It’s tempting to want to underbudget when it comes to flooring—it can be so expensive—and yet, says Gita Nandan of Thread Collective, “flooring is the largest expanse of material in your house. It really sets the tone for your whole design.” Sometimes what you see is what you get—you take up a carpet to reveal beautiful wide pine plank flooring in excellent condition. “Other times,” says Gita, “there’s a whole rotten mess lurking beneath the surface.”
The biggest reason homeowners choose to replace wood flooring is to satisfy aesthetic preferences. “Creaky and unlevel floors might be perfectly charming in a restored historic townhouse, but perhaps jarringly inappropriate in a full gut apartment renovation that is more refined and modern,” says Worrell Yeung’s Jejon Yeung. At the same time, certain conditions may make salvaging an existing floor all but impossible. Jejon’s firm recently completed a renovation project in a prewar loft building that had been untouched for several decades. “The original wood flooring certainly had a lot of character but had over six inches of tilt from one end to the other, and areas of deterioration where you could see into the unit below. Full replacement, in this case, was a no-brainer in terms of costs.”
If there’s significant damage to a large part of the floor, or if you’re renovating and moving walls around, it will almost always be more time- and cost-efficient to replace. Keep in mind that not all damage is superficial. “Does the floor creak? Does it wiggle when you walk over it? Are there soft spots? Is it level and is it flat?” says Luis Medina, head of construction at STUDIO 397 Architecture. “These are all things that call for further investigation, as they may indicate a bigger issue beneath the surface.” Subfloor deterioration due to mold or termites can go unseen, but eventually degrade the underside of any wood flooring put on top of it. In some older homes, says Tal Schori of GRT Architects, there is no subfloor at all. “Which means your flooring is the only thing between you and the room or apartment below,” he says. This can limit the types and intensity of repairs the flooring can take.
The good news is that hardwood is durable—especially wood in historic homes, where planks were generally much thicker. Often, an original floor with some minor surface damages or imperfections—peeling, deep grooves, slight warping—may be refinished or repaired. A good floor, says Tal, can be sanded down in part or in full and refinished several times to look almost-new (expect to have to take off about an eighth of an inch). “Floors can have many lives,” says Tal. If you are replacing a few planks here and there, however, keep in mind that different kinds of wood take stain differently, says Elizabeth Roberts of Elizabeth Roberts Architects. “If you have a white oak floor that’s currently sealed with a light stain or a clear polyurethane finish, going darker should be no problem,” she says. “Taking a dark floor, on the other hand, and going lighter might not be possible without bleaching, which can be costly and time-consuming.”
Repairing individual damaged planks can be easier in rooms like bedrooms or finished basements, where you can design around flaws with area rugs or placement of furniture. “For new floors on a budget, we’ve deployed strategies of prioritizing long wood planks in the larger open rooms where they are most visible, and hiding shorter boards under beds and furniture,” says Max Worrell of Worrell Yeung. “The same could be done with the grade and appearance of the wood, for example knots and checks, to avoid paying premiums for fully clear wood or solely long planks.” In common areas like an open kitchen or living room, though, it can be harder to spot-fix. In this case, opting for a high-gloss finish may be one way to help hide imperfections like chips or cracks, says Tal; Elizabeth suggests painting a floor as a cost-effective way to change the appearance of a wood floor in not-so-good shape.
While Elizabeth points out that most designers and architects will encourage homeowners to work with a floor that’s in generally good condition—“there is something so special about keeping a floor that came with the house 150 years ago, with all its history and character,” she says—not every historic floor can or even has to be saved. If you’d prefer to rip up your perfectly fine floor and start over, you can send the wood to a salvage company. “Just make sure your architect or designer specifies that any removed wood isn’t to be sent to the dumpster,” says Gita, who sources much of the reclaimed wood she uses for flooring from Olde Good Things and Sawkill Reclaimed Woods. “Beautiful old lumber should not be wasted. You don’t have to keep it, but you should do the right thing with it.”
Source: Architectural Digest - Florida Real Estate Photography Blog - DeVore Design offers real estate photography, aerial photography and real estate videos from in Daytona Beach, Orlando, Lakeland and Tampa. We encourage you to share our content!