Getting There

The closing date was three weeks after I signed the papers. Strangely this date coincided with a deeply traumatic calendar date, where terrible things happened in three different years. The date wasn’t exactly the same – but very close ! Reclaiming or repeating ?

I lined up quotes for floor refinishing, eavestroughing and furnace replacement. I had optimistically planned to strip and sand the floors myself – but then reality asserted itself.

It became obvious that it was much more sensible to hire professionals with good equipment to strip and sand the floors, than to struggle through it myself. None of the places I contacted offered a shellac finish. I previously had a polyurethane finished floor. In theory, polyurethane is great and easy to take care of. It is, until it wears off in areas with the highest traffic. There is no way to do inconspicuous spot touch ups, and the entire polyurethane surface needs to be completely sanded off, then a fresh coat reapplied. I was not going to repeat this mistake.

All the floor places I contacted had zero experience with shellac. One dude clearly did not bother to read the links I sent, and acted as though shellac is a terrible, illegal , poisonous substance. I sure wasn’t going to hire him.

Shellac is a natural, sticky resinous excretion from the Lac beetle. It has been used in wood finishes for hundreds of years. It dissolves in alcohol and can be built up to a lustrous finish that can be protected with paste wax. Shellac is used in many products, including as an edible coating for hard candies, so they won’t stick together. Shellac can be a somewhat delicate coating for a floor. However, scratches can be buffed out using a rag dampened with alcohol. Many old homes have excellent wood floors that were finished with shellac and waxed.

One flooring place was willing to strip and sand the floors, so I could finish them as I wished. This guy was polite and didn’t insult my house. I gave him the keys and hoped for the best.

I bought a five gallon drum of alcohol, 5 lbs of amber shellac flakes and a gallon of paste wax from this industrial place in Toronto. A cat rescue friend drove me out and we spent the afternoon shellacking the floors. Shellac dries very fast, even on raw surfaces. It was both easy and tricky to work with.

The freshly sanded floors looked so much better. There had been deep gouges and strange lumps under the painted surface, which were now smoothed out. The shellac deepened the color nicely, and I was so happy we had been able to do this before moving in. We brushed on three coats that day, then rushed away. This seemed like a fine start.

This is the listing photo. The realtor lightened it up considerably. The trim and floors were painted the same almost black charcoal grey. Dark walls, dark trim and dark floors felt gloomy, even on a bright day.


How the floors looked after they were sanded:



After several coats of amber shellac:



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