When we signed the lease for our new studio, it was in a pretty poor state.
The landlord agreed to clear out the old furniture and give it a lick of white paint but the rest was up to us. He said we could put down a new floor but that we weren’t to remove the carpet, as it would provide soundproofing for the business downstairs. So we set about trying to figure out how to cover a 150 m2 floor on a very limited budget. Pretty much everyone we spoke to suggested laminate but we knew that we wanted to use real wood so started researching our options.
We’ve documented the floor laying process in this blog post, partly because I love seeing a good renovation project but also because we hope that what we have learnt along the way may come in useful for anyone else brave (crazy) enough to take on a similar project. So, here goes…
There are some stunning engineered wood floorboards out there but all beyond our price range for this project so we looked at cheaper pine floorboards. The standard width for floorboards that are used for house building (and usually hidden under other flooring) is around 5 inches but we thought these would look too narrow for such a large floor so went to a couple of local timber yards to try to find an alternative.
We found some beautiful 8 inch Scandinavian redwood pine planks that we knew would look amazing, so asked the timber yard if they could cut a tongue and groove into them to turn them into floorboards. They agreed to do it, warning us that the wider the floorboards, the more likely they are to “cup” or warp as they acclimatise to a room’s atmosphere. A risky option but after talking to a few people who know their stuff, we decided that if we nailed them down on the tongue straight away then it would probably be ok, so we went for it.
We got a builder on board that knew what we wanted and was confident he could do it, so set about ordering materials.
840 metres of 7.5 inch Scandinavian Redwood Pine floorboards
315 metres of battens (for laying under the floorboards)
^ Lots of floorboards to get up to the 2nd floor. Many hands make what was a daunting job happen in only a few hours. Big thanks to the brilliant floorboard lifting crew - Nathan, (me), Jane and George.
Whilst we were lifting the floorboards up to the top floor, the builder set to work laying the planks and almost unbelievably had laid most of the floor by the end of the day. What I hadn't realised was that he wasn't nailing the floorboards down, as we had discussed many times before. He had decided it would be much quicker to "float" the floor believing that the weight of the floorboards would hold itself down.
The next day, Ian excitedly headed down to the studio to see what it looked like and to his horror found most of the floorboards had lifted and cupped so the floor was totally unstable. Exactly as the guys at the timber yard had warned would happen if the floorboards weren't nailed down.
After taking a deep breath or two, we contacted an experienced joiner who said he was too busy to take on the job but would (very kindly) come down to give us advice on how to sort it out if we wanted to do it ourselves.
He told us what tools we would need and gave us step-by-step instructions on how to lay the floor properly.
We had to start all over again, first lifting and re-stacking all the floorboards. Then using a guide rope and jigs to make sure the battens were laid equally straight across the the room, we laid out the first row of battens. Beneath the carpet was a layer of screed (concrete), which meant we had to drill pilot holes, pop in rawl plugs and then fix the battens down with long screws.
Once the battens were laid, we could then attach the floorboards to the battens by screwing them down from the top. This meant the screws would be visible but it was the only way we could flatten the cupped boards.
The tools we bought, hired or borrowed:
Electric drill and impact driver
2 x floor clamps
^ To our suprise, we found there was a layer of screed (concrete) under the carpet so had to drill pilot holes using the SDS drill before fixing the battens with long screws.
^ The trusty mitre saw that we used for trimming the battens and floorboards.
^ Cutting the floorboards down - both ends needed to land on a batten to make sure they could be fixed securely and that all the visible screws would be in neat rows across the floor.
Over 4000 screws later, we laid the last floorboard. The floor isn't perfect, a few of the boards split as we put them down due to the cupping, small gaps have opened up between each row because wood is a natural material that contracts and expands but we love it. We love that every board is different and that it smells of pine. We love that the light in the room has completely changed, it looks warmer and more welcoming. We love that it feels solid underfoot and that we did it ourselves.
Next up is sanding and oiling, which is in our next journal post: here.