Country houses for sale

How to save old floorboards

Oak Floorboards Dear Mrs Danvers, When refurbishing a bedroom in our Suffolk house, we found some beautiful old oak floorboards under layers of floorboards. They probably date from the early 17th century, and are about 12in wide. Over the years, they’ve been painted over. I’ve scraped off most of the paint to reveal a warm honey colour. Could you please advise the best treatment for renovating them? I don’t want to sand them down mechanically for fear of losing the character. Some of the boards have separated by as much as an inch, so could you also advise on how best to fill in the gaps? I don’t want to fill them with new wood.

Curiously, we’ve gone through the same process at our house, so I can advise from experience. First, give them a good hoovering, especially into the gaps, to remove all dust (and have a look at the dust bag in case you’ve collected early coins or nails). Then, if there are still remains of paint or varnish, try really vigorous sweeping, tackling greasy bits with a detergent based industrial floor cleaner. When they’re as clean as you want remember, they’re supposed to look old, so don’t tidy them too much polish them with a good clear wax.

We recommend Classic Wax from Flat Paints, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex (01621 785173; This gives a quick action shine and is just as good on walls and furniture (it’s used by antique dealers who want a quick effect). To fill the gaps, look for old planks of oak in reclamation yards, which will be tough as iron. If you have to use new oak, stain it first before cutting. Watered down black ink is good for this, rather than official stains, which tend to accentuate the grain.

If you want to be really clever, add ‘accidental’ stains across your old and new sections to give the impression that the new fillets were put in during the 18th, not 21st, century. Our wax hasn’t been renewed for more than 12 years, and is still smooth and sheeny. ‘Red Wine on the Carpet’ by Mrs Danvers (published

by Susan Hill Press, £12.99) has now been reprinted, and can be obtained by calling the publishers on 01939 261616