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How to Refinish a Wood Floor with Boiled Linseed Oil

Lois Lawrence

Before the development of modern polyurethane and epoxy finishes, floors were protected with more natural products, including linseed oil. Linseed oil, a product of flax, was an effective protectant but slow to dry. To remedy this additives were introduced to the oil, which is not really boiled at all--merely engineered to hasten drying time. For many, boiled linseed oil provides an attractive alternative to modern materials. Although less durable than many finishes, a linseed oil finish has the advantage of relative low cost. You can also apply it with somewhat less surface preparation, and it results in a finish better suited than others to quick patch repairs when scratches or other signs of wear do appear.

  1. Clean the floor well, and allow it to dry thoroughly.

  2. Sand the entire floor lightly, paying special attention to scratches and other trouble spots. Allover sanding is necessary to allow easy absorption of the oil. Sweep and vacuum all sanding debris and finish by wiping the floor down with a tack cloth.

  3. Prepare a mixture of three parts boiled linseed oil to one part turpentine, and apply a thin coat to the floor, wiping any excess off with a dry cloth as you finish each section of floor. Allow this coat to dry at least 24 hours. If there is any tackiness to the touch, wait until this has disappeared before applying additional coats.

  4. Repeat step 3 two more times for a total of three coats.

  5. Using an electric buffer and felt pads, buff the floor until it has a light even sheen, and apply a thin coat of paste wax and buff again. This will seal and help to protect the boiled linseed oil finish.