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We had our Victorian boards (throughout house and staircase) sanded and varnished a while back. We have recently had builders and painters in our house for a month and they are looking a little worse for wear. The specific probelms are:

  1. general dulling of large areas
  2. paint spattered blobs
  3. edges of stairs completely rubbed away all of varnish back to bare wood

I would really appreciate some advice on the above. I am also wondering if waxing might work - we are not after a particuarly shiny finish and had used satin varnish before.

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If your floor was finished in the last few decades, it is likely that the finish is polyurethane. Do not wax polyurethane! There are a number of cleaners made for polyurethane floors that may remove some surface material that dulls a finish, but does not leave a residue.

Large area - If the finish in the large areas is dulled from abrasion, the only treatment that will restore the overall shine level is screening the whole room (or at least a large defined area up to an edge where a slight shift in gloss will not offend).

This is a process of slight abrasion using a commercial buffing machine (rented from a home center) that takes off the gloss of the whole floor. It is much less intense than a complete sanding and refinishing. The floor is then cleaned thoroughly and refinished with a new topcoat of polyurethane.

Paint globs - The paint globs must be chipped up. You could try a flexible bladed putty knife slid under the edge. If that is not successful, scraping carefully and gently on the top of the paint blob until you just get down to the finish, sometimes the thin last layer will flake away from the finish without much damage.

If the finish is damaged under the blobs, a light sanding followed by a feathered brushing of new polyurethane (of the same gloss as the floor) should cure it. It might be a bit shinier that the surrounding area, but it will dull a bit over time, or you could dull it down after it is well cured with a gently rub of an abrasive dish pad.

Stair edges - The stair edges should be sanded overall, onto the stair tread by about 1". You can use masking tape to make the sanding and subsequent refinishing straight and even. Use several coats of new finish on the edge. When dry, remove the tape. The transition from the old finish to the new on a stair edge will not be very noticeable. Again, you can use a mildly abrasive pad to soften the transition.

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Wow - thank you so much! –  flora Oct 19 '12 at 15:17
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