17 June 2010

Vitrify? Varnish? Oil? What ‘wood’ you do?

The work in our new upstairs "apartment" — to use an A-word that's not "attic" — really is finished now. All that's left to do is pay for it all. Well, and paint. We received what they call « la douloureuse » a few days ago. That's the "painful thing" — the bill to pay.

The last little touches were finished Monday and yesterday. On Tuesday we were out all day having fun, so no work was done. Now all the baseboards are as good as they are going to get — except for painting. The other moldings, doors, walls and so on are in place and trimmed to satisfy our requirements. And the metal railing on the lower stairway has been soldered and screwed back into place, so there's no risk of anybody accidentally falling off the landing.

This is the product I at first thought we should buy and use.
Doing so would have meant a drive over to Tours. It's a
water-based, acrylic varnish. I bet it's expensive.

Now comes the hard part for us — the varnishing and painting. Today, we hope to be able to buy the varnish or sealer that we'll finish the floor and stairs with. After much research, reflection, and discussion, we've decided to go with the products available from a local supplier. Another option was to drive the hour or so over to Tours and buy floor finishing products in a specialty shop there.

We've decided not to go down that path. Even though the products might be of higher quality, they are surely much more expensive. And there's that trip there and back, which can take up a good portion of a day. If we ended up having to return to the shop several times over the course of the job, we'd be wasting a lot of time in, and fuel for, the car.

These seemed pretty pricey to me. I decided to pass.

The local supplier I'm talking about is a hardware/home-improvement shop called Bricomarché, a national chain. The verb « bricoler » and noun « bricolage » describe what "do-it-yourself-ers" get involved in. And Bricomarché is one of the French retail chains that sells the tools and products the DIYers have need of.

Here's another varnish, especially for stairs.
The instructions on the page are interesting.

And they are having a sale! When I first did some research on the web for varnishes for wooden floors and staircases, I found a Bricomarché catalog that listed two grades of varnish —
« Passages Extrêmes» and « Hautes Performances » — of the 3V3 brand. Both products are in the « vitrificateur » category. You apply them to "vitrify," or seal, wood floors and stairs. In other words, they contain polyurethane.

The problem with the 3V3 products was the cost. They sell, respectively, for 106 € and 157 € a bucket, which contains 2.5 liters. We'll need at least four is not six cans of one or the other, bringing the cost to between 500 and 1,000 €. Ouf !

And here's the one we are aiming for now. What a deal!
It's 10 euros per liter, water-based, quick-drying, and
highly resistant to scratches and abrasion.

Then in Monday's mail we got a new publicité flyer from Bricomarché. In it I saw a water-based vitrificateur product for sale at about 30 € a tin. And the tin holds 3 liters, not just 2.5 l. Again, even if we need 6 tins (18 liters, which is nearly 5 U.S. gallons), it will set us back only about 200 €. That's better. And if we need more of it, to apply an extra coat, we can just pop over to Bricomarché, which is about 5 miles from the house, to pick some up. The sale price is good until July 4.

All this is assuming that Bricomarché will actually have the product in stock. More about that later.


  1. We bought the Boisilor vitrificateur (clear) to varnish our bathroom floor. It works really quite well, but isn't totally clear, giving a slightly yellow tint.

    For the staircase we used a similar product from Syntilor, which we both prefer for the finished effect, but it has two drawbacks: the finish is slightly red, and you need to use a quite expensive proprietary thinner.

    Our preferred shop for this sort of stuff is Bricodepot. If you have one near you some of the staff are quite knowledgable, not something you are always guaranteed of in a hardware shop!

    Bon Courage

  2. Thanks, Simon. We want to avoid solvents. I looked into Syntilor products a little, along with the Linitop line. Our closest Bricodépôt is up in Blois.

  3. Hi Ken,
    Check out your Bricomarché for the other products -- they might not be on the flyers, but in the store. Simon says the Boisilor is not as clear as the claim, so you might want to buy a can, a small can, and try it out on a patch that will not be seen once the furniture is in place. I would say in some hideaway space, but you need to do your trial in an area that gets the same light as most of the surface. It's like your paint job -- you need to try it out before you buy your full supply.
    I think the V33 products are made to last at least 10 years. You don't want to have to revarnish too often -- it means emptying the room! So, if durability is a factor in the price difference, you might need to take that into account.
    We had our floors varnished when we moved in over 25 years ago. That job lasted almost 20 years and the new job is holding up fine, too, so I don't expect to revarnish any time soon.

  4. Hi Ellen, good points all. But gee, that's expensive varnish. We're going to have rugs over most of the floor up there anyway.

  5. It's worth taking the time to get this right. Once it's on, it's difficult to change. Don't forget to try the product on a spare bit of floorboard. Better to waste one tin if you think it looks awful than hate it once it's on the whole floor.

  6. Jean and Ellen, we have a few extra floorboards to do our test on. Thanks for the advice. I know you know I know you know what you are talking about.

  7. I can say that we regret making the decision to use the lowest-priced product on a different type of job... a protective treatment for our outside wood deck. We really wish that we had gone with the product one price up. This one didn't give good coverage, and the deck looks worn only a year or two later. We had used a more expensive product in previous years, and it was worth the cost.

    But, I sure do agree that it's a great idea to use what is available closer than Tours!

    Somehow, I know that you and Walt will have thought this through very thoroughly, and will end up with a GREAT looking floor :)


  8. I would hire Painter Steve and follow his advice. :-)

    Judy, we had the same experience with our deck.

    Verification word is "nopew," which is what one wishes from one's paint.

  9. Chris, everything I hear says that painting is outrageously expensive to have hired done around here. And what would we do all that time the painter was working? You don't want us to feel more worthless than we already do, I'm sure. ;^)

    Judy, well, Simon has endorsed the product, and I'll take his word for it. I'm sure it will be just fine. I like yellow. We're not using it outdoors.

  10. Maybe they're having the sale because they know you need the product. Wouldn't that be cool?


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