Amongst the things that had been stripped out of Cliftoria before it came up for sale was the floorboards from the long room at the back of the house on the ground floor. It is 10 metres by 3.3 metres, which means its surface area is 33 square metres. Sometimes we call it the ball room or the hall but most often simply the long room.
It is hard to say and I’m not an expert but I think the long room may have originally been one big room. There are shadow marks on the ceiling where there used to be two large ceiling roses. I think those roses may have been removed prior to the conversion to flats as the current modern light fittings descend from different locations on the ceiling. The big roses were placed in about thirds of the room length while the modern fittings are half way in the kitchen rooms after the width of the hall way was removed. There are matching fireplaces in both corners of the south wall. The back doors for the flats appear to have been inserted into the original wall as are the doors opposite them into the side rooms that allowed for access to the kitchens. This means that the only access to the room originally would have been via the main hallway and the main backdoor. Also the remnant wallpaper left behind after the removal of the two dividing walls indicate that the same wallpaper was in use on both sides of the room. The dividing walls had been added in 1925 were obviously not part of the original building. They made a hallway between the front and back doors and were the walls to the kitchens for flats 1 and 2. For whatever reason when those two walls were removed so were the floorboards along with the two kitchen sinks and any cupboards.
The wonderful real estate agents apparently told the sellers that they couldn’t show people through the building without a floor in this room as it would be too unsafe. This request resulted in a sturdy chipboard floor being installed. This floor is by far the flattest horizontal floor in the entire building. It is chipboard and not proper wooden floorboards which would be much more appropriate for the house. Both of us would like to rip this floor out and install a wooden floor but our finances are not up for that at the moment. Indeed, there are many other uneven and dodgy floors that need work first before we can consider removing what is otherwise a perfectly good floor. Unfortunately, the chipboard was not sealed. I hadn’t noticed that until after we held a small feast (25 people) in the room and a few spills left behind stains on the floor.
I have never been a qualified tradesman but I did go to Morwell Technical School for forms one to four. I learnt many skills there. We started with woodwork and sheet metal classes and in later years moved on to machine shop practise. I have some understanding of how to cut and sand woods and metals. Also how to solder, braze, and arc weld. Even how to use lathes and milling machines. However, I haven’t used those skills much over the intervening decades. So it was with some trepidation that I got to work on this huge expanse of floor. Remember it is 33 square metres.
To allow for access from the front to the back of the house I decided to work on one half of the floor at a time. First I went over it with a nail punch and hammer knocking in the many nails that were standing tall from the floor surface. Then, with what turned out to be three tubes of wood putty, I filled in all those nail holes and the few gaps between the chipboard sheets. Once the putty had dried I sanded it down and also some of the edges of the boards that were not quite joining level, which were providing a tripping hazard.
On advice of the local hardware paint shop I bought two tins of their white undercoat to paint the floor. They said their undercoat paint is strong enough to handle the wear and tear of being on a floor. I decided white would make the room brighter and if it didn’t work out I could always paint a different colour over it. I do know that often the Victorians would paint the floor black but I’m not quite ready to do that. If it turned out bad it would be much harder to repaint and change the colour. Sometimes the Victorians would only paint a big black border around the room because there would be a big rug laid in the middle of the room covering the unpainted part. Alas we don’t have one of those rugs either.
The local hardware paint shop is great. They are not part of a chain and are a traditional shop with all sorts of odd things on the shelves. The somewhat older brothers running it often have their mum sitting in the store chatting to them. The best thing is they still mix their own paints from the raw materials and are cheaper than the hardware chain stores.
I painted the first coat on the first half with a roller held in my hand while bending over. After that I got a pole for the handle and painted all the rest while standing up. That was a lot easier. I had assumed that rollers on poles were only used for painting ceilings. The first coat simply disappeared into the chipboard because it was so three dimensional and thirsty. The second coat made it look great. I didn’t do a third coat but I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should. With drying times, it took about a full week to do.
Top is the first coat on the west end, left is the back door, right is after the second coat.
Top left is the east end prior to painting, top right is with the paint gear and then after first coat. Bottom is after the second coat.