Antique Wood

My Kitchen Reno Progress: The Antique Wood Floor

In the early stages

of my kitchen reno we discovered the original wood floor boards (the same as we uncovered and refinished throughout the front part and 2nd floor of the house) were not going to  be salvageable.  Sadly, after scraping off the current top layer of vinyl we discovered the plywood sheeting that was installed over the original floor boards was screwed down with a million screws all spaced randomly closely together. Each attempt to remove a screw resulted in the heads being stripped or breaking off.  There’s only one way to remove a subfloor like this and its not easy - its backbreaking tedious work requiring a skill saw to partially cut thru the boards and then pry up the wood in bits and pieces while also cutting the screws off. Its a slow process and after all that prying and removing of screws the floor boards underneath would suffer a lot of damage. It would result in a lot more time, a lot more work, a lot more money to end up with not so great boards.   My heart and mind were set on having the same antique wood boards continuous throughout the house but the time and effort needed to uncover and then restore the kitchen boards wasn’t practical and didn’t make sense to pursue. I needed to come up with another solution, and fast, since we had just demolished the old kitchen.

The original floors in the rest of the house after being stripped of paint, ready for finishing.

I knew without a doubt I wanted wood floors in the kitchen as the house did originally. Trying to find new wood to install right next to the antique floors in the rest of the house wasn’t appealing to me, at all. Distressing new wood to make it look like old, also wasn’t appealing to me (besides the last thing I needed is another project). The entire point of the kitchen floor is I had never given it a second thought, there was no over thinking or contemplating choices,,,they would just be wood as you would expect them to be in a house of this age.  Nothing imported, nothing decorative, in other words not over designed,  I would just be peeling back the layers to restore some original character - or so I thought.  Turns out I needed to another layer not peel away.  : /  Fortunately in Nova Scotia there are a lot of re-sellers of antique wood flooring as well as suppliers for salvaged architectural wood products.  One of my concerns was that we didn’t know what species our original floors are and it’s important to me they be the same.   Up until this point no one had been able to identify the species, hemlock?, pine?, ash? all we knew is it was local.

After a bit of research I found a supplier who demolishes dilapitated historical houses, piece by piece, salvaging and re-selling the components. A few of the houses recently dismantled looked to be of the same age, size and character of our house. I sent off some pictures of our floor boards and they easily identified them for me as red spruce from approx 1875.  Lucky for me they had several batches of salvaged boards that matched, this would be my perfect solution.  Unfortunately for me it was early February and we would need to wait a month or two before we could search thru their inventory which wasn't accessible until the snow melted.

The antique boards I selected.

On Easter weekend we finally made the trip to pick up the wood.  I was thrilled to find a batch of smooth, previously walked-on, unpainted flooring boards, which meant they would be fairly easy to refinish as they wouldn't need to be planed or grinded down.  And, the fact the boards came out of a house on the South Shore was also perfectly fitting.   What wasn't perfectly fitting was that the boards were so long (some were over 16' long) we had to cut them down to less than 11' in order to fit in the trailer, this meant we wouldn't be able to do single continuous boards across the width of the kitchen, like the rest of the house, but it was a small compromise I was happy to work with.  On the spot I calculated the best lengths to cut so the seams would be under the cabinets or in inconspicuous places, and counted off the quantity of boards we needed as they were loaded up - using a piece of bark for a make-shift note pad.

Since the boards are all planks and not tongue and groove, they were face nailed in place, they're also random width, rarely two boards the same size.  I did a dry layout in key areas to make sure the best boards were used in the most visible open areas and placed the cut boards so the joints were staggered and as discreet as possible.  The task of trying to align two cut pieces so the widths and colouration matched was a challenge, in hindsight we should have marked each piece of a cut board at the time it was cut so we could pair them up easily.  Once the 'art directing' of the layout was done,,,I took a jet plane out of there while all the dusty and noisy work happened, first sanding and then nailing - 6" nails, each one pounded in by hand.  It was a long and noisy installation.

Newly laid old boards, sanded and ready for finish coat.

I returned a week or so later to find the floor completely laid and ready for its finish coat, it was wonderfully smooth and felt amazing underfoot.  I was happy to see that so much of the patina remained after the sanding, they had a subtle greyness to them and beautiful blackened crevices.

