Tuesday, March 15, 2011
More on floors, and renovating in fifteen minutes a day
We've been getting comments on and off-line after that last post, so here's a bit more of our thought process and what we're looking at. It's hard to photograph something that's in very low relief like floor damage but here are a couple of other pictures. First up, by means of the old heating vents, you can see the thickness of the boards (3/4") as well as the bites that time has taken from them.
Often the question of refinishing is posed in terms of "is there enough board that you can sand down to a flat surface?" and that's an important question; I tend to think that if we were to take it down to a flat surface, we'd be (a) in the neighborhood of 1/2" thick and (b) probably onto the tongue and groove itself. Picture number two here should give a sense of what we're looking at in terms of how big the divots in the floor are.
But the other thing that's on our mind is how crumbly these boards are after 130 years. Pulling up the carpet from the softwood in the bedrooms, the tack strips came right up; the tacks sticking into the carpet had better purchase than the nails going into the floor. By contrast, when I pulled the carpet out of the hallway, the tack strips stayed solidly put; I had to bash most of them apart in order to pull the nails. The softwood is in really bad shape, in other words, and we wonder whether the bottom half of the boards are any stronger than the top half.
As if that weren't enough, there are two other things pushing us away from refinishing the current floorboards. First, there is at least one spot (we haven't got all the carpet up yet!) where the carpet hides unusable floor: the "master suite" is actually two small bedrooms with the wall between them opened up into a six foot wide (eyeballing; I haven't thrown a tape on it) passage. Second, the floors are nailed to the joists with common, not finish nails, so we can't simply do a pass over the floors with a nailset in order to make a path clear of metal for the sander or planer to cover. There will be a lot of ripped sandpaper or dulled planer blades--and a lot of lost time and money--in those nails.
Those are the set of factors that has us leaning toward replacing the floors. We'd not lay new floor atop the old; the old floor is uneven enough that we'd be setting up for breaking the new boards at the tongues and grooves when they flex over the high and especially the low spots.
All that said, we do respect that public-private division the original owners had, so if we do replace the floors, we'd replace the floors with something that honors that privateness and separation, not attempting to match the public-space floors but rather complement them with something homier. Not necessarily pine, but something that maintains awareness of that spatial distinction.
Now for the admission: I'm really looking forward to laying a new floor. Anything that combines the pleasure of completing a puzzle with the joy of power tools is all good in my book. And I really don't relish the idea (even if we were to hire someone to do it) of 1/4" x 550 square feet=20,000 cubic inches of lumber converted to dust inside the house (sanding down the floors), plus the VOCs involved in the actual refinishing. There are good reasons to buy pre-finished lumber and a big one is that it can get its finish under a fume hood.
Fifteen minutes (okay, maybe 35 total) today: ripped out the last of the carpet from the hallway (left the padding to protect the floors while we're working up there) and a strip of carpet from the last bedroom, and swept up the bits of tack strip. We're almost ready to get some professional eyes in there in person. (Don't think that we're not getting estimates on everything. We've learned a few things, one of which is not to assume that you can't afford to have a pro do it.)