Following these steps, a 500 sq. ft. wide pine plank floor was installed throughout a first floor living area for less than $1000… including the cost of all tools required to do the job right!
A change to wood flooring will require a substantial portion of the floor to be unencumbered by furniture. During finishing, the occupants of the home may have to stay elsewhere to avoid inhaling fumes. Be realistic and know that you’ll probably take longer to complete the job than you imagine. The good news is that it goes very quickly once you’re done prepping.
2. Find Your Floor
Craigslist is a great resource for unwanted flooring. Since new wide pine plank floors harden and shrink over time, they are commonly removed after 40 or 50 years. The owner will likely have applied countless coats of polyurethane, and be tired of losing pencils and pinching toes in the gaps between the boards.
A typical ad: Wide pine boards. Was flooring. Face nailed. Have 500 sq. ft. and some trim pieces. Varied widths and lengths. Must take all. $400.
Check out a few floors. They are likely to look more like piles of lumber. Take a tape measure and an awl when you inspect the flooring. Be sure it’s not rotten or warped, that the widest boards aren’t wider than 12 inches, and that the various boards are very close to being uniform in width. Near the edge of a few boards, poke the awl on the top surface. Is it very soft? If so, you’ll soon have a very worn-looking floor. Generally, older pine equal harder pine. Pick the best of the bunch and bring it home. Make sure you obtain at least 10 percent more than you will eventually need. Store the boards in a dry place, but remember that your family may not enjoy a lumber pile in the living room.
You’ll need to prep both the floor and the room. Do the flooring first. Start by inspecting every board. Remove any remaining nails, staples or other foreign objects. Sort the boards into piles of matching widths. Depending on the condition of the surface of the floor, you may wish to remove the existing finish. If so, run every board through a planer. Check Craigslist for a used unit – you can sell it again at the end of your project!
A planer is a very simple (albeit dangerous) tool to use, and can instantly impart a beautiful, clean, smooth aged pine surface to your flooring. Read the directions, have extra knives (blades) and some car wax handy, and be sure to plane every board to a uniform thickness. Unless you have a very large workspace, you may need to do the planing outdoors, as you’ll need a space twice as long as your longest floor board. You’ll generate TONS of sawdust. The sawdust will clog even the largest shop vac after every two boards, so just let it pile up and collect it later. Be sure to use ear protection, and make nice with your neighbors on planing day – planing is LOUD.
In the room, you’ll need to remove the existing flooring and baseboards. If you’re removing carpet, be sure to pull out the tack strips and every staple used to hold down the padding. Once you’ve got a bare subfloor, inspect it for damage and repair any deteriorated sections. Screw down any squeaky spots. Test all doors in the space to see if you’ll need to trim them for your new floor to fit underneath. Use a dovetail or doorjamb handsaw or an oscillating multi-tool to trim the casing molding to accommodate the planks. Vacuum the floor, then move the prepped planks into the space for at least a couple days prior to installation. This will allow them to acclimate to the humidity and conditions in the room.
4. Floor It!
Aquabar-B or roofing felt should be cut to cover the floor. This underlayment will quiet the floor, smooth imperfections, and provide a degree of moisture protection. Install the paper. Then, choose an obvious visual line and measure, cut and place one floorboard.
If your floor has preexisting holes from the prior installation, use slightly larger nails in the same holes. Wide pine planks look great when face-nailed with steel cut nails. The square profile of the nails will shear and grip the boards as it passes through, rather than pushing through like a round nail. Tremont Nails offers a variety of decorative head designs, so you’re sure to find something you like.
Work with a partner in one direction and install the floor, leaving a gap between the board ends and the wall to allow for expansion. You may find it necessary to use a lever to wedge boards into place. If so, just screw a scrap of wood into the sub floor and use a wood block and a pry bar to push the offending board into place. Wide boards go into place quickly. Keep a circular saw and square handy to trim edges and notch pieces when necessary, and complete the installation.
If your planing job went well, you shouldn’t need to have your entire floor sanded. Spot sand any inconsistent areas with a palm sander, then sweep and vacuum the floor several times to remove dust. Then, apply your finish according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Waterlox, a Tung oil resin, is a great finish option that penetrates the wood and protects it. It has the exceptional benefit of permitting spot touch-ups, unlike polyurethane. Go slowly, and be sure to wear a respirator when applying finish. Allow the finish plenty of time to cure before bringing in rugs or furniture.
Since you removed the existing baseboards, you’ll need to install new ones. Consider purchasing pine baseboards and applying the same finish prior to installation. In time, they’ll match your floor and look like they were made for each other. Tack them up with a brad nailer and you’re done!
With a little research and a few weekends of work, you too can add value and aesthetic appeal to your home with recycled wide pine plank floors. Good luck!
Project Photos: Kiersten Gurry