Herringbone End Grain Floor

I don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest, I mostly use it if there is something I want to do and need to figure out exactly how I want to do it.  I think I was trying to figure out how to finish my wood floors or something related when I stubbled across “End Grain” floors. It pretty much had to happen!  I love geometric patterns, and I knew my little girls “needed” a little permanent rug in the middle of their room.

Although less know than traditional wood floors, end grain floors have been around for a long time, and can last with the best of them.  They have been found in old churches and even some streets have been “cobbled” this way.  More recently they have been used in factories that ran heavy machinery due to their vibration and machine oil absorption properties. I could have poured the tung oil on this floor and it would have kept absorbing and absorbing, especially at the corners where the grain was a bit looser and those corners never did go as dark as the rest of the tile.

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Basically an end grain floor is a beam or other wood that has been cut into slices then glued down to the subfloor. The tiles can are a bit fragile until you glue them down, once they have been “grouted” they are solid.  This floor does not move in the least.

You don’t want to use actual grout, it’s not flexible enough.  The Wood Patch I used didn’t quite work as well as I wanted and when enough of if chips out I’ll replace it with something else.

Finding the perfect beam

What I was looking for was something I could lay in a brick pattern, but not necessarily running bond.  I also wanted to use reclaimed wood if possible so it would have more character.  There were a couple of reclaimed wood stores near my parents place so I checked them out while I was in town.  The first one was disappointing, the beams it had were the same dimensions you can buy at the hardware store, nothing wider than 4×6″ and it was a bit pricey.

The second store was a bit more promising.  They had a clearance section that was only $2 per linear foot and I bought a couple of narrower oak beams out of that section.  Then just when we thought we had looked through everything, the lady helping me came across this huge beam she thought was oak (turned out to be fir) that happened to be 4″x4″, perfect for cutting into “bricks” for $4 per linear foot.

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Fir “bricks” layer out in a herringbone pattern

The room I wanted to put this in is a bit small and I wanted to cover an area roughly 5×7′ and then fill in the rest with the same rustic hard maple I used in the master bedroom.  If I cut this beam into 3/4″ slices to match the thickness of the flooring it would cover about the size I needed.

Cutting the Beams

I have a 12″ miter saw, but it wasn’t going to allow me to cut through the beam in one continuous slice, so I rented a 12″ sliding miter saw.  After changing the blade to something with fewer teeth I spent an entire afternoon cutting slices off beams.  The first few went great!  But by the time I was done, my blade was so dull I could barely get through.  When the beam was a around 12″ long it was too difficult to hold everything in place and still cut, I ended up finishing on the band saw.

Searching for Glue

Trying to figure out what kind of glue to use proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated.  The few blog posts I found about putting in this type of flooring said something along the lines of “use a rather technical sounding type of glue.”  So I would go into the hardware store and ask for this “rather technical sounding glue” and they would scratch their heads and try to read the labels faster than I could on the glue aisle.

Not getting anywhere I decided to call some of the companies that sell end grain flooring and ask them.  At first they said, yes you do need to use that “rather technical sounding glue.”  I know!! Could you please give me a brand name or something a little more specific.  Finally we were getting somewhere, one if the brands they mentioned was Bostik, that I could work with.

“Bostik’s Best” is a good option of glue to use when laying end grain floors.  I found it cheapest at Lumber Liquidators, you can buy it in small caulking tubes, large caulking tubes and 5 gallon buckets.  I opted for large caulking tubes.  The best number I could come up was each 28 oz. tube will cover approximately 8.5 square feet.

Laying out the floor

I had my special helper lay out the floor with me.  First I drew my area onto the subfloor, then started my brick pattern hoping I would have enough.  By the time I put a border around it, it was perfect!

Then came the joyous task of gluing them down.  Usually you us a notched trowel to spread glue when you’re covering a large area of floor….I didn’t need 5 gallons of glue so had to use a gun to put a 1/4 bead, 1/4 inch apart on each and every brick.   Joy.  My forearm was aching by the end of the day from squeezing the trigger, and it took a whole lot longer than I thought it was going to.   I had to stop and make dinner and finish up after.  You need to let the floor sit for about 24 hours before doing anything else to it.

Because I chose to use reclaimed wood, there were some pretty big gaps in places that needed to be filled with something.  A lot of people mix saw dust with urethane and “grout” between the tiles with this, I wanted the tung oil to sink in between the tiles so that wasn’t going to work.  I opted for filling a gallon zip-lock bag with a little saw dust and lots of wood glue and squeezing that into the cracks.  It took FOREVER.  Actually, everything about this floor took FOREVER.  Worth it though.

The floor felt really solid after filling in the cracks with the wood glue/saw dust.  I didn’t go all the way to the top, I left between an 1/8 and 1/4″ so I could fill that with Wood Patch.

The Rest of the Floor

Here I’m laying out the frame that goes around the “rug” in the middle.  You can see that my edges aren’t perfectly square.  About this time I was trying to clean them up with a chisel and my husband walked in, watched me for a minute then said, “I would have used the circular saw.”  Good point.  It’s easy enough to set the depth on the circular saw and cut a straight line.

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Tiles glued down, fitting the frame.  

When I started laying the floor, there was a bit of a tricky spot on the far side going toward the window.  I needed to lay my floor starting at the frame, then go toward the wall.  The rest of the floor would be laid with the tongue and groove going in the opposite direction.  This meant that I would need to put a tongue on both sides of the floor boards extending from either side of the frame.

It always feels like I need every tool from he the garage scattered all over when I’m laying a floor.  I’ve been screwing down all my hardwood floors with “Tiny Head” finish screws.  It takes a while to set the boards, drill all the holes and put the screws in, but in the end reduces squeaking.  This also means marking all of the joints before you start to make it easier as you go.

Toward the end I started to panic that I would run out of wood…I did, but I made it pretty close to the door.  I was using what was left from the master bedroom and came up about 3′ short of actually finishing the room.  No biggie, I’ll just tie into the room when I lay the hall flooring.

Finishing up

As hard as I tried, my tiles were anything but perfectly uniform when I cut them.  Some of them were close to 1/4″ proud of the maple floor.  This meant lots of sanding.  I didn’t want to use the same huge plate sander I had used on the other floors for fear of it tearing up the end grain floor, so I started with a belt sander.  The one I got from my mom burned up within 20 minutes :0/

The belt sander I rented didn’t have enough guts to get me very far.  Double :0/ :0/ Back to the rental store.  What ended up working really good was a large circular sander.  I think it took 7″ disks….Anyhow it was about the size of circular crock pot with two handle and a wheel and it leveled the floor like nobody’s business.  So fast and efficient.   I almost liked it better for smoothing things out than the bigger floor sander.

Once the floor was smoothed out somewhat I could put the wood patch in all of the cracks and holes.  I did this with a 3″ putty knife, it’s going to sand right off so you don’t need to be especially careful about not getting it where you want.  Then it’s on to the final sanding.

I go over everything with my palm sander and 150 grit as a final step after the wood patch just before sealing.  I sealed the floor using both dark and light tung oil which I talk about on my Favorite Paints and Finishes post.  It also has a link on how to finish a hardwood floor with tung oil.

It’s been several months now and the wood patch has cracked and shrunk a bit more than I would have liked.  I asked the other day when I was buying wood from a hardwood warehouse what might work better, the guy suggested chinking for log cabins.  I might have to look into that, I want to do a couple of little spots in the living room with end grain floors.

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