Client wanting flooring from 100y/o Poplar joists. Where to start?

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Forum topic by Mark posted 01-30-2019 03:41 AM 1556 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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58 posts in 1082 days

01-30-2019 03:41 AM

I have a client who’s pretty big money, and she wants approx 1500sqft of flooring made from old poplar removed from various old cabins and plantation homes she collects and disassembles. She does this so she can use all period accurate lumber for fixing up the plantation home she is choosing to fix up and live in.

The joists she has are mostly 10’ – 16’ long, and approx 4”x7” cross section. They carry a risk of nails on one edge only. I’ll be able to get 2 to 4 boards from each joist.

She’ll be needing some cut to 13/16” and some to 1 1/8”, and is happy to have mixed widths (bundled in 1/2” increments I imagine). She needs it all tongue and grooved.

She gave me one plank but not enough to dry run a whole section and multiply out the quantities to provide a quote. But it was easy enough for me to joint a face, joint an edge (opposite from naily side), and rip off the nail side at the table saw with good clearance from any stray nails (with cheap blade just in case, but metal detector is on the way). From there I can rip at the bandsaw, plane 1/16” off to clean up, and mold.

I understand the formulas in selling my work, but I do not want to undersell myself on what will be a long and grueling project. I have no idea of accurately guessing my time, but I’m happy to go with whatever fair market value would be on this order, and take the bell curve of chance in terms of ending up a little over or under what I usually make per hour.

I’ve never done a job like this, so literally have zero idea on whether I could start my quote/negotiations at $1sqft or $5.

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. This lady is a reliable client, friendly acquaintance, and very well connected with the ‘old’ money in my area. However, I don’t want to give her the impression that I’m pulling numbers out my butt, which is what I would be doing right now. I’m a one man shop, but I have all I need for this job.

21 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


3184 posts in 2604 days

#1 posted 01-30-2019 04:33 AM

Sounds like a one of a kind job.
If I were faced with this task I would see how long and what it takes to run 1 square. Or a 10’ x10’ square ft area.
And use it as a mock up see if your customer like it.
Then you as least have a idea what you can realistically do.
No one will know better then you what you can do and how long it takes.

Good luck sounds like fun

-- Aj

View Snipes's profile


459 posts in 3050 days

#2 posted 01-30-2019 01:29 PM

so your making the flooring and installing? how about finishing? mill up a 16’ joist and keep track of your time like aj recommended. If she trusts you I would do T&M. If I were to guess I would say 3$ a sq’ to make it

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View shawnn's profile


152 posts in 2171 days

#3 posted 01-30-2019 01:45 PM

Could you use the prices of lumber mills in the area for the milling/cutting operations if you do the work? Maybe contract a large mill to do the cutting and milling then charge separately for your tasks.

View Mark's profile


58 posts in 1082 days

#4 posted 01-30-2019 02:21 PM

Thanks for the replies so far, I understand that quote posts can be irritating.

To clarify, I am not installing or finishing. I would be taking the reclaimed joists (~4”x7”x10’-16’) and milling them into floorboards. So, joint, plane, rip, route the t&g, done. Approx 1500sqft.

View GrantA's profile


2674 posts in 2213 days

#5 posted 01-30-2019 02:25 PM

That’s a lot of milling in a 1-man shop, make sure you allow for consumables in your quote (blades/cutters due to dulling and nails)

View Steve's profile


2109 posts in 1388 days

#6 posted 01-30-2019 04:06 PM

If it were me, I might be tempted to look for a bandsaw mill nearby to cut up the joists for me. Then i would just have to run them through the planer and rout the T&G

View ArtMann's profile


1480 posts in 1622 days

#7 posted 01-30-2019 04:30 PM

How big and powerful is your band saw? How big and powerful is your shaper? Do you have power feed? How powerful is your planer? There is a certain economy of scale here. The equipment available to you will determine your success or failure just as much as the price per square foot.

View tomsteve's profile


1044 posts in 2025 days

#8 posted 01-30-2019 06:58 PM

id say what youre doing is considered reclaimed wood flooring. sell yourself short and ya wont enjoy doing the work then have a client that thinks theyll get something for nothing- someone that will tell the rest of old money that,too. $3 sq ft ish

View Jared_S's profile


358 posts in 765 days

#9 posted 01-30-2019 07:35 PM

Unless by all the tools necessary you mean a straight line rip saw, a 5 head moulder and associated machines I think you are under estimating the level of effort and accuracy required.

Even if you were going to try to do it with a shaper and feeder, t&g flooring heads are over $1k and the finished flooring dimensional accuracy will still be sub-par to a feed through moulder

View Mark's profile


58 posts in 1082 days

#10 posted 01-30-2019 08:25 PM

Right.. I don’t own any of those.. But she knows what my shop is capable of and wants to use me. She plans to have the newly milled flooring installed mixed with original flooring, then have it all sanded down flush. I’m not saying that means I can or would ever do sloppy work, but perhaps the tolerances in mass production factories are not something I need to rate myself against. It’s a pre-civil war plantation home that’s being renovated. She had it picked up and moved to a new location on the opposite side of the county. There’s not a right angle in the place and she despises ‘perfect’ looking things. I know it sounds like I’m trying to make excuses or downplay the commitment the job will take, but I just want to provide some additional context for you all.

$3sqft has been thrown out there a couple times now. I may put forward a quote of $4sqft for the first 500sqft, then we can both sit down and reassess after that’s done.

View Jared_S's profile


358 posts in 765 days

#11 posted 01-30-2019 08:53 PM

What do you plan on milling the edge profiles with?

1500 sqft, assuming you net 5” wide boards after all the milling is 3,600 lineal feet (7200’ of edge profiling.)

It might be worth while to check owwm for similar topics.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9599 posts in 3134 days

#12 posted 01-30-2019 09:04 PM

I’d think Poplar would be too soft for flooring. I hope she’s prepared to see it get all scuffed up.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1554 days

#13 posted 01-31-2019 02:31 AM

Well, the customer is always right, so if she wants poplar give her Poplar. That said, poplar isn’t a great choice for floors. If she wants period floors, she’d be better off with reclaimed heart pine, cypress, or white oak.

View Aj2's profile


3184 posts in 2604 days

#14 posted 01-31-2019 03:11 AM

I bet that old popler is plenty hard for flooring. Might even be harder then Chinese Arithmetic.
Some reclaimed woods are very different then what we see today on lumber racks.
Just go for it mark and don’t listen to buzz killers.
Good luck

-- Aj

View Snipes's profile


459 posts in 3050 days

#15 posted 01-31-2019 01:07 PM

This is a lot of work, but it’s not like it’s not doable. I agree with the comment about using a band mill to slice it.

-- if it is to be it is up to me

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