Cedar, Oak, and Old

We’re on a finish-surface frenzy over at Bob’s house, using all kinds of wood. The living room floor is totally in place, while upstairs, several gorgeous rustic walls are underway.

The new living room floor.

The new living room floor.

It took a considerable effort from Hans and Mark to complete the living room floor. The oak floorboards are super skinny, just 2 inches wide, which means the 15-foot-wide room needed about 90 rows of the stuff. Adding frustration, coming out of the package, roughly one in three floorboards proved unusable. And since the home is occupied throughout the construction (by Bob, Suze, and their three dogs), the living room contains a bunch of furniture, which had to do-si-do around the room as the flooring progressed. It’s all tongue-and-grooved in place now, but still needs a good sanding to look finished.

I’m most excited about the master closet, which we’re cladding in cedar – one of the best-smelling woods and also one of the prettiest. Our planks come in four-foot lengths with teeny-tiny tongues and grooves. They fit together readily when they’re straight, but (there’s always a but) hardly any of them are straight. When they wobble along the weak axis we can force them out during installation. Bends around the strong axis, though, are hopeless. “Good for boat building,” says Mark wryly about the C shaped ones. We’ll try to return them to the lumber yard.

One closet wall finished in cedar.

One closet wall finished in cedar.

So far Hans has done most of the cutting and I’ve done most of the nailing in place, using a finish nail gun. I install the cedar vertically, staggering joints as pattern-free as possible, constantly using a level to check plumbness. I also have to make sure I don’t nail into any electrical cables, which are hidden behind the plywood. It’s slow, methodical work.

Finally, Mark repurposed some old subfloor we pulled up last month to clad the upstairs bathroom wall. I have no clue what kind of wood this is. It’s old.

Barnboard clads the bathroom wall at the top of the stairs.

Barnboard clads the bathroom wall at the top of the stairs.

Days of Floor

On Monday, Mark began the monumental task of flooring the main level of the house. The kitchen and dining room already have hardwood in good condition underfoot, so we won’t need to touch those locations. In the living room and hallways, where we recently laid a new plywood subfloor, we clearly need a new finish floor too. Laying that down is our biggest goal this week.

Bob got a sweet deal on distressed-oak tongue-and-groove flooring, with 2-inch width to match the kitchen floor. The bundles are comprised of random lengths (mostly shorter than a foot) and contain “some defects”… which meant, we soon learned, that some pieces might be a little wider or skinnier than the others, or have a tongue on both sides, or one side just flat.

Once we eliminate the unusable pieces, we’re still a bit picky which of the remaining lengths we’ll actually utilize. We like knots and other natural defects that add character, but chamfered edges and broken corners – aspects that LOOK like mistakes – go straight to the burn pile.

The stair landing came out handsomely.

The stair landing came out handsomely.

Mark began with the high-traffic stair landing, using the best pieces and getting his groove established. His next segment, the hallway by the basement stairs, proved much trickier. Obstacles like doorways, wall corners, and a 6×6 timber support post all demanded fancy cuts. Hans and I helped per our availability, sorting bundles into useful/useless pieces and laying out the rows. Our primary tool is a familiar one: the pneumatic flooring stapler.

Mark and Hans at work in the living room. Hans operates the pneumatic flooring stapler.

Mark and Hans at work in the living room. Hans operates the pneumatic flooring stapler.

By now we’ve cleared the complicated areas; our remaining flooring area spans the full width of the room. Meanwhile, I’ve finished wiring the living room ceiling, with its three low-voltage circuits relaying back to the basement stair nook where we’ll house a transformer. More about the ceiling next time.

Walk the Plank

Bob’s attic is starting to look finished. Hans and Mark have been busy for days installing finish floor planks for the stair landing, bathroom, and master bedroom. It’s a gorgeous natural pine, which Suze plans to stain an ash-grey once we’re done.

We use the 12-foot-long, tongue-and-groove planks we stacked in the attic a couple weeks ago. Mark, wanting to ensure full-width planks in high-traffic areas, started the pattern at the top of the stairs. Unfortunately, that spot is in the middle of the room. This flooring needs to be installed tongue-out, with each plank nailed through the tongue so the next groove hides the nails. See the problem? How do you work from the middle of the room to both edges if the tongue only sticks out one way?

Mark solved the conundrum by cutting a sort of double-tongue out of a spare board and sliding it between the grooves of two adjacent planks. Then he and Hans floored the north half of the attic with the tongues pointed north, and the south half of the attic with the tongues pointed south. Maybe not textbook, but it’s a simple, strong solution and the resulting floor looks great.

The lumber double-tongue enables us to install flooring both leftward and rightward.

The lumber double-tongue enables us to install flooring both leftward and rightward.

Downstairs, the living room subfloor is complete. We’ve replaced the first-floor bathroom wall with planks of barnboard, leaving open between the timber posts for storage. (Bob has a cool idea to finish this space.) There’s a new delineation in the attic as well: with stairs in place, we could locate and frame the second bedroom wall.