How to polish floorboards and parquetry

Waxing and buffing floorboards 
Properly caring for your floorboards or parquetry will keep it looking great for ages.

Few flooring types look as impressive, timeless and refined as a well-polished, gleaming wooden floor. The high sheen brings out the rich tones of the wood reflecting the light in a way that seems to draw the eye deeper, especially when combined with the intricate patterns used in many parquetry floors. Over time though, the sheen will dull and the timber will lose some of its lustre. The good news is that restoring the floor to its former glory is not only possible, but relatively easy to do. With some simple maintenance and care, your floorboards and parquetry floors will look fantastic for decades.

Depending on your energy levels and free time, you may choose to hire a professional floor waxer to revitalise your wooden floor, or you may choose to do it yourself. Waxing a floor is not a small job, but it is one that can be done fairly safely by most able-bodied people.


Preparing your floor

The first thing to do is determine if you need to wax your floor at all. Modern surfaces on wood, like polyurethane, do not require waxing and can be shined with a simple mopping. If you’re not sure what type if surface you have, wipe a finger across the wood – if it didn’t leave a smudge, you don’t need to wax.


Choose a good quality floor wax that is suited to the surfacing on your wood. Next, clear the floor of furniture; you want to be able to do the whole room at once. Give it a thorough sweeping using a dustpan to gather up dust and litter, then mop just as thoroughly to ensure no built up dirt remains.


Stripping old wax

You may need to strip away previous layers of wax, as once this gets old it can yellow and start getting streaky. To do this, a range of commercial strippers are available but similar results can be obtained using equal parts water and rubbing alcohol or other household products. Always test on a small unnoticeable patch of floor first, then check the results the next day. Avoid using anything acidic or abrasive, as this can ruin your boards or parquetry permanently. Start in a corner of the room, then work back towards the door.


How to wax your floor

Once the floor is wax-free, new layers can be applied. Using a sponge or other soft, clean applicant, start applying the first layer of floor wax from the centre of the room. Work outwards towards the walls, always working along the grain of the wood. Be thorough, and keep the spread as even as possible until the whole floor is covered. The first layer of wax won’t look so great but don’t be disheartened, after the next two layers you will start to see results. Allow about 45 minutes between layers for the wax to dry.

Once done, the floor should be buffed and then polished using a commercial polisher. You can polish the floor by hand, but it is laborious work and you risk getting uneven results.


How to keep your floor looking good 
  • Avoid wearing shoes in the house as much as possible, especially high heels. Shoes not only track bacteria and other grime through the house (stood in a public bathroom today? Now those germs are all over your loungeroom floor), they can leave scratch and scuff marks which can be permanent.
  • Sweep or vacuum the floor well before mopping. If there are any pieces of debris collected by the mop, they can end up being pushed all over your floor, scratching it as you go along.
  • Consider laying down some sort of rug for high traffic areas, particularly the entrance hall. This is where people are most likely to be wearing shoes which can cause scratching.