Don’t want to lose the ‘old’ look of the floor by sanding

Q: We installed a 100 year old salvaged floor that is heart pine. Although it is in pretty good shape, we want to clean it up a bit and fill the scratches and gouges. Everyone we have talked to wants to sand and refinish, but we don’t want to lose the ‘old’ look of the floor, since that is the charm. What is the best way to clean up the years of stuff on the floor without sanding all the charm out of the floor?

A: Your floor was taken from another location and installed in your house. It can’t be flat. The only way to make it flat is to sand it down. If you do that, you won’t remove the colour from a century of changes to the wood. You can chemically strip it, but you won’t get it flat that way. I would sand it. I have done many of these. A few have turned out quite dark, which shows that you can’t sand out a century of colour.

Glue on back of salvaged wood

Q: I have removed some oak flooring from a renovation job in a house and plan on installing it in my house. I have removed all the nails from the back but there is some glue on the the back which is sometimes hard and sometimes brittle. What is the best method for removing glue? This leads to my next question. What is the the best way to re-install the oak strips (type of nails, glues etc.)?

A: If this is 3/8 thick oak strip, I would consider it a waste of effort. By the time you install it and sand it flat there won’t be much left of it. If it is 3/4 thick, perhaps you can remove the adhesive with a belt sander and very coarse belt or even chip it off with a sharp hatchet.

Installing salvaged wood

Q: I took out some old hardwood strip flooring from a renovation job and pulled out the nails from the back and plan on cutting out the damaged wood and re-installing the good wood in my home. I have put down a tongue and grove plywood subfloor and am wondering if finishing nails or using a glue would be the best way to install the old hardwood. It is not tongue and grove, it’s simply strips.

A: How thick is this wood? If it is 3/4 I would consider putting a tongue and groove on the pieces or at least a groove on both edges and use splines. In that case and your initial question I would use both urethane adhesive and finishing nails.

Grit built up in the tongue and groove of salvaged wood

Q: I recently bought about 1200 feet of 2 1/4 birch flooring that was ripped out of a gym. I plan on laying this in my new house. The only problem is that the flooring has a fair bit if grit built up around the tongue and groove area. I need to remove this grit before I lay the floor, so that it will fit tightly together. Do you know the quickest and easiest way to do that?

A: I would probably just use a Richard hand scraper. These are the long handle yellow scrapers with the double sided blades.

We really want to save as much of the wood as we can

Q: We just bought a 1950’s home with all original hardwood floors. They were covered in carpet and still in pristine shape. We’re in the process of remodleing the home, which includes moving several walls and expanding off the back of the house. We really want to save as much of the wood as we can and reuse it in the main part of the house. Prior to construction starting we want to pull up all the floors. Is this possible without damaging them so that we can relay them once the house is complete?

A: If the floors are 3/4 thick, yes it is worth saving them. If this is the old 3/8 type, in my view, it is hardly worth it. After re installing it, so much would have to be removed to get them flat, there would likely be little wear surface left. That type of floor can safely be sanded 2 times-3 is you are lucky.

Relay

Q: My wife had 3/8″ ***** (cheaper) engineered hardwood installed in a bedroom, but it was laid with the joists, instead of across. I am now putting in the same product in another bedroom and hallway and will be laying it perpendicular. Can I remove and re-lay the before mentioned bedroom without ruining it? I think it was stapled.

A: Not likely.

Adding tongue or groove?

Q: I have just salvaged nearly 800 square feet of red oak flooring. Many pieces have had their tongue or groove cut off where the planking has met the wall. Still other pieces were installed butted end to end with the tongue or groove removed (they were probably salvaged and reinstalled years ago). All in all, the floors seemed to hold up well and really did not look too bad. My question is this, should the ends be run through a router to restore the tongues or grooves before installing?

A: Personally, I think I would just make sure I nailed within 3″ of the end and glue the ends with a polyurethane adhesive. It is much less time consuming and you will still achieve a strong end joint.

Refinishing used gymnasium flooring

Q: We obtained about 500 sq. ft of maple gymnasium flooring that we want to refinish and install in our cabin. The flooring is probably 50 years old or more and has been heavily waxed, and it looks as though there may be a shellac finish under that. We had to dismantle the flooring but we are at a loss as to the best way of taking the finish down to the bare wood, removing the old gym lines, and then refinishing.

A: You really need to get a professional sander/finisher involved in this if you want a clean, flat floor. If you have absolutely nothing to fill your days for weeks to come, then you can hand scrape it or use little tiny hand tools and chip away at it. That doesn’t make sense to me, but I know that you can’t rent my equipment and it takes a period of apprenticeship to become skilled at using it. Spend some money and save yourself a lot of grief.

Matching very old boards

Q: We have original approx. 2 inch oak floors in dining and living room. Now that we have opened up our kitchen, we want to rip out linoleum and extend the oak. Is this possible to match the boards?

A: 2″ by 3/8 thick? It is not made anymore. I may have 100 sq. ft. in my garage that I saved from another job, for repairs. Likely it would not be enough. So, in practical terms, the answer really is no. You can’t match it.

Removing build up or having it re milled

Q: We recently were able to salvage 500/700 s/f of maple flooring from our local school that was being torn down to build a new one. The question is, is there a tool to remove the build up that accumulated between the joints in the floor. For the last 30 years the floor was covered by carpet. This stuff is like concrete. The floor was originally put down in the 1900’s. the boards are 13/16 thick and just under 2-3/4 wide. I would prefer not to have the T and G remilled, do they make a special scraper for T and G.

A: I am not aware of any tool designed to remove such old finishes or adhesives that have seeped between the boards to contaminate the tongue and groove joints. There are tongue and groove bits you can get for routers or shapers. Perhaps one of proper size would work for you, to remove the mess. Or a table saw. Either way, it will be a time consuming job if you can’t just use a hand scraper or sharp chisel and have the stuff chip off.

That is the rub. You may have gotten this cheap or free, but you will pay somewhere along the line. Also, when it is re installed, it will likely take considerable professional sanding to get the floor flat. You will pay again. Difficult to say if it is worth it or not, but it seems a shame to just throw the stuff out, doesn’t it?