Wood Floors Q & A Making End Grain Block Flooring from Wood Scraps & Cut Off 2 X 4s

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Q & A: Making End Grain Block Flooring from Wood Scraps & Cut Off 2 X 4s

Mr. Bollinger I am a finish carpenter in Minneapolis. work is slow, money is tight. Iam wondering if its possible to do end grain floors from spf 24 cut offs.I found your Taunton press book online and would be happy to buy it ifthere’s a section on end grain floors. If not, do you know of any reallysolid resources for me on my end grain question and answer quest? I amgetting frustrated with wading through all of the amateurself-congratulatory blog posts to get answers to some of my questions. thank you for any much needed help you could give me Sincerely Andrew N.

Not sure what you mean by spf Andrew. I assume youre referring to a conifer framing material since you say theyre 2 X 4 cutoffs. I appreciate your willingness to buy my Hardwood Floors book from Taunton Press. With that 25 to 50 in royalty from Taunton Press I might spring for a tip on my next Starbucks Latte. That is the next time Im inclined to think I can afford a Starbucks Lattewhich is has been some time now. Yes, things are very slow out our way as well.

All satire aside, there are not many details on how to manufacture wood flooring in my hardwood book and almost nothing at all on how to make end grain flooring from 2 X 4 scraps. Further, I cant think of a single book or guideline on the subject to help guide you. Your concept however, is a good one. I have on numerous occasions shown flooring mills how to set up jigs and use their fall down for the manufacture of wood flooring, including end grain block. Wood flooring is after all the ultimate by product of hardwood materials construction. And end grain block is the end all (pun intended) by-product of by products.

End grain block for flooring (or paving for that matter) can be made from almost any wood material. There are even edge grain products that are now made from scraps of plywood materials!

Theres really no need to go into great detail on how to set up a jig or what products to use. From a woodworkers viewpoint and certainly one familiar with wood flooring, all that should be obvious.

What may not be so apparent is the need for near absolute precision with the thickness of each individual block relative to one another. Theres not a driving need for utter precision with the other dimensions of width and length. These can be easily packed full with a filler of one type or another. (You might want to check out some of my other Qs & As on filling compoundswhat to use and when to use them.) Even rounds cut from small diameter trees or shrubs can be made into flooring. Rounds flooring presents one of the trickiest from a filling viewpoint.

One of the really neat things about end grain block from scraps is that the scraps can be cut from all different sizes and shapes — and for that matter, types — of wood construction materials. You simply ensure each block size or shape has its own little (or big) box, so that the installer can pick and choose by size and shape to create a fabulous array of different designs and patterns of flooring from all those available.

The reason for end grain block thickness exactitude has to do with the sanding and finishing of the product. End grain can be one of the hardest and most challenging of all wood flooring materials to flatten, smooth and finish, particularly when it has not been manufactured or installed with great precision paid to the relative thickness or height of individual blocks. Failure to do so will result in a major issue of what we in the wood flooring trade refer to as over wood. Not only must the manufacture of block thickness be planned carefully and carried out precisely, but also the application (or setting) of the individual blocks into the mastic or sand. Otherwise, preparations for finishing or final use could quickly turn into a nightmare of the first order. On more than one occasion Ive overheard sanders and finishers raving on and on about the problems theyve had sanding and flattening end grain block flooring projects. They grind and grind and grind away, sometimes for days on end, before they finally get the floor flat enough for finishing or traffic.

There you have itthe ultimate by-product of by products. The really good news is that end grain block makes an incredibly tough and good looking floor in moisture prone areas. It can even be used as pavement for walkways or patios. When designed and installed properly, end grain block becomes a tough and handsome floor for an entryway, mud room, laundry, bathroom or even a patio, exposed walkway or footpath. Years ago, end grain block was the street of choice for many a discriminating horseman or carriage. To quote Mark Twain: Roadways of stone are not fit for the foot of horse or back of man.

The keys to designing, installing and maintaining wood block in exposed or exterior applications is acclimation and drainage, just as with exposed stone or tile, only much more so. Resistance to insects, mold growth and decay is also a major requirement. Species like white oak, mesquite, southern yellow pine and others with strong resistance to decay and pests have long been the products of choice for these types of installations.

Hope this helps you Andrew and any other readers considering such an enterprise or installation.

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