Seven Tips When Installing Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring

by Nicola Temple on March 21, 2012

Perhaps you have just sourced some reclaimed hardwood flooring, or milled some old barn beams into new floor boards and you’re starting to think about installation. Here are a few tips to help you along your way.

First, let me say that hardwood is one of the most difficult types of flooring to install, whether it’s new or reclaimed hardwood. Like so many things in life, some extra time taken when installing the floor can save you time and expense on repairs in the long run.

Due to the many challenges with installing reclaimed hardwood flooring, I strongly urge you to seek the advice of someone with knowledge and know-how. After all, even though you’re recycling an old wood product, chances are you paid a decent penny for it, so you want to get the job done right.

There are many tips out there for installing hardwood floors, but these are some issues that you need to consider if you are specifically using reclaimed hardwood.

1 – Always round up. When you’re sourcing your reclaimed hardwood floors, you want to make sure you are getting the right quantity with some to spare to allow some margin of error. For instance, if your room is 10.5 ft by 12.5 feet, calculate your surface area as 11 X 13 = 143 sq ft. If the reclaimed wood flooring bundles are each 20 square feet, you will need to order 8 bundles.

reclaimed hardwood flooring

Installing reclaimed hardwood flooring is pretty much the same as installing new hardwood, with just a few additional considerations. CC image courtesy of Michael Underwood on Flickr.

2 – Consider different plank width in your calculations. Depending on your source, you might end up with a couple of different widths or more for the floorboards. This can create a very unique look to a floor and can really add to the character and artistic flow of the room. However, you do need to make sure you have adequate quantities of the different widths. For instance, if you are planning on having a very wide board width interspersed maybe running in three evenly spaced rows across the room, make sure that you have enough length feet to do this. If the room is 11 feet long, you’ll need 11(room length) x3 (complete rows)=33 feet length of the wide board. If the wide board bundles come in 40 foot length packages, you’ll just need the one.

3 – Measure your room to be sure it’s squared. If a room isn’t squared, then you will have to taper the floor boards at one or both sides of the room.

4 – Let the reclaimed wood acclimatize to the room. Store the reclaimed wood in bundles in the room for about three weeks to allow them to acclimate to the humidity and temperature conditions of the room. Even though this wood may have been the side of a barn for the last hundred years, this is the first time it’s been in your home and you want to give it a proper introduction!

5 – Make sure your subfloor is sound and dry. A hardwood floor is only as good as its subfloor and this is the perfect example of where some extra effort up front can save you in the long run. If you’re putting it on a concrete floor, be sure to read the proper drying time depending on the thickness. Don’t rush it as otherwise all the moisture from the concrete will just go into your new (old) wood floor!

6 – Leave an expansion gap. This goes for all hardwood floors of course, but don’t think that because your reclaimed wood has been expanding and contracting for decades that it won’t still do it a little on your floor. After removing any floor trim and molding, mark a ¼” space from the wall to allow for expansion. This gap will be covered by molding and trim when the floor is all done.

7 – Do a dry run. Before you do any cutting, lay the reclaimed flooring out on the floor in a sort of dress rehearsal. This allows you to distribute the real character pieces as desired. Consider where furniture will likely go too as you may not want to cover up that lovely knot with an area rug or sofa. This is a time to play and brink out the look you want from your character flooring.

After this, it really is no different than installing any other hardwood floor. It will be difficult, but worth every effort in the end.  Reclaimed hardwood flooring will add character to any room. Good luck!

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