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View Full Version : Winter project, with pictures even.



Keith Wilson
01-04-2010, 11:40 PM
This is what's keeping me out of too much trouble this winter; a little home improvement, about 800 sq feet of 1-1/2 red oak T&G strip flooring. It's sort of like building a boat with white cedar planking, bronze screws, and white oak frames; it may not be the cheapest, easiest or quickest way, or even the best, but you can be pretty sure you're not making too big a mistake. There are plenty of 100+ year old floors just like this.

This is the practice room before I tear up the main part of the house.

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47a0df25b3127ccef95d289990c300000030O00BYsmzNu4aMQ e3nwE/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/

The yahoos who built the house (in 1979, the dark ages) used particle board underlayment. Fortunately they nailed it down with ordinary nails, not flooring nails, and not too many at that, so it wasn't hard to remove.

elf
01-04-2010, 11:42 PM
Been there, done that. Sooooo glad when it was finished!!!

Keith Wilson
01-05-2010, 12:07 AM
While messing around with the camera I found this picture of a cradle boat I built maybe ten years ago, so why not - It's a lot prettier than pictures of a half-finished floor. This one is my design.

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47a0df25b3127ccef95c320ab01100000030O00BYsmzNu4aMQ e3nwE/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D720/ry%3D480/

rufustr
01-05-2010, 12:42 AM
Looks good Keith.

These days I lay the particle board floor first, and then lay the strip flooring over the top of the particle board after the house is weather proof.

Gives a really good result and the strip floor is far more stable.

MiddleAgesMan
01-05-2010, 01:06 AM
????

Flying Orca
01-05-2010, 08:00 AM
Nice work, Keith! Oystagirl and I just bought a house, and one of its selling points was the hardwood floors under the hideous shag carpet. The old gal who lived there for most of the house's 106 years apparently "got tired of polishing them". :D

Removing the structural wallpaper accretions in time to patch and paint the living room and music room in the next week or so is another challenge altogether...

Keith Wilson
01-05-2010, 09:37 AM
Removing the structural wallpaper accretions . . . Lots of fun! Sort of like archaeology, going down through the layers. I did that once on a house built in 1914. The lower strata weren't too bad - big late-victorian flowers, but there was a layer from the late '30s, I think, which was enough to make you lose your breakfast. The base plaster had never been painted, and I found penciled notes from the folks who built it. "Norman Clark 12-3-14".

Our friends in Europe are probably laughing at the idea that a 100-year-old house is "old".

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
01-05-2010, 10:00 AM
....

Our friends in Europe are probably laughing at the idea that a 100-year-old house is "old".

Yup - I know two people who have (non-working) hypocausts - and neither one is telling the local archaeologists....

In '67 we did the structural wallpaper thing on an early victorian house - fascinating process in that some of it appeared to have been nailed in place.
There was clearly a period (1880ish?) when dark brown varnished embossed paper had been fashionable - if you ever have the misfortune to meet this stuff - give up - you are doomed to re-plastering anyway.



"Norman Clark 12-3-14" - my next door neighbour is one year and one month older than that! - Nice lass with a wealth of history.

TomF
01-05-2010, 11:32 AM
Keith, enjoy the money you'll save, 'cause you won't enjoy at least parts of the process.

Like Evan, I've done a number of these in various houses we've owned (laid and finished 6 floors, refinished 11 others). To be honest, if this is your first floor, you might want to use the rectangular pad machine Evan finds less effective. Because it is less effective, it's also much harder to really screw up and put a divot in your floor. Though the real danger on that score comes from the older style drum floor sanders.

After trying a bunch of finishes, I've gone back to using a traditional oil-based product. I live in an old house, and the yellowing from an oil-based varnish simply looks better with the rest of the place than the non-yellowing water-based finishes. It stands up to traffic a lot better too, though perhaps the water-based ones have improved in that regard since I last tried them.

Enforcing patience is utterly critical to getting the best varnishing result. Not just patience in your sanding and filling etc., but patience in letting all the residual dust fall out of the air before you crack open the varnish tin. Like, give it at least a full day, preferably two. Dust everything (walls, trim, the works) and wipe down with a tack cloth before you think about spreading that sticky stuff around. Optimally, do it again the next day.

