Laying Hardwood

Sanding the oak flooring on the second story of the caveWith the second floor completely open, for aesthetic and structural purposes, we laid the hardwood on a 45-degree angle.  To make life easier, and allow for later changes to our room layout, we did it all before adding the walls. 

Using utility-grade oak meant spending a great deal of time sorting out the heavily checked and broken pieces, but we kept most of the ones with knots and odd coloration.  We liked the character this would add to our floor.

We spent months laying the floor and lots of our friends and family participated in this effort.  Curt’s brother, Damon, was amongst the fastest and most skilled, zipping through row after row at lightning-speed. 

After laying the floor, matching wood putty to fill the knots took several weeks.  Once this was done, we rented a floor sander from Home Depot.  With a great deal of help from Pat Youngman (who had much more confidence than we did), we sanded the floor and prepared for the finish by setting up a makeshift sand shield out of 2 X 4’s and plastic sheeting. 

We chose a tung-oil finish for several reasons.  In a conventional home, a polyurethane finish takes less maintenance, but with constant sand falling and the occasional humidity spikes, we needed something that would hold up to our unique indoor climate.  Polyurethane seals on the surface and scratches easily.  Tung oil penetrates deep into the wood, and its matte finish doesn’t show scratches.  In addition, it doesn’t yellow over time, and allows for refinishing of selective areas. 

Applying tung oil is easy.  Waiting for it to cure take patience.  For each of three days, we applied multiple layers of tung oil, each time waiting until it remained wet all over for at least fifteen minutes after the last application.  The first day it took dozens of applications.  By the third day, it took only four coats.  After we finished applying, the oil took ten days to cure and harden before we could remove the sand shields and begin our wall construction.