One of the latest rages in hardwood flooring materials is to use salvaged flooring materials. As you know we are all fans of the motto “reduce, reuse, recycle”. The word reuse is in play with salvaged materials and there are some things to consider when you reuse material that was already an existing floor.
Most hardwood floors have approximately 6-10 sandings available depending on the type of material and the aggressiveness of the sanding. Less dense hardwood floors such as old growth fir may be closer to six available sandings whereas a more dense material such as Brazilian cherry may be able to be sanded up to 10 times.
Keep in mind that every wood floor is connected to a subfloor, which is connected to the foundation of a home. While homes settle and shift over the years the hardwood floor follows suit. After a few sandings and a number of years your wood floors may be sanded to a thinner dimension in a hallway than in a bedroom, etc…
The salvaging process that we speak of is the removal and reassembly of an existing wood floor into a new area or home. When you remove and reassemble a floor that has been sanded multiple times, the true variances that are exascerbated by the settling process will be even greater. In reality when you reassemble a salvaged wood floor, there is an extreme amount of what we refer to as “over/under wood”. This greater amount of variance requires a greater amount of sanding in order to achieve a flat wood floor.
So what does all of this mean? If you install a salvaged wood floor in your home the consequences are good for the environment and possibly bad because you will need to pay more for the floor to be sanded because there is more effort to remove the necessary material to achieve a flat floor. A second consequence of the additional sanding efforts is that your floor will be closer to the end of its lifespan. This is especially important because with all of the interest in people requesting salvaged wood floors these days, after sanding I am seeing floors that literally have no more sandings available because there is virtually a paper thin wear layer remaining.
It is most important for me as an ethical wood flooring professional to advise you that salvaged wood floors have a lesser value for the life cycle of your project because of the greater reduction in wear layer. If you choose to use salvaged flooring, then I have two suggestions. The first suggestion is to either remill the flooring material or have flooring milled from dimensional lumber. The other suggestion is that if you choose to reuse salvaged flooring material without doing a remilling that you adhere to a very strict maintenance schedule of recoating the finish on your floor. This will greatly prolong the life of the wear layer of your floor and add more value to your efforts.