This floor almost ended life under glued carpet in house facing demolition.  The glue had to be hand scraped because leaving it on would gum up sanding equipment.  But, face it; you simply cannot find new oak like this.  Not only is the pattern incredible, but there isn’t a single joint in the 11 foot wide room!

Salvaged wood floors offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity but it requires a lot more work!

Salvaged quarter-sawn oak

Vintage heart pine is completely different from modern cuts.  This floor is finished with clear oil based urethane (oil based urethane offers a “warmer” look than water based — and it’s more durable).  It tends to be harder than most modern wood.  This is usually because the growth rings of old-growth trees are tighter, more rings per inch than modern counter parts.  Some of these pine boards have such tight growth rings you can hardly count the rings on a board.

Salvaged heart pine

A close-up of the dual wood installation.  Joints must be tight, and care needs to be taken as the leading edge of the inlay approaches the border.  The camera lens and angle does not do this joint justice.  In reality, the oak/maple interface is off less than 1/32 of an inch over a 30 inch span.

In this job, we used salvaged maple as a border for salvaged oak.  The oak came from an 1890 house, but was probably installed in the home in the 1950’s.  The oak may not be exceptionally old, but note the nice patina.  Again, no stain, natural color via oil based urethane.  Using two species in a border/fill arrangement requires careful planning (and lots of geometry!).

This installation could be enhanced if two wood species with more of a variation in shade is used… imagine oak or maple as a border, and heart pine as an inlay!

Salvaged maple and oak — combined

Historic Huffman floors

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This maple is about 85 years old.  This particular sample is a softer variety, so you need to be careful in each job to be certain you sand sensitively — you can do a great deal of damage in a hurry if not careful.  Notice the curly birds-eye patterns in this wood.  Again, the color is natural brought out by clear oil-based polyurethane.

Salvaged maple

Care must be exercised when refinishing vintage floors.  1880’s home builders used species rarely used today.  This is an example of fir.  Fir is beautiful, but soft.  Aggressive sanding can end the useful life of a floor, in fact, we started using chemical de-glosser when a mere recoat of urethane can extend a refinishing job.  On a floor like fir, minimizing sanding can be the single best method of ensuring future generations can enjoy the floor.

Original fir floors — refinished

Can you find the patch?  This repair was made by milling a new floor board from a 140 year old quarter-sawn 2 X 4.  Try inserting a piece of new wood in as a patch.  Stain it any way you like, you will see the  patch from 10 feet away.  Whenever possible, repairs need to be made with similar species, similar aged wood.  Before a patch is chosen, a sample of the floor and a sample of the patch needs to be coated with the same product the floor will be finished with.  Clear urethane will pull the most incredible hues from vintage wood, make sure the same hues emerge with patch material.

Vintage floor repair

Prefinished floors are the rage, and for good reason.  No mess no fuss, a clean installation and it’s done!  Some flooring companies guarantee their prefinished floors for 50 years.  New technology gives us great looking floors.

Prefinished Canadian Birch

Prefinished oak floors come in all shades.  You can also find quite a bit of variation in the grade of the floor.  This one is a natural color rustic cut.  High grade rustic cuts can be incredible.  The rustic cut gives you more character than, say, a “premium” cut.

You can get a beautiful floor by buying a rustic cut, but add a box so you can cull out truly rough pieces.

Prefinished natural oak

Wow.  Brazilian cherry.  Almost twice as hard as red oak, one needs to be very careful not to split the tongues during installation, or you will end up with a loose floor.  The variation in hue and grain pattern can be astounding in exotics — care must be taken in arranging pieces before nailing, or you can end up with distinct light and dark regions in the room.

Prefinished exotics

Natural darkening of wood can be dramatic.  this installation is about one year old.  A cabinet was moved to ease installation of a new stove.  Look at the drastic change in color.  Darker woods may show this effect more than lighter woods, but don’t ignore the tendency.  If you choose to put down area rugs, move them often to avoid these “tan lines”.  Amazing isn’t it?

Wood darkens with age

Bamboo wood suitable for flooring can be harvested from shoots in three short years.  Typically, bamboo is laminated face-wise like these boards, or they can be laminated endwise.  Endwise lamination produces a more “stripped” product and the knuckles of the bamboo plant are  hardly visible.  This installation here is the face-wise lamination.

Bamboo can be purchase as carbonized.  In this application, the wood is steamed during processing — the sugars of the plant brown from heat, producing a dark brown color but slightly softening the wood.  Bamboo is actually slightly harder than red oak.


Prefinished bamboo — the “green wood”

This hickory floor had a coat of red paint on it.  It looked so bad, a nice new layer of prefinished oak was almost laid over it!  Taking paint off with sandpaper is hard.  A very rough grit is required first to avoid gumming, and care must be taken to control dust if lead could be a component of the paint.

Hickory saved from… red paint!

Oak to oak inlay

A natural oak (3.25 inch wide) is laid in next to stained 2.25 inch oak.  Now one must remember, when this is sanded and refinished the color of the two woods will not be different and one will have to stain one of them to keep this prominent pattern.

Prefinished Floors

Salvaged floor alternative

Historic Huffman Rentals

Dayton Historic Home rentals and sales

Phone: 937-287-1644


55 Linden Avenue

Dayton, OH 45403

Historic Huffman Homes, LLC

Ash floors (140 years old)

This may be one of the best examples in this collection of age earned patina.  This beautiful red-brown tint is not from stain, it’s the natural color of this wood.  Now, Louisville Sluggers are made from ash.  Look at one of those bats and you will see how blonde and plain ash usually is.  These beautiful hues come from years of use and exposure to sunlight and air.