I've lost this battle with the wife far more than I've won it, but perhaps your household dynamics are different. I remember coming home from work to find Sasha'd spread an initial coat on the floor while I was at work. She swore by the name of all things holy that she'd thoroughly swept, vacuumed, and tack-clothed everything.

The whole floor felt gritty though, and I found a little pile of sawdust and a dried kidney bean glistening beneath a lovely first coat near the corner.

Rich Jones
01-05-2010, 11:39 AM
At least you have an air-powered flooring nailer! Oh, the hours I've spent swinging a big, old nailing mallet...

The sanding machines can be the devil to control. Very easy to dig a trench. The edging machines can really toss you around, also.

When you get down to the finer grits of sandpaper, save the sawdust for woodflour. Mix with epoxy for any fillet work, etc. on your next boat.

Keith Wilson
01-05-2010, 12:23 PM
I've refinished several floors, although I've never laid one down before. On my daughter's house last spring I attempted to use the Varathane sander (the round one with three random-orbit heads) and was sorely disappointed. It may be fine for finish sanding, but as for removing old varnish - well, you should live so long. A drum sander will eat its way through to the basement if you're not careful, but there's a simple way to prevent that: be careful. However there seems to be a middle ground. My local Borg rents a 4-head random-orbit sander called a "U-Sand" that's not as brutal as a drum machine and is MUCH faster than the Varathane.

http://www.hy-cor.com/upload/product/big_200909031440531335327853_usandpro.jpg

Fortunately the wood I'm using is quite accurately milled so I won't have to remove much material.

I much prefer the warm color of oil-base finishes, but I'll be doing this in the winter when the smell would be completely intolerable . One solution I've found is to add water-base liquid wood dye to the water-base finish. The better ones are extremely tolerant of UV, and you can get pretty much any color you want. I've used it on furniture a lot. TransTint "Honey Amber" is my favorite:

http://alturapaint.com/images/medium/transtint_MED.jpg

Any other ideas or hints, please post 'em. I'll gratefully take all the help I can get. So far it's been mostly fun, although it will probably get tedious by the end.

Captain Blight
01-05-2010, 12:50 PM
If you had an older house and were trying to color-match the floor, I'd suggest sealing the new wood with a 3-4 pound cut of orange shellac. My word, didn't they just use that stuff all over the place in the old times.

But you've got a new install going, and since you've done a favor or two for me, I'll take this space to offer my help with edging, corner-scraping (There is a fortune awaiting the man who invents a way to mechanize this process) and finishing as need be.

George Jung
01-05-2010, 12:58 PM
oncerning your underlyament - looks like a felt product? Presumably that's over a subfloor. What's your opinion concerning felt vs cork? Any downsides to either?

The floors in my house are 'oak' - oak veneer, in reality. Torqued me off when I discovered that. I've been told I could lay a new floor over it, vs pulling it up and starting fresh. Recommendations?

Keith Wilson
01-05-2010, 01:02 PM
Thanks very much JR, but the new random-orbit sanders get all the way out to the edge of the floor. The square one only leaves a little bit in the corner that I can get easily with a normal sander. We can forget those nasty little disk edgers, and chiropractors' incomes will drop 20%.
. . .looks like a felt product?The subfloor is 5/8 or 3/4 plywood, originally with 1/2" particleboard on it. I took that off and laid down another layer of 5/8 plywood, screwed to the joists. The black stuff over that is 15# asphalt-coated roofing felt, because that's what a couple of books recommended. It seems fine so far. I'll let you know in 20 years how it works. I don't know anything about cork; somebody with more experience will have to answer that one.

TomF
01-05-2010, 01:21 PM
Yeah, I understand entirely the thing about the smell of oil-based varnish. We've just toughed it out, suffering in the cause of beauty. I was surprised and gratified recently to hear a renovation guy on a talk show tell someone who had environmental sensitivities to use the alkyd finish though, instead of a water-based floor finish.

