Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cheap hardwood floors in the concept room

I found some really affordable hardwood flooring at a local lumber yard. In fact, these 1x6 yellow poplar tongue and groove planks are so cheap, I can't really see how they afford to make them, but that's not my problem. Whereas most of the wood in our house (and all of the timber frame) is from our farm and cut on my sawmill, I am becoming very rational about trying to finish this house. When I can buy something for cheaper and better than what I can make it, then I'll buy it. The flooring is 50 cents a linear foot, which works out to be a little over $1/square foot (the 6" boards actually only cover 5.2" in width). What's even better, these are random length, with the average length being 12 feet!!!

As in these pictures, much of my house will have no plywood subfloor. Instead I plan to install hardwood flooring directly to oak 3x3's that were cut on my sawmill. The advantage of this is that I'll save about $2000 in not buying plywood, and reduce the amount of resins and glues in my house. (I'll take solid wood over plywood any day, because among other things, plywood burns so much more readily) The drawback to this flooring is that it is (yellow) poplar, not oak, which means it is not as hard. My wife and I rationalized using it in low traffic areas (kids bedrooms and closets), and resolved that if it doesn't work out, we can floor over this flooring in a few years and it will become the subfloor! (per foot, the hardwood floors are only about 40% more than 3/4 plywood itself!)

The pictures shown here are of back-to-back walkin closets that connect my two sons' rooms. We call this large closet our "concept room" because we're trying out our floor and ceiling concepts in the closet to see if we like them. If we don't like the finished result, well, it's a closet and no one will care too much. So far, we like the result - it looks like poplar floors are a go!


Blogger neuwave said...

Poplar seems way too soft of a wood to use for any kind of flooring. I am really curious how it will turn out in the long run. From the pictures, it is really nice looking, although a bit yellow. (Douglas Fir or Tamarack are my preferred flooring species)

I like your plan B to use it as subflooring if necessary.

My mother-in-law recently renovated a 1925 craftsman bungalow and had bamboo flooring installed. It was seriously scratched and nicked before the installers were even done. One dropped screwdriver, and the floor had a horrendous gouge.

Well, good luck and keep us all posted on the efficacy of the poplar for flooring.

January 28, 2007 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger oldmilwaukee said...

It is soft compared to oak, but actually harder than the same pine flooring they had in the store. The white and greenish cast of the yellow poplar mellows into a brown and cream color with time. (at least all of my poplar timbers did)

I forgot to mention the other possible drawback of this flooring - it is a little over 5" wide, and I'm going to put radiant heat underneath of it. This could be a recipe for big cracks between the boards. It would be better to use narrower boards over radiant heat.

Oh well, might be subfloor! :) In the mean time, I can live on it.

Neuwave - do you have any tips on finishing hardwood floors? This is new territory for me.

January 29, 2007 at 7:57 AM  
Anonymous mom said...

Sorry for the intrusion, son, but thought I might forget to mention this to you. Talking with Jim D. last night, I asked him what benefit polyurethane would have over gym seal, which my dad used on wood flooring. Jim said that polyurethane just coats the wood whereas gym seal actually soaks into the wood helping to make the wood less vulnerable to scaring. Guess it increases the resilience of the wood.

I remember as a teen, the pine floors in our living room and dining room held up well with heavy traffic from a large family and a wealth of teen visitors. Those floors had gym seal finish with pastewax treatment occasionally. The floors didn't even show the wear and tear of four females wearing spiked heals, like the linoleum kitchen floor did! Of course I am sure there were several coats of gym seal put on those pine floors.

Our upstair floors are oak and were were put in about 45 years ago with only 1 coat. Nothing has been done to them except to dust and an occational light damp mop. You are well aware of the wear and tear they had!

January 29, 2007 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger neuwave said...

Alas, I don't have any experience with finishing hardwood floors. Its all new to me, but I am really interested to learn what you find out. Please keep us posted!


January 30, 2007 at 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Jim K in PA said...


Last month there was a great article on water based polyurethanes in Fine Woodworking. Lots of good tests, and objective opinions. We have been wrestling with the floor finish issue too. I was almost convinced to go with Tung oil, but I am going with water based poly instead. The oil is easier to touch up and repair, but I need the water resistance and better durability of the poly, especially because we are using pine. One tip with the poly, use gloss on the first coat or two, then switch to semi- or flat. The gloss penetrates and binds with the wood better than semi-gloss or flat due to the modifiers added to reduce the gloss finish.

January 30, 2007 at 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Trægulve said...

What a very good transformation. This is a very nice article. Thank you for sharing.

March 25, 2009 at 4:53 AM  
Blogger Nathan Gilles said...

How are the poplar floors holding up?

August 19, 2012 at 3:42 PM  

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