I don’t think it shows up well in the photos, but the hand-laid floors on the Colonial house were very nice, even after 25 or so years. I had planned to demolish this house and use the furnishings elsewhere but the floors changed my mind. I knew I’d never take them out without damaging them, so the Colonial tavern / house got a new life.
Almost everything in this house was made by hand (i.e., my hands), with very few commercial products purchased for it. At the time, I couldn’t afford anything but basic materials, which in retrospect is a good thing. Having to do everything myself taught me a lot.
Instructions for floor building below:
1/2″ x 1/6″ basswood strips (or wood type of your choice)
Stain (Minwax is best)
Varnish (Minwax makes good varnishes for their stains)
Glue (white glue or wood glue)
To decide how many wood strips you need, measure your dollhouse floor. 1/2″ bassword strips, which are sold at most hobby stores, come in lengths of 24″ (2 feet).
If your floor was 10 x 10, you’d need twenty cut 1/2″ strips to cover the floor back to front. Because the strips come in 24″ lengths, one strip will be good for two boards. Therefore you need ten strips, but always get a couple extra.
1. Cut a sheet or sheets of waxed paper to be about 1-2 inches larger on all sides than your floor.
2. Place the waxed paper into the room to be floored. You can secure with tape if you want, but you’ll be pulling this out again.
3. Start cutting boards and laying them the room, on the waxed paper, starting at the rear and working your way forward.
Note: Whether you lay the boards to run parallel with the room’s opening or back to front is up to you. In a real house, you lay them to be horizontal to the longest wall. In a dollhouse, it depends on the look you want. I have long narrow halls where the boards are laid side to side the short length, and it looks nice. In the colonial house, I laid the boards to parallel the opening in both rooms.
4. For “random” flooring cut the boards at random lengths, butting them together at the ends. (You can cut all boards the same size instead, if you like, which looks nice, but if you’re going for the rustic look, random is better).
5. When you have all boards cut to fill the room solidly, carefully slide out the waxed paper with the boards intact and lay the whole thing on a work table.
6. You’ll need to tack the boards to the waxed paper with dots of glue or double-stick tape for the next step (you can tack it as you measure and cut the boards inside the house, but if you’re like me, they’ll come unstuck when you pull out the waxed paper and you’ll have to do it again anyway.
7. Make sure the boards are laid out on the waxed paper exactly as you want them in your room. You can squeeze the boards close together or leave small gaps; it’s up to you.
8. Sand the floor. I recommend a fine sandpaper (150) followed by a very fine paper (300 or more). Use a tack cloth or a damp cloth to wipe the boards clean of sanding dust. Make sure they are perfectly dry.
9. Stain. I love that Minwax has come up with stain pens which make the staining process a lot less messy. However, using stain pens means you have to stain each board one small mark at a time. Brushing on stain from a can will be faster!
10. Brush on the stain (or use the pens), then wipe the stain from the boards for even coloring. Let the stained floor dry for at least 24 hours.
11. Sand the floor again, using 300 sandpaper. Wipe clean.
12. If your floor needs a second staining, do that now and let dry at least another 24 hours.
13. Apply a thin coat of Minwax varnish. (If you love spray varnish, that will probably work–I’ve never tried it, and I’m relating how I did the original floors, when I could afford Minwax and a paper towel.)
14. Let varnish dry 24 hours.
15. Sand lightly with 300 or finer sandpaper.
16. This is an optional step, but one I did. Apply a glaze stain over the varnished floor. I used the old House of Miniatures finishing glaze stain, which is a very dark oil-based glaze that adds a depth of color. I have no idea if anyone makes the HoM glaze anymore, but a hardware store with a good paint / stain section will probably have glazes.
17. If using the glaze, brush on, wipe off, and let dry 24 hours, and then do another light sanding w/ very fine paper.
18. If you’re satisfied with the way the floor looks, pull it off board by board and glue it into the dollhouse room exactly as it was on the waxed paper. (You’ll give it another coat of varnish once it’s laid in the room and dry.)
19. Cover with a sheet of waxed paper and press a large book or other good, wide weight over the whole floor. Let dry for–you guessed it–24 hours.
20. Remove weights and waxed paper.
21. Another very light sanding. Wipe clean, finish with another coat of varnish.
22. Let dry 24 hours.
23. Polish with 0000 steel wool or very, very fine sandpaper (I’ve seen people recommend a brown paper bag, though I’ve never tried this). Wipe clean.
Enjoy your floor! It’s not difficult, and the most time consuming part is letting it dry. It’s a week to a lovely floor. But worth it. This floor will last a lifetime.
Yes, you can buy commercial flooring that you cut to fit your room in one piece. But looking over my older dollhouses, the hand-laid floors are still absolutely beautiful, while the commercial flooring looks ok, but just ok, and nowhere near as real. A hand-laid floor will make your dollhouse an heirloom.