Category Archives: Flooring


Finally it’s time to put the oil on the floor. We have enough oil for two coats. It was painted on with a brush, left for a bit and then rubbed back with an old pillowcase from the rags bin.

In hindsight it would have been better to have more oil, apply it with a roller, and use a squeegee to remove the excess. There was only just enough oil to cover the floor, and I ended up using it more sparingly that I would have liked. Doing it in the middle of winter is also a bad time. The wax in the oil can precipitate out when it’s too cold, leaving a sort of fog in the finish. There’s a few spots on the floor where this can be seen if you bend right down. We tried leaving the heater on in the room but obviously it wasn’t up to scratch.

The floor will want another couple of coats of oil to be truly finished, but we think it’s best to wait for warmer weather, so we’ll leave it as is for the moment and return to it in spring.

Filling holes

The floorboards we got for the lounge room are what’s called “utility grade”. Which is pretty much the lowest grade, full of knots and sap lines and holes here and there and quite a few with machine marks in them. We wanted the sap lines and knots for interest, but not the ones that were graded as such just because they were crappy or damaged in some way. Quite a few boards went into a reject pile, and we’ll use them for the shed floor which will be going in down by the orchard.

At any rate, we don’t want to spend the rest of our lives digging dust out of knot holes, so all those imperfections have to be filled so that the floor can present a smooth surface to our feet and broom.

We’ll be using a Livos oil to finish the floor, and the lady at the shop recommended just putting black putty in the holes, since she was certain my suggestion of using epoxy would result in black features anyway. This was all a bit confusing, so I got 1 black putty, one “hardwood” putty which looked to be around about a matching colour and a small amount of epoxy in one of those double-syringe setups. I got a couple of spare boards and filled some holes on each one using different methods, then finished them with a couple of coats of the oil.

The epoxy was far and away the best solution, so we went ahead and got a larger 1L container of the stuff. This involved a special trip to a sailor’s shop in the city. The holes did go quite dark, but there was still detail visible under the epoxy which was the effect we were after. The black putty just ended up looking pasted on, and the wood-coloured putty made it look like a mistake had been made.

It took a whole day in the end to epoxy up all the cracks. Some of them went all the way through the board and the epoxy just kept leaking through. Some holes needed 3 applications with drying time in between before the holes closed up. I’ll be taping the underside of any boards we do in the future before they’re laid.

The epoxy is by West Systems, and doesn’t smell or shrink upon drying. It went hard in 24 (cold) hours and sanded easily. 1.2L (1L of resin and 0.2L of hardener) was $54. We found that using a 10mL syringe was a quick and neat way of applying the epoxy to the holes, although it wouldn’t go into some of the smaller wormholes. We used a slow hardener that has a working time of around 45 minutes, and did 3 batches of about 200mL. I went wandering off while doing the first batch, rummaging in the shed for something, and I actually left it too long. It went hot in its container and then hardened up over the course of a few minutes. It must have been something to do with the amount that was in there, and the heat of the chemical reaction. The little bits on the floor stayed liquid for much longer. The next couple of batches went well, but the syringe and container can’t be re-used.

We came back the next day and sanded the epoxy back, then refilled any holes that weren’t flush with the top of the wood.

When the epoxy is being mixed it tends to get full of air bubbles. It’s best, when applying it to the wood, to pop the bubbles as you go. I was a bit lax and a couple of the holes end up with bubbles inside them, which catch the light and give a “cloudy” effect. Others that migrate to the surface leave a small indentation behind once the blob has been sanded back. It’s not a big deal, but it’s easy enough to circumvent.

Moving old lounge room floorboards

The floor guy is coming soon to do the lounge room floor properly. We needed to get the old boards out of there. S had already ripped up the carpet in the bedroom, so it was just a matter of pulling them up, giving them a little trim and putting them down again in the room next door.

“Just” meaning it took pretty much a whole day.

We were expecting to have quite a few boards left over, but as it turned out there was just enough to make some skirting boards for the lounge room, with a couple of scrap bits surplus.

Floorboards and carpet removal

We got floorboards for the lounge room ages ago, and then changed our minds about what kind of wood we wanted on the floor. Blackbutt has more character and is more durable than Tassie Oak.

It’s finally time to get it done properly, so floorboards were procured and moved into the room to acclimatise before being laid.

The truck driver had a grumble about coming up our road, but managed it OK after all.
All stacked with spacers for good air circulation

Meanwhile, the promise of a new lounge room floor means that the boards that are currently there can be used somewhere else – so S got cracking straight away removing the 30-year-old carpet in the main bedroom. With a little help.

R removed all the nail board from around the wall

The lounge room won’t be done until late May, so for the moment S is stuck with chipboard – which she prefers to the old carpet anyway!


Lounge floorboards – test run

With the hearth tiles grouted and double-sealed, and the fire back in place, things are ready in the lounge room to lay the secondhand floorboards we got way back in February.


