Salvaging a gym floor

Q: I’m salvaging a gym floor. 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 subfloor 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 discoloration because the wood beneath has been sheltered from sunlight 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 character of the wood.

Salvaging a gym floor tips

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors:  I have been offered the salvage of several thousand square feet of hardwood (maple) flooring from a gymnasium of a building that is being demolished, and would like some suggestions on how best to salvage a gym floor while maintaining as much of the material as possible.

The existing floor is almost 60 years old, and while I have not been able to view the floor itself, have been lead to believe that there is almost 1/4 inch of material above the groove of the boards. Seems when they installed the original floor, rather than sand the floor smooth they flooded the floor with varnish and let itself level.

The floor was also nailed down with spiral nails, not staples as today’s standard would use. A thought is to use a small pry bar to lift the board at the point of the nail, and then use a Sawzall with a metal cutting bit to cut the nail, then once the floor was off, to grind the nails flat with the board. When reinstalling the board, to then stagger the nails to the middle of the joists and then reattach.

Does this sound like a plausible method for you? I would be interested in hearing how your firm does the salvage process compared to this method.

A: I think you have the right idea, certainly. Along with a small bar, I would also take along a bigger one if available. Rather than cut the nails off and grind them, I would knock them out in one piece. Other than that, I am with you on your method. If there is 1/4 left, then it seems worthwhile to salvage it. I will warn you, however, that this is backbreaking work. If you happen to break off a little bit of the bottom part of the groove side in this endeavor, It shouldn’t be a factor when reinstalling.

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