Clean off the varnish from the top side of the tongue of salvaged boards?

Q: We salvaged some 7/8 quarter sawn, hard pine flooring. We would like to know how to clean off the varnish from the top side of the tongue edge of the boards? We have a scraper, however we are wondering if there is any easier way, as it seems that the varnish has turned to cement.

A: I would think if you have a router and router table with a straight bit, you could set it up so it will cut up to but not remove any of the tongue. Once it is set up, you can just run the boards through fairly quickly.

Hardwood that holds up to the wear and tear cats bring?

Q: I have 4 cats, 1 of which is sick and has some accidents. I am looking to replace my carpet with hardwood floors. Friends tell me hardwood will be easier to maintain and will hold up better than carpet, with pets. Can you tell me what you would recommend in hardwood that would hold up to the wear and tear cats bring?

A: I feel bad for your pets and for you, as, like us, they get old and ill and need special attention. Certainly a solid wood floor finished on site will repel accidents for the most part, if it is finished well. Avoid pre finished floors. If your situation requires a laminate, look at Torlys laminates.

Gaps due to the head of the nail not bedding all the way

Q: I am in the middle of a DIY floor using prefinished 3/4″ gunstock and using a blind hammer. This being my first time, I started in the den, but now almost done I look back and find gaps due to the head of the nail not bedding all the way.

I have been correcting this by cutting off the excess or tapping it in, but how do I fix the spots that are already too far back to pull up? I can see the nail in the gap but was not sure if putty or likewise would work.

I don’t want to call in a Pro since it is almost done (350 of the 400 sq ft). I may have a pro do the rest of the house, but now one half looks perfect and the first half is the problem zone.

A: Installing this with hammer and nail? You should have been setting the nail flush with the top of the tongue using a nail punch. It would have been much easier to have rented a power nailer firing cleats.

You can get colour matched putty for the gaps. Color-Rite comes in hundreds of shades and is easy to work with.

Should I glue wood planks together as I nail the wood floor down?

Q: Should I glue the wood planks together, as I nail the wood floor down? If it is a bad idea, what could happen if I do?

A: I don’t think it is a bad idea. Maybe not necessary. What type of adhesive are you using? How wide are the boards?

The biggest issue with a wood floor is moisture control. Control that and you won’t have any problem with expansion.

Otherwise, if the sub floor you are installing to is not the best and you want adhesive for better hold, go for it. Probably a polyurethane adhesive is best.

Will painted lines on a salvaged gym floor come off easily with sanding?

Q: I bought old, damp (kept in carport) gym floor maple. I want to refinish it. Will the painted lines come off easily with sanding? Is drying it indoors a few weeks enough?

What other problems should I be concerned about? I need to save money by doing it myself or using a hand man.

A: The only way you can really know for sure if the floor has been brought into the house for a couple of weeks and has acceptable moisture content is by getting your hands on a moisture meter. They come in models with or without pins. You should be looking for readings of about 7-9%. You will also need to make sure the sub floor is within 4% of the flooring and that the humidity in the house is at an RH that is considered your typical year round living condition.

The paint should sand off OK (be careful of lead) but whether it will leave a discolouration because the wood beneath has been sheltered from sun light I don’t know. You will just have to roll the dice and go for it, accepting that this is reclaimed wood and any marks it has are part of the woods character.

Possible to install wood flooring over ceramic tiles?

Q: Is it possible to lay wood flooring over ceramic tiles? What are the pros and cons if any?

A: The first question is how will you secure the floor?

Any floor will be as secure as the foundation it sits on. You are far better off, in spite of the work involved, to strip everything off to the original subfloor, screw down plywood if needed and then install your solid hardwood on top of that.

Related Q: I want to install a floating wood floor in my kitchen, but I don’t want to remove the tiles. Can I lay the wood on top of tile? And if so, what do I use to fill in the grout area so that it’s level?

A: I don’t think the grout lines would be a problem. Just install the recommended foam padding first.

Best weather, temperature, and humidity condition to install wood flooring?

Q: What is the best weather/temperature and humidity condition to install hardwood/engineered floors?

A: That is a tricky question and I don’t think there is any one correct answer. It depends on the general climate where you live for one. If you are most comfortable at 75F with 45% RH IN YOUR HOME then acclimate the flooring to that and try to maintain that environment as closely as possible year round.

If the flooring is installed, for example in very high humidity conditions in summer (even if it is acclimated to that) when the heating season arrives, the furnace kicks in and the RH in the home now becomes 30% or less, the floor will shrink and probably significantly.

