Expect the Unexpected (Part 1): Wood Floors

Surprises abound when you take on a home remodeling project. You never quite know what you will find; and once you’ve started, there’s no turning back.

When we moved into our house, the guest room floor was completely covered in fairly new low-pile carpeting in a brownish-brick hue. Even though we wouldn’t have chosen that color, it was neutral enough—and new enough—that we decided to live with it. As the years passed, we began to consider other options. One day we carefully peeled back the carpet in one corner and were delighted to discover hardwood flooring. The decision was clear: we would remove the carpeting and refinish the floors.


Photo: DSchwartz

We started the project on a Saturday morning, moving all of the furniture out of the room and tearing up the old carpet. Things were going well until we reached the middle of the room, where we found that our large guest bedroom had originally been two small rooms, separated by a wall. And there was no wood flooring where the wall formerly stood, just some cut pieces of raw two-by-fours pieced in where the joists used to be. The floor was patched with enough wood putty to create a semi-smooth surface that was undetectable beneath the carpet and padding. We would have never known, but of course now that we did, we had to deal with it.

After removing the wood putty and raw wood, we decided a trip to the lumber store was a good idea. We cut a small sample of the existing wood flooring with a reciprocating saw and took it with us, along with some photos of the problem area. We were fortunate to find a very knowledgeable sales associate in the flooring department, who not only helped us identify our existing floor as oak, but helped us find boards that would match. He also gave us some very good advice, which was to try and stagger the new pieces in random lengths so that the patch would not be obvious.

Armed with our new oak flooring and the reciprocating saw, we set to work cutting out pieces of the old flooring in random lengths and fitting in new planks across the width of the room. It was kind of like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle, only one in which you had to first cut up the puzzle pieces yourself!


Photo: DSchwartz

Once we had all of the new flooring pieces installed, we proceeded to sand the entire floor, then applied three coats of clear polyurethane finish. To my surprise, there is no visible difference between the new flooring pieces and the old. Even though we encountered an unhappy surprise in the middle of the project, we wound up with a beautiful result.

For more on flooring, consider:

Wood Flooring 101
Tool Time: Best Floor Sander for DIYers
Installing a Herringbone-Patterned Floor