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tcook555 06-23-2013 03:48 AM

Old barnboards for flooring?? sanding/finishing
Greetings everyone!

I have been restoring an old New England farmhouse for the past 3 years and am onto some flooring now. I'd like to use 250 year old barn boards from the exterior of the barn for my kitchen floor. The boards are basically 1x lumber of varying widths, very weathered, with gaps in the grain and wide nail holes in places and rounded edges. These boards are priceless (and irreplaceable!) so I want to do this right. I basically have little experience with finishing wood floors but due to the age and characteristics of 250 year old barn board, I am guessing the techniques and materials would be different anyways. I have a new subfloor in place already consisting 3/4" oak C-3 plywood on top of 5/16" cdx and plan to use the old square head nails from the house to nail the barn boards to the subfloor. But what on earth to do about finishing the wood? I like the weathered look, the gaps, the nail holes, the deformities, but they need to be filled in somehow to prevent dirt/water from getting in them.

- Can anyone chime in with some advice on what you would do? Is this even possible or is this just a horrible idea??
- Can someone point me in the right direction where I can find some useful information/resources for this type of project?

I read this post from another site: which I found interesting but I am still uncertain about what's "right" for this project. paste wax, polymerized tung oil, carver oil, poly, etc...?? I am very confused... :mad:

Any help is MUCH appreciated!! Thank YOU!

user1007 06-23-2013 05:32 AM

The barn boards will be too soft and brittle to make for a nice floor. And the boards are undoubtedly dry and likely to splinter. I doubt you could get them through a planer and even them out enough for flooring. You would probably want to trim them to an even size and add t&G or you would have one squeaky floor in need of constant attention to the fastener. And then, straight nailing them with square nails will likely split most of them unless you pre-drill perhaps. Seems a shame to waste the nice sub-floor you put down? The floor you have in mind would not be suited to bare or stocking feet. You would also have the issue of bacteria, mold and stuff in a kitchen environment with all the holes, cracks, nooks and etc. appealing to you visually.

I used to live near an active not-for-profit that rescued details from old/antique homes coming down. We volunteers would rescue trim, windows with antique wavy glass, mantels, etc. We did not recycle flooring for sale but it was usually offered for free to anyone willing to take it up and re-use it. The last floor I pulled up was in an old farmhouse and was t&g cherry milled in the 1800s.

The owner of the home I was restoring fell on hard times. Some crazy Ukranians bought it and tossed the cherry that was stacked rather than refinish it and put down cheap laminate instead. Made me sick.

Anyhow, you might see if there is a similar situation near you? Pulling a t&g floor is some work but it goes pretty fast once you get the rhythm. Just use several flat bars and think backwards pulling nails opposite the way they went in, edging the flat bars along as you go. You can pull the nails out the back or I just took a grinder and flushed them with the surface.

Run the boards through a planer if necessary to even them out. Lay down the floor, sand and finish.

There are also many sites that sells beautiful rescued and recycled flooring including domestic hardwoods and some extraordinary exotic woods.

You might think of recycling your barn boards to a wall surface?

woodman58 06-23-2013 06:34 AM

I disagree. The siding can be used. It will have to be planed to an even thickness. The both sides cut straight to lesson the gaps between boards. The ends will have to be squared up. It will take a heavy duty planer to plane this much wood. You will loose the grey weathered look but, the old wood look will still be there. You will loose this look when sanding the floor anyway. The reason you need to plane the wood is that this wood was rough cut straight from the saw mill and nailed up still wet (green wood). In other words it still had a lot of moisture in it. This makes the boards not split when nailed. You will have to drill holes before nailing. They will have to be recessed in the floor. Here is a sight that sells square head nails. I would use 2" and drive them in at an angle.

As for the wood being to dry. No such luck. The wood is at equilibrium moisture content. In the out doors this is about 10 to 15%. Which means the wood will have to be dried to Be within 2% of the subfloor it is being installed on. Get a cheap moisture meter. This does work and looks great when properly done. Good luck

user1007 06-23-2013 09:08 AM

OK, maybe.