If you install the floor in winter, during heating of the house and the RH is very low, in summer if humidity is high the floor will expand and if an expansion space has not been allowed at the walls or if no effort is made to lessen the humidity, you will have a problem with cupping.

Vapor barrier on second floor?

Q: I’m installing 5/8 engineered hardwood floor on second floor over 3/4 plywood. These are 7 1/2 planks. Do I need to install a vapor barrier? We are nailing it with 1 1/2 inch L cleats. Is this workable over floating the floor or gluing it? How does a wood floor expand when nail tight to a plywood floor? How can it move without the plywood moving?

A: Well, the product is engineered which means it is suppose to be, because of it’s construction very stable. You should not need a vapour barrier on the second floor. In fact, if it is nailed down and you are punching a thousand holes through such a barrier, how can it be a barrier? As to specific installation instructions, there is so much variation from one product to another, it is best to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer.

Solid wood floors are more of an issue in significant humidity swings than engineered. And some species are more affected than others. I prefer cleats over staples because cleats allow some stretch or expansion of the floor board. Staples are more resistant and under sever conditions can cause splitting of the tongue. The wood floor moves separate from the wooden sub floor. This is why you can walk into any given building and see gaps between boards. Expansion and contraction.

Installing in small space under the slant fin hot water system

Q: I have problem installing 3/4 x3 hardwood floor. The problem I have is due to the radiant heat slant fin. I cannot nail the starter board under slant fin. If I glue how do I press until glue dries. Need advice. I only have 2 1/4 inches of space under the slant fin hot water system.

A: You will have to have several rows installed out from the rad. Perhaps you can use wedges against the wall to apply pressure to the one row of boards. Or you can gently tap a board between the rad fins and floor board to apply a bit of pressure. Make sure you use a flat, not bowed board. And I would recommend a polyurethane adhesive applied to the floor if able and certainly the underside of the board you are installing.

Bad product or bad installer?

Q: Is there any reason I should expect (or accept) a floor that’s been installed (HW oak prefinished) with dings so that it needs to be filled in and stained by myself? Also it has a micro-bevelled edges and I see pieces that do not line up (or fit correctly). One of the pieces I’ve found so far has a three-inch slice missing along the fitting and you can see the subfloor.

A: That depends if these marks and defects are part of the product you purchased at reduced cost or are the result of rough handling during installation. I’ve seen some very poorly manufactured floors along the way where there was significant variation in the width of the boards. It’s an installers nightmare. So, it really depends whether the problem is the product itself or the result of what the installer did or didn’t do.

Raised/heaved concrete at joint of two concrete slabs inside

Q: How do we fix this problem: old house, original owners extended a patio and made an enclosed sunroom and tiled it. Where they poured the addition, meeting the original concrete, it has raised and split the tiles.. at the joint of the two concrete slabs inside our house. How do we fix this?

We think we should take out the tile, clean and fix the joints, put down a plastic barrier against bugs, then install a floating wood floor. What are your suggestions?

A: I think you will have to pull the tile and find out why that area has heaved.

To install a laminate or engineered floor the substrate must be very near dead flat and you will need to make sure you don’t have moisture coming up through the concrete.

Good quality products such as those from Torly’s and Quick Step have their own pad that must be used. I would check their site for installation recommendations of their products.

Contractor used white oak instead of red oak for repairs

Q: We recently had some remodeling done in a house that we just bought. The entire house has beautiful wood floors with walnut inlays dating from the late 30’s. In building the master suite, some new wood was needed to cover areas that had been carpeted in a previously-built addition. The color does not match very well, and the contractor simply claims to be surprised that it did not work out as well as he planned.

I asked a flooring specialist to take a look, and he claims that the contractor used white oak instead of red. Can I assume that any flooring pro could tell the difference upon inspection, and that it’s fair to say that I can confront the contractor with those facts?

A: An age difference of 70 or more years is bound to show a difference in colour, with the older boards generally darkening.

White oak and red oak are simply not the same colour and a flooring professional would or should know that. A lot of older homes also had white oak, quarter sawn, which may or may not be your old floor. This ‘cut’ shows ‘tiger stripes’ as the grain pattern rather than the heavy, sweeping grain so typical in plain sawn red oak.

If the contractor used the wrong species for the repairs or even the incorrect grade, (#1 common is a lot darker generally than select and better or clear grade) then I think it is fair to say he should be made aware of it and make the correction. Especially if the floor is a natural, not stained floor.

