Is It possible to level a floor and still reuse the original floor boards?
Can I level and restore my original pine floors?
Wonky, uneven and sloping floors are a common feature in older properties and we often get asked to level uneven floors. Occasionally customers contact us to enquire about levelling and restoring their original wooden floors. We understand the pressures behind this question. Most people are delighted when they discover original pine floorboards hiding under their carpets. With the cost of building materials skyrocketing, naturally, the mind wonders if the original boards can be lifted and the subfloor flattened, and then if possible re-fit, sand and oil the original boards. In theory this can be done but in reality, in most cases it is not a profitable investment. Find out why.
We have the skills to level and strengthen your subflooor.
We can help you consider if levelling and restoring is a good investment for your home.
Can I still salvage the old boards?
The real difficulty is reusing the weak, old pine floorboards. Bear in mind that original pine floor boards can be over 150 years old. There will inevitably be some damage as these are lifted up. The clasp nails in the joist need to be carefully picked out and this will result in some cracks or holes. Even with the right tools and experience there will be many weakened or even snapped boards.
The edges of some old floors were painted in tar to protect it from rotting and they still have thick black borders.
Salvaging old boards will result in some damage.
How do you level the floor?
The way we level the floor depends on the construction of the subfloor. In older properties with wooden joists (suspended floors), we tend to strengthen the joists with new wood joists. In properties with concrete subfloors, it’s a case of levelling out the higher areas and filling dips with a latex self-levelling compound. We have many years of experience in fixing and repairing both types of uneven subfloors but we would need a full site visit to establish the condition of your floor.
Usually there is a difference of a few cm within one room but the worst situation we encountered was a staggering 17 cm drop within a room. In general the best method is to wedge the joists with new wood of gradually increasing sizes. This allows us to gently level out the floor and compensate for the lower areas. The new joists are screwed and glued to the existing joists, to create a stronger, more stable and level subfloor. A good quality plywood is then fitted to the joists and then the wood flooring is installed on top of this.
Once the existing floorboards are removed we always clean the area between the joists. This space is usually filthy with old building waste and contributes to a build up of moisture and dampness.
Stairs also need levelling and strengthening.
We use a self-levelling compound to level concrete subfloors.
Another factor to consider when thinking of restoring original floorboards is the limited life span. Victorian pine floorboards were never intended to be the finished floor. Many floors have rust stains in the wood caused by rusting iron nails in the floor. As the walls in these older properties were usually damp, the outside edges of the flooring was painted in tar to protect it from rotting and they still have these thick black borders.The original boards were suspended over joists, so as the wood takes on moisture it expands and contracts, leading to gaps between the boards. These can cause draughts, leading to a cold room. Also as pine is a softwood, it marks and dents more easily.
In summary, these floors were never intended to be on show and were merely a practical, economical sub-flooring material. Sanding the floor reduces the thickness and affects the structural integrity and it won’t remove all the imperfections.
Restored original floorboards have a limited life span.
Sanding the floor reduces the thickness and won’t remove all the imperfections.
Consider the cost
If you like a shabby chic, rustic look, then you may be content with the final look of the refurbished and level original pine floor but for most customers the look is too shabby and not worth the investment
In most cases we find the cost of levelling and restoring original floorboards overtakes the cost of getting a new level floor which will last in a good condition for many more years to come.
Find out more about why your floor is unlevel and how we can help you level it.
Read more about restoring original pine floorboards.