Should I try to salvage the wooden floors from my father's house?
February 24, 2016 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Should I try to save the oak floors from my father's house? We're about to sell it, and the builder is going to bulldoze it. Is it worthwhile to try to pull the old floor out? It's in pretty good shape, and I could use it to replace the cheap and crappy looking center match pine in my own house. I have only myself for labor, though, and have little experience removing floors.
posted by atchafalaya to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I used to make stuff out of salvaged materials, so I say yes, of course you should salvage them. Old oak is too beautiful to bulldoze. Practically, though, I've never actually done the salvage part, so I don't know if you'd actually want to do this. If there's other stuff in the home, maybe you could contract with an architectural salvage company to take what they want, and leave the floors for you. Worth a shot.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:02 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here in Portland we have The Rebuilding Center that salvages usable building materials, fixtures, doors, windows, etc., and resells them. If you want the flooring but might have trouble pulling it, maybe look for a similar organization. Ask if you can work out a deal where they help you deconstruct the place in exchange for donating the materials other than the oak flooring.
posted by Beti at 8:03 AM on February 24, 2016

Best answer: I've done the removal, though never reused the wood (think wood from under lino, under lino, under lino). Removing a floor isn't complicated, but it is hard work. Not every board will be reusable as flooring, but someone with the woodworking skills could use 90% of it for something.

I'd estimate a few hours for a modest sized room and at least a full day for a small house. You will be tired, sore, scraped, and bruised. Depending on how you figure the value of your time and effort, it might be worth it.

Basic technique: You'll want a range of pry bars (trim bar, regular crowbar size, and probably a longer bar, too), work gloves, and I'd recommend end nipper pliers as well. You might also need a circular saw. Starting is the hard part. You get one board up (either by just tearing it out or by cutting one edge off and using the saw line to get you bar in) from somewhere in the floor and then work out from there prying it up board by board. Then you'll want to get rid of protruding nails by either pulling them through (simplest - use the end nippers) or cutting them off.
posted by that's candlepin at 8:15 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've done this, though with maple, not oak. It is certainly worth trying. You'll find out pretty quickly if this is worth your time.

With reasonably conditions (boards are at least 3" wide, not highly fragile), I would estimate one person can pull about 200 square feet in a day. It is hard work and it takes a lot longer if you want to save the flooring than if you don't care.

You need leather kneepads, gloves, and hearing protection, plus a circular saw with a good nail cutting blade (not a thin kerf one), various pry bars, mallets, etc, and most importantly this type of nail puller, plus some smaller pliers-style and pry-style nail pullers for tighter work.

Assuming you are dealing with T&G flooring, the best method to keep from breaking the tongues is to use the nail puller to remove all the nails and then just pry the board up a little and wiggle it free. With oak, I think you are very likely to crack the tongue if you just try to pry it up. If you can't get the nail puller jaws around a nail head, you can often pry the board up a little and push it back down, leaving the nail a little proud.

To start, you generally need to sacrifice a board along the wall by cutting through it with the circular saw so that you can get in to pry on the next one. Easies is to make one cut as close as possible to the tongue of the second board and one cut as close as you can to the wall, then the whole first board should come out relatively easily. Don't be afraid to cut the end off boards that butt against the wall in a way that makes them difficult to remove.

If you don't end up doing this, be kind and offer it to someone else!
posted by ssg at 8:58 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Depending on its age the wood may be too brittle to remove without splitting, but you won't know until you try a few boards. Just be prepared for the possibility it's not salvageable. I had one success in re-using an oak floor, and another total failure where every single board split on removal.
posted by anadem at 9:38 AM on February 24, 2016

Best answer: I built a fine looking kitchen table out of salvaged oak flooring. I created a frame, and then glued and nailed the tongue and groove flooring to it. I nailed at an angle through the tongue, while squeezing the plank against the previous piece of wood, to get a tight fit. After the whole thing was assembled I cut the ends of the planks even and sanded the wood down until I had eliminated the prior finish, and as much of the use based scaring as I was willing to. Eventually I stained it and finished it.

That table has been in use in our kitchen for almost 20 years, and could use another refinish, but I still looks impressive.

I have seen a conference room that had walls covered with used flooring. The wood had been salvaged from the large home that had previously been at that spot. It was a warm look.

Pulling up old floors is hard work. You will need to store the wood carefully, so that you do not get mold or termites. It may be in storage longer than you think, as projects tend to drag themselves out. The results of those projects will last for decades, however.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:10 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Even if you don't keep it, you can put it all up in the Craigslist free section and on Freecycle, etc.
posted by aniola at 1:54 PM on February 24, 2016

Best answer: My dad did this with recycled jarrah boards he bought from a demo. It looks beautiful, but took a long time, though this was mostly due to to uneven subfloor and the requirement to predrill jarrah.

Don't give it away for free. People should be willing to buy it. You could offer to let someone else pull it up and take it away for free if you don't think you'll manage it.
posted by kjs4 at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2016

Response by poster: Good news, everyone!

The builder offered us an additional credit on the sale to have her demolition guy salvage the floor for us. So for no extra effort or expense, we get to save all that beautiful old oak.

Thank you all for your kind and detailed advice.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:58 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
Hey everyone, thanks again for all the great advice. As it turned out, we were able to salvage the wood floors and subfloor boards, and reuse them in my newly remodeled house.

They look fantastic, and the subfloor boards were actually used to make a new ceiling in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

Now every day I get to walk across the floors my father and his father walked on, and it feels good.
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