You Asked, I Answered: Our Reclaimed Barn Wood Floors

posted by Andrea | 01/13/2014

our reclaimed barn wood floors

Our reclaimed barn wood floors are one of my favorite things about our house, they are the feature of our house that get the most compliments (people honestly think we’ve refinished the original wood floors), and they are surprisingly the aspect of our home I get the MOST questions on from blog readers and random internet browsers.

I’d say I get at least 2-3 emails EVERY WEEK with questions about our wood floors — even though my original wood floor post was over 2 years ago (crazy, I know).

So today, I’m doing a little Q&A post to share some of the in’s and out’s of finding, buying, installing, and caring for our beautiful reclaimed barn wood floors. And even if you aren’t interested in wood floors, the story of how we found our flooring is pretty neat (and the pictures are breath-taking) so it’s probably worth the read!

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How did you decide to use reclaimed wood?

I first had the idea of using old reclaimed barn wood floors in our farmhouse about 3 years ago — and it should be no surprise to many of you that I found our floors on Craigslist of all places!

We had just moved in over Christmas break 2010, and by New Year’s Day 2011, we were already tearing out carpeting and dreaming up plans for our future renovations. Oh, to be young and childless again :)

I knew 100% for sure we were going to splurge on REAL wood flooring for our farmhouse. I have nothing against laminate wood (we put it in our first house) but there was just no place for laminate in our 120 year old house. I wanted the good stuff too — wide planks, lots of character, and something no one else had. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure how to find that. 

I searched big box stores, hardware stores, flooring showrooms and couldn’t find anything I loved — and then (in my nightly Craigslist searches) I came across a family-owned company selling “reclaimed barn wood flooring”. I had never really heard of that concept before, but it sounded really neat, and I loved the idea of putting 120 year old flooring in our 120 year old house.

I started emailing back and forth with the owner’s wife, and decided to make the 2-hour drive to their home and workshop to take a look at the wood.

To-the-Woodshop

Rough-plank

Stacks-of-Wood

I was totally sold from the moment I walked into the owner’s home and saw the flooring in it’s finished state — it was absolutely beautiful, and definitely something no one else could duplicate.

Thankfully, Dave was also onboard so we ordered our flooring the next week!

landing

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Where did you buy your flooring?

The wood mill I referenced above is called Creation Woodworks in Hubbardston, MI (they have no idea I’m blogging about this, nor did I get any discount for blogging about them in the past).

Creation Woodworks is completely family-owned and operated — it’s literally just a husband, wife, son, and a couple other employees. The owners are Ken and Ruth Gee — and they are honestly two of the nicest, most hard-working people you’ll ever meet.

ken

Their wood mill is about 20 feet from their house and EVERYTHING they do is right there on their own property — it’s pretty amazing!

They get their wood from all over the place — but it’s all from old barns (like the one below), and it’s all FULL of character.

barn2

I’m not sure of all the details, but it’s a pretty extensive process to take old barn wood (beams, siding, etc.) and turn it into beautiful hardwood flooring that’s ready to install. All I know is that the finished product is amazing. Relatively smooth, tongue and groove planks, whatever width you want.

upstairs

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What exact flooring did you purchase?

Before I tell you exactly what type of flooring we purchased, I want to mention that when it comes to old reclaimed wood, there is no guarantee that just because you order exactly what we ordered, it will look exactly the same (and that’s what I love about the reclaimed wood!)

Even if the wood comes from the same barn, there will almost certainly be significant variations in color, grain, etc. — so if you’re a perfectionist or obsessed with micro-managing every little detail, reclaimed wood is NOT for you!

That said, we purchased wide-plank yellow pine flooring in various widths (4″ 6″ and 7″). The lengths are totally variable — from 3 feet all the way up to 15 or more feet long. The mill just makes them as long as they can based on the wood they have available.

