Serious splintering of old hardwood floor.

snarkeDecember 6, 2011

My Seattle neighborhood home has hardwood floors throughout, including the large attic room. The floor of the attic is tongue-and-groove, just over 2" wide and 3/4" thick. I'm not sure what kind of wood it is; my best guess is soft maple. Some of the planks are delaminating along the grain, causing severe splintering problems. I've had my sock catch an edge and tear a 3" long, 1/2" wide "splinter" out of the floor on occasion.

The long-term solution is pretty obvious; get a professional in to deal with it. With luck, it might be possible to sand the floor down to intact wood and reseal, although it will mean taking at *least* 1/8" off the floor, and quite possibly 1/4". Or, it might be that these planks are separating all the way through, and will simply have to be replaced.

However, investing in a permanent solution is not currently affordable. What I need right now is something I can do to keep splinters out of my feet. One option (I think) would be to just work a bunch of putty into the wood and sand it down, but that would leave a giant weird patch. I improved some patches a few months ago by using a belt sander, orbital sander, and hand plane to cut the finish and top layer away, then painting it with white glue, lightly sanding, and then spraying some polyurethane over it. That helped, and while it's still obvious where I worked (because the wood is lighter), it's not nearly as obvious as a wood putty patch would be.

On the other hand, while the white glue stiffened the wood, there are still edges between the layers of grain where it's possible to hook the edge and tear up a new splinter. I'm to the point that I'm considering using some kind of resin that will soak into and fill those gaps, so that I can sand it to a smooth surface, with the resin filling the paper-thin air gap that's opened up between the grain layers in these boards.

What I want to NOT do is something that will over-complicate the eventual professional power-sand/refinish that eventually needs to happen.

I haven't been able to find anybody discussing a similar situation anywhere on the Web. I have a picture of the floor after I've sanded it down with a 24-grit belt. The "before" picture would have looked just about the same, except the wood was darker.

So what do y'all think might work?

Here is a link that might be useful:

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Cover it with inexpensive carpet?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 8:05PM
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Doesn't look like maple to me. Almost looks like some kind of cedar or maybe even chestnut. It looks soft and crumbly. The lifting sections are sometimes called shake.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 11:21PM
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weedy: Mmph. I didn't even think of just slapping some carpet over the top. That's not all that bad an idea. Hmm.

glenn: Chestnut seems unlikely for the Pacific Northwest. The rest of the house is trimmed out in a fairly modest fashion, and was built in 1925, so I'm assuming it would be a local wood. The boards near the splintery one, which have grain more perpendicular to the surface of the floor, have held up extremely well to 80+ years of use. I only guessed at what kind of wood it is in case that makes a difference.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 2:25PM
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Too close of a shot for me to tell what it is.
I would expect you need much less than 1/8" taken off to make a good and serviceable floor. To be safe have it finished with an oil based finish or an acid cure so as not to raise any grain.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 4:55PM
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