Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Restoration ideas: Frugal floors

Why do I have 900 sq ft of wood piled up in the dining room up in Indy? Oh its just for a "little" project for our Cincy house!
Perhaps its my German-Jewish heritage that results in my being a stickler for detail yet with an eye on frugality, but I have struggled with the issue of flooring for the Naegele Merz house. Our house originally built as  weekend-summer cottage has a wide 3 1/2 inch floors, These floors are rather plain, damaged and gouged in many places, numerous repairs and painted with gray porch paint. We are also presented with an additional problem that at some point the floor joists were "blocked" in above the foundation with more stone and mortared. Heat and cold cycles over the years have caused a slight heaving of the floor in places on the edges. Now we are correcting that by removing the stone and properly blocking insulating the sill areas but at best the flooring is still uneven after being nailed down. This will require heavy sanding making for a less than desirable floor.

A couple of the Second Empire cottages built  10-15 years or so later than ours in our neighborhood have square cut inlaid border floor. These floors are  made up with 1 1/2 inch wide square cut strips which are face nailed with small nails filled and then stained, often with different color stains or with different types of hardwoods, these are the most desired of flooring in the Victorian era. However the use presents two problems. Modern manufactured inlaid floors are VERY expensive on the order of 12-20.00  a square foot for regular "running floor", and 18-36.00,or more, for bordered flooring. The other problem is that most manufacturers only offer the 2 or 2 1/4 inch wide varieties and not the 1 1/2  used during the period from 1870-1885. Now while I have several salvaged floors stored they they will require major rework and piecing to deal with our rooms. So the logical alternative is new floors placed over a 1/4 inch luan screwed attached over the old floors which will be sanded on the high spots and properly secured.

I checked on the cost of ordering special width  1 1/2 inch wide floors, with borders, for the front 4 rooms of the 1871 part of house and the cost is more than five times what we paid for the house! Not an option, plus with the planned additions we would be spending more on floors that what the typical house sells for in Cincinnati.

As luck would turn out I found a solution at of all places the local home improvement store, in this case Menards, I actually came across it, by accident, while picking up some mahogany for a clients project.  This material is 1 1/2 inches wide, sold in 4 foot lengths. They call it "lath" but it is smooth unlike regular plaster lath which is rough so the plaster will adhere and its not a softwood like "lattice' material. This material will be perfect for my needs and I have made some jigs for the necessary  fine angle cuts on the saw that will give me consistant perfect cuts.

The joy of all this? Cost works out to .38 cents an square foot for the material. By utilizing production cutting techniques for making the parquet sections the only real "Labor" will lie in some inlay detail band saw work and of course staining various bands. The biggest drawback was sorting through the material, looking for the clearest possible pieces that were not bowed and that took me a about an hour and a half of sorting through bundles to get the material necessary to do four rooms.

Just to buy new inlaid flooring and parquet for one room would be more than we paid for our house!
If the front Parlor room flooring plan looks familiar its because it will be patterned after the stenciled ceiling. The four fields will be parquet with "running" banding, A center inset medallion design and four "corner blocks" with inlays. The typical estimate for doing this with new flooring was 7500.00 my material cost for this 15 x 15 ft room? Less than 90 bucks, plus, of course, stains and finishing materials! I 'might' save enough money to take a couple of days of vacation?


Will keep everyone posted.

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