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Antique fir flooring.....hard work, but worth it in the end!

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by ScotO, May 31, 2013.

  1. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Well, most of you guys know about my hearthroom and the ongoing EPIC saga it has turned into. The fireplace was a big job, but well worth it........

    http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/building-the-hearth-for-my-napoleon-nz3000-what-a-quest.74273/

    Well, with all the work I put into the stonework, ceiling and such, I wanted a special floor that matched the old, colonial style that was in that room. So the search began for antique flooring......and some of that stuff can be MEGA expensive.

    I fould some local chestnut boards that were milled from antique salvaged barn beams and after it was tongue and grooved worked out to be around $16.00 per square foot!!
    That room, being 550 sq ft, would have blown my entire budget...and that's BEFORE I even had it sanded and finished! So I kept looking on Craigslist and eventually, after 6 weeks of relentless searching, found a guy that disassembled old cabins, barns, and homesteads who had basically what I was looking for. He had torn down an 1830's farmhouse near Daniel Boone's homestead in the Oley Valley, near Fleetwood, PA. He had around 700 sq ft of antique old-growth fir flooring from that farmhouse, and I haggled with him and got a great deal on the wood. Yes, fir is a softer wood, and yes it will ding and dent over the years......but its authentic to the era that we were trying to replicate......and it is a warm, beautiful wood when finished correctly. It was over 1" thick, was in various widths from 3" up to 8", and had antique hand-planed tongue and grooves. The wood was worn, the T&G's were broken, but the boards were worth salvaging. When my wife and I made the 2 1/2 hr drive to get the wood, and she laid her eyes on it, she wasn't real happy......it looked rough to her. But to my eyes I could see the hidden beauty in it. I told her to trust me, that it would make a warm, beautiful floor in that hearthroom. She reluctantly accepted......

    We brought the wood home and the real work began......taking all of those broken and rusted-off hand forged nails out of the wood. I had over 9 FRIGGING HOURS in that job, using a metal detector to help verify I got all the nails. After that, I had an Amish shop over the mountain from our house plane all the boards down, and put new T&G's in them for me........then, the next issue surfaced. The Amish shop had the tooling to T&G the long sides of the boards, but NOT the ends! So I had to make a jig and use my routers with T&G router bits on EVERY SINGLE END OF EVERY SINGLE BOARD!!

    Actually, once I figured out a jig, it went pretty smoothly. I ended up cutting a lot of bad sections out of the boards, but still the majority of the boards were in good condition. I liked the antique square nail holes on the wood, and I ended up filling them with black epoxy and sanding it smooth......those nail holes REALLY give the wood character!

    After getting all the wood installed, I filled the old nail holes with black colored filler (as mentioned above), rented an orbital flooring sander for Memorial Day weekend, and went to town. Almost 9 hours of sanding and it looked smooth and beautiful! We opted for Minwax Early American stain, and Varathane Satin finish.

    Pics of wood when we brought it home........not much to look at!!

    2013-02-10_17-22-51_330.jpg 2013-02-10_17-23-20_164.jpg

    The amount of wood REALLY shrank after it was planed and new T&G's were milled into it.....second and third pics are of the section of subfloor I replaced. The hearthroom is a combination of two rooms, the original living room from 1918 and a bedroom that was added on in the 1930's). I wanted a perfect transition between those two rooms...



    2013-03-10_13-13-38_890.jpg 2013-03-26_21-28-38_567.jpg 2013-03-28_16-34-54_679.jpg

    After the subfloor was repaired, felt paper for a vapor barrier was installed and the floor began to go down!

    2013-04-05_22-01-17_607.jpg

    After all the floor was installed, I filled all the antique nail holes with the black wood filler. Took two evenings just to fill those holes!! Then, 9 hours of sanding later, the floor was ready for a good cleaning and stain!

    2013-05-25_13-32-38_449.jpg 2013-05-25_15-27-07_328.jpg 100MEDIA36IMAG1902.jpg

    More pics on the next post......

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  2. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    We stained the floor the other evening. Minwax Early American ......looks wonderful! Really brings the hues of the wood out! Then, after it dried for 24hrs, the first coat of Varathane satin went down. That REALLY brought the character out of the wood! I still have three coats to put down over the weekend, then it's full steam ahead with the slate in the entryway and the oak colonial trim!!


