Bring back the beauty of your vintage 1930s hardwood floors

Nathan Hepler
Published on May 27, 2019

Bring back the beauty of your vintage 1930s hardwood floors

The popularity of hardwood flooring has varied over the centuries. The replacement for the packed dirt flooring of the Colonial Era, hardwood floors were life-changers.

High-end homes had tongue-and-groove flooring while more modest homes’ hardwood floors were laid by nailing the planks directly to the joists.

Fast forward to the post World War II era, when the high cost of carpet could be financed with the home, and carpet soared in popularity. Hardwood flooring companies struggled.

Today’s homebuyers are back on the hardwood-flooring wheel, demanding it as a replacement for carpet.

Hardwood floors installed in the 1930s featured substantially narrower boards–2.25 feet in width as opposed to the common 3.5-foot width of today’s hardwood flooring boards.

Polyurethane was the finish of choice. Depending on the size of the 1930s floor, waxing may be a big job, but it pays off with a good-looking hardwood floor.

Types of wax for the vintage hardwood floor

There are two main types of hardwood flooring wax, liquid and paste. Liquid wax is easier to apply than paste wax but “it needs a couple of coats,” according to The Flooring Lady. Paste wax, on the other hand, “only requires one application.”

Although its application is time-consuming, paste wax brings out the rich wood-tones of the old hardwood floor and offers protection from liquid spills. It also provides a long-lasting finish that holds up well under heavy foot traffic.

A number of manufacturers produce paste wax commercially and it’s available at hardware and home improvement stores and some grocery stores. Several online retailers, such as Amazon.com and AceHardware.com carry paste wax as well.

Application

Removal of all dirt and dust particles before the wax application is critical to its success. Sweep first, then us a dust mop to ensure that the hardwood floor is completely dust-free.

Then, use a wood cleaner (Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner and Libman Hardwood Floor Cleaner are good choices and readily available) or mineral spirits to clean the floor.

You can even use ½ cup of white vinegar in a gallon of water to clean the floor, according to the pros at Better Homes & Gardens.

You may need to use a scrubbing pad to remove stubborn stains or excess wax. Dust mop again after the floor dries.

Use a piece of white terrycloth or a cheesecloth rag to apply the paste wax, rubbing it into the wood along the grain. Allow the paste wax to dry for an hour and then use a floor buffer to bring it to a high shine.

By the way, if you have one of the floors that was installed with nails, and the nails sink, fill the resulting holes with wood filler. Many large hardware stores sell fillers in different colors to match various hardwood floors.

After the wood filler dries, apply an additional coat of wax. If the hardwood floor is particularly old and scratched or damaged, you may want to sand it and apply a fresh coat of polyurethane or shellac before waxing.

Flooring experts recommend you repeat the process twice a year.

Maintenance

The key to keeping the shine on the 1930s hardwood floor is regular removal of dust and dirt. Small dirt particles grind into the wood, causing microscopic scratches that dull the surface.

Regular dust mopping or vacuuming keeps this from occurring. Use rugs at all the entryways to avoid having dirt tracked onto the floor and a hardwood floor cleaner to keep the surface clean between wax applications.