Using truly reclaimed wood for hardwood flooring makes for a beautiful, rustic look, but the process of creating this type of floor isn’t something to be taken lightly. With time, knowledge, attention to detail, and a focus on the basics, you can maximize your chances for success. One company producing and installing reclaimed wood flooring is Looking Glass Floors in St. Louis, Missouri.
“We love working with reclaimed wood, and we recently worked with clients who were building their dream home. There was a very old two-story barn on the land they had purchased to build this new home. They contacted us to see if we could do anything with the barn’s wood,” explains Melissa Tressler, co-owner of Looking Glass Floors. “They hoped to highlight some of the history of the property and capture and retain the beauty of the reclaimed wood.”
“We visited, and what we saw was beautiful, so we were confident that we could help them,” explains Andrew Wilkinson, co-owner and husband of Tressler. “We talked options, and they fell in love with the idea of using the wood in a large herringbone pattern.”
After the barn was taken down and the wood was examined, Wilkinson and Tressler realized that the only salvageable wood would be that which had been used as the barn’s exterior siding.
“We had one-inch-thick, 10-inch-wide red cedar from the 1860s in 16 to 18 foot lengths to work with,” explains Wilkinson. “Unfortunately for us, when the siding was peeled off, a lot of it broke due to its condition.”
In addition to broken boards, the homeowners power washed the boards before giving them over to Looking Glass Floors for processing. This meant the boards would have to sit in storage at Looking Glass Floors until the moisture had dissipated. Thankfully, the house wouldn’t be ready for floor installation for another year.
“In addition to many broken boards, we discovered other boards were off-plane or damaged. That said, they had character, and we wanted to save everything we could,” explains Tressler. “Frankly, we barely had enough material to do the 300 square foot room, and our challenge became salvaging as much wood as possible. To be able to make a floor almost from scratch was very exciting, even though it was a ton of work.”
“We found ourselves in a situation of having to put boards back together, as some of the boards were splitting along growth rings. Other boards were split down the middle. To fix them, we chose to dowel and glue them back together,” says Wilkinson.
They also ended up using hundreds of clamps, as they had to joint the salvaged boards because almost all of them were out of square.
“It took a lot of work, but we ended up with repaired boards that we cut down to a length of eight feet, squared off all of the edges, and routed double grooves all the way across. We then cut them so that they would work in a herringbone pattern,” explains Wilkinson. “Finally, we pillowed the edges as they wanted to have some height variation as well to provide texture and depth.”
With the wood prepared, a full glue-down installation was done using Bona adhesives. Finally, Pallmann Magic Oil Natural was used to bring out the natural beauty of the reclaimed wood.
“Our clients were so thrilled with the results, but it took a lot of hard work to make this floor happen. We learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way,” says Tressler. “Above all, make sure you are following proper standards and guidelines. If you don’t start with the basics, everything from that point on will fail you. Take your time and be prepared for a lot of work. It is not as simple as grabbing some boards and turning them into flooring.”
“Have a strong plan and be ready to change and adapt as problems surface. Remember that growth is hard. If you get frustrated, slow down and take a breath. Call your peers, seek out mentors on social media or at the NWFA who are eager to help,” advises Wilkinson. “Finally, invest in really good equipment, understand how to use it, and seek out guidance from those whom you buy it from. Every detail matters when you’re fabricating a floor.