    100MEDIA36IMAG1907.jpg 2013-05-31_06-38-58_210.jpg 2013-05-31_06-39-09_111.jpg 2013-05-31_06-39-18_307.jpg

    Wife is TOTALLY in love with the floor, and I gotta admit, I am too! The long and short mix of boards, coupled with the varying widths (2 1/4" up to 6 1/2") REALLY set the floor off! I think it compliments the fireplace nicely. Its hard to believe this flooring is almost 200 years old.......
    Dairyman, WeldrDave, n3pro and 6 others like this.
  3. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    Well dagnabbit, it's about freaking time.
    That looks fantastic Scott. More pics when all the Varathane is down, please.
    Gotta ask....how did you put down the stain? Brush?!!!
    Did you have any wood left?
    ScotO likes this.
  4. charly

    charly Guest

    Wow, just a beautiful job Scotty! As Always! Nice thing about doing that,, just like your stone work,, it's one of a kind! Our log home we had we installed 1x 12 knotty pine.. Got it from a local lumber yard that milled their own wood and had a kiln as well... 3 dollars a square foot, with even the tongue and groove off set so you could get extra sandings down the road... We toe nailed everything and then went back and installed square cut nails and counter sunk everyone before sanding... A friend that did floors helped me.. And again soft wood, it got all the dog nail scratches,,, I use to say to people don't throw the dogs toy or he'll scratch the floor.. after a while they took on a look of their own which everyone liked... I always liked the old hardware store look of their old wood floors.. Others would freak about a scratch.. To me rough floors have character.. They tell a lot of good times.. Remember when uncle Bill got loaded passed out and his glass dented the floor as he went down! Only kidding but you get the idea! Anyways what a nice looking room,,,, pretty soon that will be roped off like a museum;lol
    WeldrDave, PapaDave and ScotO like this.
  5. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    thanks, PD And Charly.....
    I used a staining sponge (around 3"x4") to put the stain down. Yes, it took several hours as it was a two step process. Wifey worked ahead of me with a spray bottle of water and a sponge. I did some research and found the best way to stain pine or fir is to moisten the wood to get the pores to "open up", then once the water is more or less gone, put the stain down. It worked, you can REALLY see the different grains and patterns in the wood. Varathane is a little tricky to catch onto (poly isn't easy, either), but the Varathane, being water-based, looks like skim milk when you are putting it down. In one way, it's nice because you can see where you already put it down and you aren't constantly overlapping your previous work. It's also nice because it don't smell NEARLY as bad as poly.

    I just finished up the second coat, I'm going to try and put down the third coat late this evening if I can. Then, I'll wait and put the fourth coat on tomorrow afternoon. Sunday morning, I'll scuff it with a Scotch Brite pad, go over the whole floor with the sweeper and a tack cloth, and then and put the fifth and final coat on Sunday afternoon.
    WeldrDave likes this.
  6. charly

    charly Guest

    Years ago there was a 500,000 dollar house built next to a green on a gulf course and a friend had worked on the house... he told us they had this high end wood imported for the flooring... Well the guy who had just finished the floors never locked the door to the house. Shortly after he left some golfers decided to check out the house with their spiky golf shoes on.. The floors were a disaster when the owners showed up the next day to check out their home! Never forgot that..
  7. charly

    charly Guest

    Scotty, I remember checking out some antique pumpkin pine flooring for our long home, this was 12 years ago,,, that came out to 8 dollars a square foot , didn't seem too bad until I did the math on needing like 1400 sq ft,,,, yikes! It's like a new car a new floor,,, that first scratch or ding will be a killer<>
    ScotO likes this.
  8. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    !!!<>;sick

    I'd be sick if that happened......literally, with just the work I have in this room, and it ain't no $500,000.00 house.....I'd probably snap some necks if that happened!!:mad:
    WeldrDave likes this.
  9. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    That's EXACTLY why I wouldn't do the American chestnut I mentioned in the original post.....

    $16.00 x 550 sq. ft +50 or so additional ft. (for cut-offs and waste). = $9600.00. Which basically translates into the Harley Davidson Low Rider with ape hangers that I've been wanting to buy for so long now....._g:eek:_g
    WeldrDave likes this.
  10. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    I like using water based. You probably noticed how the water and water based V raised the grain. I usually do a light sanding after the first coat to knock that down, then one more before the final coat.
    On small projects, I'll sand between each coat. That would be tough doing that on your floor.
    I bet that floor is really starting to pop.
    Just curious, how thick were the planks after milling? I imagine you've got plenty of material for a sanding or 2 if the floor gets bad.
    ScotO likes this.
  11. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    I had it planed down to 3/4". Which does let me plenty of board for a sanding or two down the road. I was going to sand the floor after the first coat, but the instructions said as long as you get the second coat down within 24hrs of the first, and the fibers aren't standing, then you really don't need to do that sanding. But, as you know, you get a fiber or two (and an occasional Jack Russell hair) in that clearcoat, so I'll definitely be sanding before the last coat. Just a light hit.
    WeldrDave likes this.
  12. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    I almost forgot......since we had the sander for the three-day weekend, wifey wondered if we could use it for the butcher block top on our kitchen island. The top is 3' x 5' x 2 1/2" thick. I took the top off, took it out on the deck and in 10 minutes the job was done. Three coats of butcher block sealant (food safe), and its never EVER looked so good!



    2013-05-28_21-35-19_740.jpg 2013-05-28_21-36-00_744.jpg
  13. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Talk about an over the top project. I guess you are an overkiller in every way.

