Pine floor problem

pieinskyDecember 10, 2009

My 1920s house in south Texas is built heavy duty except for the floors. All walls are 1"X8" tongue & grove and all ceiling are 1"X12" T&G. However, the floors are 3/4" thick, 3 1/4" wide pine in lengths 12' or longer. There is no subfloor. The 3/4" thick pine is it, and the floor joists vary in width from 20" to 28" wide. So I have some spring in the floor in a few places. The problem we're having is deciding on just going over the pine with a 3/4" plywood sub floor (we have tall ceiling) and then laying a new hardwood floor on top of that or carefully taking up the pine and putting down a subfloor and then laying back down the original pine. The original pine would need refinishing but I believe we would have a floor closer to what we had anticipated. I believe taking up the pine and installing the sub floor and reinstalling the pine and then refinishing the pine would probably be a little costly compared to the other option. We really like the idea of the long pine boards and hate the idea of small random length boards with a new install. What do you think? Has anyone taken up an old floor and put it back down over a new sub floor? Are we opening up a can of worms that we shouldn't? I'm already wondering how it'll come up without splitting and cracking, etc.

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As you know, room-length flooring is all but a thing of the past. It's a very limited resource. It would be advantageous to keep it intact.
Is this over a crawlspace, (or basement, but probably not so in TX) or are we talking a second floor with a ceiling in place?
Reason I ask: you could install strips of subflooring between the joists, like 3/4" baltic birch or other very dense sheathing, and screw it into each board from below. The screw length and penetration is crucial, and perhaps you'd use subfloor adhesive as well. 2x2's could also be tightly nailed up in the joist/plywood corner joint to continuously support the edges. I have used this "strip subfloor retrofit" in several instances in my own home. Once to stiffen up the floor system enough for marble tile. It appears to work really well. I came up with the idea because I couldn't afford any additional height, and I needed to do something quickly.
It would be pretty fast, allow the floor to stay in place, and if no ceiling is in the way, takes no demolition.
If you're unsure whether it works, try it on three or four joist's worth of floor. It will totally remove all of the flex from the pine T&G, but it won't address any lack of stiffness in the floor joists themselves. A comprehensive approach would be to both sister the joists, and add the subfloor strips.
It's also quite possible to number, map and remove all the flooring, and clean it up and reinstall it. It's also a heck of a chore. This would demand that all of the baseboard and perhaps all of the door trims be removed at the same time, because in your type of case, the door frames went in on top of the flooring, and the added subfloor thickness is going to raise the doorways a corresponding amount.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2009 at 7:33PM
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I agree with Casey completely. One other my experience, I have never heard of someone who removed a T&G floor WITHOUT breaking at least a couple of pieces of the boards. Yes, being careful is a must but getting the first 1-2 out is risky. You'd need to plan for adding a couple of new boards.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2009 at 6:07AM
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Thanks for the ideas, Casey. It really sounds like a great idea and I am going to try it in the worse area. As mentioned earlier, most of the pine floor boards span the whole room with no splices. If the room is 18' long, the boards are that long. Maybe a half dozen splices in the whole down stairs.
This is over a dirt crawl space with about 3ft between the dirt and the flooring. The floors are in pretty good shape and have been waxed for years so they have turned a dark mahogany color. I hope we can get this look back after refinishing. We could care less about the scratches and imperfections as we hope our grandchildren and their friends can romp and stomp on this floor for the next 50 years.
Patser, If we do have to take it up, we have extra flooring up stairs on the walls that matches this flooring downstairs. I guess there was a bargain on pine flooring when they built this house.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2009 at 1:41PM
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How deep are the joists and what length do they span?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 2:19PM
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The joists are good 2X8's and they span 12 feet.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 2:42PM
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If it was my house, I'd be considering taking the pine up and adding joists between the existing ones. That way you'd have a floor system that would have joists better than 12" on center. Even if you eliminated a subfloor, you'd have a stable and stiff floor system. Install a 3/4" subfloor panel with T & G edges and then reinstall your pine over that and you'd have a real good floor system.

While you're at it, maybe consider ways to mitigate moisture migration from the dirt. There are simple ways to do this (covering the dirt with a vapor retarder) and other more costly options (vapor retarder, sealing of the space and mechanical dehumidification). Lots of stuff about that on the internet.

Best of luck.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 6:30PM
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Best of luck with getting this sorted out!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 7:02AM
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