Cleaning And Refinishing Of Woodwork

Procedure code:
National Capitol Region Specifications
Wood and Plastics
Architectural Woodwork
Last Modified:



  1. This procedure includes guidance on cleaning and refinishing both shellacked and varnished woodwork.
  2. See 01100-07-S for general project guidelines to be reviewed along with this procedure. These guidelines cover the following sections:
    1. Safety Precautions
    2. Historic Structures Precautions
    3. Submittals
    4. Quality Assurance
    5. Delivery, Storage and Handling
    6. Project/Site Conditions
    7. Sequencing and Scheduling
    8. General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)

These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing this procedure and should be followed, when applicable, along with recommendations from the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO).


  1. Product Data: Submit product data for all materials selected that will be applied to existing woodwork.
  2. Operation and Maintenance Data: Submit a dust control procedure.


  1. Field Samples: A sample area shall be restored and serve as a standard of quality in restoration of wood. The sample area will be restored by means of the approved process.
  2. Each sample area must receive the approval of the Contracting Officer before a general application is made.



  1. Wood Stain
  2. Floor Varnish
  3. Shellac
  4. Alcohol
  5. Paste Wax - Proprietary or job-mixed compound containing carnauba, beeswax, cadelilla, or ceresin mixed with turpentine.
  6. Floor Wax
  7. Wood Bleach: Solution of sodium perborate, hydrogen peroxide or proprietary mixture suitable for oak.
  8. Wood Filler
  9. Steel Wool
  10. Sandpaper: Extra Fine Grit.



  1. Protection: Mask all adjacent surfaces and protect other exposed surfaces in the work area.
  2. Surface Preparation:
    1. Select an inconspicuous area on which to test materials and application for each method type required. Test area must be approved by the Contracting Officer. After each test area has been prepared, receive approval from the Contracting Officer before commencing general application.
    2. Fill any split in existing wood and sand smooth prior to sealer application.


  1. General:
    1. Follow manufacturer's application instructions.
    2. Final appearance of woodwork must be uniform in all respects.
  2. Refinishing When Removal of Existing Shellac is Required:
    1. Coat wood with denatured alcohol. Apply with soft cloth. Scrape up residue as quickly as possible. Repeat application of alcohol until all shellac is removed.
    2. Sand smooth.
    3. Apply one coat of shellac with soft cloth.
    4. Apply mixture of shellac and alcohol with soft cloth and allow to dry overnight.
    5. Apply liberal amount of paste wax with soft cloth and allow to dry.
    6. Buff wood lightly with steel wool.
    7. Buff wood with soft brush.
    8. Polish with soft cloth.
    9. Other processes may be used as long as final results conform to quality standards and give uniform appearance.
  3. Refinishing When Removal of Existing Wax is Required:
    1. Rub wood with a soft cloth moistened in turpentine.
    2. Apply liberal amount of paste wax with soft cloth and allow to dry.
    3. Polish wood with soft cloth.
  4. Refinishing Wood Floor:
    1. Remove existing finish by sanding two or three times until bare wood is exposed.
    2. Repair scratched or broken boards. Do not replace boards unless approved by the Contracting Officer.
    3. Clean area of dust and sawdust.
    4. Apply stain of same color as existing. Allow to dry overnight.
    5. Apply two coats of floor varnish.
    6. Apply two coats of floor wax.


  1. Wash woodwork with mild detergent and water.
  2. Dry immediately with clean cloth.
  3. Apply a liberal amount of paste wax and allow to dry.

Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13