Project: Refinishing Hardwood Floor

Project: Refinishing Hardwood Floor

Before: When I first bought the log cabin it had white sculptured carpeting.
Before: When I first bought the log cabin it had white sculptured carpeting.
When I bought the log cabin, it had sculptured white carpeting.

I had files of photos torn out of magazines. I looked through those and did a lot of research. I wanted solid flooring. Not a veneer or a synthetic.

Flooring Choices:

Species: What kind of tree the wood comes from. Different wood has very different grain. Some are much harder than others.

Width: From traditional 2¼-inch narrow strips to large wide six-inch rustic planks.

Thickness: Some wood is not as thick. All the samples I brought home looked the same, though.

Cut: Flatsawn shows more grain and costs less. Quartersawn boards have a straight grain.

Grade: Hardwood flooring is graded by how many knots and color variations in the box.

Finish: As getting settled in the house dragged on, I decided I wanted pre-finished for sure. To just get it done!

I shopped around a lot. I really liked the look of salvage wood flooring, but it is really expensive.

Species: I finally found a really great price on cherry hardwood flooring. Cherry is not as hard as oak, but it is a hardwood. I figured a little distressing would look good.

Width: It is 4” wide. Kinda in the middle. It gives the look of plank flooring, but any wider would make the small house look too small.

Thickness: It seemed the same thickness as every other sample I brought home.

Cut: The grain is absolutely beautiful.

Grade: The box said “graded select.” That sounded good.

Finish: The color was perfect. The cedar walls are very red, so a lot of flooring looks grey or yellow next to it. This color blended beautifully.

So, I brought the boxes home and they sat in the house waiting for the installers. The wood is supposed to acclimate to where it is going to be installed. Six months was plenty of acclimating.

So, when the installers finally got to me, they tore up the carpeting and we found that the floor and subfloor was rotten. We had to replace lots of plywood.

Then, we opened the boxes and I found out that nearly all of the wood was cut in three different lengths. Wood is usually cut in a variety of lengths, so it can look irregular on the floor. Otherwise it looks kinda plaid. I worked ahead of the installers pulling out wood and laying it out, trying to keep the ends right.

Living Room with the new wood floor.
Living Room with the new wood floor.
It was a huge job, but we got it done. It looked beautiful.

To re-light the gas hot-water heater, the installer turned the gas up all the way. And did not back it down.  By the time I got home, the house was flooded and the wood cupped and gapped in the guest bedroom and the dining room.

I was so over it. I had been living with this mess for nearly a year.

I just dried the floor and hoped it would shrink back.

And that’s the way it stayed. It was hard to clean, because stuff would go into the gaps. The chairs rocked because the floor was bumpy.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: Some of the wood was like cork, so soft you could push it out with a fingernail.
Some of the wood was like cork, so soft you could push it out with a fingernail.
And… the floor started to rot. Not the whole floor. Most of the floor was just fine. But some pieces were like cork. You could peel the wood up with your fingernail.

Last year, I met a hard-wood floor installer. We discussed it and decided we could deal with finally fixing the floor. He gave me an estimate, which was less than I had expected and we scheduled a time to do the work.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: We set up a bedroom and an office in the garage.
We set up a bedroom and an office in the garage.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: We moved the furniture onto the porch.
We moved the furniture onto the porch.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: Most of the furniture was on the front porch.
Most of the furniture was on the front porch.
When the time came, we set up a bedroom in the garage and moved every stick of furniture out of the house or into the attic. I was really concerned after the previous installers had rescheduled me so many times, but Mark showed up exactly when he said he would and got to work.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: Mark removed all of the rotted wood. It was even worse than I thought.
Mark removed all of the rotted wood. It was even worse than I thought.
As he pulled up more and more bad wood, we realized we did not have enough to replace it all. I drove around looking for something to fit.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: Replacing the rotted wood.
Replacing the rotted wood.
The width was unusual, but a local wood flooring seller called around and managed to get a few pieces at every store and installer around here. Most just gave me a stack of leftover materials from a job or some sample pieces. Mark cut down some that were wider, when we ran out of other options.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: The wood does not look at all the same with the finish removed.
The wood does not look at all the same with the finish removed.
Mark sanded the finish off the floor. The wood, under the finish, was not at all the same color. If it is really cherry, it is some weird alien cherry.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: The finish is all sanded off of the wood.
The finish is all sanded off of the wood.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: Mark was able to perfectly fit in replacement wood.
Mark was able to perfectly fit in replacement wood.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: Mark puttied the whole floor.
Mark puttied the whole floor.
Mark puttied everywhere, especially the cracks where everything was cupped and gapped from the flood.

Project Small House - Refinishing Hardwood Floor: Beautiful refinished wood floor!
Beautiful refinished wood floor!
We stained it. And look! It looks like the salvage floor I had originally wanted! Doesn’t that look amazing? I cannot get over how good the floor looks! It looks so much better than I imagined it could. Way better than original!

A month later, the icemaker lost it’s mind and poured water all over the kitchen. The floor gapped and cupped. I bought a bigger refrigerator and it is just going to stay that way.

There is a lot of takeaway on this, but the biggest lesson is, buy good flooring. Not weird discount flooring. Open and check it while you can still return it. Like before you even walk out of the store. Water and wood floors are not a good combination, but I’m not sure what I could have done about that.

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