How to feather in these floors

weedyacresMarch 31, 2013

X-post in Old House....

Here is our LR/DR floor, with the plywood pieces that we need to figure out how to fix.

Original thought was to feather in new hardwood, harvested from elsewhere. I've got a decent pile of it, taken from tearing out the bathroom and hall.

Here's the quandry. As I research how feathering is typically done, you pull out the boards to the last joint and put new wood in to replace the removed board. But these boards are all r-e-a-l-l-y long, i.e., pretty close to joint-less. So I'd need to make random cuts, basically creating joints that aren't there. Is this the way I should do it?

My other thought is to just make a straight-line strip of wood from wall to wall, a la transition strip. I could then either just feather in the part where the square piece extends wider than the "bookcase" strips, or else do another kind of pattern in that area.

Thought? Other options?

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If you have enough salvaged material to do the repair, then that is the way you should go. Ideally, if you can find a building the same vintage as yours being demolished, you could probably find the longleaf crown grade heart pine that I see in the pic (I am assuming that is what it is).

However, since you probably will need to use what you have, then here is how you do it:

Look at where the butt joins are in the existing flooring. Lay out what you have to cover the plywood fill-ins and provide you with an visually acceptable result. Once you are confident that you will have enough flooring, then make the butt cuts (crosscuts) in the existing flooring.

It's kind of like doing a puzzle. You have to discover where to make the cuts in the easiest way possible with the tools you may have access to.

We have power and hand saws to make the cuts, along with sharp chisels to clean them out. Some professionals have routers and jigs to make the cuts. You actually can do most of the cuts with a circular saw with a carbide tipped blade and a reciprocating saw with a twelve inch or longer blade...then finish with hammer and chisel. This can be done, if you look at the problem and then look at a solution...much like what you're already doing. Essentially you are engineering the job.

You will have to cut some tongues to get some replacement boards to fit in the vacant spaces you create, but once you've topnailed them one will know. You also have to find out where the concealed nails are in the existing floor to prevent cutting into any of them when you make the cuts. We find where they are using rare earth can find nail locating tools out there.

You could plan for a decorative inset instead of weaving in replacement material, but that is your design choice.

Just so you know...just a few years ago crown grade longleaf heart pine cost $13 per square foot and upwards. Don't know what it costs today.

Good luck with this.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 12:19PM
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Thanks, Glen. The part that's got me stumped is how to cut the butt joint. A circular saw obviously has too big of a cut width. A a recip saw wouldn't be as clean/straight. Is this where the router comes in: a plunge cut of some kind, perhaps?

On one hand, I'd love to try my hand at the feathering and develop my skills on a house that's cheap enough it will be forgiving of my learning curve. :-) OTOH, given the long boards, the decorative inset sure seems easier.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 7:51AM
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Another option would be to carefully remove the entire floor up to a line where your voids end. If you take care to avoid breaking tongues and grooves, and keep your long boards intact, you can reinstall the wood and blind nail it. This would avoid losing tongues or grooves where you're weaving in and probably end up with less waste. Then you can fill in the last bit with the hall and bathroom wood.
Much of the old wood we've removed was put down with cut nails so it's easy to pry up from the tongue side and easy to de-nail.
It might not make sense with many products but old Pine can be hard to match and expensive so conserving what you have is a good way to go.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 9:25AM
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JFC: someone over in Old House suggested I redo the whole thing as well, and I'm afraid that's more than even this intrepid DIY-er wants to take on for a house that will be worth $60K when fixed up.

It might be a consideration if the stinking floor wasn't on the diagonal, maximizing the number of boards affected by these durn cutouts. :-) Or if it was our forever house. Or if it had a potential resale value several times actual, by becoming a true period restoration.

I was really wanting to hone my feathering skills on this one, but at this point I'm afraid the relatively clustered butt joints would stand out, even if done well. I think I'm leaning towards doing the inset.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 12:54PM
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