80 Yr old pine floor


We removed a hideous old carpet from a multi-purpose room that wants to be a dining room. From the peeks we took around the edges of the carpet, we expected to find a 3" pine strip floor with lots of paint overspray, drywall mud, plaster, and ground in dirt. I was planning on sanding and refinishing this, but now that the carpet's gone, we can see that about 2/3rds of the boards had shrunk so much that there were gaps as large as 1/8" between many of them. So I come to two questions:
1) is there any way to fix this in place?
2) since I suspect the answer is "no": would it be worth being careful while removing these boards? They've got all of the above described abuse and then some showing on them, but not one of them has water damage or is broken. Is it possible to sell them for salvage? If not, is it worth maybe putting them through a planer and then re- cutting the tongue & groove on a router table? (possibly for use as patches when the carpet in the next room comes out in a year or two?) I currently plan on taking the boards out to put in a subfloor to bring the height up to nearby rooms that have newer floors anyway.
I'm also hedging my bets and keeping an eye out at flooring stores like Lumber Liquidators for inexpensive flooring. I'm sort of curious about cork floor, it seems like it would be too soft, but the samples I saw this weekend were actually pretty tough. Any ideas there?
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1. Pine is so relatively soft it is an inferior wood for flooring. Of course yours may have hardened over 80 years. 2. It seems surprising that yours is tongue-and-groove. If so, and if you can remove all fastenings with reparable damage, you may be able to loosen all and tighten them up, adding one board cut to fit the cumulated gap. You could then sand, stain and seal the floor. 3. Only local recyclers can tell you whether your floorboards have any resale value.
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Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
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wrote: --snip--

Thanks for the reply and ideas Don. I'm not really sure that it's pine, or fir, or what, it's softer than a hardwood, but harder than new pine so you're probably right in that it's age is responsible for its relative hardness. Hard to tell what color it is, since it's been varnished at some point in it's past and with all the dirt and paint overspray from various renovations... hard to say. If it's anything like the framing of the house, it's fairly dense (experienced while trying to drive nails into an old wall stud).
I'm pretty sure it's T&G, some of the boards are loose, the fasteners must be in the tongue since they're not exposed. Removing nails would pretty much mean taking each board out anyway.
Thanks again, I guess I still need to weigh options - at least I have time to think on it, it's one problem in this house that ISN'T an emergency/disaster.
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...
I'm guessing from the description there's a good chance it's yellow pine, not white -- that would account for the hardness and depending on where the house is located, perhaps more likely as well. I don't doubt it is t&g at all, either. To evaluate, I'd just sand a section for inspection and decide after that whether it's got adequate grain/ character to satisfy what you're looking for.
As for salvage value, if it were close, I'd take it in a heartbeat. But, as another noted, it's not likely you would get much actual cash value, however, for 3" material. But, being a sucker for older stuff and retaining character and originality as much as possible, I'd seriously look at the alternative of salvaging it and relaying it. If it needs an additional layer of underflooring to match other heights, that's the perfect opportunity to fix any low/high spots, etc., as well. The only real hangup in doing that is dependent on whether it is white or yellow pine and how it is fastened down (and what the floor joists are). Yellow pine is much harder than white which is good in that respect, but it also is more susceptible to splitting. If the whole house was built w/ yellow pine, the joists are also hard as can be by this time and pulling a cut nail w/o damage may be a real feat. If it is white pine, otoh, nailheads will undoubtedly simply pull through the tongue at least moderately easily.
HTH...
If it's standard thickness flooring (and at that age it could easily be) planing it will probably be more than you really want to take off since will still need to finish it.
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Near as I can measure, the thickness is somewhere near 3/4" - just measuring at a gap near one wall, so it's not very accurate. The joists almost certainly are the same material as the wall studs, which probably are yellow pine - I'm not an expert at determining wood species. I just went to Lumber Liquidators on my lunch break and saw that they have prefinished cork tiles on sale for 99cents/sq ft. I like the idea of cork with two kids (one toddler and one crawling) using this room as a play-room. I have exactly zero experience with cork though, so I'm not sure about durability. The manufacturer has a 25 year warranty on the tiles, but I don't know if that really means anything. I'm leaning heavily towards putting some screws into the existing floor where it's loose, scraping off any loose stuff on the top, then gluing and stapling a layer of luan over it. Then, when I can get the cork (backordered until April), glue that on top. That will bring the finished floor height pretty close (within 1/16" or so) to the surrounding rooms. I've heard that it's pretty resilient, has good insulating and accoustical properties, and actually resists moisture pretty well (so maybe dreams of a future use as a dining room aren't too far out there). I'd love to try and breathe some new life into this existing floor, but I'm looking at this and thinking "When am I going to find the TIME to do it, much less the money?". OR, I could tear it out as carefully as possible, put in 3/4" plywood, then luan, then cork and still try to salvage it - though it'll cost about $100 more for the new plywood and take lots more time to remove the old floor... decisions, decisions.
I've given up on the refinish in place option. The gaps wouldn't be bad if they were consistent, but some boards have them and others don't so it just looks bad. Maybe I'll try to remove a small board somewhere near a corner and see how much effort it would be to clean it up. Even if it works, I'll have to figure out the grain/species and buy something like 5-10 sq ft to repair a couple of small holes and patches.
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Why not just use this as the subfloor, and put modern hardwood or pine planks at right angles above it? Unless these are real old 'old growth' planks that would clean up pretty (and 3 inch doesn't sound real old), I'd be real suprised if there was any great salvage value. (Yeah, I see those recycled 1880s pine floors on the TV shows, too. Most of those are 10-12 inch wide boards, from trees we will never see the like of again.)
aem sends...
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--snip--

