Rhodes Hall Atlanta, a Familiar Landmark
Approximately 18 years ago, at Rhodes Hall Atlanta, I completed one of my first major restoration projects using Passive Refinishing®. The project was for the headquarters of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Rhodes Hall. This was a major milestone for me and was a vital part of introducing Passive Refinishing® to the restoration world. The “before/after” shots of the beautiful parquet floors have been seen by thousands in talks I have given, articles I have written and via my website.
I have many fond memories of working on Rhodes Hall so when I was contacted in 2008 about doing some refurbishing of the wood floors, it was a call I welcomed. The issues were all too typical of a facility that is one of the premier locations rented for wedding receptions, corporate functions and other high profile social events. Any time you allow the public to eat, drink and be merry in an old home, something has to pay the price and usually it is the floors. That is not to say the floors had been neglected; they hadn’t. But after hundreds of events, the old floors were due some tender loving cosmetic care.
Rhodes Hall Atlanta: Cleaning and Preparation of Hardwood Floors
I was in a good position to do this. I knew what finish I had used on the floors back in the 1990s and what had been done to them since. The problem was that a ton of dirt and grime had attached itself to the finish and just wasn’t going to go away easily. In the photo on the right, you can see the color disparity caused by dirt and grime, on the right of the photo, and the cleaner surface on the left. I was able to determine that underneath this build-up of dirt, the finish I applied in the past was pretty much intact and protecting the wood. It was a matter of cleaning the grime off and then applying more finish to improve the appearance and add more protection.
Several manufacturers have introduced very good cleaners to the market and a very straight forward process to clean and recoat wood floors. The typical sequence is to scour the wood floors several times with pads and environmentally safe cleaners. The cleaners work to loosen the dirt and then the pads simply scrub it off the surface. In the photo to the left you get a good idea of how effective this is. The pad to the left is clean and unused. The pad to the right has been used to clean a little over 100 square feet (a 10 x 10 area) and it is loaded with grime. In addition, the floors were carefully rinsed to remove additional dirt from the surface. The floors were allowed to thoroughly dry and then additional surface prep was done to make sure any coatings applied would bond and hold to the old finish. It should be pointed out that while this was going on, Rhodes Hall was open to the public and it was business as usual. Traffic did have to be rerouted periodically but by and large, work went on without any major disruptions.
Rhodes Hall Atlanta: Applications of Finish Re Coatings
When all cleaning and prep was completed, the floors had a chalky look. This was a clear sign that the original finish was very much intact and still protecting the floors. The first applications of coatings started bringing back the rich color of the inlays. In most of the high use public areas, three applications of finish went down. Here are some good before/after shots to give you some idea of the change in appearance.
The handsome floors of Rhodes Hall Atlanta are ready for the next wave of wedding receptions and social functions. I don’t think you will ever find a more handsome setting for a memorable event than Amos Rhodes’s old home. During its heyday, it hosted Atlanta’s elite and that can still be true today.
I am more convinced than ever that recoating offers one of the best options ever for extending the life of a wood floor. I have a lot of information on my website and would encourage anyone to seriously consider it for their wood floors. When it is an option, it is simply the best value available for refurbishing an old floor in an environmentally responsible and low impact manner. Rhodes Hall is proof of that. Here is a structure that is well over 100 years old and the floors are in excellent shape. Other than the original sanding they had when the floors were installed, they have never been sanded since. Since Passive Refinishing® allowed for the floors to be totally restored close to 18 years ago with no loss of wood, the 100+ year old floors have not lost any wood and have as much wood today as when Amos Rhodes walked on them over a century ago. Given what Rhodes Hall Atlanta has been through, that is an incredible statement to make.