Old House, New Floor:

Preparations For Hardwood Flooring

 
In This Article:

We cut off the bottom of the door jamb, lay red rosin paper, and layout the reference line.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 2-3 (Basic to Moderate) Time Taken: 2 Hours

By , Editor

There are several preliminary steps that must be taken before a hardwood floor can be installed, such as making accurate base lines to guide the first rows of wood. Also, if the door jambs are not removed, the jambs may need to be cut off.

The bedroom being remodeled had just received a coat of veneer plaster, two coats of primer and one coat of paint.

We will apply a second coat of paint after the hardwood floor is finished. The floor installation and sanding process tends to mark the walls.

 

At the beginning of this project we had ripped up the carpet and old painted softwood flooring. Then we fastened a layer of 7/16" OSB (Oriented Strand Board) on top of the old sub-floor, to provide a secure and gap-free surface.

The original sub-floor is made of wide 1-by planks, most of which are 11 to 15 inches wide, but some are as wide as 19 inches. That's like a 1x20. You don't find that kind of lumber any more.

One problem with the old sub-floor is the wide gaps between planks. Some of these gaps are big enough to lose a dog through them! But seriously, the gaps, as big as 3/8" in places, allow movement of air, water, bugs, rodents, and, in the worst case, easier spread of fire.

Drawbacks of OSB:

Since installing the OSB I have read about some drawbacks to particle board sheathing materials. If OSB gets wet repeatedly it will swell much more than plywood, and after a few wettings it becomes more absorbent, which is a troubling feature. Also, OSB impedes the flow of water vapor, sometimes resulting in fungus formation on the underside of the sheet. With a full basement below, fungal growth should not be a problem, but OSB installed on a floor over a crawl space could let fungus build up as water vapor rises up from damp soil and cannot escape.

If we had to do it over again, we would have used 1/2" plywood, which costs about twice as much as 7/16" OSB.

 

Unlike other rooms we remodeled, we left the door and jambs in place on this room.

But when it came time to prepare for the hardwood floor, we realized that we needed to install some strips of flooring directly under the door jambs. Otherwise, when we remodel the adjoining room (the dining room) we would have to remove the door, causing a newly finished room to have no protection from the dust and dirt of the work in the next project area.

 

So we peeled back the carpeting (that brown surface is the original floor) and lopped off a chunk.

 

We pried up the small pieces of carpet tack strip.

 

Then we used a circular saw (my oldest saw, with a "trash" blade that has met many nails) to cut through the old flooring in the doorway.

 

The old softwood flooring was removed with a flat pry bar.

 

The original sub-floor was exposed. See what I mean about wide gaps?

We installed a strip of 7/16" OSB to extend the extra sub-floor we installed at the beginning of this project.

Some Mistakes Needed Correcting:

When we installed the OSB supplemental sub-floor, we foolishly failed to follow the instructions (printed on every sheet of OSB) and did not leave the required 1/8" gap all around the panel. As the summer weather progressed, we noticed that the OSB was curling up around the edges, wherever the panels were butted close together.

 

Why Does This Matter?

This is an often-ignored rule with contractors and carpenters. A few months ago I looked at a house that had just been re-roofed with new OSB and shingles, and there were slight ridges at 4-foot and 8-foot intervals. You could see the outline of each sheet of OSB. The lady had spent $9,000 getting her roof replaced, and was not happy.

Manufacturers put these warnings and instructions on their products for a reason, not just for fun. Their engineers have determined that warnings must be made, or they will face liability problems. When people don't follow these instructions they are "playing engineer" and taking things into their own hands.

 

To correct this problem, I simply cut along the edge of the OSB panels with a circular saw, with the depth set to cut only the thickness of the OSB.

 

It took about two minutes, and the proper gaps were created.

 

I spent another minute smoothing out the curled edges with a belt sander.

 

Cutting The Door Jambs:

This handy tool is a Japanese pull saw. The blade is very thin, very flexible, and quite sharp. It cuts on the pull stroke.

 

This product carries the "Shark Saw" brand. We bought it at Sears for around $20.

The neat part is that the handle is removable so it fits in one of our tool boxes.

 

We laid the pull saw on top of a scrap of flooring and carefully cut the jambs.

 

We placed a piece of flooring under the jambs to test the fit. The thin blade left a tiny gap that will surely not be noticed.

 

A Small Opportunity:

Before the evidence got concealed, we took a few minutes to mark the joist locations and stud locations on the lower part of the wall. These marks will be covered by the 7 inch tall baseboard.

 

We caulked the gap at the bottom of the wall. This should prevent some cold air infiltration, and possibly reduce the number of bugs that crawl in. 

This is an opportunity that is passed up by virtually every contractor whose work I have seen. It just doesn't add any visible value, but costs (a little) money. If people become aware of this, maybe they will demand it.

 

Smoothing the caulk is quick and simple and gives the best result.

For 26 feet of exterior wall it took half a tube of caulk and a whopping ten minutes of work.

 

We rolled out the red carpet. 

Actually this is red rosin paper, which is used as an underlayment for wood flooring.

 

This innocent-looking tool is actually quite evil. It's called a hammer-tacker, but I call it a finger-wrecker.

It's a staple gun that drives a staple on impact. You swing it like a hammer...

 

... only it doesn't really work that way. A hammer head hits the board and leaves room for your hand. 

In order to keep from bashing your knuckles, you'll instinctively hold the hammer-tacker like this, but at this angle it doesn't drive staples worth a darn.

 

When it works well, which is rarely, it still leaves the staples sticking up a bit. This staple could interfere with the flooring. So all the staples had to be tapped down with a hammer.

Plus it tends to puncture the material being stapled.

 

Why do I call it The Evil Finger-Wrecker? 

Last fall I was installing some fiberglass insulation, and I grabbed this rascal instead of my other two staple guns. This tool is fast and easy, though many staples don't go in properly. I should have known better, I suppose, but I was holding the insulation with one hand and whacking in the staples with the other. I was stapling precariously close to my hand. I was working on ceiling insulation. A nine foot ceiling. I managed to whack my index finger. I wish I had smacked my finger with a plain old hammer, because that spreads the force out over a larger area. I have never felt such pain. I think it took an hour for the cuss words to stop flying. I was literally unable to work for an entire day. My fingernail turned the loveliest shade of blue. After a month it fell off, which had its own painful consequences.

 

Laying Out The Reference Lines:

We decided that the door jambs represented the best base line for the layout of the flooring. The wall nearest the first row, which is the most logical choice for a base line, had a bad warp to it, so it was ruled out.

We set a straightedge across the jamb (with blocks to space it away from the plaster) and made a mark.

 

Then we used the biggest square we could find... a drywall T-square... and set it against the straightedge. We made a line.

 

These are the first two layout lines, which have been digitally enhanced to make them more visible.

 

From this geometry we made a longer reference line with an ordinary chalk line.

 

The end result looked something like this.

At this point we were ready to proceed with the hardwood floor installation.

 

Continue To: Installing A Hardwood Floor

 

 

Tools Used:

  • Circular Saw
  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Chalk Line
  • Pry Bars
  • Pull Saw
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • OSB, 7/16"
  • Red Rosin Paper
  • Staples
  • Caulk

Back To Top Of Page 
 

Before You Hurt Yourself,  Read our Disclaimer.

Search Page

Home  What's New  Project Archives  H.I. World

 Rants  Contact Us

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2001, 2005  HammerZone.com

Written July 23, 2001
Revised January 11, 2005