We’re in the mountains of Maine today reclaiming our sanity, which has given me some time to edit some photos and catch up on some posts. I have to tell you guys how relaxing this is. I’m sitting in a rocking chair, in front of a wood stove, in a stream of sun, with a mug of hot tea. To say this is nice is an understatement. So while we reclaim a sense of balance and relief at being away from renovations for a couple days, let’s talk about our reclaimed southern pine floors we put down in our living room.
These floors are my dream floors. The beautiful variation, the saw marks—count me in. They are the type of floor you see on Houzz and keep as an inspiration piece. They are floors you look up price wise and, when you’re on a budget like ours, gasp and fall over sideways when you see the cost. They are also the floors which my husband managed to divert from the waste stream.
Because of how this floor is laid, when all is said and done there’s a decent amount of waste. When Andy saw this he realized there was enough to do the floor in our living room, floor the small space in front of the new stairs and maybe, just maybe, build a someday farmers table for our someday porch—and keep these extra pieces out of the dump. So of course, it came home.
It was his first wedding anniversary gift to me and to say I was delighted would be a gross understatement.
We had been keeping this flooring in our barn for months on end, so it was important to bring it into the house to acclimate before we laid it. It was a little more organized than this (the day we started laying it) but more or less there were piles of flooring everywhere. My shins are direct proof of these piles. You would have thought at some point I would have learned to step over or walk around the piles instead of directly into them. Lesson not learned.
When it came to laying this flooring it definitely took time. Unlike regular flooring, with reclaimed flooring you have to match widths, sometimes you have to fix splines, and in general it can be a little frustrating to line up. To make it easier for us I decided we needed to pile all of the flooring by width so we could easily grab what we needed. The boards ranged from 6″ to 12″ so there was definitely a huge amount of variation. It was much more efficient versus our original layout kind of seen above and below. In other words it was not the most efficient method.
To start laying the floor we needed to make a border around our concrete hearth. Andy took two of the shorter and narrower width pieces, put a 45 degree angle on each and laid them on either side of the hearth. They were held together in with biscuits and secured to the subfloor with construction adhesive and finish nails through the face (top) of the flooring. One of the advantages of a floor like this is that you either will never notice the finish nails, or they look like part of the original product.
Laying the first course of flooring was pretty much like any other flooring—start in the center. To do this easily we found the center on each wall with a measuring tape, marked it, and use a chalk line to connect the two center marks.
The next step shows why this flooring takes longer than other types. With most flooring you can grab whatever works and lay it, as they are all the same width. With this type of flooring it was vitally important for us to lay every board for our rows out ahead of time for two reasons:
- We needed to ensure we had enough of the same width to create the entire row.
- We needed to ensure the great variations in the wood would look visually appealing when put together. A very clean red piece of wood could either look great, or horrible, next to a darker very marked up piece of wood. In floors like this they don’t need to perfectly match because in the end we wanted a varied look. There were a few times however we swapped pieces out because they just looked wonky.
Once test laid, we had to ensure the butt ends (where the two boards meet up end to end) would sit flush so we cut the ends off to make them square.
Once we had a chalk line on the floor we followed that line with our boards while making sure the flooring was centered, and not to the left or right of the line. To secure this type of flooring we glued it down and biscuit jointed on the the butt ends.
After the floor is laid and we were sure it was centered, we braced it on one side. We did this with scraps screwed into the subfloor firmly against the non-tongue side (but not so tight it bowed the flooring). This is so when we installed one side we didn’t throw the flooring off kilter from the original straight row. From here it was a matter of laying everything. Some of the boards weren’t perfect on the edges so they needed to be planed down a little, some needed to be stood on in order for them to slide in easier, and some of them worked perfectly. It was important not only to lay down our rows prior to securing it, but to also test fit the pieces too.
With the test fits complete, we banged each piece into place (using a scrap piece of wood, not hitting the actual flooring) and nailed it securely. Andy used his pneumatic flooring nailer, but there are plenty of just fine regular ones too—you just have to hit them harder.
With the easier of the two sides done (to the left of the hearth from the direction in the photo above) it was time to tackle the right side. It wasn’t particularly harder, but it did require just a little more work.
The first row we laid on this side was the most complex. We had to both secure it to the hearth, and attach it to the original course. To tie into the hearth side, we used the biscuit jointer to pull everything together. The issue was the original course had the groove where we needed a tongue. Why was this a problem? This meant only one thing—a spline.
A spline is a thin piece of wood inserted into the groove of flooring to turn it into a tongue. Since we needed our center board to have two tongues, a spline was the only way to do it. I didn’t get any great picture of a spline, but if you look in the photo above there is a thin piece of wood sitting on the concrete hearth—that’s a spline. They can be bought, but Andy made ours on the table saw with some scrap wood. To put in the spline we glued it into place and then finish nailed, and then set the nails, to secure it and to make sure the nails were flush so the next piece of flooring would actually fit.
After this part I didn’t get many more photos of day one. We were getting to the final courses laid on this side, we were hungry, and we were in the last push for the night.
The next day however, we got up early and started again. Andy’s friend stopped by with his black lab and while they chatted they laid the last course. His buddy is also in construction and builds furniture too so it was great to have him stop in to inject some energy, and help, into the final push.
We’ve had this floor laid for about a week or so now and it grows on us more and more each day. There was something off though and we weren’t sure what it was until it hit us. The thing with our house is that we’re going to have a lot of different flooring. We’re keeping the oak in the original house, we’ll have beech upstairs as well as beech on the staircase and in the downstairs bedroom, and we have the beautiful reclaimed floors in our living room. When we stepped back we realized the reclaimed floor just wasn’t tying together. It looked great, but we needed it somewhere else so it looked like it was on purpose and not just an after thought. That’s when we realized we had enough to lay in front of the stairs and how well it would bring everything together.
While we are going to finish the staircase first, we laid a few boards and I’m happy to say it totally fixes the balance issue. With the wide living room and the small amount in front of the staircase it looks great together and looks purposeful.
I’ll be back next week with an update of all the little things we’ve been doing including higher-quality photos of the lighting we installed, new lighting we’ve put in since, paint in the staircase and more.
With all that said, I’m checking out and am going to head out into the woods. We’re going to go tap some trees to try and get a little more maple sap before the season is over, cut some wood, and spend the day with family cooking over a fire outside and having fun in the snow.