Hardwood Floors: Getting the best bang for the buck

6 Replies

I love hardwood floors and prefer them over vinyl and laminate, but wood is very expensive.

Does anybody have experience with either utility oak or reclaimed hardwood?

Utility oak is commonly a low grade hard wood, usually comes in 1-2 foot lengths and is very imperfect to say the least. For example, www.Hardwoods4less.com sells for $1.70/sq foot, but since the peices are short length the install time goes up along with labor cost.

Reclaimed hardwood seems to be more common in the midwest when factories, houses, schools or old buildings in general are gutted and the contractors re-sell old material. The concerns with this are they typically are well used but have tons of life. If stored incorrectly the wood can become warped and difficult to install. 

Are there any folks here that have a lot of experience with either of these? I'm thinking about installing either of these two materials in a duplex in Ohio.

Hi Alex, 

I've done both a number of times. My feeling is that shorts never look as good as the material batches they came from, especially if the color grade / match of the original product bundles wasn't very high in the first place. We typically cull the shorts just for that reason. Re-purposed material material always takes way to much time (and skill) to install to yield a savings although it does look great if done well. Wood flooring is one of those areas where it's really hard to find a great deal. We're doing a flip now in Portland Maine and my plan is to find air dried, rough sawn hardwood, plane it and size it, and then install it as wide plank flooring. I'm able to do this because I have the machinery to do it with, but doubt that I'll save any money in the process. I think it will lend a uniqueness that will help the house to sell more quickly and for a higher price so I'm feeling that it's worth the effort. Sorry not to have anything more brilliant to offer as a solution but as I say it's one of the tougher components of a rehab.

We have a home that was redone by a professional flooring guy (who bought it from us before we 'took it back'). He laid the entire second floor using shorts in a herringbone pattern. It's an 'interesting' concept/design but must have been extremely tedious to lay.

@Alex M.

I have specifically used the company you referred to.  I believe the salesman name was Curt.  I recieved the shipment on time.  I did require about probably 20% more then the actual square foot.  I ordered their natural hickory.  We actually installed it in my parents home.  3 people installed a total of about 1400sqft in about 2 days.  So I'm not sure how much extra a carpenter would charge for it being shorts but it's really not that difficult or that much more time consuming.  As for the quality.  A bad piece is a bad piece, once you figure out how to spot them it's no big deal.  Biggest concern was making sure all the joints were staggered.

Typical hardwood flooring installation costs are $1.5 psf - $2.5 psf. I purchased hardwood from Curt at hardwoods4less as well. They were actually really high quality for being a direct wholesaler (quite surprised). I am working on a duplex rehab right now and I am going to go with the Hickory Rustic Grade from that company. Installers will install psf if it's 6' board or 1' boards, it won't change the price. 

@Derek Woods

Since the flooring already comes pre-finished, how has it held up since it was installed. The supplier claims it holds up much better than conventional stain/lacquer coat.

Did the boards all lay down flat or do you have any issues with have edges sticking up?

@Wayne V.

Any tips on what to avoid with re-using old hardwood? Who do you typically find sells this stuff, Craigslist or a a business that specializes in reclaimed wood? It sounds like both options result in higher labor, but the utility grade short pre-finished supply will have less issues.  The last thing I would want is to buy a supply of hardwood from a contractor and end up with material that is unusable!

@Alex M.

The hickory has held up amazing.  I have 2 Bulldogs that are always over and the have 2 Bulldogs that live their and I've never noticed a scratch.  

As for the edges I didn't have a problem.  Their were some boards in the mix that were splintering on the side.  We would just use that as a cut board (only using good portion) along the wall or closet etc.

Their were some knots that we overlooked.  Our solution was to fill the hole with sawdust and glue.  Paint it black.  Use an orbital Palm sander around it and then apply  a coat or two of the matching urethane.  Can't tell we did anything just looks like a black knot (which are normal anyways).