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Question:

My husband and I installed a Brazilian cherry floor last summer. We got a "good buy" on it and stored it in our garage for 2 months before we started putting it down. Needless to say, the wood has dried out over the winter and left HUGE gaps. The filler that was used originally (Wood-Wise) has also shrunk and cracked. We finished the floor w/Street Shoe. Can I do ANYTHING to fix this floor? It looks absolutely terrible. I was going to experiment (on scrap pieces) with an epoxy wood restoration product as a gap filler. Any suggestions at all would be helpful. Thanks...

Answer:



Dear Pam

That "good buy" might have still been OK if only you had stored the wood INDOORS for those two months. In fact storing it indoors, in a heated or air-conditioned room would have been necessary to kept it acclimatized.

Out in the garage the wood will have reached an EMC of almost 14%, like most wood lawn furniture, and in the winter as you heated the house and the wood floor, you would have dried it down to less than 5% EMC (equilibrium moisture content). This caused the incredible shrinkage, and now there is no way to get the wood back into place easily.

So that's the cause, now the solution. And it doesn't involve filling the floor. You must remove the floor very carefully and clean any filler off the tongue and groove. And then check to make sure the EMC is at about the average for your area for indoor wood. If it is, re-install the floor and sand and finish the boards all over again.

Now before you discount this advise, I will tell you why filling the floor will never work in the long run. The gaps are permanent, but now the wood has moved far past the nails ability to hold the wood well. The wood will move seasonally still and also when you walk on it. Any solid filler will crack out in no time. And the epoxy filler you are about to try is even worse. If you do succeed in getting this type of epoxy filler to stay, it may have the tendency to edge glue the boards together.

And then you will be courting disaster. As the wood continues on it's seasonal movement, there will be some trapping of this movement if the epoxy holds. Something will give and a lot of times it will be the wood floor boards themselves, as they snap in half from the stress. I know because this happened to one of my jobs, some 15 years ago. It was the adhesive affect of the industrial finish ( much like what you used ) that provided the glue effect, that then caused what we call panelizing of the floor. Four or five boards will stick together and pull the next one in half. With a loud snap.

You remove an old floor the opposite way it went in. Start at the far end of the room where the last few boards were laid. These will have their tongues pointing toward the wall. The last 2-3 rows will be face nailed. You will only have to crack one board in the last row to remove it. Then use a cat's paw restorer at http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?SID=&ccurrency=1&page=32014&category=1,43456,43399.

This tool will gently remove the boards without damaging them. Try to scoot the thin edge of the catspaw under where the floor is nailed, and pry just a little at a time. Once you work backwards into the room and get some working space you can use a larger tool: http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?SID=&ccurrency=1&page=32015&category=1,43456,43399. The renovator bar will ease up the most stubborn boards.

Take out the flooring nails in the boards by pulling them through the back of the board. This will save the face of the wood from being damaged. Use nailing pulling pliers for this job at http://www.leevalley.com/hardware/page.asp?SID=&ccurrency=1&page=32024&category=3,41306,41331. But for really stubborn nails you may have to cut them off with the same tool. Don't be tempted to pound them back through the way the came, this will, like I said, always damage the face and the tongue.

Be sure to follow the general directions as spelled out in the Strip Floor article, which can be found in through the search box at the top of the web page. You can also check out the article on the use of Oil Modified Polyurethane. It's very detailed, and will teach you how best to apply the poly without bubbles and pits that most people experience when using this material. Well worth the read.

You may also find these articles helpful:

1. How To Repair A Hardwood Floor For D.I.Y

2. How To Chemically Strip Wood Floors without dust!

3. How To Sand Wood Floors Without Leaving Machine Marks

4. How To Apply Oil Based Polyurethane WITHOUT The Pits And Bubbles

5. How To Take Care Of Your Health And Safety when Installing, Finishing, Repairing or Cleaning your wood floors