But remember the OP wants to use this stuff for a kitchen floor. It is going to make the kitchen floor one giant petri dish. You will never get spilled food out of the holes, cracks and crevices.

And the stuff is most likely fir or pine and will not stand up well to the wear a well used kitchen gets? I just don't see it being hard enough for a kitchen.

Perhaps it can be recycled for use in a bedroom using the above approach? Be mindful of how much may be lost to the planer and trim saw too to make sure you will have enough.

tcook555 06-23-2013 01:21 PM

If I follow woodman's procedure above, there's still the issue of how to adaquately finish the wood to make it last. sdester has a valid point about bacteria and moisture problems and this is the part I am most confused about. I'm just not knowledgeable enough about wood finishing options, materials, and procedures. This post discusses finishing options at length, but I am still confused about what I should do. I did not realize there were so many different options and products available. Do I need a sealer? Should I use Tung Oil? Will several coats of poly provide an adaquate seal to keep bacteria and moisture out? These are the questions I am researching now and would welcome any advice. I appreciate the information so far, much Thanks to woodman58 and sdsester!

jagans 06-23-2013 04:10 PM

I think it would make a nice wall in a den, but I would never use something like this for a kitchen floor. You spill things on a kitchen floor. You need to be able to sanitize it with a mop and soapy ammonia, or something similar. Really nice wall for a den though.

woodman58 06-23-2013 04:25 PM

Here is a link to pics of reclaimed wood floors. After properly finishing the wood it can be installed and finished to look beautiful. Sealing the floor and the putting a finish over it is good even for a kitchen.

user1007 06-24-2013 08:51 AM

I have seen recycled floors in kitchens, usually hardwood though, where someone filled in all the holes with a two-step liquid and then clear epoxy bar top type process so I suppose that could work although it took away somewhat from the distressed look. I doubt it was cheap. Perhaps there are other resin systems cheaper?

I still worry about rough barnwood with holes in it for a kitchen regardless the surface sealant and finish chosen unless one can achieve a relative even surface without divets, cavities and so forth. Don't you have to fill them in with something to prevent bacteria in the recesses?

I have nothing against recycling wood for new purposes including flooring and have rescued many old floors that turned out beautifully when refinished. I am not trying to be argumentitive either. Just questioning whether the barnwood and in a kitchen is a good match. I suppose it could be argued civilized people will not be eating off the floor often?

As a practical matter, I guess a first step would be to see how much the boards are going to need to be planed and how much thickness is left in the first place. They will have to be planed no matter where they are used. I will still lobby for something harder in a kitchen.

OP, I think a planer is in your future if you do not already have one. You have a fair amount to plane so you might think about a more robust used one and a trip to the sharpener rather than a little tabletop one. Not sure if you could get a consistent t&g into the boards until planed and then only if you have a nice thickness left. Again, I worry about top nailing steel square head nails in a kitchen.

I have specified woods from companies like this when I could not find a floor local to salvage.

Obviously, in this case, the OP has his own source we hope.

You might see if you can find some episodes of "The Bronson Pinchot Project". I saw some on Hulu but I think it airs on the DIY Network. He does some nice historic restorations in the PA community he seems to have purchased most of and leaves recycled woods rougher than suit my tastes. Nice work though.

rusty baker 06-24-2013 10:13 AM

I've been in plenty of old houses with pine/fir as the flooring. One thing they all have in common, the flooring is worn half thru or more in the doorways.

BigJim 06-24-2013 12:34 PM

Many of the old barns I have seen have many different types of wood in one building, not just one type. One thing the old square head nails are bad about is not having much holding power, they break easy because they were made out of iron instead of steel. That is the reason the really old homes were built not to depend on the nails holding much, the framing members did the holding.

If you plan to plane the old weathered wood, that stuff dulls blades really quick.

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