    Different here. I can get all the old growth fir flooring I want for about $5 a sq ft, but I have a dubba wyde trailer, and lo, no can nail in a T&G floor. I float my floors here. I got this stuff for free on CL (maple laminate) and re-floored my master bedroom with it. My cat is helping, as always.

    Milo floor.jpg

    Cammo cat...
    fishingpol and ScotO like this.
  14. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Looking good, bro! I thought that cat was just a gigantic knot in the wood!! Gotta love those tabbys...

    As for "over the top", I just wanted something unique and different. Something personal, like the fireplace I built......a one-of-a-kind that I can hand down to the kids someday.....

    All told, I'll have less than 2k in this floor (wood, travel expenses, sander, stain, and 'thane).....which, for 550 square feet of antique flooring is a pretty good deal!!
  15. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    The underkill project. The room was carpeted and had a fine aroma of well aged dog pee as well as many attractive cigarette burns. Far better now.

    That cat weighs in at 25 pounds. The volekiller.
    ScotO and fishingpol like this.
  16. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Absolutely beautiful Scott.

    People with skills make me so angry. ;lol
    Dairyman, PapaDave and ScotO like this.
  17. charly

    charly Guest

    Now your talking!
    ScotO likes this.
  18. charly

    charly Guest

    Is that a big knot in the wood :eek:
    ScotO likes this.
  19. vinny11950

    vinny11950 Minister of Fire

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    Great job, Scotty. Nice to see it turned out so beautiful. Congratulations.
    ScotO likes this.
  20. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Awesome Scotty. How long til we have a followup pic of you in there having a beer in front of the fire?
    ScotO likes this.
  21. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    Scott, that turned out really, really nice. Good on you for re-using the old flooring. Nice project pictures you put up too. I just appreciate this kind of stuff. It's probably the work put into it, and the thought of laying a project out and having it come to fruition.

    Just a quick story from me. My friend was re-finishing the floors in his house and I noticed the floor in one room sank to the middle. I recommended that he brush the poly finish on to control how much he put down to avoid problems. Well no, the lambs wool applicator on a handle came out and that floor was coated in about an hour. The next morning he checked on the drying and a lot of the poly ran and settled to the dip in the floor. He had about a 1/4" puddle of poly in the middle of the floor that took several days to dry.
    PapaDave and ScotO like this.
  22. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    That old fir will wear harder than you think, Scotty. Much harder than modern fir. Did you count the rings per inch? Was it vertical grain?

    I bought some timber felled and roughed in 1826, and milled my own flooring from it 10 years ago. Wish I knew some Amish, then!
    ScotO likes this.
  23. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Thanks Vinny!

    Lol....well, BB, I had two choices in life as I don't have a lot of money. I had to either learn how to do stuff for myself, or just learn to live without things. So I learned from my dad, ,uncle and Pap (who were talented carpenters and masons), by working my first real jobs as a framing carpenter and also helping a local guy remodel an old schoolhouse, and by reading lots and lots of books and tutorials...Thanks for the compliment, bud!
    WG, it's probably going to be a while before we have another fire in there!!:eek: Getting into the 90's the past several days around here! But I can promise you this, we will be enjoying that hearth from October through May....and I don't want to rain on anyone's parade (including my own) but October ain't that far away!!<>

    Thanks for the compliment!

    Jon, you and I have quite a bit in common (I'm betting we've got common blood somewhere down the line). I'm into the old skool stuff, all the way. I'd be just as at home 250 years ago as I am now. I love to see this old stuff get new life again, and it's neat to think if the stuff could talk, of the stories it would have.......thanks for the compliments. And as for that floor puddling, wow, that would make me sick!
    I'm putting the Varathane on in thin layers with the applicator, and I plan on doing a total of 5 coats......

    It is harder than modern fir for sure, Joful. Most of the wood has at least 8-12 rings per inch......some even tighter than that. It's definitely old stuff....
    Seems like that Varathane is adding to the surface strength of it, too.....
    I'd love to see some pics of your floor! I love working with that old growth lumber. Think of the stories that stuff could tell. I was explaining to my wife as I was putting the mantel up on the fireplace (hand-hewn pine from a barn that was built in 1868) that I counted over 165 rings in that 9"x7" timber......that meant that the tree's birth was at least back around 1703 or earlier. Imagine how beautiful the mountains and countryside were in 1703.......all the summers and winters, the big snowfalls, that tree was standing during the French and Indian War, and the American Revolution.....

    Okay, I'm starting to ramble here. ;em


    Guys, I really appreciate the compliments. I'll continue to post some pics as I finish up the trim and such in the room......
  24. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    So... after all of this, when is the party?

    Smoked meat and beer... babes in a hot tub, live music, and that kind of stuff...
    ScotO likes this.
  25. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    Every other weekend in summer!!

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