Any secrets for salvaging old hardwood floors?

Q: Are there any secrets for salvaging old hardwood floors? Also, do you recommend resanding or keeping the worn wood that shows now.. for resale?

A: Secrets? No secrets. Just a strong back if you are pulling up the floor. 3/4 thick is certainly worth saving.

If it is the old 3/8 thick strip, it isn’t worth it because after it is re-installed it would still have to be sanded flat. There wouldn’t be anything left of the 3/8 in that scenario.

I would pull up a 3/4 floor, pull the nails and scrape clean the tongue and groove of any finish and grime that has found it’s way into that area. Re-install the floor in a new location and have it sanded flat.

Rip out and possibility of asbestos

Q: Hi, I have a 1964 ranch in Charlotte, NC that has original wood floors throughout, except in the den. I would like to replace carpet with hardwoods in the den and am getting different stories from different potential installers. I am concerned with the possibility of asbestos. One wants to remove carpet/pad, old vinyl and luan and any possible other subflooring and say they have no concern with asbestos. Another wants to just remove carpet/pad and place Aquabar B Moisture/Sound Barrier over the vinyl. It’s less to not remove the vinyl but I am worried it wouldn’t be a good idea over an old floor? Thoughts on both methods? THANK YOU!

A: What is under the den? A well ventilated, possibly insulated crawl space? My first concern is if it is a crawl space that is wet or very damp that moisture is going to rise to the wooden structure, sub floor. Moisture does migrate through wood but if it happens slowly it’s no big deal. If it gets trapped that is a problem in the long run. Are you concerned the vinyl may be reinforced with asbestos? It’s my understanding there are extremely strict laws in the U.S. regarding asbestos removal. If there is a chance asbestos is present, given the risk to health in the long run and the laws with huge impact when one gets caught I would be inclined to leave it in place. Unless there are moisture issues with a crawl space. The installer should make sure his cleats or staples will penetrate and hold to the existing sub floor.

Follow-up Q: Yes, a crawlspace with insulation under the floor (ceiling of crawlspace) and standard ventilation that I leave open most of the year. My other floors are wood (or ceramic tile) and I don’t have an issue there.

I am concerned from what I’ve read about pre-1977ish construction that the vinyl may have asbestos reinforcement, but I don’t know that for sure.

One installer is saying they will remove the carpet/pad, vinyl and what they are saying is a chipboard subfloor and then install felt paper and the hardwoods. They say the staples they use would cause the chipboard to break apart.

The other installer is saying he won’t take the chance of disturbing any possible asbestos there for his crew’s or my health concerns. He said there shouldn’t be any issue laying the Aquabar over the vinyl and nailing it into place. So you think this shouldn’t be an issue?

There’s the staple vs nail too – one says one is better the other says the other.

The more quotes I get the more confused I get! Thank you so much for your input.

A: Vinyl is usually installed over 1/4″ poplar or 1/8 mahogany sheeting, not aspanite (chip board). What is all that sitting on? What is directly on the floor joists?

Follow-up Q: Unfortunately, no idea. I guess we wouldn’t know for sure unless it would all be pulled out.

They looked under a corner of the carpet and saw the vinyl and said they saw the chipboard, when I talked to them today. I don’t know how since the vinyl is there.

The other guy didn’t even look, I guess because he’s not planning to pull it up.

A: Okay, well, I have to assume there is another sub floor under the chip board because the one guy is going to rip that out but nothing is mentioned about what he is replacing it with. If there is real plywood under that chip board and with no other issues I think I would go on top of the vinyl. If it is chip board on joists I think I would screw 1/2″ spruce sheeting over the vinyl provided it won’t cause any height issues with cabinets, doorways etc. My thinking is this: chip board doesn’t hold fasteners well at all; no fasteners! At least you will get some extra grab with the plywood. This would eliminate the issue with asbestos contamination. I’m also not a great fan of staples. They do hold tight but this can be a problem with certain types of wood in areas where there is a large swing in humidity. They can cause the tongue to rip right off the board. Cleats do allow a bit of stretch and movement. Unless the first guy knows the chip board the vinyl is on is only a skin I’d leave everything there and go over top if possible.

Follow-up: Good point about them not mentioning putting anything in to replace the sub floor. This is a pretty solidly built home, so I think whatever is under there is probably decent quality. I have also been reading that about staples as well. We have a lot humidity here most of the year, so I was worried about that too. I think I will go with the company going over the vinyl. All seems to point to them and of course it’s less expensive too!

Thank you so very much for your time and unbiased opinion. So kind of you to take time out of your day to answer all of these questions!

