For the Love of Floors

I thought the restoration of some lovely old floorboards would be a straightforward project – it was not!   Ten months later they are restored and are stunning… I thought I would share my experience as it may help others. 

Having moved into a lovely Cornish Cottage I was delighted to discover the old reclaimed floors I could see in one room ran along the whole ground floor, and had been covered over in the second room.  My hopes were to restore the hidden ones and give the other ones some much needed TLC.  The existing mastic between the exposed boards had shrunk and cracked, and it was all quite draughty, as there was 1 metre subfloor beneath.

The issue, I discovered, was that no-one had ever seen floors quite like them.  The ones exposed were a bit gnarly, holey and cracked in places, they were uneven, a bit misaligned, they had nail, old woodworm and damp marks.  They were also incredibly beautiful, old, had gorgeous oak markings, saw marks, and were unusually wide.  They were unique, had their own story and they had character.

The gaps between the boards were also quite wide - and these gaps caused the conundrums.   I did ask quite a few professionals and it did flummox a lot of them.   Some said it was beyond them, another suggested chopping them up and making furniture, others suggested carpeting, and quite a few disappeared after coming to quote and were never heard from again.  I asked wooden boat builders, joiners, builders, floor specialists and sanders.  My best options were to either uplift them and realign them or fill in the wide gaps with wood fillets.  These were not cost effective options, and I thought I can’t be the only person who has had such a perplexing situation.  At this point I was willing to have a go and do them myself (I am glad I didn’t).  I was very surprised no-one had come up with a product to fill such wide gaps.  Much internet research later into period homes and I came across Draught-ex  … an excellent simple idea... to wedge in a piece of grey rubber between the boards.  Sizes thin (for gaps <3mm), standard (for gaps  2-7mm) and thick (for gaps of 6-11mm)… but not wide enough for my floor gaps.  My builder who (insulated the floor from beneath) found another similar Neoprene product that came in various wider widths (from 2mm – 25mm).

I had found my solution – it was a simple one and I just hoped it would work.

TreConcepts  agreed to do the restoration with the neoprene.  Ali led the project on the ground with the help of John.  These guys were true artisan craftsmen and I couldn’t have asked for better guys for the job. 

 MASTIC COMING OUT

MASTIC COMING OUT

 THE GREAT UNVEILING - SEEING WHAT LAY BENEATH THE MATCHBOARDING

THE GREAT UNVEILING - SEEING WHAT LAY BENEATH THE MATCHBOARDING

The freshly sanded hidden floors looked gorgeous and rustic and I loved the warm colours – it reminded me of the old wooden chalets in the Swiss mountains.  After a few test pots we settled on BONA Natural Primer and  BONA TRAFFIC Natural + Hardener   both of  which retained the original colour of the old wood without darkening it too much, and we didn’t lose the rustic look.

Next step – new territory for all – neoprene going in….

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Lots of different widths slotted in the different sized uneven gaps – it worked beautifully, importantly stopping the draughts, and looked great as it resembled the natural shadow of the gaps.  We also put it under the skirting.  I was delighted. 

( I now notice wooden floors wherever I go! )