Saturday, September 5, 2015

DIY - A floor story

This post was originally posted on A Kiwi Dream, my short-lived separate reno blog. Over the next couple of months I'll be migrating the content there here so please bear with me if you were following me there. 

One of the most depressing things about this house when we moved in was the upstairs carpet. What had once been a pristine, high quality wool carpet was completely threadbare in places (we know where the previous owners had their furniture!), was grungy and grubby, and had a giant hole in the middle, roughly patched with secondhand underlay but no carpet, where the fireplace had at some point been removed from the house.

 Putting a picnic rug over a small patch of the old carpet wasn't really enough, somehow... 

We knew that where the fire had been the floor was chipboard, but the condition of the floorboards under the rest was lucky dip.

I think the carpet came up from the old living room/new kitchen on day 11 of ownership (the first seven were consumed with getting the downstairs liveable, day eight was moving day and days nine and 10 were consumed with organising). We had just gotten some semblance of order, our son was having a nap, and we felt like doing something. It wasn't practical to start bashing holes in walls but ripping up carpet seemed like a good option.

If you haven't tried it, it's dusty and can be hard slog (depending how well it's fixed down), and moving big rolls of it requires a bit of brute strength (which I lack... Working on it though!).

I recommend using a face mask (for the dust), some gloves (we used our gardening ones) and you'll need pliers. A flatbar or similar can be useful to get under tricky corners but mostly it's just yanking it up, and then working around the edges with your pliers to remove tacks and staples left in the floor.

 The more of the staples come out in the carpet (left) the less annoying, fiddly work you have to do with the pliers. 

It's one of those jobs which, though a bit gross and not at all glamorous, can be transformative, especially if the floor underneath is glorious native timber. We were rewarded that afternoon with the revelation of matai floorboards in pretty good nick.

Before and after pics provide satisfying evidence of an afternoon's work

Unfortunately the patched area in the middle of the floor from the old fireplace was chipboard - and naturally that area will be the most used and visible part of the room. So we set about searching for a company specialising in timber floor repairs.

Chipboard - not exactly a character feature in the traditional sense.
This job was definitely beyond our DIY abilities - stitching the planks in sounded too tricky even to our builder so this was definitely a specialist piece of work. 

There were plenty of search results but Total Timber Flooring stood out because they had a photo showing how they had repaired a big area of flooring, like ours, by stitching the new boards into the existing floor, instead of just butting the pieces up against the existing square edge, and therefore making the patch almost undetectable (I'm sure other companies exist that do this, but not all will go to the effort).

Nathan came out to check out the job and provided the quote within a few hours of his visit. It ended up being a touch under $2,700 in total - that includes supply of the recycled boards for the patch, all the repair work, filling and sanding, and three sealing coats on 34.5sqm of floor.

I was around for most of the process so I annoyed the crew a lot by asking constant questions and taking lots of photos. :-D


Day one was all about the repair - before they could put the new boards in they had to run some joists at the right intervals, as there weren't enough underneath. Then they carefully removed the short pieces of board to permit the stitching, and fitted the jigsaw together. They managed a quick sand of the patched area before packing up for the day.

Day two involved lots of filling of gaps and holes, and lots of sanding. It looked pretty amazing by the end of the day, though:

Once it's sanded back it's best to minimise use as the wood isn't protected from stains and spills. We'd arranged to move out for a couple of days in anticipation of the stinky sealing coats, which was a good move - no risk of us messing it up.

Day three started with another round of sanding, followed by a very thorough clean-up to ensure nothing got stuck in the sealing coats. The first coat is a protective sealer that soaks into the wood and dries in about half an hour (it took a little longer, actually, due to the brisk temperatures in Wellington that week).

The second coat is a gloss polyurethane - Nathan told me that even though we're going with a matte finish, the gloss is harder so he uses it for the middle coat to better protect the timber.

The third coat won't go on until we've finished installing our kitchen cabinetry, so that we don't risk scuffing it up - and that'll be a few weeks away yet. But it already looks pretty good so here are the obligatory before and after shots:

Looking towards the kitchen

Looking from the kitchen towards the dining room - you can see the boards used for the patch in this one but it's less obvious in real life

The entrance passage (I didn't take a picture of this last week so a few other things have changed since the "before"!)

We're thrilled with how well it's come up - we knew it would look good but hadn't quite imagined how good. And I highly recommend Nathan and his team - they clearly know their stuff!

Oh - but I do recommend sussing out somewhere to stay for a couple of days - you can't walk on it for 12 hours or so while it dries, but even if you can work around that the smell is fairly strong, even in distant, closed off parts of the house.

Are you a fan of timber floors?


  1. WOW!! That looks AMAZING!!! I love timber floors - we have them in our kitchen, laundry, toilet and bathroom. Eventually we will rip up the carpet in living room, dining and hallway - leaving the rooms carpeted! Yours looks so good! :)

    1. Oops, somehow overlooked your comment, sorry! Yes, we're so pleased with them... So worth doing. Now if only they would clean themselves... ;-)


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