When it comes to flooring installations, some stand out as truly special. In the portfolio of Tom Keating of Keating Wood Floors, based in Gunnison County, Colorado, one installation holds a special place as his favorite – a reclaimed chestnut project that perfectly encapsulates the blend of craftsmanship and dedication that defines his work.
“I do quite a bit of work with reclaimed wood, but this is my favorite floor I have done in more than two decades,” says Keating. “The installation was a great opportunity to focus on craftsmanship while enjoying collaboration with the property owners who shared their vision with us.”
The project started with a client meeting where they explained that they wanted reclaimed chestnut for the flooring, a material that exuded a sense of history and character.
“The scale of the installation was considerable – 3,800 square feet of reclaimed, random width chestnut flooring ranging from 5” to 17”, all laid over in-floor heating,” says Keating. “Sourcing such material was no small task, as chestnut is commercially extinct due to the parasitic fungus known as chestnut blight. The wood was reclaimed from various sources, showcasing wormholes and defects from its past.”
With meticulous planning and sourcing material for more than a year, Keating delved into the project.
“Because this was such a large and involved installation, I did a lot of research upfront to ensure I did everything properly. I was thoughtful about my process and did not succumb to the pressures of trying to save time,” says Keating. “Having incredible talent on my team also was a huge factor. My installer, Rick Betine, absorbed the vision and executed what was needed, taking the time and care required. The floor would not have happened without him.”
The installation unfolded over two months, characterized by rustic aesthetics blending with modern sensibilities.
“It’s rustic but with modern, clean lines. The house has a climate control system and features reclaimed timber and framing throughout,” explains Keating. “The house also has no trim. Due to this, all the flooring was cut tight to a shadow line at the bottom of the home’s drywall.”
Keating also crafted the home’s reclaimed chestnut stairs in his shop and installed them by scribing them into place.
“The stair installation process was mentally exhausting at times, as was our focus on making sure the boards on the floor were laid out attractively,” he says. “We also were careful to have wide boards against the walls. This made the installation very challenging and time-consuming.”
“For starters, determine just how rustic the client wants it. Make sure they know they are not getting a perfect floor. They purposefully are purchasing an imperfect floor; besides the obvious surface details, there also will be color variation from board to board. If they are fine with that, then you’re good to go.”
— Tom Keating, Keating Wood Floors
The project’s culmination involved meticulous finishing steps followed by three coats of polyurethane to enhance the natural patina of the chestnut wood.
“The floor had existing saw marks and highs and lows from board to board. I used a buffer and then did a lot of handwork, sanding, chiseling, and scraping to make everything appear worn together,” says Keating. “There were multiple steps of sanding and chiseling before finishing with polyurethane. They loved the rich browns and tans of the natural chestnut and wanted to honor it.”
While this is Keating’s favorite floor, he understands it’s not for everyone. As such, he recommends being very open with potential clients on what to expect when requesting reclaimed wood.
“For starters, determine just how rustic the client wants it. Do they want all the original saw marks, or do they want it remilled? Perhaps they want to split the difference?” Keating explains. “Make sure they know they are not getting a perfect floor. They purposefully are purchasing an imperfect floor; besides the obvious surface details, there also will be color variation from board to board. If they are fine with that, then you’re good to go. It’s wood that leaves an impression, and this was a job that certainly left its impression on me.”