When many people think of wood flooring, they think of a classic hardwood-strip floor or an elegant parquet floor. However, if your taste runs more to the country look a floor made of wide pine boards is sure to come to mind. Not only will this floor treatment suit a traditional decor, it can be an economical solution as well. Instead of using high-priced materials from a flooring supply outlet, you can make your floor out of No. 2 common pine boards available at home centers and lumberyards.
Keep in mind that pine is a relatively soft flooring material, and will wear and become marred more readily than hardwood. Also, seasonal changes in humidity will cause the wood to expand and contract, creating spaces between the boards during the drier times of the year.
Pine flooring is traditionally installed with steel cut nails driven through the face of the boards. Unlike hardwood flooring, the nails remain exposed and add to the rustic character of the installation.
The randomly spaced knots in inexpensive No. 2 pine also add to the country charm. However, make sure that the knots aren't loose and check that the edges of your stock don't show any bark. Choose boards that are fairly straight—a slight bow along the length of a few pieces generally can be straightened out, but consistently bent and twisted stock will be difficult to install. For our project, we used 1 x 10 pine. You could choose 1 x 8 or even 1 x 12 stock for a floor, but keep in mind that the wider the stock, the more seasonal shrinkage you can expect and the more difficult it will be to straighten bowed boards. Calculate the square footage of your floor and allow 10% to 15% extra material for waste.
Though lumberyard pine is generally kiln-dried, its moisture content can range from 8 percent to more than 14 percent depending on location, how it is stored at the yard and the time of year it's purchased. For best results, store your wood in the room in which it will be installed so it can adjust to your home's humidity level. Stack the boards with 3/4-in.-thick spacer strips placed between them and wait 7 to 14 days before beginning installation.
First remove the existing baseboard from the walls. Use a flat pry bar to gently separate the trim from the wall and mark each piece to indicate its position in the room. This will simplify reinstallation after the floor is laid. Use locking pliers to pull the finishing nails through the back side of the baseboard to eliminate tearout that can occur when you drive the nails back through the face.
We installed our pine floor over a 3/4-in. plywood subfloor. Use the nails in the subfloor to locate the floor joists and mark the joist positions on opposite walls. Carefully examine the subfloor to see that there are no loose spots or bubbles, that it is properly nailed down and that no nailheads protrude above the surface. The plywood should be nailed every 6 in. along every joist and every 4 in. along the plywood seams. If necessary, renail the subfloor using ring-shank nails.
To further reduce squeaks in the floor, install a layer of rosin paper between the subfloor and the new pine floor. Start at a wall that is perpendicular to the floor joists and roll out the first course of paper along this wall. Staple it every 6 in. in all directions with 5/16-in. staples. When the first row of paper is down, use a straightedge to mark lines across the paper to indicate the joists. As each row of paper is laid down, extend the joist lines. Overlap each course of rosin paper by 4 in. to 6 in.
To fit the new flooring at a door, cut the base of the door casing so the pine can slide underneath. Use a small scrap of pine flooring material to scribe the door casings. Then use a small handsaw to carefully cut the trim to the line.
Plan for the floorboards to run perpendicular to the floor joists. With this orientation, each board is solidly nailed to the joists and the likelihood of floor squeaks is reduced.
Check the floor dimensions at the walls parallel to the joists. It is not unusual for rooms to be out of square and for the room size to vary by an inch or more from end to end. If the difference is less than 1 in., it's unlikely to be noticeable when the job is done. If there is an excessive discrepancy, divide the difference in half and plan adjustments in both the first and last rows you lay down.
In most cases, each row of flooring will be made up of two or more lengths of stock, butted end to end with each joint falling on a joist centerline. At the starting wall, mark the floor at each end to indicate the outer edge of the first row. Allow for the width of the first board plus a space of 1/2 in. for expansion. Snap a chalkline between these marks to generate the layout line for the first row.
It's a good idea to very slightly ease the top edges of each board to remove any slivers or sharp edges. You could use a wooden block and 120-grit sandpaper to do the job, but it's quicker to use a router with a 1/8-in.-rad. rounding-over bit. Adjust the depth of cut to less than 1/16 in. Clamp each board to a pair of sawhorses and run the router along the top edges.