The first step is to put down some underlay. It’s got plastic on one side, as a vapour barrier, and a thin layer of foam on the other, to give a bit of cushioning. Our boards are a bit uneven underneath – tear-out from when the nails were originally driven through. The underlay helps also to soak up those inconsistencies.


The boards are in pretty shocking condition, so each one needs to be cleaned up. Dirt and sand is crusted along the top edge of most of the tongues, quite a bit of the tongue and groove got split during removal, and some parts of the boards are just unsalvageable. While we’ve done a rough lay-up, we don’t really know if we have enough boards to do the whole floor, post clean-up.

It’s slow going, board by board. We’re not nailing them down just yet, just seeing if they’ll fit together.


On the side, we need to test the nail gun to see if it works. It, too, is secondhand, from the US.

Here’s a new one down at the local hardware for $750. No thanks.


The air fitting that it came with wasn’t compatible with our hose, so we changed the hose interface on the end. Nail gun, postage from the US and new fittings came to $160 all up.

It also came with some nails. Once the air fitting was fixed up we thought we’d give those nails a try.


Well, it sure does drive a nail. The first attempt put two nails in. It was so quick I was a bit confused as to what had happened at first.

The second attempt (using a much lighter touch on the trigger) went in fine, but split the wood. I’m thinking they’re too wide for this job, and something finer is called for (it’s a framing nailer, after all, not a floor stapler). ¬†While it was a very short piece of wood I was testing on, we’ll be putting these nails in close to the ends of the boards and splitting it like this is unacceptable. Have to find out if the magazine will accept smaller nails, or can be swapped out for a different magazine.

A new hearth

With all the difficult decision-making around the fireplace done, it remains only to rebuild the hearth.

To build our 6mm slate tiles up to the level of the 19mm floorboards, we used two layers of ceramic underlay. For the bit going over the concrete, we used a drill-and-plug technique, with tile adhesive, to keep the underlay down.


Gaps are sealed with duct tape. The tiles are sealed with Feast and Watson Paving and Sandstone sealer – it was the only one we could find locally that promised a matt finish. We’re not particularly interested in the wet look you get from gloss sealers.

The real trick was finding the right trim. We eventually found brass angle of the right height and at the right price at George White & Co. after a tip-off from Ang.


The trim did not come with nail holes, which complicated things just a little. We got it down and straight using a combination of flat-head nails, bullet head nails, string and tile adhesive.


Then we cut 1 tile in half to start the brick-stagger pattern:


And we’re off!


The tile under the propping-post isn’t stuck down straight away. We didn’t want the weight to squeeze out the adhesive.

We’re thinking the effort is going to be worth it:


Probably the trickiest bit is that the tiles aren’t uniform size or thickness. Most of them aren’t even square. That gives a bit of a rustic-y feel to to layout, but means each one has to be carefully selected to ensure it fits in with the ones around it. Just one of those fiddly things you can do yourself, with a little patience, but which you wouldn’t want to be paying someone for.

Pulling up the hearth

There’s been much discussion around the hearth. S was of the opinion that the beige tiles under the fire are probably the thing that makes the house seem 80s. Black fire, beige tiles, pink carpet, erk.

They’re not going to look any better once the floorboards go into the lounge room. We did some layout testing and it was all naff. We thought about reducing the size of the area to minimise its effect, but we just couldn’t get around the Blight of Beige.

In the end it was decided that either the boards had to go all the way under the fire, which is probably a fire hazard, or the tiles had to be black to match the fire. So really only one option. And black means slate, which rocks since it’s a natural stone surface, but tends to be expensive (and isn’t that comfortable underfoot, for most areas you’d be inclined to tile).

The little square patch was also a bit naff, and a concrete plinth that extends down to the ground below was found to extend well past the tiles on either side, so it was decided to extend the tiles the full width of the room so we weren’t trying to nail boards into concrete. We’re going to have furniture boxes either side of the fire for books and twigs/wood/etc., so the tiles won’t be that visible. It’s a utility space which spends half the year covered in bits of bark and so forth.

S got cracking on Gumtree, and found some super high quality slate tiles going for a song right away. Just leftovers from someone’s project, not enough to do a whole room but fine for our purposes, and they were desperate to get rid of them because they were moving house. Black, uniform colour and very smooth. Yippee!

S fetched them (cue the ute), cleaned them up and did a quick layout to check their goodness.


That’ll look pretty neat, we reckon.

Meanwhile, S also got busy removing all the staples from the floor (holding the underlay down) and the carpet gripper from around the edge.

We tried to start pulling up the tiles around the hearth using a hammer and chisel, but it was very hard work. We needed an air compressor to run the nail gun anyway, so purchase of that became a priority.

M went and picked up a second-hand air compressor, also off Gumtree. An air chisel to go with it made short work of the tiles around the fire. S took to demolishing with gusto.


The last 9 tiles couldn’t be removed without removing the fireplace. Looking up the unit’s data sheet online, it turns out that the thing weighs 280kg. There’s no way we can even drag that thing off there.

