Boring floring

Standing inside the little cottage about 12 years after we first renovated it was strange.

It had been, um, disused by its tenant for the past half of that span.  But Bibb City bones are strong, and it was the Berber that looked to have taken the worst of the damage. So we yanked that soiled carpet right out — and discovered termite damage in the otherwise beautiful pine floor of the front bedroom. Should have known, as we’d had to repair similar damage in a wall under the window nearest this spot years back…

So, home improvement books and online sites have lots of methods to share about repairing large swatches of wood flooring. Very few gave any concrete answers about how to remove just a couple of boards out in the middle of a room. Here’s a method I used that, if a bit meticulous, worked marvelously.

  1. With a speed square, score a 90-degree cut a few inches past each of the bad sides of the chewed up wood. Go ahead and hammer a wood chisel across those scores to make them good and deep.
  2. Using a spade bit or hole bit (spades are quicker, since you don’t have to punch out the plug between drillings), chew up the wood in a line inside your cut lines. Two or three holes will do the job for most pieces of flooring. Once you’ve done this for both sides, the middle section of floor will pop right out.
  3. Use your wood chisel again to clean up little wood triangles left between the concentric circles of your drilling. This will be the meticulous part I was talking about. Work with care, as if you muff this part of it, you’ll damage the good wood, requiring a patch or a new cut. But make sure your seam is straight and you cut out all the wood below for a snug fit with the patch piece.
  4. You’re ready to put in the replacement wood. If you’re only doing one piece, just cut it to fit and surface nail it with finish nails. If you’re doing several pieces in a row, start tongue-first (ahem), and nail boards into the sub-floor at a sharp angle through the grooves. Use a nail set if need be to make sure the nail is out of way for the next board’s tongue.

I found an exact match for my wood’s profile at the area salvage shop. Between the bedroom patch and a wide expanse of new work in the laundry room to replace a previous plywood patch job, I spent less than 20 bones on what became great-looking wood once we refinished all the floors. And I shuffled around the wood I was using for patch to ensure a random finish when I was done. On the plus side, it also made a pretty cool patchwork quilt effect we got to enjoy — at least until the floor finishing crew came in to work their magic.

And, of course, this all presumes that the little bastards didn’t do much sub-floor damage. I got lucky like that. But be prepared to take out more floor to patch the sub-floor from joist to joist if need be. Floor patching is a lot of work for newbies, so if you’re going to go to all that trouble, do it right.

And while you’re waiting for the polyurethane to dry on your newly refinished floor, you’ve got time to relax and find something fun to watch.

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