And for those of you wondering, pine flooring IS softer than oak, elm, or maple, but yellow pine is significantly stronger than white pine, and I really REALLY love the look of pine (not necessarily knotty pine, just regular pine). It’s my all-time favorite wood, and the perfect wood species for our old farmhouse.

wood flooring in kitchen

Of course, Creation Woodworks offers a variety of different wood species – and they’ve even done some really amazing work by mixing different woods together (see gorgeous photos below).

above

floor

The flooring is 3/4″ with tongue and grooves and relief grooves on the underside. It is kiln dried and planed to show the great character of the wood — along with the worm trails, nail holes and weathering cracks that add to the beauty (at least in my opinion).

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How did you install the flooring?

Creation Woodworks delivered all the flooring and helped us bring it inside (it needs to acclimate to your home’s condition for at least 2-3 weeks before you can install it). So it sat in our living room for several weeks before we actually installed it — and yes, this was probably the most annoying part of the process (especially since we were living with a crawling baby for part of the time!)

Wood-Flooring

However, once we were ready to install it, the process was pretty straightforward.

My dad was the one who installed it all — and he just used a regular flooring gun to nail the boards down. We did put a red rosin paper down over the sub-flooring (that’s what we were told to do), and then we simply mixed and matched the different widths in a “non-patterned” way so it looked really natural. Obviously, you’ll need to do full rows of a single width, but then we just mixed up the widths with every row or two.

Using different widths did make the installation process a bit more challenging and time-consuming, but I LOVE the look of the different widths so I’d definitely say it was worth it (my dad might have a different opinion though!)

 

How did you finish the floors?

SAND:

After the flooring was fully installed, we did a rough sanding over the entire floor with a pole sander. We actually paid an extra $0.25 per square foot to have Creation Woodworks do the majority of the sanding (totally worth it by the way) but we still needed to do a bit more finish sanding.

CLEAN:

After it was all sanded, we cleaned up all the saw dust and dirt REALLY REALLY REALLY well. We used a broom and a shop vac to get most of it. Then we went over the floor with microfiber cloths until we weren’t getting anymore dust.

STAIN:

Once the floors were totally clean, we started with the stain. We used Minwax SATIN stain in Special Walnut 224.

Minwax-Colors

I honestly thought we would go with something A LOT darker, but when we tested out different stains on various pieces of our flooring, the Special Walnut is the one we both liked the most. And it turned out plenty dark for our house.

bedroom flooring

Dave did the staining since I was pregnant with Nora at the time. He used a brush to brush the stain on quite thick and then a ton of rags (we used old t-shirts) to rub off the excess. (Note, you should always work WITH the grain of the wood)

He wore nice cushy knee pads (which helped a lot) and used this respirator mask with brand new filters since the fumes were pretty strong.

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POLYURETHANE:

We used Varathane brand Floor Finish in “satin” because we didn’t want super shinny floors, just a nice sheen. We also used water based because the smell of of the oil based Varathane was out of control — and it took way longer to dry between coats. It’s been over 2 years and we’ve “abused our floors” but they still look fabulous — so we definitely would not hesitate to use water-based polyurethane again.

We actually did FIVE coats of polyurethane {thanks Dave!} and did another VERY LIGHT sanding after the 2nd and 4th coats (and then cleaning up any dust before applying the next coat).

Dave applied the polyurethane with a large foam pad on the end of a long pole (so he could do it standing up). He poured the polyurethane in a paint tray, then dipped his foam sponge in the poly, then quickly “brushed” the poly onto the floor in the direction of the grain. It’s best to make one single long pass across the entire length of the room before picking up the from sponge — otherwise you’ll be able to see where you started and stopped.

DRYING TIME:

We let the satin dry for 24 hours before starting the poly — and then we only had to let that dry for a few hours in between coats. Once everything was finished, we let it dry another 24 hours before walking on it — and 72 hours before moving any furniture over it (and even then, we were really careful). We have felt pads on the bottom of ALL our furniture and they have really helped to protect our flooring.

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Where did you install the flooring?

We basically covered our entire main floor with the reclaimed wood (minus the living room).

We did our bedroom, our bathroom, the nursery, hallway, office, kitchen / dining area, and the back entryway.

