DIY plank flooring?

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Forum topic by crampon posted 07-30-2016 01:57 AM 742 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 2752 days

07-30-2016 01:57 AM

Topic tags/keywords: flooring diy mill plank flooring old-growth salvaged reclaimed

Hi Lumberjocks, I’m looking for some advice on my 100-year old house. As many of you know, living in an old house is a mix of “this is so cool” (like when we found cove ceilings above the 1970s dropped ceiling we demolished) and “goddammit!” (innumerable other times, especially when we open walls). Now I’m hoping to get some advice on a current challenge.

We recently removed our carpet and pulled up the pad to find a 100-year old white oak floor in decent shape. It is a plank floor (not tongue and groove) that is top nailed and made up of small, think planks: 2” wide x 3/8” thick. Given it’s already thin, we probably couldn’t sand it, but it’s in good enough shape that we can just screen it and refinish – probably with Waterlox or something similar. The challenge is that I need to patch maybe 20 or 30 square feet where there are defunct register cutouts, architectural details built on the subfloor that have been removed (not by us!), etc.

I have been looking pretty hard around town (Portland, OR), and haven’t had luck finding old flooring in those dimensions. New flooring is a very poor match in grain, so not really a good option, and again, it doesn’t come in those dimensions anyway. However, there is a TON of reclaimed building lumber from old growth trees.

I don’t own a planer, but a shop here says they’re willing to plane / surface anything I bring them into my specified dimensions. So…if I pick up some reclaimed old oak and get it milled down to my flooring dimensions, is that a plausible solution? Am I likely to get a decent match once the cut face ages a bit? Should I be worried about dimensional stability?

Please let me know your thoughts.

Short version: if I mill reclaimed lumber to the right dimensions to match my existing old-growth oak plank flooring, is this a good solution to patch my floors, or am I missing something?

3 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1429 days

#1 posted 07-30-2016 10:59 PM


Even with reclaimed old growth freshly milled white oak, I doubt a satisfactory color match can be achieved without sanding the entire floor. An alternative to milling and installing new old growth flooring is a find an area of the home with the same flooring and remove it to perform the patches. Since it is a 100 year old house, I doubt there are many closets, so this approach might require picking a sacrificial room from which the flooring is removed. The scarified room could then get a new floor like carpet or even freshly milled old growth flooring. A close but slightly different floor color match at a doorway would probably work out ok.

Alternatively, many rooms featuring hardwood floors are furnished with a large area rug. If this is the case, original flooring could be removed from the area where the area rug will set. The removed floor could be replaced with freshly milled old growth flooring and then work to get a good color match on the old growth flooring. Since it will be covered by the area rug, any color mismatch it will go mostly unnoticed.

When installing the floor, planning for some expansion and contraction seems like a good idea, as is leaving an expansion gap of ½” against walls. Since the flooring is 2” wide, any gap between floor boards could be small. Replicating the plank to plank cracks already in the existing flooring seems like a good place to start. Confirming that the moisture content of any new flooring is the same as that in the home before installing seems a reasonable precaution to me. The new flooring should probably set in the house for a while to establish this moisture equilibrium. The best thing would be to find a flooring contractor and seek their advice. This project is a lot of work and I am sure you do not the floor to buckle or exhibit gaping winter time cracks between the planks.

View jwmalone's profile


769 posts in 1211 days

#2 posted 07-31-2016 12:45 AM

I’ve seen that problem before, The homeowner fond some old antique registers and put them in they were sealed underneath purely decoration. worked in that situation very well maybe not in your its something to ponder though. think you might can get them from Vandykes restoration.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View crampon's profile


8 posts in 2752 days

#3 posted 07-31-2016 07:18 PM

Thanks very much Jbrow and jwmalone, lots of food for thought there. Jwmalone, I had to laugh because I had the same thought about decorative registers myself, and I may actually go with that for one of the areas to be patched. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only person who’s willing to take a short cut or two.

Jbrow, those are great ideas, thanks very much for taking the time to respond. Unfortunately, the other rooms in the house have their own hard luck stories (pergo or carpet, lol), and there isn’t anywhere to borrow from. Carpets makes sense – one of the things we’re working against is that the pillars and low partitions (like these: have been removed, and it’s hard to get carpet there. I am now getting the wild idea of replacing the pillars and partitions…if my wife found out she would kill me, LOL.

So I think we’ll try to mill some new, put the new stuff under carpets, and cross our fingers that it ages quickly. Thanks very much for your ideas!

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