The woman was wanting to reduce off-gas problems, which would contribute to her ongoing health issues ... and the guy said that modern water based clear finishes actually continue to off-gas for some extraordinary long time - over a year, I think he said, which errr floored me (sorry). In contrast, the alkyd ones stop off-gassing altogether within a very short time, despite how much they stink while they're at it. His point was that health-wise she'd do better to stay with a friend for 4-5 days while the alkyd stuff was at its smelliest, than to live with constant but not-obvious chemical emissions from the other product over the long term.

I've laid maple, birch, and red oak floors ... but the 2 that felt the best on the feet after (and looked the best) were douglas fir. We got that in beautiful clear, long lengths when we were out in Edmonton.

chas
01-05-2010, 03:28 PM
“it may not be the cheapest, easiest or quickest way, or even the best, but you can be pretty sure... “

And what was your reason for choosing this method and material again? LOL.

Sorry Keith, I couldn’t get past that without comment. Now, from this…

“The yahoos who built the house (in 1979, the dark ages) used particle board underlayment. Fortunately they nailed it down with ordinary nails, not flooring nails, and not too many at that, so it wasn't hard to remove.”

…you’d want to determine or do the following:

- refasten the sub-floor, which will give you direction of joists
- reinstall suitable ply underlay across, glue and fasten to code (I see you got this, crossed post, I don't type so good)

Then, if each room to be floored is separate, both physically and visually, square the room and carry on your chosen course.

If however, you have an open floor plan in the main house, perhaps running into the room in which you are underway, or your kitchen, and you haven’t done this; do it now.

Clear the furniture and run string lines parallel to direction of flooring in all areas: check rectangular sections for square, measure distances from stringline to walls at appropriate intervals and ‘fudge’ accordingly. This exercise will allow you to determine whether 1-1/2” rustic red oak, finished bright, is the proper choice for your flooring. If those ‘yahoos’ had trouble with the concepts of square and parallel, then narrow plank clear-finished variable colour flooring is just the choice to highlight their ineptitude. Which you will be reminded of every time you run that Swiffer along your baseboards!

If you have a problem, a couple of bundles of 2-1/4” might help the fit along the parallel walls. The farther the seam from the bottom line of base, the less is the visual impact. Sometimes you can judiciously prop out the bottom of a higher baseboard to reduce the impact. And sometimes the strategically placed couch or bed will mask the inconsistency.

Have at ‘er, and good luck! / Jim

Keith Wilson
01-05-2010, 04:57 PM
I have the wood already (not all that rustic; select and better). And I did screw the new underlayment to the joists; I don't like squeaks either. It feels very solid so far; much better than the old floor. Do you have an opinion about cork instead of felt? I'm going to separate the rooms with headers at 90 degrees to the rest of the floor, using much wider quartersawn pieces I'll make myself (with maybe even a little inlay if I get ambitious), so I don't have to worry too much about the strips running completely straight from room to room. Besides, I'm pretty good at geometry. The opposite walls appear to be pretty much parallel, at least so far. If there's a problem in the other rooms, I can slightly taper a few planks to make up some of the difference, and I like the idea of using a wider board at the edge. Bookcases along the wall are good, too. ;)

And after this is done, I've got the treads on a spiral staircase to do (welded steel with carpeted steps), which should be an interesting problem.

Evan Showell
01-05-2010, 06:24 PM
Keith -- I did the cork not based on any "professional" input. None of the books I consulted mention it. They are bullish on craft/builders paper. I have no idea what the long term durability will be, but it seems fine after a couple years. I did it mostly for marginally more insulation value and sound isolation more than anything. It is a thin layer, not more than 1/8". Somebody in the building trades may tell me that it was a horrendously bad idea, and maybe time will reveal that it was, but so far I like it and it does seem to make the floor feel a little more forgiving underfoot, but that could just be me projecting.

1- 1/2 strips = lots of nailing. No thought of going with 2-1/4?

I'll email a picture of the oil finished floor to anyone who wants to post it to the thread. I'm not well versed in posting photos.

Evan Showell
01-05-2010, 06:39 PM
Keith -- Something to live by when applying the finish -- get good lamb's wool applicators. Don't even think of using a synthetic pad. You'll thank me for this. If you haven't already figured it out from past refinishing jobs. Also, it's a matter of taste, but when I finish a floor, I get right down on the floor. In my view it is the only way to really see what you are doing and to apply the finish evenly. Lots of folks stand up and apply finish as if they were mopping the floor, but I just get better results when I'm down on the floor. I can use the light and sight the finish better the closer I am to the surface. It also helps keep the stray finish down to a minimum.