We currently have a pile of extra wood sitting in our outbuilding waiting for whenever we’re ready to do the front entryway and the future mudroom (hopefully this spring or summer). We’re also planning to put the reclaimed wood up our stairs from the living room to the 2nd floor — yes, Creation Woodworks also sells reclaimed stair treads. Hello gorgeous!

bo-stairs

The 2nd floor is all carpet (bedrooms and playroom) for a little more cozy feeling — but we might put the reclaimed wood in the bathroom up there — depending on the look we end up going for. We’ll see :)

 

How much did the wood cost?

“Normal” prices (as listed on Creation Woodworks’ website) range from $4.75- 7.50 per square foot depending on species, widths etc. However, there are obviously TONS of variations in pricing depending on the company. I’ve seen it as expensive as $25.00 per square foot for HUGE 20″ wide planks.

Also, depending on what type of wood you want, you might be able to get a really great deal. The first time I visited Creation Woodworks, told them I would like yellow pine, and told them how much we needed, they looked at me like I was a ghost. They explained that they just had a builder cancel an order of yellow pine (after it was all cut and ready to go) so it was just stacked there taking up space in their shop. So since he had already put a deposit down, they gave me a good deal on it so they could move it out of their shop — score!

Definitely shop around before you fully decide — but unlike what most people assume, reclaimed wood doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive. In fact, we’ve found that buying this wood and then installing and finishing it ourself was cheaper than buying quality carpeting and paying for installation.

If you won’t be installing it yourself, you’ll want to factor that cost into the equation too. And then there’s the cost of the stain, polyurethane, and other supplies — which probably ran us around $350 total (for our entire main floor).

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How do you care for / clean the floors?

Since there are so many flaws, imperfections, and color variations in the flooring, it’s really hard to tell when the floors are dirty (another bonus!) I actually spend WAY WAY WAY less time cleaning these floors than I did with our super shiny laminate wood floors in our other house.

I usually just run a Swiffer or vacuum over the floors twice a week and then spot clean any sticky spots with a damp cloth as needed. I mop them on my hands and knees (with vinegar water) every now and then — but seriously, I hardly EVER do this.

In my opinion, these floors are extremely low maintenance — at least for our family and life-style.

swiffer

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Do you love the floors as much as you thought?

YES!!!

Seriously, we love our floors and they add so much character to our home. Although we obviously chose these floors for OUR enjoyment, it is really fun to tell the story to friends and relatives who are in awe of how we “brought our old floors back to life”.

It usually takes a lot of convincing to get them to believe that these are actually “new” floors that just look old!

As I mentioned above, this post is NOT sponsored in any way — Creation Woodworks doesn’t even know I’m blogging about them. I did not get any deal or discount or bonus for talking about them. We just really love our reclaimed wood floors and they are currently the only company I’ve ever worked with — which is why I’m linking to their website.

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Are there any negatives with these floors?

You might be laughing right now, but I get this question more often than you might think :)

I hope you can tell after reading this post that Dave and I both are in love with our floors and would not change our minds or do anything differently if we were to start over again. Seriously, I can’t say enough awesome things about our reclaimed barn wood floors.

However, these floors are definitely NOT for everyone! 

There are lots and lots of imperfections, nail holes, worm holes, gouges, knots, and other markings ALL over the wood (see photo below). In my opinion, they add tons of character to the floors, but I know that not everyone would love floors like ours.

Also, since we chose yellow pine (instead of a harder wood) our floors do scratch and dent easier. If we had a dog with sharp claws, I have a feeling our floors wouldn’t look nearly as nice.

We have already put some hefty dents in our floors (specifically when we were moving kitchen appliances in!) but since there are already so many other imperfections, Dave and I are really the only ones who ever notice.

I realize we will continue to ding, scratch, scrap, and scuff our floors — but it’s all character in my opinion. Plus, with solid wood flooring, you can almost always cover up imperfections if you really want to. We’ve already touched up a few areas with a little bit of stain and you can’t even tell anymore.

