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.

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.

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.

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.

1/4 Inch thick wood floors?

Q: I have a number of damaged areas in my 80 yr. old floor. I pulled up one board section and it is 1/4 inch thick. Can I get this material any more?

A: The standard thickness, for decades with long strip is 3/8 top to bottom. I’ve never seen anything 1/4. If this floor was originally 3/8, then you are down to the tongue and groove, with nothing left to sand.

Carefully removing boards

Q: My hardwood floors were installed under the kitchen cabinets and have not held up well. I would like to replace them with wider planks, but how do you remove the old flooring without tearing out the kitchen cabinets?

A: Either a hammer and chisel or toe kick saw.

Glued laminate removal

Q: We have a 20 X 20 section of 1/4 inch wood laminate flooring. We are trying to remove the entire area to put down new floors in our home. We are having a difficult time removing the flooring as it is a click in place and it has been glued to a particle underlayment. Is there something that can be used to heat the glue to make the removal easier?

A: I would use a circular saw and cut the floor into smaller sections, about 3 feet wide and try using a wrecking bar. But then, you will still have the mess of the adhesive. You won’t have a smooth clean surface to work with. I don’t really like multiple layers, but in this case, since the laminate is very thin material, I would be inclined to screw 1/2, if not 5/8 plywood over top of it, into the joists.

Oak floor underneath

Q: I have recently moved into a house which has 1930’s vinyl flooring throughout the ground floor. I had pulled this up and found underneath some sort of board- hammered down with hundreds of nails. I have managed to pry some of this board up with a crows for and a mallet but it is very hard work. Is there an easier way? Underneath is a lovely old oak floor which just needs sanding and finishing. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

A: I will give you the best suggestion I can give anyone for this job. Hire a professional. This work really is beyond the scope of most home owners.

Tongue and groove grime

Q: We are removing 3/4″ X 2 1/2″ oak flooring from an old farm house. Do you have any advice as “How” to remove the dirt, grime, soot, etc. in the “tongue and groove area”. The dirt is packed in and hard to remove with a stiff brush.

A: I would think it is a lot of hard, patient slogging, unless you want to get creative and set up a router table with a bit to clean out the areas. I wish I had more to offer.

Damaged parquet floor

Q: I want to replace some damaged parquet floor (four square feet) in our living room using undamaged flooring from a closet. Is this possible and what process would you suggest?

A: This doesn’t sound practical to me. If it is well glued, most of the pieces from the closet would break when trying to get them up. Also, the underside would be so mucked up with adhesive and bits of the sub floor, it is not worth the attempt.

Removing boards damaged by termites

Q: I would like to know how to repair a hardwood floor that has been damaged in places by termites. The floor is over 40 years old and was covered by carpet until recently. There are only a few boards that appear to be damaged. Can individual boards be removed and replaced?

A: Sure, it is no big deal to remove boards from the middle of the room. A mallet and sharp chisel will do in the absence of more sophisticated equipment. When you cut the new boards to fit, you will need to break off the bottom edge of the groove side of the boards so you can drop them in place. Also, you can glue them rather than use nails. I found a terrific adhesive at Home Depot recently. It is in a small squeeze bottle, made by Pro Bond. It’s a moisture cure polyurethane adhesive that gives terrific bond and can even be sanded and stained.

Tough to know in your case how extensive the damage is. Termite usually eat the inside and leave a skin so that my the time you realize they have taken up residence, the damage is done.

Carefully removing boards

Q: This is similar to a previous question, but I want to see if I understand it correctly. I have hardwood in the dining room and now want to put it into the kitchen. Because the hardwood is to be staggered I will need to remove some boards to do this, am I understanding you correctly that I will need to remove some boards by using a circular saw to cut part of the board out? Then using a chisel to carefully work underneath the remainder of the board so as not to damage the next board?

A: That is correct, unless you have a tool such as I do called the Fein Supercut which can plunge cut a straight cut right through a board without the need of a chisel.