The appeal of natural wooden floors comes from their durability, looks and low maintenance.
The amount of work required greatly depends upon the desired finish as well as the existing state of the floor.
To successfully achieve a natural wood floor, it will be necessary to completely remove any paint from the surface. The same will apply if there is varnish which has gone beyond the stage of retrieval. It is perfectly possible to lightly sand a varnished floor in moderate condition and rejuvenate by re varnishing. But, when the varnish has worn away in places or has cracked and flaked, the only real answer is to remove the old finish. Failing to do so will result in a patchy effect.
The method will depend partly on the results you wish to achieve.
Sanding machines may be used to restore the surface back to a clean natural grain. The process of sanding, however, will flatten the overall surface. This is often desirable, but in very old properties, this will remove the character of worn undulating floors and may therefore not be acceptable.
Stripping paint or varnish
To remove old paint or varnish, you could also strip it using a suitable proprietary chemical stripper.
If you choose this method, be sure to take all the necessary safety precautions – see the specific manufacturers instructions – particularly in relation to ventilation and protection.
Removing polish or wax
Where the floor has residual areas of an old polished finish, this may be removed using white spirit and steel wool or scouring pad.
It is important to ensure adequate ventilation when using solvents as breathing in the vapours is harmful. It is also sensible to wear a suitable respiratory mask and protective gloves.
Pour a little white spirit into a dish and, using steel wool or scouring pad, work the spirit into the polish to dissolve it. Work in small areas at a time and, as the polish becomes softened, remove it. It is easiest to remove the bulk with a scraper, depositing it in an old paint can, then to use old rags to remove the rest. This is a tedious and slow job, but varnishes will not adhere to a polished surface.
One other consideration is that, unfortunately polish and paint clog sandpaper very quickly, so you may need to allow for this when working out the costs.