Keith Wilson
01-05-2010, 10:22 PM
1- 1/2 strips = lots of nailing. No thought of going with 2-1/4?Lots of thought, lots of discussion. SWMBO says 1-1/2 looks a lot better, so there you are. We both need to be happy with it in the end, and I value domestic tranquility very highly. It's not that big a deal.

Can you use a lambswool pad with waterborne finishes? I thought they were only for oil-based varnish.

Evan Showell
01-06-2010, 07:13 AM
Keith -- Perfect explanation for your choice of 1-1/2 strips. I would have made the same choice for the same reason. If you are finishing high traffic areas, I highly recommend a finish called "Traffic" by BonaKemi -- it is a Swedish product. Normally sold only to the trade and when I used it about 2-3 years ago for the downstairs, it was about $100/gal -- or roughly 2 to 3 times the price of lesser waterborne finishes. The beauty of Traffic is that a complete job requires only 3 coats and my recollection may be faulty, but it may not require sanding between coats. It is available in a high gloss or satin finish. It was designed for restaurant/bar floors that get lots of wear. You might have to become "Wilson Flooring" in order to get it from a trade supplier. It is a catalyzed water borne finish -- i.e., two part, mix together, let sit for 10 min and apply. No harder than other water based finishes to apply. I do not know whether it can be tinted. It wears like iron. It can be applied with a lambswool pad. I believe I have also applied other waterbased finishes with a lambswool pad, but am not 100% certain as it has been a while. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Avoid Minwax Polycrylic as a floor finish. It is way too soft even when fully cured.

Nicholas Carey
01-06-2010, 08:26 PM
Keith -- Perfect explanation for your choice of 1-1/2 strips. I would have made the same choice for the same reason. If you are finishing high traffic areas, I highly recommend a finish called "Traffic" by BonaKemi -- it is a Swedish product. Normally sold only to the trade and when I used it about 2-3 years ago for the downstairs, it was about $100/gal -- or roughly 2 to 3 times the price of lesser waterborne finishes. The beauty of Traffic is that a complete job requires only 3 coats and my recollection may be faulty, but it may not require sanding between coats. It is available in a high gloss or satin finish. It was designed for restaurant/bar floors that get lots of wear. You might have to become "Wilson Flooring" in order to get it from a trade supplier. It is a catalyzed water borne finish -- i.e., two part, mix together, let sit for 10 min and apply. No harder than other water based finishes to apply. I do not know whether it can be tinted. It wears like iron. It can be applied with a lambswool pad. I believe I have also applied other waterbased finishes with a lambswool pad, but am not 100% certain as it has been a while. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Avoid Minwax Polycrylic as a floor finish. It is way too soft even when fully cured.I've heard good things about Bona Traffic. Bona's web site is at http://www.bona.com/en/US/Bona_products/Consumer_Products/Finishing-Products/

You can buy Traffic online:

http://www.onlinefloorstore.com/manufacturer/BonaKemi/Bona-Traffic-Waterbased-Floor-Finish-and-Bona-Bonaseal-Waterbased-Floor-Sealer

$95/gallon, free shipping.

[youtube]
How to Apply Bona Traffic Waterborne Wood Floor Finish (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVxp1YVDJhQ)

They have you buffing between coats of the stuff using a conditioning pad with triangular abrasives applied to it.

[youtube]
Flooring Tutorial - Between Coats of Bona Traffic with Bona Conditioning Pad and Delta Sheets (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST14F6qhQME)

Bona also makes a sanding sealer (http://www.bona.com/en/US/Bona_products/Consumer_Products/Finishing-Products/Waterborne/Bona_Bonaseal/) for Traffic and a oil-modified stain (http://www.bona.com/en/US/Bona_products/Consumer_Products/Finishing-Products/Stains/DriFast_Quick-Dry_Stain/) that's compatable with their waterborne finishes

George Jung
01-06-2010, 08:45 PM
Nicks' post and links alone are worth the price of admission. Thanks!