aem - Thanks for the reply, not sure if the planks will clean up nicely or not, there's very little actual grain showing through the dirt and paint and mess on top. There are a couple of reasons I'd like to start with a new subfloor here: some of these boards are loose, so I don't want to just cover them up, though I suppose I could just run some screws into them. The board direction is currently running the "right" way to match adjacent rooms, so I'd like to try and keep them running that way. Finally, this floor is dirty and smells like old pets, so if I were to keep it, it definitely would need cleaning up even if it's only used as a subfloor. Anyhow, as I mentioned in my other replies, I'm still thinking and weighing options. so thanks for the ideas, keep em comin!
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louie wrote:

If you are daring enough to experiment, try cleaning an out-of-the-way spot with fine steel wool and mineral spirits. Might get through enough gunk, and get rid of enough paint splatters, to get a good look at the wood. MS is wet enough, but will dry, and let the grain show a bit more. For noisy boards, renailing on a slant might be a good fix; This Old House has some good articles on it. Sanding, refinishing, and putting in a dark caulk to fill the gaps might give you a pretty, old-fashioned looking floor. With other wood floors in the house, it would keep a consistent look and still not bust the budget.
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Depending on who you ask, nothing needs "fixing" as it was common in old houses with pine boards to have a gap. It was filled with a rop type material that was flexible and allows for expansion and contraction.
They've got all of the above described

I do know htat some very old pine has some value, but I'm not up on such things to give a difinitive answer. Unless there is some valid historic reason to leave them. I tis worth a try to see if they are in saleable condition.
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This is exactly how my floors are made. Before I moved in, someone else refinished them. They really look beautiful. There are a few areas where their imperfect history can be seen, but in a 110-year-old house, that's expected.
In the bathroom, there is a newer oak floor, presumably laid over the top of the original pine. It's pretty, but not nearly as lovely as the glowing aged pine in the other rooms.
As far as salvaging the wood if you decide to tear up your floors, I think there is a strong argument to be made for recycling whether or not you can make money on them.
Jo Ann

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Depends on what you mean by "fix". It sound to me like what you've got is a fairly old pine floor that's designed to be painted and then covered with a floor covering (Canvas, linoleum, vinyl, or a woven carpet).
You're not going to be able to make it look like a modern oak floor. If you adjust your sensibilities a bit, it's fine the way it is. If that doesn't match what you envision the dining room being, I recommend covering it again, with a less-hideous covering.
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If you want a few more ideas or comments you might also try posting to rec.woodworking.
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