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DIY: Reclaimed Oak Flooring

A couple weeks ago I posted the “after” photo of the most extensive project so far. Taking some old dirty & stained oak flooring and turning it into beautiful reclaimed flooring in my office/guest room.

Why pull up perfectly good carpet? That’s not green – Here is why:

It was not perfectly good carpet. If you have ever watched the “Hoarding Animals” series, you know that ammonia does not add to good indoor air quality.

Moving on……

I bought the flooring at the Rebuilding Center. When I bought it – they estimated the square footage to be 300-400 SF. Since we didn’t know how usable all the wood was I was able to get the whole bundle for $200. It turns out that there was about 250 SF of usable wood in the bundle – so I paid a meager… $200/250SF = .80 Cents a SF.

That’s a great deal. You can hardly get crappy flooring from a big box store for that price and I got super nice 3/4″ thick real oak flooring. Not only was the price great, but because of the service the Rebuilding Center offers – I was able to re-use something that someone else was going to send to the land fill.

THIS is sustainable building on a shoestring at it’s finest.

This is an excerpt from their website: The ReBuilding Center, a project of Our United Villages, is a vibrant resource working to strengthen the environmental, economic, and social fabric of local communities. Founded by volunteers in 1998, The ReBuilding Center carries the region’s largest volume of used building and remodeling materials. It provides resources that make home repairs affordable to everyone, with the goal of promoting the reuse of salvaged and reclaimed materials. Three hundred visitors come to The ReBuilding Center every day to browse the ever-changing inventory that includes sinks, tubs, tile, lumber, doors, windows, trim and much more.

Here is a step by step of how to take .80SF flooring and turn it into an equivalent $7-$8SF looking floor.

Tools Needed:

  • Staple Gun
  • Rosin Paper
  • Air Compressor
  • Flooring Staple Gun
  • Hammer
  • Nailset
  • Mallet (should come with the gun)
  • 10% more flooring than you plan to use (for waste)
  • An in floor heating vent
  • 10″ Blade Miter Saw
  • Finish Nail Gun
  • 2″ Flooring Staples
  • 2″ Finish Nails

#1. Plane. I am lucky to have a cousin with a portable planar. (A lucky happenstance after boasting to my purchase at a family gathering)

Here is a photo of how the flooring came to me:

The planer is very simple to use. In one side – out the other. Just tried to keep all the boards steady and straight so the planer’s blades didn’t create grooves in the wood.  Here are some before and after pictures of the wood. So Beautiful!!

This image has the original board, stained & damaged at the top and a newly planed board on the bottom.


Here is a close up of the flooring restored to it’s natural beauty by taking off just a slight layer on top.

See the darker edge there on the right? This is a beveled edge that required hand sanding for each piece – but will give the finished floor a more dynamic look.

Then the flooring needs to be placed in the same room it’s going to be installed in to acclimate to the space. This will prevent future issues of squeaking & morphing.

#2 Prepare the Floor. I ripped up the carpet soon after moving in because it smelled so much like dog pee. I was careful to cut the carpet into strips so I could bring the carpet to a recycle center.

After vacuuming and cleaning the sub-floor, I laid down Rosin paper. Rosin paper is a vapor barrier and it helps move the flooring pieces into place easier. I used a run of the mill staple gun to hold it on the floor.

Here is what the rosin paper will look like when you buy it.

Roll the paper in the longest sheet that makes sense. In this case, we went with the line of the flooring.

Cut the paper at the wall with a box cutting knife.

#3. Install the Flooring.

There should be a 1/2″ gap between the wall and the flooring left for moulding and transitions. The easiest way that I found was to find something, a piece of extra wood or a shelf, that you can use as a gauge.

The first and last row are the hardest because the flooring stapler is too big to be used. I used a finished nailer. So using the gauge all along the wall and carefully measuring the first row – just nail the first row down. You can go back later and fill the nail hole with wood filler. Here is a picture of the tool I used.

Using this tool is simple, it does need to be plugged into an air compressor, after that, just push the front of the nailer into the wood until the safety lever is pushed in all the way and pull the trigger. I found the best PSI to have this tool at was 120PSI. This means you will wan to set your Air Compressor to 120 PSI before you use this tool. If for some reason the nail doesn’t penetrate all the way – grab a hammer and get it out to try again – don’t try to hammer it in unless you have no other option. You risk damaging the flooring.

After the first row the rest is a cinch. Just match up the tongue side of the wood with a groove side. The best way to show how all this is done is with a video. Here is what is happening:

  1. Use a mallet to hammer the flooring piece into place.
  2. Place the flooring staple gun where you want it – securely up against the wood.
  3. Use the mallet to give the hammer a good hard whack! Don’t hold back!

Here is the video:



The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

Tricks & Tips:

  • Use a scrap piece of flooring, with the tongue side cut off as a buffer to hammer each piece tightly into ints neighbor. This is important because since I am using reclaimed flooring – some of the pieces are bowed and warped. By hitting them into place and using some extra staples, the flooring will stay in place.
  • If you can at all avoid it – do not use two flat ends next to each other – make sure that every tongue fits into a groove.
  • When installing next to a wall (remember to leave your 1/2″ gap for the wood to expand & contract) – use a couple  of crow bars to earn leverage to hit the flooring in tight. Picture below:

You also have to consider the heater vent. We ended up having to order a piece online because an unfinished oak piece is too specialized for a Lowe’s or a Home Depot to carry.

This is what the piece will look like after you order it.

Here is what your vent will look like. As you can see, you will need to cut the rosin paper out and staple around the opening.

Bring the flooring as close as you can to the heater vent. Then make sure the tongue of the flooring meets the groove of the vent cover. Then shoot the nail gun at 100PSI from the inside of the vent so the finish nails will be covered from view.

If the nail doesn’t go in all the way (like it did for us several times!)  use a nail set and a hammer to lightly and carefully push in the nail the rest of the way without damaging the flooring.

Row after row – here is what you have to look forward to when you are all done!

Going…..

Going……

INSTALLED!

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