Don’t expect a perfect colour match.

Roofing tar paper for underlayment?

Q: I am installing 3/8″ engineered over existing old hardwood. Two questions: What is the best product for levelling out the low/uneven areas of this old floor? Also, What is the best underlayment? I am leaning towards roofing tar paper. Thanks in advance.

A: As long as the dips aren’t too severe you could use that same building paper to fill in those dips. You can’t really use any type of compound mixed with water or you will buckle the wood you are installing on top of. Yes you can use the roofing paper. But you don’t have a moisture issue and the engineered won’t slide into place easily if you use that. I assume this is glue down engineered.

Concrete dry time before wood flooring install

Q: We are in the process of a kitchen remodel. They have had to move some major plumbing areas, so I have a 6 foot by 1.5 foot trench in the middle of my kitchen that they are going to fill with concrete. I was planning on putting three-quarter inch solid pine floor down with a three-quarter inch subfloor. How long do I have to wait before we install now with the just laid concrete?

A: If memory serves me correctly the recommendation is 30 days. Keep an eye on it and perhaps in a week tape a piece of plastic over the concrete and leave it over night. Check to see if condensation has formed on the plastic. I don’t think you will have much of an issue with that small amount of concrete.

Transition or staggering to join wood floor in two rooms

Q: We want to replace the tile in our foyer to match the wood in the family room. Our wood floors are glued down since we have concrete floors. How do we match the wood in the foyer to the family room, since the end of the wood is a rough cut and covered by a threshold?

A: Well, if the hardwood is running into the tiled foyer you have 2 choices. Remove the tile, install matching hardwood and use a dome cap or T cap to cover the rough cut ends or stagger back each row of existing hardwood and knit in new wood then have the entire thing sanded.

Install baseboards above floor or push them into gap?

Q: I recently purchased my first home and am beginning to prep to paint some rooms. I was happy to know that the hardwood floors throughout were just refinished before I moved in. When I began to take out the baseboards I was surprised to find out that the baseboards were installed first and the floor butts up against the baseboards.

I will be replacing the baseboards with new ones.

My question is, should I use larger baseboards and install them above the floor or should I push the new ones back into the gap? I assume I should put them on above the floor that way there is the necessary expansion gap for the floors.

A: I would install the base above the floor, as you mentioned and then install quarter round, either paint grade, primed or the wood species (oak) of your floor. If the base is painted, best to go with primed paint grade.

Bamboo flooring a bad choice for a family with large dogs?

Q: Is bamboo flooring a bad choice for a family with 4 large dogs (60 – 80 lb.)?

A: There is no wood or grass floor which will be unmarked by large dogs. The problem I have with bamboo is the use of adhesives to bond the strips together which emit a urea Formaldehyde vapour. Also, every sample I have seen exhibits large gaps between the planks indicating it shrinks quite a bit.

I think you would be best to go with a heavy grained wood to hide the scratches or go with a wood that you intend to look distressed. In that case, the scratches will just be part of the floor and add to it’s distressed look.

Related Q: I’m looking to replace carpet with wood floor. We have 4 dogs and accidents happen. What style or manufacturer would you recommend for a living room/family room that has high traffic from both people and pets?

A: I would go with site finished, not factory finished. Oak is good with pets because the heavy grain helps to hide the nail impressions. If you want to go with a very hard wood I’d probably suggest Hickory. You have to know in advance that unless a real tight environmental program is followed, Hickory will tend to expand and shrink a lot. A site finished floor has the coatings applied over the entire floor surface rather than individual boards and is much easier to deal with as far as applying a refresher coat of finish down the road.

Brazilian Teak good choice of wood floor for someone with dogs?

Q: I was wondering what you think of Brazilian Teak as a choice for wood floor for someone with dogs.

I have an American cherry floor all through my house that has been destroyed by the dog’s nails (I have two dogs).

I want to replace the floor and really like the look of the teak, but I don’t want to invest all this money if the floor is going to end up like the cherry. We had a refinisher look at our cherry floor and he told us the wood is so soft that in three months after he refinished it, it would look the same, so we didn’t want to invest in refinishing it.

A: Well, the cherry is quite soft. Brazilian teak is harder, but it isn’t as hard as Hickory which is the hardest native species. A large enough dog applying his weight to the tips of his claws would probably be able to mark any wood, regardless of hardness.

Aside from needing to keep the dogs nails well trimmed and filed, have you ever considered having them wear dog boots in the house? It may sound silly, but it’s worth taking a look at.