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natural, semi-affordable flooring in a prexisting house?

 
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We have a manufactured home, and all three bedrooms have synthetic carpet. It's hard to keep clean, and I would LOVE to eventually replace it with a more natural flooring. Our home is on a crawlspace, and the underfloor is plywood. I know very little about flooring!

I thought about using heat treated pallet wood, but I worry that it would need a strong finish to be smooth. We've used shelack for our pallet wood furniture, but I don't know how it would hold up against kids playing and lots of walking, etc.

I'm thinking the earthen/cob flooring wouldn't be a good idea on top of plywood, because of the weight?

Honestly I just don't know where to start, and there's probably a lot of options I don't know about. What ideas do you all have?
 
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Good question...  I used heat treated pallet wood for a number of projects.  I found that it continued to shrink after I installed it (both inside and outside) so I'm thinking "heat treated" and "kiln dried" are very different things.

We did a paper bag floor in our laundry room.  But we used a fancy floor varnish to seal and protect it.  And cat pee ate through it just fine.  Ours is on cement so maybe one done on plywood would be better (I think so).  

My best affordable naturalish flooring job was when I got a big pile of maple flooring from a demo job really cheap.  It had nails in it and was not pretty.  Scraping out the tongue and grooves of their junk and pounding out the nails was a chore.  But then we just cut off the bad parts (damage from demo) and installed it.  Since the original floor had been sanded, the boards weren't the same thickness.  After putting it in, the plan was to sand and varnish it.  But we ended up liking the texture underfoot so we didn't sand it or varnish it.  We did sand over the corners gently before we installed it so we didn't have high corners that were sharp.

We also got some free floor tiles from Freecycle.  I had to mortar them down and grout them but at least they were cheap and reasonably VOC free.
 
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Hi Nicole, I think one option may be hardwood flooring, like oak. Lumber Mills grade all the pieces as they're made, and some hardwood flooring places will have mill run seconds; they didn't make the grade for premium. Usually seconds have "imperfections" like worm holes or knots for example and they cost less than premium. An unfinished oak floor could then be sealed with an oil, like tung or linseed, which are often used to finish furniture. I have no idea if that sort of finish would hold up well to foot traffic and kids playing, but it may be something to look into as it meets your criteria for a natural floor.
 
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Hi Nicole;
Not sure if you will consider this natural enough. And I'm sure that cost is a factor as well, but...
Solid wood , prefinished hardwood flooring. 25 year warranty. Really nice stuff.
I bought mine at Lumber liquidater's at just over $2 a square foot. Solid hickory wood with a beautiful finish already on it.
To install , you will need an air operated nailer.  I bought one "the nailer" on ebay for $90 and I sold it on ebay a few weeks later for $85!
I do own my own small portable air compressor. But they are a common homeowner tool.
Bed rooms are generally small square footage , so may be do one at a time?
 
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What about Softwood Flooring?

The floor in my other house is White Pine, Ship-Lapped, 10 inches wide.

I made mine myself from cutting the logs, to sawing the boards, to forming the ship lapped edges, to screwing them down with screws; so it was very cheap. But a person could also buy the boards and do the same thing for a very reasonable price. White Pine is very stable so it does not shrink much as it dries, but other wood species works just as well.

In the old days in New England, hardwood flooring was used in the Kitchen and Living Room areas of a home, but the other rooms of the house was typically Eastern Hemlock.

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Travis Johnson
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Another cheap flooring is real rock. Obviously this depends on what is available nearby, or on your own land, but as long as fairly flat rocks can be had, you can make a very nice floor for very cheap.

A few years ago I was clearing a forest into field just in back of my house and kept finding huge boulders of slate. At first I just bulldozed them over, but as more showed up, I bulldozed them to teh side where I could later get at them. I ended up splitting that slate into 2 inch thick pieces and made a floor for my entryway. I then used gravel from my gravel pit to make mortor for around the rocks. I think the total cost was something like $12 for the entryway floor as all I had to buy was a bag of Portland Cement.

