How to Restore Old Floorboards
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How to Restore Old Floorboards

This guide shows how to restore old floorboards bringing them back to their former glory.  All you need is a belt sander, putty, linseed oil or stain and a polyurethane top coat to create a clear protective covering that will last for the years to come.

This is an easy project with the most time-consuming job being the sanding of the floor.  I used a belt sander as we already owned one but to save time especially if you have more than one room to sand it would be worthwhile renting a floor sander.

Always remember to wear a dust mask, safety glasses and ear plugs when sanding.

Tools and Materials Needed

*Dust Mask, Safety Glasses and Ear Plugs

*2 Wide Paint Brushes (One for the oil or stain and the other for the top coat.)

*Belt Sander – Try this quality top rated sander from Amazon. (Paid link)

*Replacement Sanding Belts and Sand Paper for sanding the edges by hand.

*Wood Putty (In the appropriate colour for your wood or stain.)

*Palette knife or Scraper

*Raw Linseed Oil or Stain

*Polyurethane (paid link) for timber flooring.  (Either water or oil based.)

*For wide gaps between boards – Liquid Nails (Use a product that is flexible with movement. It will be written on the back of the tube.)

*Mineral Turpentine for cleaning any excess liquid nails.


How to Restore Old Floorboards

  1. Prepare the Floor

    First take up any old carpets and lino that was covering the floor then remove any staples and nails.  Sometimes when removing old nails, the floor will splinter and a piece of wood will come out with the nail.  This can be filled with putty.

  2. Fill Cracks

    Next use the palette knife to fill any holes or cracks in the floor with wood putty. 

    Applying putty to floorboards.

  3. Wide Gaps

    If you have any wide gaps between the boards slide a ruler between the gaps to make sure it doesn’t go right through to the ground below.  If it does you can fill the gap with flexible liquid nails.  Smooth it off then clean off any excess with mineral turpentine immediately.  If it sinks you may need to let it set for a few minutes then apply another layer.

    Wide gap between floorboards.

  4. Sand the Boards

    Wait 24 hours for the putty to dry then begin sanding with the belt sander using a coarse grit paper first then switching to a finer grit for a smoother finish. Remember to sand in the direction of the grain and wear the safety glasses, ear plugs and dust mask.
    60 grit sandpaper is good for removing deep imperfections and stains.  80 to 100 grit is good for smoothing out light scratches.  If you want a very smooth finish use 120 to 240 grit to finish off.

    Sanding the floorboards with a belt sander.

  5. Sanding the Edges

    The belt sander will not get right to the edge at the top and bottom of the boards where they meet the wall.  You will need to sand this by hand however if you have taken the kickboards out and they cover this area you would not need to do any extra sanding.

  6. Clean and Oil

    Next dust the walls down then clean out the room.  Mop the floor then apply the linseed oil or stain to the dry floor using either the brush or a rag.  The raw linseed oil will give the floor a yellowish tint.  If you don’t like this colour you can use boiled linseed oil which will bring out a more natural colour of the wood.

    Applying natural linseed to the sanded floorboards.

  7. Top Coat

    Once dry you can apply the polyurethane top coats with the other brush following the product instructions.
    The picture below shows the finished floor with a wide gap filled with flexible liquid nails.

    Filled gap between floorboards.


I keep old margarine and ice cream containers as they come in handy when renovating.  Products like the polyurethane come in large containers so tipping the product into a smaller container makes it easier to handle.

I have used liquid nails for this project with success but it will depend on the product you use as to whether it will crack or not.  As most floorboards are tongue in groove it isn’t necessary to use it unless there is a section where the tongue has been broken and the gap goes all the way through.  Also, if you are using a lighter stain the liquid nails may not blend in with the boards.

To Save or Print this DIY project on how to restore old floorboards, click the button below for the PDF File.

Looking for more DIY projects for around the home? Try Making Your Own Doorhandles, Restoring a Rusty Gate or Make Your Own Cover Strips.

Did you find this guide on how to restore old floorboards useful and are you interested in saving more money at home? Try this free Homesteading guide.

For more information try this guide on DIY Projects around the home.

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