What is the easiest way to remove U shape staples from salvaged hardwood flooring?

Q: What is the easiest way to remove U shape staples from salvaged hardwood flooring? I want to reinstall it.

A: It depends how far into the wood the staples are. If they are near flush you may need to get under them with something akin to a pointed ice pick just to lift them high enough to grab them with another tool. For others that are sticking up far enough to grab, probably the best tool is a type of pliers that look like something you might use for pulling teeth. They look much like tile nippers. Each jaw end is broad and rounded meaning less marring of the wood surface. Or you can just use a pair of wire cutters and place something thin between them and your flooring if you need to push the cutters down on the wood surface for leverage. You are trying not to ding up the surface or cause the staple legs to snap off.

Follow-up: Thank you so much for your help. A friend and I went at it this afternoon with wire cutters.. tooth pulling type. They worked pretty well. We did try to get the blade off my late husbands angle grinder but we couldn’t budge it so glad the nippers worked.

A: You’re welcome. Those ‘U’ shaped staples are about the worse. It’s all labour and one tool helps more with one staple than with the next. Strap on the knee pads and have a couple of different plier type tools with you along with something to punch under those ones near flush with the floor. Nothing magical. Just a lot of hard work and blisters on your hands.

Will replacing a few strips cause the floor to buckle later on?

Q: I recently purchased a newly built home with maple hardwood floors throughout the house. The builder installed the floors and then a few sub-trades came in to install doors and paint. As a result, the floors have some scratches and a few deep nicks throughout the home, as well as paint splashes. The boards are in strips and the builder has offered to replace a few strips here and there and then sand down and refinish other areas. I’ve been told that replacing a few strips will only cause the floor to buckle down the road. Is this true? Is replacing a few strips and sanding a viable option to re-doing the whole area? My fear is that the floors will buckle a few months later.

A: If this is factory finished flooring, the only way you will get an exact match is by replacing the boards or having all the floors sanded. No, replacing boards doesn’t cause your floor to buckle. Only excessive moisture can cause that.

Similar Q: We have just purchased a new home with approximately 1200-1300 sq. feet of 3/4 inch pre-finished Oak hardwood flooring. About 250-300 boards are split. The contractor wants to replace the boards. Is it feasible to replace this number of boards without affecting the integrity of the floor? We are concerned that the floor will never be the same, and that we will end up with a major repaired floor as opposed to the “new” floor we expected to come with our new house.

A: That is a huge number of boards to replace. No doubt about that. Is this pre-finished flooring? If they use a good adhesive I don’t see that this would be inferior to what you have now, but if this isn’t pre-finished, it would all have to be sanded again.

Saving old wood floor covered with tile

Q: We have a 100 year old house. The entrance way has wood floor, with very old tile on top. We want to save the wood floor. What can be done?

A: A number of issues arise here. How do you know the floor is thick enough to be sanded? If it is hardwood, it is likely the old 3/8 thick type which can be sanded twice. The tiles, almost guaranteed are reinforced asbestos tile. I would advice you to pass unless you are able to easily remove the tiles without much breakage.

What would be the best way to pull up hardwood floors that have been glued down?

Q: What is the best way to remove laminated wood strip flooring that has been glued down to concrete?

A: Hire some young, strong, cheap labour? Good question. I would start with a large wrecking bar and see how that works. You may have to rent a tile chipper. Depends the adhesive used. Probably some sort of mastic. Then you have to deal with the stuff on the sub floor.

Similar Q: What would be the best way to pull up hardwood floors that have been glued down?

A: A wrecking bar and a strong back OR rental of a tile remover. It is a machine with a blade in front and it gives quick chopping motions.

How to remove some old tile

Q: I am trying to figure out how to remove some old tile that has plywood underneath. My house was built in the 1900’s and I guess later the owners wanted to update the kitchen with that awful red, tile looking brick. We discovered in a corner that there is the mortar or whatever is under the tile, and then a thick layer of plywood. What would be the easiest and safest way of removing old tile floor without damaging the hardwood floor?

A: These tiles likely contain asbestos. I think I would either cover over it or hire a firm that specializes in asbestos removal.

Removing floor glued to OSB

Q: I have a very cheap engineered hardwood floor that was destroyed by high heel shoes. It needs to be replaced. It is glued down to Advantech OSB. I have been told this will be a nightmare to remove. I was then told just to nail down 3/4′ oak over the top of the old floor. The old floor is 3/8′ thick. Is installing new floors over these layers a good idea?

A: I wouldn’t nail anything over top of the floor you have. I would try a wrecking bar or rent a machine that is used to remove tile.