A person can do the same thing even if you do not have slate. Many rocks split into thin sheets, and they can often be found on road construction jobs. Here in Maine anyway, the Dept of Transportation will often blast their way through outcrops, and many flat rocks are left over. Ask...or "steal"...not really stealing since it is in a public right of way, and thus you semi-own the rock as a taxpayer...and build your floor from those rocks. No one cares about extra rock on the side of the road. For mortor, just buy the pre-mixed kind if you do not have a gravel pit, its still going to be one cheap floor.



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Homemade Slate Entryway Floor
 
Travis Johnson
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If a person is forced to buy something, one of the cheapest floors is thus a Penny Floor.

It sounds crazy, but today flooring is $2-$3 a square foot, well it only takes 30 penny's or so to make a square foot, so going to a bank and converting (2) $20 bills will make a penny floor for an average sized room.

I have never made a floor out of penny's, but I have made a Range Backsplash out of penny's, and it was easy. In our case we wanted a copper look, but copper tiles at the store were $10 a piece, and we needed at least (4) of them. In the end we used 707 pennies to make the backsplash...$7.07 obviously. That is one cheap backsplash!

A person would make a floor the same way we made the backsplash. Just use a drop of hot melt glue on each penny and stick it to the plywood (or concrete) subfloor, then use two-part epoxy to cover the pennys. Then afterwards, polish with a car buffing pad and wax.

I do not have a direct picture of our penny backsplash, but you can see it behind the stove in this picture. A lot of it is actually hidden, but it is fairly big for something costing $7.07. By the way, Katie's kitchen was set up to look like the 1930's, her favorite era, so in this picture she is dressed in a 1930 dress posing in front of her 1917 kitchen stove. She normally does not dress like that! (LOL)


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Penny Backsplash
 
Travis Johnson
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Another extremely cheap floor to make is one made out of wood rounds or squares.

This was often used in old factories because old whale grease would land on the floors and be slippery. Plus everything was oiled back then, so oil dripped everywhere. To combat that, factories cut wood rounds, debarked to an even thickness of 2-4 inches. These were nailed to the floor or adjacent blocks of wood. They did this because the end grain would readily suck up the grease and oil preventing slipping when walked on.

There is two ways to do this. Logs can be debarked, then crosscut so that rounds are made, and then placed about the room as close as possible. They should be dried first though to allow for shrinking. Then concrete is made, and poured around the rounds of wood, just as if you were making a stone patio with flat rock pavers. But in this case, they are rounds blocks of wood. I have personally built this kind of floor for a woodworking shop.

The other way to do it, and is more refined, is to cut logs into square beams...8x8's, 6x6's, 4x4.s etc, and then crosscut them to 2-4 inches in thickness. Then place them end grain up nailing them to each other and the floor as you work across the room. This can be left natural as they did in the old factories, or sanded and sealed with polyurethane.

Sorry, I do not have a picture of that round block floor.
 
Travis Johnson
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Another type of floor that is cheap to make is a stamped concrete floor.

A lot of people think that concrete is heavy, but it really is not. I have made a lot of concrete countertops and at 2 inches thick, it is only 12 pounds per square foot. A floor or set of kitchen cabinets can easily handle that! If you are really concerned about weight, you can use something called Sawdust Concrete where you mix in sawdust instead of gravel to reduce the overall weight, but it is not really needed.

In any case, if you make your own concrete, it is really cheap even if you have to buy the gravel and the portland cement. That cost is around $60 per cubic yard, and where in the world can you make a floor for an average sized room for $60? You can buy stamps to make any number of patterns, and concrete can easily be polished or painted.

I have never done a stamped concrete floor, but I have done (3) concrete countertops, and I would do more in the future. They came out well, and were cheap and easy to do.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:Another extremely cheap floor to make is one made out of wood rounds or squares.

This was often used in old factories because old whale grease would land on the floors and be slippery. Plus everything was oiled back then, so oil dripped everywhere. To combat that, factories cut wood rounds, debarked to an even thickness of 2-4 inches. These were nailed to the floor or adjacent blocks of wood. They did this because the end grain would readily suck up the grease and oil preventing slipping when walked on.

There is two ways to do this. Logs can be debarked, then crosscut so that rounds are made, and then placed about the room as close as possible. They should be dried first though to allow for shrinking. Then concrete is made, and poured around the rounds of wood, just as if you were making a stone patio with flat rock pavers. But in this case, they are rounds blocks of wood. I have personally built this kind of floor for a woodworking shop.