A plan was hatched to jack it up and sort of slide it away on some beams. But the first problem was that the flue wouldn’t come out! More research online at the fireplace manufacturer indicated that the hat on top of the chimney might be holding it all in place. So up on the roof we go …


M very gingerly edged down there and it banged off with a rubber mallet OK. That roof angle turned out to be almost as treacherous as it looks – without the chimney supports to lean on it’s quite hard to get back up to the ridge. Not to mention the 6m drop off the side. Talk about collywobbles.

Anyway, with the flue hoisted up it looked a bit like Wacky Wednesday there for a moment.


To get that fireplace out we have to support the flue with something. And to support the flue with something we need to get the new tile underlay installed, at least in the corners of the room, so we can put in a couple of props.

The tiled area will be precisely 1m wide. The ceramic underlay comes in 1.8 x 0.9m rectangles. Bummer. We need to build it up a bit because the floorboards are 19mm, not including underlay, and the slate tiles are only 6mm thick.

The concrete either side of the existing tile underlay was a bit all over the place, so M flattened it out. M thought that a box with the vacuum cleaner stuck into it would serve as a great dust control method.


Oh how woefully wrong M can be. Utterly inadequate. The concrete flattener is a rotary metal thingy that goes on the angle grinder. It threw great gouts of dust to all directions, thick enough not to be able to see through it at times. Took 5 times longer to clean up than it did to do the grinding.

Anyway, live and learn.

Once the concrete was a bit flatter we could lay down the tile underlay. The manufacturer recommended using adhesive on particleboard flooring as well as nails, so we did that.


The gap between the underlay and the wall is flexible, whereas we want the front edge to be just right. It will be our reference point for the floorboards later. So we set up a fence in the right spot and put the underlay up against it before nailing it down.


With both corners getting two layers of underlay, we can prop up the flue. We chopped a bit of junk treated pine from the yard to use as props, and used one of our nice tassie oak beams to keep it up (the beams will go into a table down the track).

Then, two more pieces of tassie oak and 3 jacks allow us to jack up the fireplace.


At this point, it was thought that the fireplace might slide down the beams, if the ones near the wall were jacked up higher than the one at the front. But that was dreaming. It’s just too heavy.

Time to roll like an Egyptian! There were still 2 old curtain rails in the shed (mates to the ones serving as chicken roosts), so we chopped them into pieces to use as rollers and popped them under the fireplace.


They did a great job. We used the towing strap wrapped behind the fire to pull it forward, and as one roller disengaged out the back we brought it around to the front. Thank the gods for all those pyramid-building documentaries we watched as kids!

Gently, gently and the fire is out.


S set-to with the air chisel once again and removed the last 9 tiles in about half an hour.

Finally, we use the angle grinder to cut a line in the existing fibre board (which sticks out too far), and pry it up the old-fashioned way.


Lounge room lay up

So S says “now I have the floorboards I can let the bone go”, but she was lying. This morning the house went very quiet for an unusually long time. When M wandered down for morning tea S and R were busted hard at work laying down the floorboards to see what they would look like.

lounge lay up 2

Pretty good, in anyone’s book! They’ve been put down upside down. We’re going to try to polish them in a way that doesn’t change the colour too much, and the other side is quite yellow from the varnish.

It wasn’t all in the name of fun times; we didn’t really know if there were going to be enough boards, as the room they came out of and the room they were going into were similarly-sized. The verdict is: there’ll probably be just enough. Huzzah!

On the down side, M was a little disappointed, hoping there’d be boards left over to use for the chicken coop’s floor. Never mind!


Floorboards Ahoy

S spends a lot of time in the lounge room. Not lounging. Never that.

The carpet in there is pretty manky. It’s a mite embarrassing. Wouldn’t want to stick your nose against it.

So when M found, on Gumtree, a house being demolished in Croydon with some cheap tassie oak floorboards going to anyone who was keen enough to rip them up, S was like a dog with a bone. Just couldn’t let it go.

We’re not really ready to put floorboards down. We don’t have the kit to do it properly. Never mind, let’s go get ’em!

Ute hired, play date arranged for R, jimmy sticks and pin punches procured. Then comes a full 7 hours hammering nails through the boards and prying them up.

Here’s a movie of S’s technique.

Finally, with both hammering arms suffering from cramping, at least one case of being smacked in the face with a jimmy stick and a spot of tendonitis, the room was done.


The day was 30C and muggy, because rain was coming.

After weeks without a cloud in the sky, it started coming down in earnest with 3 boards left in the back of the ute.


Here we are, a nice dry pile of boards acclimatising to their new home.


Easily the best bit of the day was the end. After a quick shower it was back to Naomi and Trevor’s to pick up R and have a spot of dinner. The rain was just enough to cool and clean the air of the smoke haze that had kept the windows shut for a week. R had a blast playing with Luca and we were all able to relax with a beverage or two well past bed time!