Well maintained period features can really boost your properties level of desirability. If your home has got some great little features that have clearly been neglected over the years, all is not lost. The aim of this guide is to show you that, with a bit of work, you can really inject a new lease of life into your homes period features and restore the character of an old house.
If you are looking to release some really attractive floorboards from beneath an aging carpet, you should be prepared for two things. Firstly, you will need to sand the floor down once the carpet is removed and secondly, you should expect to have to replace some of the floorboards as there is a good chance that there will be some damage, however, you may be lucky.
The trouble with replacing old floorboards with new ones is that they can stick out like a sore thumb. A good little tip then, is to swap the damaged boards with better quality boards that are lying somewhere in the room that will be out of sight once the furniture is in.
If this is not possible and replacement is the only option then try to match as best as you can. Do not worry too much though if they are not exactly the right thickness as a floorboard which is too thick can be sanded down until it is level, and a board that is too thin can be laid with a bit of bumper wood in between the new board and the joist.
Sanding floorboards is often talked about as though it is the devil’s own task, created purely to frustrate the hapless DIY enthusiast. However, the results are well worth the effort and it is, in fact, relatively straight forward to do.
If you do decide to attempt sanding your boards here are some things that you would do well to bear in mind:
- Wear some form of ear protection and a face mask; this is a loud and dusty job!
- Open the windows where you are working, the through draft will really help to minimise the amount of pesky dust floating about
- Limit the mess to the area you are working in by sealing off any adjoining rooms with masking tape
- Make sure that you empty your dust bags regularly, and carefully, as dust bags have been known to explode!
- Hire a large sander with a variety of grades. This enables you to start off by using the most abrasive level to remove any old paint and ingrained dirt, gradually moving to increasingly fine grades for a perfect finish.
- Hire a smaller, hand held, edging, sander as well in order to do the edges of the floor and the tricky corners.
- Make sure that you keep up a steady rhythm when sanding. This is particularly important with the more abrasive grades, as a stationary sander with the belt engaged will just eat into your floor and leave an unsightly indentation which will not only look bad, but collect dirt too. Keep the sander moving evenly across the floor at all times!
Once your floor is sanded and even you need to varnish it with a good quality, hard wearing varnish to ensure the best finish. You should apply at least three coats and once it is all done, you should sweep the floor regularly as dirt and animal hair can act as an abrasive.
Cornices, sash windows and fireplaces
Cornices are horizontal decorative mouldings and are quite often amongst the most appealing features of older houses. However, they are also one of the features that are most likely to be in a poor state of repair.
A very straightforward, but effective, way to begin the restoration of your cornices is to clean them with warm water and a knife (or screwdriver) to remove any pieces of old paint or dirt trapped in the cornice. This should show a substantial improvement straight away and in some cases it will be job done.
For a painted cornice, the simple trick of applying cotton wool pads soaked in paint stripper and leaving them for 24 hours can work a treat.
Even if your cornice has been seriously damaged to the point that a whole section must be replaced you should not be perturbed, as traditional cornice designs can still be obtained from specialist suppliers, although they will be made of modern materials.
Before deciding that a whole section must be replaced it may be worth having a go at patching it up for yourself with some plaster of Paris. Apply small amounts of the plaster that you have mixed at a time to the moistened surface of the cornice and then use a small knife to shape the plaster. Gradually build it up until it is level with the original surface.
The wooden nature of sash windows can lead to them rotting and the only long term solution for this is replacing them. A much simpler problem to resolve which can occur with sash windows is when they get stuck. This is usually caused by the paint sealing the sash and the problem can often be fixed in minutes by running a Stanley knife, or similar, between the sash and the frame.
However, the problem may lie with the cord itself, in which case you are going to have to dismantle the window and re-cord it.
Reclamation yards can be brilliant for finding inexpensive alternatives if your fireplace is in really poor condition and looks to be beyond saving. However, it is surprising how much difference a scrub down with a wire brush, followed by a lick of fire grate paste, can make.
Once you have done this you should buff up the surface and you should see a considerable improvement. If you are now going to use the fire and it has been sitting dormant for a while you should employ a chimney sweep and ideally, you should then have the chimney swept annually.