The other way to do it, and is more refined, is to cut logs into square beams...8x8's, 6x6's, 4x4.s etc, and then crosscut them to 2-4 inches in thickness. Then place them end grain up nailing them to each other and the floor as you work across the room. This can be left natural as they did in the old factories, or sanded and sealed with polyurethane.

Sorry, I do not have a picture of that round block floor.



I had a friend growing up whose father did this with 2 x 4 lumber. He used cookies about 1/2 inch thick. The pieces looked like little bricks. He wood glued them in a herringbone pattern to a plywood subflooring and then covered the floor in epoxy. It looked really nice.
 
Will Meginley
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Will Meginley wrote:
I had a friend growing up whose father did this with 2 x 4 lumber. He used cookies about 1/2 inch thick. The pieces looked like little bricks. He wood glued them in a herringbone pattern to a plywood subflooring and then covered the floor in epoxy. It looked really nice.



Doing the math: looks like you need about 30 tiles per square foot to pull that floor off. Assuming you get eight tiles per linear foot (to account for kerf, knots, shake, etc.) You should get 2 square feet per standard 2 x 4 x 8. So if you purchase the boards it's not super cheap. My friend's dad had a large scrap wood pile from other projects that provided his flooring.
 
Travis Johnson
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Will Meginley wrote:

Will Meginley wrote:
I had a friend growing up whose father did this with 2 x 4 lumber. He used cookies about 1/2 inch thick. The pieces looked like little bricks. He wood glued them in a herringbone pattern to a plywood subflooring and then covered the floor in epoxy. It looked really nice.



Doing the math: looks like you need about 30 tiles per square foot to pull that floor off. Assuming you get eight tiles per linear foot (to account for kerf, knots, shake, etc.) You should get 2 square feet per standard 2 x 4 x 8. So if you purchase the boards it's not super cheap. My friend's dad had a large scrap wood pile from other projects that provided his flooring.



That is true, but there is more than one way to do something. I have a sawmill so if I was going to do this, I would just saw an 8x8 beam and then crosscut.

But back when I did not have a sawmill, I hewed out 8x8's beams using an axe. Not a broad axe. Not a adze, just a regular pole axe. I was hewing 12 foot beams in about 1-1/2 hours. That means in three days time a person could do an average size room. A day to make the material, a day to lay the floor, and then a third day to sand and finish it.
 
Will Meginley
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Travis Johnson wrote:That is true, but there is more than one way to do something.



That is also true. I should point out in case it wasn't obvious, the math in question was for the floor I was describing, not the floor Travis described which made me remember it.
 
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I like the idea of the end grain.  I saved oak logs to use for the timber frame of our home, and I have a lot of hickory logs I saved to use in making doors and cabinets.  I've got some smaller hickory logs that I could cut into beams and crosscut into tiles for the floor.  That could end up looking very nice.  Thanks for the ideas.
 
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I have asthma, allergies, and animals, and am an unhappy housekeeper.  I hate carpet. I've long thought that if I ever bought a house with carpet, especially in the bedrooms, and couldn't afford to immediately have it replaced I would do like one of the fitness studios in town and just lay down thin plywood and put a thick polyurethane coating on it. They used OSB and it actually looked really good! Neighbours in high school had painted plywood living room and bedroom floors. You might be able to use whatever plywood is already there. With the better quality plywood, you might be able to rip wide boards and then lay them like flooring. You could paint them to have a traditional kind of look. Not natural, but much less dust and dust mite hiding places, and very easy to clean, and no icky offgassing carpet.  

My childhood bedroom has pine boards - not shiplapped or tongue and groove, just pine boards. They are probably 30 + years old, so a bit scratched and worn, but that's not a bad life- better than laminate! It was also used in the kitchen and living room, was definitely too soft for that purpose -its gouged and ugly has lots of character. I think the boards used were cut from the property, and they have shrunk over the years, so there was a tiny gap. Definitely use well dried wood! Historically my area of Canada would use pine boards for the upstairs, and then paint them.
 
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Catie George wrote: Not natural, but much less dust and dust mite hiding places, and very easy to clean, and no icky offgassing carpet.  



If carpet offgassing is of concern to you, then you really need to learn more about OSB construction as well as polyurethane coverings. All the best.
 
