per instructions on the tin. This will give the floor a rich old looking colour and bring out the character.
When dry rub down lightly and apply 2 coats of Spectra or Mega varnish and you should end up with a rich floor full of character.
See website for Spectra and Mega varnishes. VARNISH LINK
Kind regards Peter


Hi Peter, Many thanks for taking the time to reply and also for your advice. We will certainly follow your instructions and I will e-mail you when we have finished the floor and tell you how we got on and how it is looking! Caroline



HI Lynne

First of all i would like to thank you for the time and effort that you've spent on the website and videos, they are incredibly informative and full of useful information, hints and tips - much appreciated. I have downloaded the sanding video and now feel confident to use the drum sander and also the roller for application. Right now to the point :-) My questions

Is it possible to use the Bonakemi varnishes on a floor that has previously been waxed?
Do i need to remove the wax first or do i just sand in the way described in your video?
Should i just jump straight to medium grit and avoid sanding 'cross grain'?
Has the wax 'soaked' into the wood, will it be affected by the heat from the sander?
I plan to use Spectra/Resident for the upstairs, 3 coats as advised
For downstairs kitchen and lounge area would you recommend 4 coats of
Spectra/Resident or 3 of Mega, will the Spectra/Resident be hardwearing enough for the
Kitchen / Living room?

Sorry for the long mail and questions. I am leaving on Wed 22nd or Thurs 23rd so will be placing an order for the varnish on Monday morning for delivery Tuesday 21st, i will call on Monday morning for a chat and place the order just thought i'd get these questions over to you now in case you get a chance to look at them over the weekend.
Many thanks in advance Chris Wren

Hi Chris,

Firstly removing all traces of wax is vital as the varnish will not take if any is left on the floor. The varnish will dry but will very easily peel off if it has gone over traces of wax.
Sanding will remove the wax but it dose tend to clog the sheets depending on how thick it is.
You could try starting with the medium as you say, but in all honesty it will probably be quicker in the long run to start
with a 24 grit and treat the floor as if it has never been sanded before.
You must get back to bare wood to ensure all the wax has gone. Cant stress this enough. the wax wont have soaked into
the wood.
Spectra, (Bona have now re-named this to Resident, same varnish just new name) can be used throughout. 4 coats in
a busy areas is a good but not essential. It depends on how many in the household. For a couple, 3 coats is fine, for a
family with kids and a dog 4 is better.

Hope this helps and good luck with the trip.

For enquiries on making an order phone Lynne on 0208 653 6283

Kind regards



Dear Peter, I have purchased and downloaded the sanding video which will help me greatly as the professional wooden flooring companies in the Midlands didn't strike me as that professional after my initial dealings with them so I'm going to take it upon myself to do the job!
I just wanted to ask if this also applies for re-varnishing worn varnished wood floors too which is what I am going to do? I'm guessing I wouldn't need to level as they should already be leveled or is it best not to assume? Also in the video you are instructed to sand down after the first coat. Then at end when it's listing all the tools the woman mentions the sander for sanding between coats, which sounds like it implies to sand after each coat rather than just the first. Could you please clarify this?
Many Thanks Stef
Hi Stef, To re-sand a floor I'd suggest you start with medium sheet and go along the boards. After a few boards you should have a idea as to how flat they are and whether they will need leveling. If a floor has been badly sanded and varnished then sometimes it's as quick to start again and level it as in the video, but start with the medium and then make a judgment. Its important to get rid of all traces of the old varnish otherwise it shows up as patches when you varnish the floor again.
You should just check how thick the boards are. If they are less than 10mm then think twice before sanding again.

Rub down after 1st coat and apply the 2nd. If the 3rd coat goes down within 2-4 hours of the 2nd, then no need to rubdown.The 2 coats will bond chemically.If there is along gap between coats, say overnight, then you must rub down to give a 'key' for the next coat.
Hope this makes sense and good luck with your floor.
Kind regards Peter

Peter, Many many thanks for taking your time in replying, I believe people like you are now in the minority.
Just one more thing (to paraphrase the great detective Lt Colombo), I may decide to stain the floor (because it is already stained), does the staining come before varnishing? I am very new to this so forgive me if the question appears a little simple. And if I do decide to stain I shall most likely take your advice and get in a professional (if I can find a good one in my area that is!) It's a shame you don't operate around these parts. Kind Regards Stefan

Hi Stefan, Stain is applied to the bare wood before varnishing. If you intend to stain then you should take extra care during the sanding and ensure the floor has been sanded to an overall smooth finish. Use a 100 grit as the last sand on the drum sander and 80 grit on the edger.
Stain is very un-forgiving and is absorbed more by rough areas (goes darker) than smooth. This is most evident where the edger has been used and can result in dark swirl marks left by a coarse disc on the edger. At the end of sanding make a close inspection of the floor looking for imperfections. This is your last chance to get it right as the stain will find them, but by then its too late and you will just have to live with it. Just one more thing. Good luck with your floor and let me know how it went. Kind regards Pete
Hi Peter, Great advice, I will not hesitate to recommend you to anyone thinking of getting their floors done (in the London aread that a I have friends down there). Many Thanks and I will let you know how it goes and contact you with pictures. Stefan


Hello Peter
I have a couple of questions I need to ask as this is my first attempt at sanding as I cant afford to have it done  professionally.

