Pine floor sanding nightmare disaster recovery plan?

25 May 2012
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United Kingdom
Advice urgently sought for rectifying a pine floorboard sanding disaster!

The plan was to rip up all the motheaten carpets of our Victorian house and sand stain and varnish the pine wooden floorboards. We booked a company in to do this, and so far one or two rooms are already finished with the rest booked for next month.

It looks absolutely gorgeous, stunning, beautiful.

Unfortunately there are a couple of significant problems that we hadn't anticipated when we first took up the carpets.

First problem is that there are gaps typically half a centimetre between each floorboard, meaning the rooms that have been sanded are now incredibly draughty. I'm thinking that I'll need to lay masking tape along the edge of every floorboard and squirt black flexible filler into the gaps to reduce the draughts.

The more serious problem however is that in removing the carpets it seems that the quality of the underlying floorboards was quite poor, and they are pretty thin (16mm thick before sanding). In one of the rooms that has been finished I've already managed, just by walking around, to go right through the floorboards in a couple of places, since by treading on a knot it's just given way and the whole floorboard has split and given way between the joists. So I have a couple of rooms that are unusable and unsafe until several floorboards can be replaced. Since the rest of the room has been stained and varnished now, any replacement boards will have to be cut to size and stained and varnished before being tacked down, otherwise the whole floor will need sanding again, thinning it even further.

Faced with a beautifully stained but evidently dangerously thin floor and the prospect of having to somehow remediate that, plus find a safe solution for flooring in all the other rooms of the house, I'd appreciate some advice about what to consider next. Continuing to sand existing floorboards just isn't an option with small children who could jump on the wrong part of the floor and end up in the room below. I'm thinking there are maybe three options:

(i) take up all the floorboards throughout the house (one room at a time given that the family is living here) and replace with thicker, new tongue and groove e.g. Wickes 22mm Bordeaux red pine. I guess that solves the draught problem, and they wouldn't need to be sanded down after fitting, just stained and varnished? They will probably fit under the existing skirting board too, but ripping out all floorboards in the whole house seems a bit of a mammoth task.

(ii) abandon the idea of pine floorboards and put down laminate. Budget can stretch to something half-decent e.g. Quickstep, but given the thinness and general condition of the floorboards, do I first need to fit a layer of plywood between floorboards and laminate underlay? If so how thick? That all adds to the cost and time.

(iii) as above but engineered timber or maybe cheap solid wood floor, laid over the existing floorboards.

In either (ii) or (iii), would it have to be at 90 degrees to joists ie running with floorboards, or should new floor run parallel to existing weak floorboards (given that the floorboards run in the direction of the light from the windows in most rooms, which probably doesn't help).

Having already wasted both time and money on the sanding thus far, I need a safe, workable solution for the whole house that is the least expensive, the least disruptive and the fastest to complete from here on. Total floor area across six rooms is something like 100sqm. Help!
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I would be speaking to who ever sanded the floorboards for not checking the thickness and sanding them to make them structurally unsafe.

If you want real wood I would go with a engineered . Yes you will need plywood first unless going opposite way to floorboards and I would glue down (floorboards to thin to nail unless going a thick plywood)

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