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We've mostly ditched carpet simply because it's really filthy stuff regardless of personal cleanliness - a right PITA to clean and keep it clean.

Luckily, under the carpet were very old hardwood T & G boards, so they were sanded, sealed and that's it.

However, with a recent renovation at the rear of the house we chose a similarly coloured click together bamboo floating floor system.

The bamboo has proven to be really good - just sweep and mop.

In regards to its 'green' value, well there's arguments 'for' and 'against' - it's a fast growing grass glued together, not a long lived tree that provides habitat.

 
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Travis Johnson wrote:If a person is forced to buy something, one of the cheapest floors is thus a Penny Floor.

It sounds crazy, but today flooring is $2-$3 a square foot, well it only takes 30 penny's or so to make a square foot, so going to a bank and converting (2) $20 bills will make a penny floor for an average sized room.

I have never made a floor out of penny's, but I have made a Range Backsplash out of penny's, and it was easy. In our case we wanted a copper look, but copper tiles at the store were $10 a piece, and we needed at least (4) of them. In the end we used 707 pennies to make the backsplash...$7.07 obviously. That is one cheap backsplash!

A person would make a floor the same way we made the backsplash. Just use a drop of hot melt glue on each penny and stick it to the plywood (or concrete) subfloor, then use two-part epoxy to cover the pennys. Then afterwards, polish with a car buffing pad and wax.

I do not have a direct picture of our penny backsplash, but you can see it behind the stove in this picture. A lot of it is actually hidden, but it is fairly big for something costing $7.07. By the way, Katie's kitchen was set up to look like the 1930's, her favorite era, so in this picture she is dressed in a 1930 dress posing in front of her 1917 kitchen stove. She normally does not dress like that! (LOL)




I did a small counter top from pennies. It turned out good, but there are actually almost 300 pennies per square foot, so it will cost you roughly the same at regular flooring at about $3 a foot, not counting the epoxy. A cool floor idea, but I wouldn't consider it particularly cheap.
 
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A penny is 0.75", so 256 pennies if they are right next to eachother in a grid.

I had the same issue with plywood subfloor and a friend asked how bad it would be to just put a finish on that.  So I will propose the same to you.

If you are looking at cement and tile, why not also a thin layer of cob? The material and weight doesn't seem too different to me.

 
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The idea of soft wood is excellent, as long as you (and your guests) take your shoes off when you enter the house.

We have a large area covered with solid ash flooring which was very inexpensive because the grain was considered odd. It has been oiled, not sealed, and feels lovely under bare feet. It has held up well to children and foot traffic. (We don’t wear shoes in the house.)

It is probably worth finding local suppliers and asking about second and third quality as well as returned wood flooring.
 
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Will Meginley wrote:

Will Meginley wrote:
I had a friend growing up whose father did this with 2 x 4 lumber. He used cookies about 1/2 inch thick. The pieces looked like little bricks. He wood glued them in a herringbone pattern to a plywood subflooring and then covered the floor in epoxy. It looked really nice.



Doing the math: looks like you need about 30 tiles per square foot to pull that floor off. Assuming you get eight tiles per linear foot (to account for kerf, knots, shake, etc.) You should get 2 square feet per standard 2 x 4 x 8. So if you purchase the boards it's not super cheap. My friend's dad had a large scrap wood pile from other projects that provided his flooring.



We have a finishing mill here that has an endless supply of scrap 2x4 chunks free for the loading (most about 8-12" long and already smooth). I'd think you could cut them into uniform 'bricks', split them lengthwise, and secured by a bit of epoxy, you'd have a pre-finished floor.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:What about Softwood Flooring?

The floor in my other house is White Pine, Ship-Lapped, 10 inches wide.

I made mine myself from cutting the logs, to sawing the boards, to forming the ship lapped edges, to screwing them down with screws; so it was very cheap. But a person could also buy the boards and do the same thing for a very reasonable price. White Pine is very stable so it does not shrink much as it dries, but other wood species works just as well.

In the old days in New England, hardwood flooring was used in the Kitchen and Living Room areas of a home, but the other rooms of the house was typically Eastern Hemlock.