And if we REALLY wanted to do a full flooring “makeover” we just need to sand down the floors and stain / seal them again (although we aren’t planning to do this any time soon.)

OK, so I think that covers most of the questions I’ve been getting about our floors for the last 2+ years!

If you have more, feel free to leave them in the comments or send me an email — I’m pretty quick to respond.

The bottom line:

We love our reclaimed barn wood floors and would totally recommend them to anyone who is interested.

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11 comments

  1. Organize 365

    01/13/2014

    I love how you start..oh to be young and childless again. :) I think about that too!

    Beautiful floors! You almost make me want to do that in our house!

    :)
    Lisa

    [Reply]

  2. Kim Baar

    01/13/2014

    They are beautiful! This is exactly what I want when my husband and I retire and move. Thank you for sharing all your information.

    [Reply]

  3. Sonya

    01/13/2014

    Great post. We live in a 1920′s farmhouse that has five different types of flooring on the first floor alone! We have been looking for an option like this that would be true to the style & age of our house – we’ll definitely be checking this place out.

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  4. Julie

    01/13/2014

    Hi Andrea,
    I really enjoyed reading your post as I have a farmhouse we are currently remodeling as well. Just two years ago we added on a good size addition which included a nice sized mudroom. I have to tell you I fought my husband for every square inch I was able to get. It could never be big enough. So, my advice, don’t skimp on yours. You won’t regret it. It has to handle snow clothes, boots, chore clothes and boots, a dog, and anything that enters my house. We included a sink which is great as well. We actually put down ceramic tile so it can take a beating with mud, etc.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Julie,

    Our mudroom will not be an addition so we have a very fixed space to work with. It’s not huge, but we currently don’t even have a bench or hooks or any sort of closet by our front OR back door so anything will be an improvement — and you better believe I’ll be doing everything I can to maximize every square inch of space we do have!

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  5. Stel

    01/14/2014

    Love the floors! We’re planning a new house now, and although the ground level will be stained & sealed cement, I’m vaguely thinking of something like this or the main bed and upstairs. Might stained yellow pine in old oak or walnut, and seal with a wooden oil.
    Our current house is 80 yrs old, with wooden floors, that we fixed room by room. First one was done with varnish, but the rest with oil, and I’ll just never go back.
    You’s look lovely.

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  6. Mrs.M in MI

    01/15/2014

    We still have the original Southern yellow pine floors in our 1925 Tudor Revival. They were in terrible condition and had this ugly pickled finish when we bought the house (a foreclosure), so we had them refinished before we moved in. We ended up going with a contractor who uses the Glitsa process, which covers the floors with a thick, hard coating. We left the floors their natural color and we couldn’t love them more!

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  7. Tammy

    01/28/2014

    The floors are absolutely gorgeous. My friend renovated an old barn and turned it into a 3-bedroom home. I love the floors and ceilings. It took him a couple of years but it is his pride and joy now.

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  8. Alison @SassyMomChicago

    09/21/2014

    Love your floors too! We are building a new home and wonder how our builder would feel about installing these. Also – love your site it’s my first time here. I had a lot of problems trying to read your posts because of the video on the right side bar. Something was causing it to be really slow on Chrome. :)

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  9. Emily

    12/08/2014

    Your floors are absolutely beautiful! We are building a house and I want to use reclaimed barnwood floors. I have access to some old barnwood. I just need to dismantle the barns. In your research, have you found any reason not to use this kind of wood (or in other words, to only use wood from a dealer)? Do dealers such has Creation Woodworks do anything special to treat the wood?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Emily — we love our floors!!
    That said, I would DEFINITELY at least contact a professional company. I know it was a hugely labor-intensive process to get the barnwood ready to lay as flooring. They needed to cut it, sand it, tongue and groove it, and then dry it in a kiln for a long time before it was ready to lay. Then, after we laid it, we still needed to do more sanding before we could stain/seal it.

    I don’t think that’s something I’d want to tackle on my own — but maybe you’re more industrious than I am :) Good luck!

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