In Copenhagen, Denmark, where we lived for 15 years prior to moving to the US, we had the most beautiful, original hardwood floors in our 1880’s apartment. Wide planks in the softest white/beige tone with a completely matte finish. Not only did the light floors make the apartment look bigger they made it brighter – to a photographer such as myself, light is everything.
So when we bought our early 1900′ Victorian in Kingston, we wondered if we could treat the floors to obtain that lightness and glow we had back in Copenhagen.
We started doing our research and learned that the floors in the new house are a mix of red oak, white oak and chestnut – so three different types of wood. The project was already sounding like a mission impossible.
Then, on top of that, we found out that the technique, used in Denmark (and other Scandinavian countries), of using Wood Lye is almost unknown here in the US and most floors are simply sanded then covered with (glossy) varnish and the wood will, no matter what, darken and/or turn orange with time.
So at this point, I had started looking into importing the materials necessary from Denmark so I could get my dream floors because there was no way we were going to strip off the beautiful original floors but we definitely didn’t want the orange color they had.
This is when I discovered WOCA – a company offering everything you can imagine to restore hardwood floors and obtain the perfect Nordic style floors.
I couldn’t believe it and contacted them right away. They were super helpful and knowledgeable about their product and knew exactly what I was talking about when I described my floors back in Copenhagen. They were able to help me make a plan of which products I needed and even helped me find a floor guy in my area.
What is Wood Lye
Lye is simply chalk, or chalk liquid I should say. It was used as a sanitizer for outhouses in Scandinavia for the longest time and in the springtime, farmers would give their floors a scrub with it as well – That’s where the desirable look comes from!
Wood Lye is used for priming of new, untreated or freshly sanded floors or other interior woodwork i.e. stairs, furniture and panels. The lye adds pigment to the grain in the wood (in our case white) and prevents the natural yellowing process in the wood
WOCA Wood Lye is a mild, non-corrosive, and easy to use for a professional, woodworking enthusiast or DIYer. It is compatible with all wood species, particularly White Oak but due to different colors and texture of the wood, the result will of course vary.
How it works
When lye is applied to wood, it penetrates deeply into all pores and crevices. When the lye dries, it hardens and turns into chalk (it’s original state) and along with the natural honeydew (resin) content of the wood, an extremely durable surface is created.
All floors must be freshly sanded or planed and there should be no residue of previous surface treatments left otherwise the lye will not be able to penetrate properly.
In Copenhagen, we had no finish at all, we just washed the floors regularly with white pigmented soap.
But since we have two (soon three!) children and we live in a country where folks wear shoes indoors (that is an absolute no-no in Nordic culture btw) we decided to treat the floors with oil.
The floors are still completely matte but have a protective layer that comes in handy when my children spill on the floor or someone leaves a footprint.
We chose WOCA Diamond oil which has plant-based ingredients and is one of the most durable oils on the market and ideal for high traffic homes. It’s water-resistant, fast-drying, high solid content and low VOC.
We then use WOCA Natural Soap to wash the floor every 2 weeks and strengthen the surface at the same time.
Clean with WOCA Natural Soap every other week and use WOCA Oil Refresher quarterly.
The Products we used
White pigmented WOCA Wood Lye (the primer)
Extra White WOCA Diamond Oil Active (the finish)
White WOCA Natural Soap (wash)
White WOCA Diamond Oil Refresher (quarterly refresher)
If you are interested in reading more about our renovation and how we turned an American Classic into a Nordic gem, take a look at Our Victorian House Renovation