I also live in a Manufactured home which had carpet in it. We've removed the carpet in all by one room. Not only was it nasty, but with my husband on oxygen, carpet is deadly.  So far we've only replaced the floor in our bedroom for him. My mother and I put down some temporary vinyl stick floor tile 10 years ago, but they are all peeling up now, and vinyl is also very bad for people with breathing problems. We're still pondering on the replacement issue as well.

As to Travis comment on using the softwood. I've lived in several old New England buildings, and one unique thing I have found is that they would put the hardwood around the perimeter of the room, then use softwood to infill. They would then have carpet to cover the softwood. A cost effective idea.
 
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Rez Zircon wrote:We have a finishing mill here that has an endless supply of scrap 2x4 chunks free for the loading (most about 8-12" long and already smooth). I'd think you could cut them into uniform 'bricks', split them lengthwise, and secured by a bit of epoxy, you'd have a pre-finished floor.



Need to add a note about this sort of wood product: often it is treated with preservative chemicals that you really should not breathe up close and personal, at least not full-time. So either seal it away or find something else.
 
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You know those bamboo blinds made from really thin strips? A friend used those, removing all the hardware, laid on the floor, cut to size as needed. Looked and felt great to walk/lay on (kind of like tatami mats), really cheap. Don't know how long they held up (it was in their guest house/studio where we stayed) but I often thought it was a really creative way to dress a floor instead of rugs.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:Another cheap flooring is real rock. Obviously this depends on what is available nearby, or on your own land, but as long as fairly flat rocks can be had, you can make a very nice floor for very cheap.

A few years ago I was clearing a forest into field just in back of my house and kept finding huge boulders of slate. At first I just bulldozed them over, but as more showed up, I bulldozed them to teh side where I could later get at them. I ended up splitting that slate into 2 inch thick pieces and made a floor for my entryway. I then used gravel from my gravel pit to make mortor for around the rocks. I think the total cost was something like $12 for the entryway floor as all I had to buy was a bag of Portland Cement.

A person can do the same thing even if you do not have slate. Many rocks split into thin sheets, and they can often be found on road construction jobs. Here in Maine anyway, the Dept of Transportation will often blast their way through outcrops, and many flat rocks are left over. Ask...or "steal"...not really stealing since it is in a public right of way, and thus you semi-own the rock as a taxpayer...and build your floor from those rocks. No one cares about extra rock on the side of the road. For mortor, just buy the pre-mixed kind if you do not have a gravel pit, its still going to be one cheap floor.





This is a brilliant idea and looks so beautiful. Would love wood flooring but no way can I afford it - plus doing a floor with slate and concrete would possibly be easier than trying to fit a wood floor myself.
 
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I have never tried this yet, but I think I will when I redo the house I am currently living in.

That is buying half-inch CDX plywood, then taking a propane torch and charring the wood slightly. Then I would cut each sheet into 12 inch widths (4) 8' long "boards" per sheet, and then shiplapping the edges. Then I would put a finish on it.

It sounds like a lot of work, but basically it is engineered saoftwood flooring, just where I am doing most of the work. It would be very diensional stable, have a unique look to it, and the shipplapped edges would keep the dirt from going through the cracks like on a regular board floor. Cutting it into 12 inch wide boards would make the floor look like wide pine flooring. The cost for the plywood is only 50 cents a board foot, and 12 inch wide boards cover a lot of area in a hurry. If a person did not like the board look though, they could just go with sheets of plywood and save quite a bit of extra work.

 
Travis Johnson
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A person could also mix up their own concrete and stamp it to look like tiles or rock.

You could also color the concrete. The best way I found is to just dump in latex paint as you mix it up. Just go much darker then you actually want on the floor as the concrete will tone down the color quite a bit (hunter green will end up being a pea green). You can also paint the concrete afterwards which is what I did on my concrete countertops.

The cost is super cheap, as it costs me $65 per cubic yard to make concrete myself, and that $65 will cover about (4) average sized rooms.

Weight should not be a problem; concrete 2 inchs thick is only 12 pounds per square foot, but if a person is super concerned about weight, they can always substitute gravel for sawdust and have lightweight sawdustcrete. We had it as flooring in our barn and it lasted 27 years.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:Another extremely cheap floor to make is one made out of wood rounds or squares.

