Tips on Salvaging Hardwood Floors

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Older hardwood floors offer many advantages.

First, because they were often constructed of old growth timber, they typically boast a tighter, stronger grain.

Second, old hardwood floors were often installed with wide planks, which are definitely “in” these days.

Finally, you just can’t fake the rich patina of old hardwood floors; that kind of luscious coloring only comes with age.

If you’re remodeling a home, why not take advantage of these unique features by reusing your old wood floor?

As a top West Coast demolition contractor, we encourage clients to reuse as much as possible in remodeling projects. Saving that old wood floor not only makes sense from stylistic and cost perspectives; it also helps reduce the amount of demolition and construction debris sent to landfills.

You can salvage old wood floors by following the tips we’ve gathered below.


Remodeling: Demolition Contractors’ Tips on Salvaging Wood Floors & Beams

Tools Required for Salvaging Wood Floors & Beams

  • Pry bar
  • Locking pliers
  • Protective gloves and safety eyewear
  • Two final must-have ingredients: Time and patience. Rushing this demolition job will only make salvaged wood flooring harder to reinstall in its new location.


Preliminary Considerations for Salvaging Wood Floors

  • Lumber longer than 6’ will be easiest to salvage
  • Make sure thickness of hardwood floors is enough to justify salvaging. You’ll want at least 1/8 inch of wood left on the top tab of the flooring’s groove side.
  • Ascertain the direction of the tongue-and-groove installation, so that you can work in the opposite direction as you remove the flooring.
  • Expose the unfinished, cut edge of the flooring by pulling up the heat vents. One hint: Look for face holes along a wall; this is usually the groove edge of the boards.\


How to Pull Up Old Wood Floors for Salvaging

  1. Use your pry bar to remove baseboards. These may also be reused if you are careful and don’t damage them during removal.
  2. Pry up a board with an exposed tongue. Near a nail, slide the pry bar underneath the board and elevate about ¼ inch. Then move to the next nail and do the same thing. Note: Patience is critical in this process. If you lift too much at once, you risk splitting the board or harming the tongue. For especially stubborn nails, try rocking the pry bar back and forth to loosen. If this doesn’t work you may need to use a reciprocal saw to slice the nail.
  3. Go back to where you started and repeat the above process. Do this until the board can be lifted clean away. Pull out old nails and dispose of them properly, so that they don’t pose a safety threat to tender feet.
  4. Continue to pry away the boards in the room, taking care not to damage the tongue and groove portions. Dinged tongue and groove fasteners will be difficult to reconnect in a new installation.

If there isn’t room to insert your pry bar underneath the tongue of the first board, you can use a circular saw with a carbide blade to plunge-cut between two boards near the tongue side. Once the plunge cut is established, you can use your pry bar to pull up as many boards as necessary to expose the tongue edge.

Finally, know that you may be facing a pretty piece of work in cleaning the cracks between boards, where years of grime may have built up.


Where to Salvage (If Not Reusing in a New Project)

  • Material exchanges, such as Craigslist and eBay
  • Salvage stores and reuse stores such as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores

By the way, your effort makes a big difference to the environment. Salvaging is quite significant, since 40% of this country’s trash stream is composed of construction and demolition debris.

In other words, as you sigh at the unique beauty of your new/old wood floor, you can also feel proud in your heart that you helped save the earth by keeping that old wood flooring out of the landfill.

  • Guest Author

    Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

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