Now - suggestions for where to purchase material for hardwood floors? The Douglas Fir recommendation was interesting.

Nicholas Carey
01-06-2010, 09:53 PM
Nicks' post and links alone are worth the price of admission. Thanks!

Now - suggestions for where to purchase material for hardwood floors? The Douglas Fir recommendation was interesting.VG Doug Fir looks really nice. One thing to consider, though.It's pretty soft and easy to dent and/or scratch.

Lumber Liquidators (http://www.lumberliquidators.com/) is a a pretty good place to buy flooring. They deal in surplus/odd lot stuff, so the inventory varies quite a bit. They have stores all over the place, or you can order on the Intertubes. A couple of years back, we got something like 1000 square feet of prefinished vertical grain bamboo, for something like $1.59 per square foot. Here's their list of unfinished hardwoods (http://www.lumberliquidators.com/catalog/thumbnail.jsp?categoryId=7&sectionId=1&subCategoryId=75&sort=TA&ref=By%20Category;274500004,By%20SubCategory;27460 0035#ref=By%20Category;274500004,By%20Grade;272800 000&subCategoryId=0&categoryId=7&sectionId=1&sort=TA&remove=By%20Grade;272800000). Looks like they'll set you up with, for instance, unfinished Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba), select grade for about $3.50 per square foot.

George Jung
01-06-2010, 10:34 PM
Thanks, Nicholas - may need to consider my own winter project. Good site.

brad9798
01-06-2010, 11:58 PM
When I did my hardwood, it was nail and hammer with a nail set ...

I must be WAAAAAYYYYYY old-fashioned!!!

:)

BTW- Your project looks great!!!

Brad

Keith Wilson
01-07-2010, 07:37 AM
When I did my hardwood, it was nail and hammer with a nail set ...
OMG - I can't imagine driving that many nails by hand; over 2000 so far, probably 10,000 by the time it's done.

TomF
01-07-2010, 10:00 AM
VG Doug Fir looks really nice. One thing to consider, though.It's pretty soft and easy to dent and/or scratch.Yes. We used it in bedrooms, where there was a lot less traffic - out here in the maritimes, I'm seeing that a lot of softwood was used upstairs in the old houses, even when hardwood was laid in the "public" rooms. A century and a half of wear shows - especially around doors, in hallways, and stairs!

The other difference with the Doug fir we used was that the ends of each piece weren't profiled with T&G. No big deal, but you did need to use a mitre box when making cuts.

Keith Wilson
01-07-2010, 10:35 AM
Softwood floors are very rare around here even in the oldest houses. Oak in the more public spaces and maple or birch in the bedrooms is common, but no pine. You'd think old-growth quartersawn white pine from northern Minnesota (before they cut it all down) would have made a good floor, but that's not what they did.

I was at the Borg last night, and they were selling off some of the RO sanders in their rental fleet (the one in post #13) for not all that much more than I'd have paid to rent the thing, since I'll be doing the sanding in several sections. So I bought one. It seems in very good shape, and I figure I can sell it when I'm done for considerably less than I paid for it and still come out ahead - and I'll be able to do the sanding at my leisure, a half-hour at a time if I want. I hate having to get a job done while the clock is ticking with rental tools. One more tool . . . :rolleyes:
I know two people who have (non-working) hypocausts Jesus T. Christ! I missed this post - so that means the foundations are Roman, more than 1400 years old? The oldest private house still standing in Minnesota was built in 1837.

Did you know that the Koreans independently developed a similar technology to the hypocaust, called an Ondol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ondol)? It's still in use in old houses in the country, and most modern Korean buildings have a high-tech equivalent in the floors.

TomF
01-07-2010, 10:46 AM
I once walked through a house we were considering buying, built by a guy in the 1880s who'd owned a lumber company. The floors, trim, and even some panelled wainscot in the hall and up the stairs ... all of it was birdseye or quilted maple. He'd had his workers pull figured boards off the production line and set them aside for his own project.

Structurally the house had problems ... and it was a bit further to drive than I wanted ... so we didn't buy it. But OMG.