The other way to do it, and is more refined, is to cut logs into square beams...8x8's, 6x6's, 4x4.s etc, and then crosscut them to 2-4 inches in thickness. Then place them end grain up nailing them to each other and the floor as you work across the room. This can be left natural as they did in the old factories, or sanded and sealed with polyurethane.



Great idea! Also instead of using new logs, if old beams can be obtained then those can be sliced into wooden tiles. It would be an excellent way of recycling them!
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:A person could also mix up their own concrete and stamp it to look like tiles or rock.



Or just add lots of small round river rock in pleasing colors, and finish it to make a smooth surface where the rock shows a lot -- I've seen that done with ordinary concrete and it looked fantastic, and was very pleasantly textured. If you're just walking on it, strength isn't a huge concern.

Remember you can experiment with small batches (really easy if you're using the mix-and-eat stuff as your base, just blow $3 mixing up one bag with whatever trimmings, and see what kind of tiles it makes. Silicon cake molds, anyone?)

If you have native clay, or clay-heavy soil, you can use a simple mudbrick kiln to turn it into tiles, with the surface as finished or not as you like.
See the Primitive Technology channel, where my favorite is the tile-roofed tiny house.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAL3JXZSzSm8AlZyD3nQdBA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P73REgj-3UE
Lot of work but hey, it's all yours!

Travis Johnson wrote:lightweight sawdustcrete. We had it as flooring in our barn and it lasted 27 years.



Tell me more about this? I'd really like to have a hard surface in my barn, but needs to be super cheap, and preferably something that would drain a bit. (Barn floods during spring melt, for one thing.)
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:What about Softwood Flooring?

The floor in my other house is White Pine, Ship-Lapped, 10 inches wide.

I made mine myself from cutting the logs, to sawing the boards, to forming the ship lapped edges, to screwing them down with screws; so it was very cheap. But a person could also buy the boards and do the same thing for a very reasonable price. White Pine is very stable so it does not shrink much as it dries, but other wood species works just as well.

In the old days in New England, hardwood flooring was used in the Kitchen and Living Room areas of a home, but the other rooms of the house was typically Eastern Hemlock.



Beautiful floor. Mine is also white pine. I purchased mine at .99/sq ft. I do like it but.....we have big dogs and they've kind of ripped it up.

In the attached pic you can see both, 1 of the offending dogs, and the damage to the floor. We've never bothered to sand it down and reseal. I don't think it'll last with the dogs anyway.
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elle sagenev wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:What about Softwood Flooring?

The floor in my other house is White Pine, Ship-Lapped, 10 inches wide.

I made mine myself from cutting the logs, to sawing the boards, to forming the ship lapped edges, to screwing them down with screws; so it was very cheap. But a person could also buy the boards and do the same thing for a very reasonable price. White Pine is very stable so it does not shrink much as it dries, but other wood species works just as well.

In the old days in New England, hardwood flooring was used in the Kitchen and Living Room areas of a home, but the other rooms of the house was typically Eastern Hemlock.



Beautiful floor. Mine is also white pine. I purchased mine at .99/sq ft. I do like it but.....we have big dogs and they've kind of ripped it up.

In the attached pic you can see both, 1 of the offending dogs, and the damage to the floor. We've never bothered to sand it down and reseal. I don't think it'll last with the dogs anyway.



To make my White Pine Flooring, I sawed my own trees into logs, then logs into boards 10 inches wide, then used a router and formed the shiplapped edges. I never planned the lumber before installation, just srcewed it down, and for a full year let us walking on it slowly smooth out the floor. Then, and only, then did I sand the floor, and just used a 6" orbital rotating sander using (40) sheets of 50 grit. It took me 4 hours, but I would have spent more time and money on planing the wood down, and still would have had to sand the lumber. And 4 hours is not that bad, my great room is 40 ft x 24 feet, which is a whole lot of floor!

Here is a photo of me starting my White Pine Flooring! I know not everyone has a woodlot, and I fully understand that, but I am a huge fan of doing as much as I can for myself, so since I do have a woodlot, and logging equipment, and a sawmill...I do as much as I can. In this photo, I was explaining to my daughter why it is NOT wrong to cut trees.



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White Pine Log for my Home's Flooring
 
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