Firstly I've read somewhere that the best sanders are belt sanders but having rung several hire places in my area (gloucester) from the yellow pages they all seem to have drum sanders .Why is this & will I get an inferior finish ?
Secondly I have had to replace some of the old pine floor boards with other older pine floor boards from a reclamation yard. As I don't particularly like the orangey pine look I intend to stain the floor but is this going to be tricky with different boards?
By the way your information that I've down loaded from your site  will be very helpful, its great to find such good professional help on the internet Thanking you


Hi Yvonne,
A drum sander is fine for your needs.
I's what I, and the vast majority of floor sanders use all the time. Belt sanders are lovely machines but they are used to sand a large area such as a sports hall floor where the finish is critical.
Having a mixture of boards should not affect the staining. The only time it can be a problem is when you have new boards, which are almost white, mixed in with old.
Hope this helps. Kind regards. Peter




Hi Peter,
Thanks for a great video on Floor sanding and Gapping, excellent confidence builder watching someone actually do it.
I have one question, I have been trying to find 2mm MDF but no luck, I tried Homebase but the lowest they go is 3mm, any pointers on where I could locate some, if I cant use that is there any other sheet material I could use?
Look forward to hearing from you.
Best regards
Jay Akhtar

Hi Jay, 2mm mdf, I am having the same problem. Since making the films Homebase no longer stock it. Some timber yards will order it for you but I don't know of any that stock it. I shave down a 3mm strip and use that or Lecol filler for the thin gaps.

Hi Peter,
Just like to say thank you for taking the time out to contact me this afternoon, gave me a great deal of confidence in the task at hand which so far is going great, the gapped floor is coming along really nice, hopefully should start the sanding on Wednesday.
Thanks again.
Best regards Jay

Domnic has kindly emailed to let us know where you can now buy 2mm MDF.
Hi Peter, 2mm & 3mm MDF available in stock at:
Moss & Co, Dimes Place, 104 King Street, LONDON W6 0QW
020-87488251 Fax 020-87412470
Thanks Domnic.



Dear Peter
Firstly I would like to congratulate you on having the best floor sanding advice I have found anywhere on the internet. I will shortly be downloading the videos to help guide me through the process. I wish to stain my floor. The boards date back to the 1930's and have a good colour but I would like to darken them down a little. I found a picture on your site of the ideal finish and have pasted it below

I hear what you say about this being a job for the professionals but would still prefer to tackle this staining myself. My questions are as follows.
(1) It seems that you have used a walnut/oak stain on this floor. Can you tell me the name of the stain you have used and can you supply it to me?
(2) Can you give me any tips or advice to aid me in this process.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Kind regards David Innes

Hi David,
The colour of the floor you mention (above) was achieved by using 2 stains mixed together, Walnut and Dark Oak. I did this because I find that the colour of stains if used straight from the tin can be too bright. I wanted to use Walnut to give some 'warmth' to the floor but the colour was too red. By adding Dark Oak it reduced the redness but kept the warmth. The mix was approx 3 parts walnut, 1 part oak. The final colour was then diluted by about 50% because it was too dark. I used a spirit stain, dilutes with white spirit, and I think it was made by Rustins.
You will need:
plenty of rags or j-cloths.
Rubber gloves
A 1" brush
Roller tray
Black bags

The floor should be stained in one continuous process without a break. The work is best done by 2 people. Plan where you are going to start and how to work your way out of the room. Spread out a black bin bag and put the tray on it and pour in the stain.
The stain is applied with a rag working along 2-3 boards. Apply quite liberally and work at a brisk pace. 1 person applying, the other coming along behind a minute later wiping off the excess. Use the brush along skirting's and around pipes etc. You may want to mask skirting boards with broad masking tape, they're easily marked. Allow at least 6 hours to dry before varnishing, better overnight if possible.
Regards Peter

Thanks so much Peter I have been experimenting with a few colour's and really understand what you mean by too bright. Your reply is excellent and will be of much assistance.
Kind regards David.

Hello peter, I need a bit of advise. We have approx 70 metres of new pine floor boards we want to varnish with the Bonakemi product but we want to stain it first. Any recommendations on the type of stain to use? Thanks. Helene

Hi Helene,
There are basically 2 types of stain, water based and spirit based, can be thinned with white spirit, both can be used with Bonakemi products.
In the case of spirit based it is important that it has completely dried before varnishing, overnight if possible or a min of 6 hours.
The spirit stains are the ones I use and Coloron or Rustins are available in most diy stores.
Hope this helps. Regards Peter.

