I think I mentioned in a previous post about refinishing the floors in the front of the house that we pulled off a lot of wood that was covering them. On top of the original floors were a 1/2″ thick oak plank. In the original rooms it had buckled and parts of it were ripped up. Still, between the dining room and living room, I recovered probably 200 sq/ft of savable flooring. It’s thin, but it’s solid, so it could be refinished. Our plan was to lay it down in the back hallway. We couldn’t decide on a flooring choice for that area. It’s tricky because that’s going to be the main entry we’ll use for the house. We deigned it so there’s the laundry, a bathroom, and big coat closet. That means high traffic and potentially muddy, wet boots. Due to ample Asian influences, I’m a stanch “no shoes” in the house person. So there needs to be a shoe-safe zone somewhere. In short, we needed something durable, but also something that looked nice for that area. In the absence of being able to come up with a clever idea, we opted for the free one. We had all this flooring I saved, why not lay it back down? If it falls apart in a few months we can figure out some other option.
The project took about a weekend. We had a huge boost in help from our friend Bess who dutifully pitched in on the cleaning and sanding process. We sorted through the pile of wood picking out the best looking boards. I saved anything I thought looked okay. It was originally nailed down, but most of the nails popped pretty easily when I was taking it up, so the tongues weren’t completely destroyed. Wood flooring planks are milled into a shape such that two edges of the board have grooved slits cut in them down the length of the board. The other two sides have a matching edge cut so when two boards fit together, the “outty” (called the tongue) fits into the “inny” (called the groove) like a key sliding into a lock. Traditional flooring was all nailed down to the sub floor or joists. This involves driving nails as an angle into the tongue so that when a new board is slotted in, it covers the nail. You’re only nailing one side of the board, but because it’s “hooked” to the board behind it, it’s stable in place. Tongue and groove provides for an exceptionally sturdy surface because wood will expand and contract significantly throughout it’s life. This method of construction allows for that movement while still letting all the boards hold hands with their neighbors. Even today, this construction is still the backbone of flooring installation. Anywho, most of my boards had nail holes, but weren’t too torn up.
The next step was to sand the planks down. Because we just wanted to take off any sealer and the top layer of dirt and paint splatter* we handed sanding the planks individually using a random orbital sander. Bess and Em set about sanding boards while I worked on the install. We dated the flooring to about 50 years ago so my goal was to install it the same way it was originally installed. Em laid down asphalt paper for an underlayment and I cut and hand nailed the boards in place. After the floor was completely installed, we stained it to match the wood in the front of the house. A few coats of poly and we were in business. The one miner change we went with was to finish with a semi-gloss rather than a satin sealer since the wood was in much better shape than the rest of the house.
*I don’t know if I mentioned before, but this entire place was carpeted at some point, so the last round of painting everything off-white meant they didn’t bother to use drop clothes. A lot of the refinishing work was about removing paint splatter.