Floor blocking dishwasher

Q: I need to pull up a couple of rows of laminate hardwood flooring in my kitchen as the ‘do-it-yourself-er’ who owned my home previously put in the flooring without allowing for the dishwasher to be removed. The dishwasher is now broken and it’s stuck. The tongue and groove flooring in 6′ by 2.5 ft sections seems to be glued down. How do I go about pulling it up without damaging it so that I can put it back down? Is there anyway I can make the boards removable so that I can get the new dishwasher out if needed?

A: I don’t have any good news on this question. If it is glued down you may as well pull that laminate up and put down a new floor. All these type of floors are click joint and have been for a number of years now. Why someone would glue it down is a mystery but inexperienced DIY persons do some strange things. If laminate is what you want for the kitchen, I would recommend either a Torly’s or Quick Step product.

How to save the subflooring while removing glued down hardwood?

Q: I am removing oak hardwood floors in my ’89 home that are glued down onto particle board subflooring. I will be replacing it with tile. There is about 300 sq. feet of hardwood flooring that needs to come up.

I’ve been researching methods online with little success and what I have read makes it sound like a total nightmare.

Will I be able to salvage my subflooring by carefully removing it with a prybar and hammer?

Besides using my circular saw to cut small sections at a time for removal are there any other secrets to this inevitably painful project?

A: I don’t know any secrets I’m afraid. If you ever find one for this situation, let me know.

I think I would be screwing down 3/4 plywood over top afterward, so I wouldn’t be too concerned with mucking up what you have. I can only think of one reason anyone would install such a sub floor– It was cheap.

Little staples sunk into the wood

Q: I just bought a house that was built in 1942. I tore up the carpet in it, due to being completely nasty, and found that there was wood flooring underneath. It’s in pretty bad shape. It has paint all over it. I think it would look really nice if refinished. However, when I started to look, there are all kinds of little staples sunk into the wood. Does this mean they’ve been sanded down too much? If not, what are they? The flooring is about 3/4″ thick. what should I do?

A: Is the wood actually the pine sub floor or is it 3/4″ thick hardwood? The staples, I presume in the top of the boards, are likely from the carpet under pad being stapled down. Not a concern. Pull as many out as possible and if any legs break off, counter sink them with a fine tip nail set.

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.

How do I remove engineered wood floors that are glued directly to a slab?

Q: How do I remove engineered wood floors that are glued directly to a slab?

A: I’ve not had the joy of doing one of these yet, and if one comes up, I may have to decide I am too old to face it.:) You can rent a “chopper” for tile removal. It has a blade on the front and when you start it up, the blade moves in and out. Bostik also sells adhesive removers which might help to soften it up.

Removing staples from wood floor

Q: Is there a tool to remove 1 1/4″ staples from wood floors without breaking the staple? How do I go about removing staples from wood floor?

A: Ingenuity is the best tool. 🙂 Are you talking about “U” shaped carpet staples? They can be tough. Screw driver, nail punch, wire cutters and a I’ve seen a tool at the hardware store which I don’t know the name of. It looks like wire cutters, except the cutting edges are facing the front of the cutters. They look like something you could pull a tooth out with.

Removing floor laid with rubberized adhesive

Q: I had a flood and the engineered wood floor which was laid with rubberized adhesive must come up. It is glued on a concrete slab. What is the best way to remove the floor?

A: Honestly, I think if you know who manufactures the adhesive, your best place to start would be to contact them. I know with Bostik, they have a cleaner that will actually dissolve there urethane adhesives. Perhaps you have Dritac?

Ripping out linoleum

Q: I just took ugly laminate flooring off my kitchen floor. It still has two different linoleum’s that are glued down. I need two take it down to the wood. How do I do this, without destroying the wood? Do I use some kind of heat gun and scrape out with a scraper or am I out going to hurt the floor itself?

A: If you are lucky and this was installed properly, then you should have 1/4 poplar under that, stapled to the sub floor. That would be much easier to remove. If you need to remove this because it is sitting on a hardwood floor, it is likely the floor isn’t worth saving, which is why they covered it over. I would consider removing the entire mess down to the sub floor, install 3/8 spruce sheeting and then a new hardwood floor.

Removing the parquet first?

Q: So, parquet flooring should come up before hardwood of any type, 3/4″ or engineered, goes down, nailed of course?

A: If you want to be sure your new floor is solid and stays that way, I wouldn’t even consider installing over parquet, or even over another strip floor. Take it out. Make sure the sub floor is solid and secure, and then install the new floor.

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.