Thank you very much Peter for your very useful advise. After extensive color testing, I have chosen the Liberon walnut spirit wood dye which I will follow up with 2 coates of the Mega Bonekemi varnish. Speaking with you on the phone really put my mind at ease that I was doing the right thing.

Thanks again. Helene


Hi Peter & Lynne, Firstly, thanks for a million for an incredibly comprehensive set of information on your website. I've bought your videos and have watched closely to hopefully emulate the success of Peter's final results. My question is about staining. I think I'm pretty clear in regards to the preparation and application due to some of the questions answered previously. My question is about colour, and obviously I will need to do lots of testing but I was hoping to get some advice as a starting point. I have just bought a place with what seems to be the original pine floor circa 1900. They are thankfully in pretty good condition structurally, but the surface is in bad need of some tender loving care. I have always been drawn to a really REALLY dark floor, almost a warm black but just being able to see the grain. I've always wondered what the best way to achieve this was? I notice you have some examples of dark floors dotted around your website. Reading the instructions on most stain tins, they generally say only one application of stain, so I'm wondering how to get that rich super dark look in one application. I will of course use a Bona varnish to finish it off (used that in my current flat and its fabulous stuff). Any advice would be hugely appreciated! Many thanks, Nathan

Dear Nathan,
So sorry for this late reply, we've been away for a while in a 'totally floor free zone', walking in the Yorkshire Dales.

Stain, yes, the more coats you apply the darker the floor gets.
Dark Oak is a good colour for the type of finish you describe and is a colour Peter uses a lot, sometimes mixed with Walnut to give a bit of warmth.
All his stains come from  John Myland Ltd  based in West Norwood, London.

The recipe for the finish in the images shown here;
One coat of -
Mylands Light Fast Stain.
4 parts Dark Oak.
1 part Black.
You will need approximately 3 litres of final mix for an average floor.
The above stains can be diluted with Meths.

Bona Mega extra matt floor lacquer.
3 coats.
You can also use Mega with more sheen if you wish.

Hope this helps and good luck with the floors and hope this reply is not too late.

Kind regards



Hi Lynne I received your DVD yesterday and watched it time and again all morning, It's exactly what I needed, before starting. thank you both very much. I intend to fit a new Marbau floor and sand an old hardwood floor. and so, I try to buy all the tools you recommended, via Internet, now. I want  your varnishes and roller and tray and perhaps all these hand tools ... is it the best water borne varnish for a new Marbau floor? (very hard and oily, so I read)
Please tell the make and power of the palm sander used by peter? there are so many around and I can't tell if they are powerful enough, so I will buy accordingly.
I am new but I want to DIY as much as I can........
Thanks for you kindness

Hi Varda, Glad the DVD got to you in time and Lynne tells me that your cheque has arrived too, thanks. Firstly, the sanding techniques on the dvd are for sanding old pine floor boards, by far the most common floors in the uk. When sanding a hardwood floor do not start with the coarse sanding sheet and sand at an angle, as on the dvd, as you are likely to make deep scratches in the wood that will be hard to remove later. Start with a medium grade sheet and sand up and down along the boards. Do not use coarse  disc on edging sander for same reason.
Hand tools:
All the tools you will need are available from diy stores, tools shops etc.
Roller and tray:
Use a medium pile roller on a long handle. Roller and tray available in diy stores.
Palm sander:
Any make is ok. The one I use is Dewalt.
Bonakemi varnishes are widely used by floor sanders. Their Spectra or Mega varnishes should be fine for your floors. See their website for details on these products.
Regards Peter



Dear Lynne,
As you may recall Peter sanded our floors in the living room and bathroom, I think, in July last year. I have been meaning to write for a number of months however have only just found your email. Shortly before Christmas nearly every floorboard started to crack and now in both rooms the infilling has completely cracked and separated. As you will appreciate, this is not particularly sightly and not what i would have expected to happen so shortly after the completed work. Could I ask if Peter can arrange to come and look over and see what the problem is with a view to this being rectified.
Kind regards, Simon.
Dear Simon,
Your floor boards are affected by the moisture content in the air, causing them to expand and contract as climatic conditions change. If the gaps were filled during damp or humid conditions the boards will have swollen slightly. In the winter when the central heating is turned on, heating pipes running under the floor gradually dry the boards out, causing them to shrink, cracks can appear as you describe.
This is a rare problem and has only ever affected a few of the many floors Peter has worked on, in the last 15 years, in those cases only the boards directly above heating pipes showed signs of cracking.
You will probably find that your boards will swell again in damp summer months, thus closing the cracks again.
Your gaps have been filled with MDF strips which is the most professional solution for the unfortunate climatic conditions that you describe. Had filler been used under those conditions it would have fallen through.
The problem is caused by natural conditions beyond anyone's control and regrettably Peter has no solution that will rectify it for you.
Kind regards Lynne.

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