“Can I just recoat this floor?”

This rare shellac alligator pattern is a historic relic.

In the earliest part of the last century, shellac was readily available and commonly used on floors, but it was always coated with a layer of paste wax. But shellac isn’t a great wood protector and maintaining the wax coat over it is back-breaking, so most wood floors that were once coated in shellac were sanded and refinished long ago.

But some of these floors, often protected for years by carpet, are still out there. Shellac ages in this characteristic “alligatoring” pattern as it dries and shrinks, especially if it has been exposed to direct heat or sunlight for an extended period of time.

The sender of this photo didn’t want to buy a consult with our Help Hotline; just an answer to their simple question. And the simple answer is “no.”

The extended answer is that there is nothing about this floor finish that is worth saving, except perhaps its historical value. The shellac is not protective, and is now shrunken and bumpy into the bargain.

Moreover, another coat of finish, even more shellac, won’t fix the problem, and will probably not bond well. The actual wood under the shellac still looks great, but it’s time for the finish to be completely sanded off.

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