Okay, so today I’m…

Okay, so today I'm waffling about flooring. We had hoped that would could restore and refinish the wood floors throughout the house (see right), but the flooring guy says no dice. They've just been sanded too many times, and are basically down to the tongue and groove with nailheads showing at this point -- if we tried to refinish them, we'd end up with a ton of gapping between the boards, and not in an attractive sort of way. Plus boards popping up, etc. So we're going to put new hardwood floors throughout the house. Sad, but oh well.

Which means we have to make choices. Choice one: thin strips versus wide planks. The house currently has thin strips, and I had thought that we'd need to stay with that in order to keep the Victorian look. But after a bit of online research, I think wide planks are also reasonably authentic (although perhaps heading more in a farmhouse direction?) Any opinions on that? Kevin and I both prefer the look of the wide planks, and although we've been warned that they're more expensive, if they're not too much more expensive, I think we'd like to do them. Unless someone wants to convince me that they'd look totally wrong in a formal Victorian dining room, or that the thin strips are prettier than I think? The wide planks would look something like this:

Choice two is about wood type. The floors are currently oak, and replacing them with white oak and then staining them to the color we want is definitely an option. But Kevin brought up the possibility of bamboo, which is sustainable and available in a much wider array of options than when I last looked at it several years ago, some of them quite pretty. But would any bamboo look okay in an old house, or would it just look jarring and weird? (I should note that I'm not committed to only doing historic materials or anything as strict as that -- but I want to minimize the super-modern elements. We'll have some appliances, no doubt, but I'm anti-recessed lighting, for example, because it just looks too modern to me for this house.) So maybe bamboo would be okay? Any other types of wood I should be considering?

Would reclaimed floors (from old barns and the like) be too expensive? I found this guide, but not sure how these prices compare to other wood flooring:

"The cost of recycled wood flooring will vary depending on the species, the rarity of the wood and the available supply. Prices range anywhere from $4.00 per square foot for cabin-grade antique pine up to $30.00 per square foot for antique chestnut.

"The following price ranges are given as an example for the various types of wood. Keep in mind that inventories change and pricing reflects the quality, grade and quantity of reclaimed wood available at any given time.

  • Wood Species Cost Range Per Sq. Foot
  • Antique Chestnut $8 - $30
  • Antique Heart Pine $4 - $22
  • Antique Oak $8 - $17
  • Antique Maple $8 - $13
  • Douglas Fir $7 - $20
  • Tropical Hardwoods (varied) $9 - $19
Leaving aside the cost for the moment, is it too distressed a look?

There are lots of reclaimed wood options, of course. Here's a lovely reclaimed oak from Carlisle (we're going to check out their Chicago showroom on Wednesday next week):

And choice three is, assuming we end up picking something like the white oak and staining it, what color wood would we like? I loved the Brazilian cherry floors in our condo, and they actually had them in Victorian homes a hundred years ago, which surprised me, but I'm worried that they'll feel overly trendy. I like the look of dramatic dark wood floors, and certainly the wood in the house's basement which has aged a hundred years is nice and dark, but I'm also worried that that's a very trendy look right now, and its current popularity is biasing my opinion of it. (Also, I'm told that dark wood shows scratches and dust pretty badly.) I definitely don't like light wood, so that's out. But I'm torn between medium wood tones, reddish wood tones, and dark wood tones. (Not super ebony dark, though; that's definitely too modern for me.)

Any opinions on any of the above? So many decisions to make!

5 thoughts on “Okay, so today I’m…”

  1. My building was built in 1906. My floors are the original fir. It’s a reddish-gold color. I *love* my floors, they’re so warm looking. In the sunlight, they just glow. I have several neighbors in my building who have replaced their floors with bamboo, and they’re quite happy with it. To my eye it looks more modern, but it isn’t jarring they’ve styled their places more modern as well, however. Best of luck with this decision! It’s an important one. I love the look of the reused wood, personally, myself.

  2. I absolutely love all three of the reclaimed oak examples. I think my favorite is the varigated color one; the photo with the floor lamp.

  3. Well, you’ve heard most of my opinions already, but I wanted to give a dissenting opinion about the reclaimed wood. To me it would be entirely inappropriate in a Victorian. One of the consistent things about Victorian woodwork is that it does not have variated colors. Oh, they might use different light vs dark wood for accents, but all the wood for a floor would be the same question, generally with very little graining effect. Ditto for walls: the main part would generally be a finegrained wood stained so the graining is not too noticeable to get a consistent color. Victorians would have shuddered at all the knotty pine floating around today! And oak was considered cheap looking too. So I think the reclaimed wood would just be wrong, although it would be lovely in a farmhouse as you suggest. If you could get finely textured bamboo without too much color variation, I think it could look nice in a Victorian and not jarringly out of place. In my opinion, the key is uniformity of color.

    I prefer wide planks and I believe they were actually preferred at the time. I think the use of wide planks decreased due to a lack of supply (too many big trees cut down for naval ships) rather than a preference for narrow.

  4. For what it is worth, I prefer wide planks (3 1/2 inches or wider). I think too wide and too rustic, however, would be too informal for what you want. We just put in hardwoood floors at the Commons Condominium in Los Gatos where we will be spending a lot of time I think. We chose a distressed brazilian cherry from ARK. It was pre-finished and cost about $5.50 / sq. foot and another $4-5 / sq. foot to install not including baseboards. The installer was impresssed with the quality and it looks good. I don’t know whether you’re considering pre-finished but I think that is substantially less expensive and there are an unlimited number of choices and very durable depending on the type of wood. You can get hand scraped or distressed pre-finished flooring but I’m not sure you want too informal a look although I like the look in general. We found that there are numerous choices of all woods. Pecan and Chestnut are medium brown in color and not as red as Brazilian cherry although we found the redness in Brazilian cherry to vary significantly depending upon the manufacturer. If you decide on prefinished boards, at least based upon prices here, you should be able to find a quality choice for under $ 10 / square foot not including installation. I don’t know if this helps and I claim no expertise other than what I learned through looking. Also, you probably don’t want too soft a wood given children and a dog.

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