Dear PoP – flooring questions

Photo by PoPville flickr user julianne’s

“Dear PoP,

Two related questions for your readers:

1) Recommendations for hardwood floor repair/refinishing. I am hoping to be able to patch the original hardwood that’s under the carpet, but have no idea what kind of shape it’s in. It’s probably bad, given that there seems to be an extra layer of plywood over the old wood. If it can’t be patched, we’d probably want to have the old stuff removed and a new floor put in. Being able to salvage part of it for re-use elsewhere would be great, but I have heard varying opinions on the feasibility of doing that.

2) Carpet installation. I love hardwood floors as much as anyone, but I also admit to liking carpet upstairs. Not our current carpet, though, which is awful and needs replacing.”

19 Comment

  • Hands down – Universal Floors, they do a great job.

    They do a lot of high end jobs and historical restorations, but their fees are reasonable. I dont know how they figure it, but it came out to about $2 per square foot for refinishing…

    • Agreed – I’ve had Universal do two houses and they look great. Strongly recommend Waterlox Tung/varnish instead of polyurethene.

      • Make it a 3rd recommendation for Universal. I had them do my entire house last year (~2500 sq/ft of hardwood) and they were punctual, clean and did a great job. They were about middle of the road in terms of price…cost me about $3.10 a sq/ft but that will depend on how much you have and the state of your hardwood.

    • +1 on Universal Floors. They salvaged what looked to be totally trashed floors in my house. Turns out it is century old heart pine, and with their work, it’s stunning!

    • Universal Floors, without question. I’ve used them in two houses and I couldn’t have been happier.

  • Have you looked under the plywood? If there’s nothing under it but the original hardwood, then patching and refinishing could be considered. It depends on how much patching needs to be done, and where the patches are located. The closer to the edge of the room, the better. For instance, you can replace a damaged floorboard that runs perpendicular up to a baseboard by chiseling it out and then popping in a matching board that’s had its tongue cut down. But that only works if the replacement board is short–max. 20″-24″. Get your patch boards from elsewhere in the house–maybe upstairs when you redo the carpet.

    If you’re considering salvaging the floor for re-use, understand that it is incredibly time-consuming to pry up tongue-and-groove flooring.

    • Thanks – I wrote this to PoP. The plywood part is actually upstairs, under carpet, so getting under there to see what the original hardwood/subfloor/whatever is complicated. We have carpet over what I believe are the original floors in the rest of the upstairs, so the fact that this one room has original floor + plywood + carpet makes me think there’s a really ugly surprise down there.

      I wouldn’t expect to pry up tongue and groove flooring for full re-use, just for patching. Perhaps in other rooms upstairs if we don’t put down carpet. Are you saying that’s a reasonable thing to do, just not to expect to be able to take it all up and put it back down elsewhere?

      • Not necessarily. I work professionally with old houses. When it comes to taking off modern layers to get to original materials (carpets on wood floors, vinyl siding on wood siding, etc.), there are three possibilities. A previous owner had horrible conditions due to lack of maintenance and just wanted to cover it up instead of repair it, or as a matter of taste they just wanted something different (carpet, permastone, etc.), or they got suckered by a good salesman.

        Yes you can’t be certain what’s underneath, so it’s a gamble, but in my experience you’re more likely to find good quality original materials that can be repaired. More often then not, someone covered up original materials as a matter of taste or at the persuasion of a salesman.

        Doing a little exploring around the edges, peek underneath and see if you can narrow down your odds before committing to the whole project.

  • The Carpet Yard is excellant. They have done carpet for me in two houses. They have two locations, I have only dealt with the McLean store, the staff is very professional.

  • Not Jon.

    Jon recommends Premire floors. They just finished doing exactly what the questioner described to our bedroom and they were professional, affordable, and we are very happy with the results. Hardwood rules.

  • Angel Floors ( did a great job on my house, they were cheap, they were prompt, they were easy to work with, and they know how to work with odd flooring situations.

    I recommend them.

    • If insurance is paying for it: go with Universal by all means.

      If you’re paying for it: go with Robinson Floors. Great reviews on Angie’s List. Did my floors for half the price of Universal.

  • Keep wood floors on the ground floor and traffic area. Carpet in the bedrooms.

    Old wooden floors can be ruined by hiring inexperienced sanders and refinishers.

    When you’ve been doing the same thing for over 50 years, you’ve seen it all and there are no surprises. I don’t know if Captain Lynn is still around, but call the sons, one of the Lynn brothers at Universal Floors 537.8900.

    If you’re doing other major interior renovations, flooring should be done last.

    Universal will help you identify your type old wood flooring, its thickness and suitability for sanding and refinishing.

  • Get this month’s Old House Journal. Two big articles about DIY wood floor repair and refinishing with easy to follow how-to photos. This guy’s website is the best education in how it’s possible to refinish your old floors. Too bad his shop is in Minneapolis. Still worthwhile to peruse.

    • Agreed! We followed Thid Old House and rented one of the plate sanders from Home Depot. We used a finish from Vermont Natural Coatings made from whey. Very low VOC, dries within hours, pets could go on it without worrying about toxicity. The application was very easy as was the sanding. Four rooms total. Floors came out awesome.

    • Thanks, both for this suggestion and the reply above. We have a toddler, so free time is nonexistent, but I will pick up that magazine anyway in case we get an unexpectedly free day.

      Re the condition of the floors under the plywood… based on other things we’ve seen in this house, I am fairly sure that what’s underneath is bad and they were too lazy to properly deal with it. I think we’re going to completely pull up the carpet in another bedroom, one without the extra plywood layer, because the dog has used it as her personal bathroom one too many times. Hopefully that will give us a decent indication as to what we might expect elsewhere. Frankly, anything is better than the carpet at this point!

      Thanks to everyone else for the recommendations, too. If we follow through on the floors, I’ll send PoP some before & after pics.

  • We have a toddler and I’ll just say, don’t “do it yourself” unless you want to end up divorced with a toddler, or living with a ripped up sawdust covered floor for half a year.

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