Floorboard Defects and Repair

WOODEN floors become uneven through much wear, and leave high places, particularly where knots and the heads of nails occur since these possess a greater resistance to wear. Unevenness from another cause occasionally takes place along the edges of the floorboards, which become raised, due to the boards curling up as they warp. If the underlying joists warp and twist, or if there is some settlement of the brick walls on which these joists rest, the level of the floor may be disturbed. This type of defect is encountered more often in older buildings, and is outside the scope of repair for the handyman. Another defect to which wood floors are subject is caused by a fungus, and full details of this type of defect together with insect attack is described under the heading of WOODWORM and DRY ROT.

Replacing Worn Floorboards

The joists, are usually 2 in. wide or a little more. The boards, which cross the joists at right angles, are nailed at the centre line of the joist. If the ends of two boards meet in the form of a heading joint on one joist, both boards must be nailed to the joist. To remove the boards without damage is not easy, but on the assumption that one board is due to be scrapped, in any case, we can bore a round hole as near as convenient to the side of the joist, and enter a keyhole saw to sever one board close up to the joist. If the other end of the cut board runs to a heading joint, on another joist, work back along the board, levering it up at the intervening joists, and prize it off the joist where it ends.

Perhaps only part of the lifted board is defective, in which event we can cut it across to end on a suitable joist, ready for replacement later. In levering up the board, the nails will most likely be pulled up out of the underlying joists; rest the board, bottom side uppermost, on a stool or sawing horse, and tap the nails back sufficiently for the heads to be gripped by pincers, or by the claw of a claw hammer. Obstinate boards may have to have the nails punched right down into the joist to free the board. If a heading joint is not conveniently near, the board may have to be cut through at two places to remove the bad part. Electricians and gas-fitters often use a special floorboard saw, with a curved cutting edge; it is possible to saw straight across one board without damaging the boards at either side. The handyman, however, will generally bore a half-inch hole and cut across the board, using a keyhole saw, as previously mentioned.

Find the run of the joists. The positions of the nails will indicate this, and on the assumption that they mark approximately the middle line of the joist, measure an inch to either side of the nail, and square a line across, with a try-square. Mark a pencilled line. Put a fine bradawl through the board about a quarter-of-an-inch away from the pencil line, on the free side, then bore a hole with a brace and a half-inch centre bit or twist bit. If these dimensions have been correctly established the joist will be visible, and the saw can be put through to cut alongside the joist, across the board.

As soon as the cut is long enough, take out the keyhole saw and enter a compass saw, or a small panel saw, and complete the cut.

Beware of gas pipes, or the casings of electric cables, when cutting the boards; they run usually in the space between joists. In some cases the electric wires may be merely protected by lead sheathing. When there is a room below the floor where work is in progress, some guide to cables, etc., can be got from the position of the lighting fittings on the ceiling below.

Having severed the board, the ends of the fixed parts can be trimmed up with a sharp chisel to a square edge. If several boards have to be cut away, take them back to joists one or two away to right or left from the one originally selected for the patch. In other words, break the joints, so that a board spanning over a given joist is next to one at which a board ends, and so on. Thus we shall not get a weak line of joints running along the same joist. It is not always practicable to make heading joints when replacing the boards, and the best thing to do is to support the ends of the replacement boards by nailing or screwing a stout batten to the side of the joist where the end of the new board will rest. The batten ought to be at least1 ½ in. thick and about 3in. Wide; take it half-way along and under the boards adjoining the one that it will support.

Two boards can be scarfed, that is, cut through obliquely, when they have to be jointed over a single joist. In this instance it is assumed that both boards can be taken to the bench and cut by a tenon saw to a suitable angle. This makes a neat and sound job, the nails being driven through the scarfed portion. The angle can be marked across the edges of the board with an adjustable bevel.

Levelling a Worn Floor

Sweep the floor, and brush out the cracks with a stiff brush (a wire brush is excellent for the purpose). Scrub down the floor and let it dry well before beginning operations. Then go along the boards with a hammer and nail punch, driving down the nails well below the surface, so that they will not damage the sharp cutting edge of the plane iron. Set the smoothing plane to make a medium cut and work over the high places. Follow the grain, attacking the place from a different direction if the wood tears or plucks. In bad cases a broad chisel may be convenient for removing the worst part. Next, reset the plane to make a finer cut; trim the edges of the boards and take off any irregularity here.

After new boarding has been laid, it may be found that the ends stand up higher than the old floor; punch down the nails, and taper off the end part of the new board so as to make a gradual change. Of course, in order to make a really good job, the replacement boards ought to be reduced in thickness to match the older flooring, though this may not often be practicable.

Repairs to Parquet aad Woodblock Floors

Loose blocks in a floor, if there are not many, should be removed. It will then be possible to scrape out the old mastic (a bituminous preparation) underneath. Put in fresh mastic, which must be warmed before use, and bed in the block. If the defect is extensive, the repairs may be more than an amateur can successfully undertake.

Parquet floors are glued and, invariably, pinned; dampness may cause the parts of the design to come loose, and in such cases the cause of the dampness should be found before attempting a remedy. Hot Scotch glue can be used to stick the different parts of a pattern together if a whole unit is defective. These diamonds, etc., are bedded on to a piece of low quality linen or other material with an open weave, which helps to hold them together. It will probably be best to unite the various parts of an element first, and let the glue harden, before re-laying, so as to-ensure that all the join;s are firmly set and safe to handle.

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