Monday, December 27, 2010

Extreme Floor Restoration

One of the many things that we've been working hard on in our new store is the floor. When we first looked at our building, we noticed there was solid maple flooring underneath the old vinyl tiles that could probably be rescued. After all, what floor covering is greener than restoring the floor that's already there? All we had to do was rip up the vinyl and refinish the maple.

And, after 70 years as a hardware store, it probably had a lot of character, too. Well, it turned out to be a bit more complicated than that...

First, we had to move the stairway which led down to the basement. It was inconveniently located in the middle of the room, which made sense when the basement had been used as retail space. In mid-October, we ripped out the stairs, installed new floor joists, and lay new subfloor. A good weekend project, but we were just getting started.

Next, we had to rip up the old vinyl tiles (after first getting them tested for asbestos--these one dated from the 1980s and were clean). The tiles themselves came up easy enough--our 9 year old son Riley and his cousin Ian popped most of them up in about 1/2 an hour. The 1/2" plywood underneath, however, was nailed to the maple with 1 1/2" resin-coated staples and took a lot longer. We hired a crew of about 6 guys and it took them the better part of two days to rip it up and pull all the staples. By the time they were done, the plywood looked like shredded wheat. It was then that we discovered dozens of holes and thousands of staples and nails in the maple floor underneath.

So, the next step was to fix all the holes in the floor, including where the stairway had been. We went up to the Maplewood Re-Use Center and bought 500 square feet of used maple flooring and hired The Transformed Tree to install it, which took several days. Because the flooring is tongue and grooved, it had to be meticulously feathered in to the existing floor.

We fixed some of the smaller holes, ourselves, too. Here's Millie fixing a hole where an old drain pipe had been.

Then, we had to pull thousands of little staples out of the maple and set thousands of nails that had been face-nailed into the surface of almost every individual piece of maple above every floor joist. It takes quite a punch to set a 9 penny nail into solid maple--usually about three hits with a 3-lbs. maul. Dan, our floor guy Shawn Russell, and 3 other guys got the job done after about 4 grueling days of work.

In one spot, we saw that someone had started to sand the floor previously and then gave up. It seemed clear, after several days on our hands and knees, that the nails and staples had deterred them. Which was probably why the vinyl flooring had been installed in the first place. It seems we were just a little more stubborn.

Finally, Shawn was ready to start sanding. He started off with some extremely course 14 grit sandpaper paper, which showed immediate results. Then, he worked up to finer grits. It took 4 days of sanding before he was ready to apply the polyurethane.

And here's the finished floor, finally completed just a few days before Christmas. We used a commercial grade low-odor water-based polyurethane which won't off-gas and should last for years. The floor is beautiful, although it does look a bit "distressed" in places. This was a hardware store for 70 years, after all. It's one of many things that remind us that our building has a history and has played an important part in its community for a long time. We're proud to be continuing that tradition.

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