The newly laid antique kitchen flooring viewed from the back sun room (family room).

Where the kitchen and the addition on the back of the house meet there was already a 3/4" transition in flooring height and now with the new installation of the kitchen floor that transition got even larger but we made the best of it by sloping a threshold between the two rooms.  

The newly top coated floor and a peek of the other finishes going in the room. 

Next up I'll post about the cabinets and the other details in the room.  Here's a little sneak peek of some of the finishes with the floor.  The cabinets are painted in a colour  inspired by vintage crockery….

Check out the previous post for the first look at the kitchen reno, the before and after floor plans.

All photos:   Carol Reed

Springing Into Summer

Spring has come and gone and I didn't manage to get a single update on the blog.  Maybe because I was so pre-occupied waiting for Spring like weather to arrive I didn't realize it had come and gone, already?  So instead of jumping back in with new regular posts (I've already prepared a couple) I thought I'd do a quick recap of what I've been pre-occupied with during the past few months, wow the time has flown by - in 4 different time zones no less.  I love that with the advancement of technology and travel I can work on projects in various cities, provinces or countries.  Principles of design are universal but I really enjoy being exposed to different regional traditions and lifestyles as well as exploring the local materials that influence the design of a home. 

Upper East Side reno project, Living Room progress.

NYC - Construction on the UES reno project was completed some time ago and after taking a much needed break from more than a year and a half of reno madness, the homeowners were ready to focus on furnishings and decor.  So with the hard work done and a great canvas in place we've been working together on the furniture room by room.  The very first pieces to arrive this spring for the living room where the sofas and the area carpet.  So much more to come, tables, lamps, pillows, mirrors,,,its very exciting to see it coming together.  (no the table in the corner is not part of the new furniture plan ; )).

A whole home renovation near Sydney, Australia

AUS - Over the winter (their summer) construction started on a whole home renovation I designed for clients in Australia not far from Sydney, she's an expat from Toronto and he's a native Australian. Aside from having to learn some new jargon and conversing in metric, the process was no different than renovating in North America.  The entire renovation was completed in slightly more than 3 months and the homeowners moved back into the home in early May.  I'm looking forward to sharing more about this project on the blog and its entirely new floor plan.  The project began with a very modern vision of a white on white interior and for the most part stayed true to that initial concept.

Stony Lake Cottage main entrance sneak peek.

ONTARIO - In May I was in Toronto getting started on a couple of new renovation projects one is in Oakville and is a family home for a young couple and I'm so excited to get started on the design planning and the other is a master suite renovation for long time clients in Port Credit.   I also headed up to cottage country to get some progress photos of the Stony Lake project which wrapped up last summer.  It was finished and furnished enough for use last season, some more furniture and small accessories are still needed to fill in some gaps but its been a huge transformation so far.  Lots more before and after posts to come.  

Sneak peek of Karen's new kitchen.
Image from: The Art of Doing Stuff.
Over the spring I enjoyed keeping in touch with Karen and helping her work thru some final details on her long anticipated kitchen installation.  Its finally finished and ready for its close up, in fact its being shot for Canadian Living magazine this coming week.  If you haven't seen the sneak peeks on Karen's blog yet, click on over and have a look, as I try and contain myself from showing you the rest of it - which I've already seen, and its fantastic!! 

Field of beams.  Reclaimed antique wood, in Canning, Nova Scotia.

NOVA SCOTIA - Home of the world's slowest renovation, my own house project came to a halt in the winter when early into the kitchen phase of the reno we discovered we just couldn't salvage the existing wood floor boards.  Sheets of plywood screwed down with a million screws would make it almost impossible to remove without doing a lot of damage to the wood floor beneath.  The good news is I was able to track down some antique wood flooring of the same age and species.  The bad news is we had to wait for the snow to disappear before we could get access to where the wood was stored.  It was a looooong snowy things were at a standstill for a while but an update on my kitchen reno is coming soon, soon as I have some progress photos.  Any day now.  : / 

That's a really brief update on some of the things that have been keeping me busy without even mentioning the garden work I'm trying to do or the many E-design orders I've had the pleasure of working on.  I couldn't be more excited that Summer's here and especially to be able to enjoy most of it on the East Coast!

All Photos and drawings:  Carol Reed, except where photo is credited otherwise.