Lay the first board on the layout line with a 1/2-in. space between its end and the wall. If the board is cupped, place the concave side down. Find the joist centerline under the board nearest its other end and mark a square cut line at this point. Use a circular saw to crosscut the board at the line.
Place the board back on the layout line and use 8d or 10d steel cut nails to fasten it in place. Locate the nails about 1 in. from each board edge. If you are using 1 x 8 stock, two nails in each joist are sufficient. If you are using 1 x 10 or 1 x 12, place a third nail in the center. Use a drift punch to set each nail about 1/16 in. below the surface. This allows you to sand the floor and keeps anything from catching on a protruding nailhead. When nailing a floorboard at an end seam, angle the nails so that they're sure to enter the floor joist below. Unlike wire nails with wedge-like points that tend to split the wood, square-tipped cut nails push through the fibers to reduce splitting—even at board ends.
Continue laying each row of boards tight to the preceding row. For the best appearance, stagger the end joints of floorboards in adjacent rows by two joist spaces.
If you encounter a board that is slightly bowed, cut it to length and position it with the bow extending out from the adjacent flooring. Temporarily screw a block to the subfloor and drive a wedge between the block and bowed board. Nail the board down before removing the wedge.
Once you have worked across the room, measure the space for the last row. Again, check the dimension at each end of the room, and, if necessary, plan for tapered boards. Allow a 1/2-in. expansion space against the wall. If the flooring must enter a closet or wrap around an outside corner use a sabre saw to cut the stock to fit.
To make a transition between the pine floor in one room and a different floor material in another, cut a pine threshold to fit between the entry doorjambs. Use a bench plane to taper the outside edge of the board. Start the taper 2 1/2 to 3 in. from the outside edge of the threshold and plane the edge no thinner than 1/4 in.
The perfect tool for sanding a new pine floor is a large orbital floor sander. These tools can be rented for $30 to $40 per day plus the cost of friction pad, sandpaper and abrasive screens. The sandpaper or screen is placed on the floor with a friction pad on top of it. The sander is positioned over the pad and turned on. Your main job is to keep the sander moving evenly over the floor. The action of this type of sander is easy to control so the danger of damaging the floor is almost nonexistent. First sand the floor with 100-grit paper, then remove the dust and go over the floor with a 120-grit screen.
Use a shop vacuum to remove the sanding dust from the floor, then thoroughly wipe the floor with a dry towel to pick up any remaining dust.
To finish our floor, we used a water-based urethane called Easy Street by Basic Coatings Inc. (available from Harman Hardwood Flooring Co., 29 Hebard St., Rochester, NY 14605). The urethane comes in gloss, semi-gloss and satin, and is a 2-part product that requires the addition of a catalyst.
Apply the initial sealer coat with a trim pad and allow it to dry at least 3 hours. Then, lightly abrade the surface with the 120-grit screen and remove all dust before applying the next coat.
Because this finish is extremely clear in comparison to traditional oil-based finishes, we added an amberizer (coloring agent) to the remaining coats. Each coat adds more color to the floor, so it's a good idea to run a test on scrap pine to determine how many amberized coats you need. For best protection of the floor, apply a minimum of three coats.
Reinstall the baseboard, then cut pieces of shoe-molding to fit around the room. Cut the seams in the shoe-molding at 45° to provide less-visible joints. Nail the shoe-molding to the baseboard with 4d finish nails—the flooring must be free to expand and contract independent of the perimeter molding.
While we installed our pine floor over a plywood subfloor, you can also do the job over a linoleum or tile floor. Simply make sure that the flooring is sound and has no loose spots or bubbles. Use a stud sensor to locate the floor joists.
To lay a floor over concrete, there are additional preparations. If the slab tends toward seasonal dampness, it's not a good candidate for wood flooring. If the concrete floor stays dry, first spread a barrier of 6-mil polyethylene sheeting over the entire surface. Overlap the seams by 6 in. and tape them. Next, lay 2 x 4 sleepers flat on 16-in. centers across the floor. Nail the sleepers to the slab using concrete nails or powder-actuated fasteners. Then install a 5/8- or 3/4-in. plywood subfloor over the sleepers, leaving 1/8-in. spaces between the panels. Due to this subfloor, you'll lose approximately 3 in. of ceiling height in the room after the finished flooring is in place.