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Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby sooth » Mon Jul 09, 2012 7:10 pm

Great info. This is the kind of reply I was hoping to find. I've read mixed reviews about fillers that are trowel grade, but I will look into the products mentioned.

FWIW, the floors are nearly 90 years old, and I have never noticed much seasonal movement. The pine floor upstairs in particular look exactly the same in the damp summer heat (now) than they did in the dry winter months. The pine floors are also unfinished on the bottom, and they are nailed to the joists (so there is plenty of air movement and opportunities for moisture to affect them). I just think that the 90 years of drying have shrunk the wood down to as far as it ever will, so I'm not terribly worried about filler popping out.

If I do decide to use a filler, I will definitely do some research about it first. Ideally it would need to be something with a bit of elasticity (like a caulking) but with stain or tinting options, and something that can be sanded. (Yeah I know, I know, I want a miracle product that probably doesn't exist, but c'mon, it's 2012 there HAS to be some kind of products out there that might work. This problem has been around for at least 200+ years).

I also don't understand the rope thing. I think the plain, crud-filled cracks would look much better than the rope.
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby Texas_Ranger » Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:19 pm

There are caulk-tube style crack fillers in wood colours available here in Europe, but they are seriously expensive even for small cracks and I'm not sure how long they last. Classic floor filler (which is basically a liquid glue to be mixed with sawdust) never seems to last longer than a few years, especially in wider gaps. First it's soft for ages, then it crumbles.

I think the others have it pretty much nailed down - relayng the floors and living with the cracks are the only viable options. How many rooms with the old floors do you have? Two? Do you have any old flooring in closets or other invisible spaces? Then you could manage without having to piece in new boards. I'm fairly sure I'd try to relay the floor if it were my own.
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby Sombreuil_Mongrel » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:24 pm

When we finished this attic floor, we made our own rope fillers by twisting up sisal twine into 2-ply and 4-ply ropes. We had our own little rope-walk up there.
The "thing" about the rope is, it's basically the color of the wood. It's held in place by the varnish; since it is not completely solid, it bonds to both edges of the wood and is stretchable and compressible. That's about all the qualities you want in a filler.
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby sooth » Tue Jul 10, 2012 8:18 pm

Tex: I have only 3 rooms left with the original birch floors (half to 2/3 of the main floor), basically three 9x10ish rooms. I have NO closets, and NO other wood scraps that I could use to fix or patch bad spots. I have *maybe* one or two square feet that was left under the bottom step of the stairs that I could pull-up to patch holes in the floor, but none to replace anything extensive. This is why I'm reluctant to pull the floor and re-lay it.

I did check the products listed above, and I'm not confident that either would work well for my floors. The trowel grade stuff is "more liquidy" wood filler (which, as a cabinetmaker, I'm very familiar with, and I'd NEVER use for floor gaps), and the other one is regular water based crack filler (same thing), and the Silkaflex is just a construction adhesive, which isn't really meant for crack filling, and would be a mess/nightmare to try to put down. Not to mention that it's the type of glue that probably costs 8-10$ per tube, and I'd need like 20 or 30 of them.

I still need to read-up a bit more about the epoxy type filler. The problem with this one will likely be that it's not very flexible.

I think I read on one site that someone used a mixture of sawdust and varnish to fill their gaps (made into a putty). I'm also wondering if the "glue and sawdust" woodworker's trick would work or not. PVA glue is still flexible after it fully cures. This fact is evident by the drips and blobs that I regularly scrape off the glue bottles at work - most of which (blobs) can still be stretched quite a bit before they tear.

***

As a side note, and as one of the reasons that I want to try to find a filler, is that my dad filled some cracks in his floors when he redid them (likely in the 70s or early 80s) and the putty did crack slightly, but it never popped out. He did this in only a few places though, but the floors still look amazing over 30 years later. I think he used just regular wood filler.
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby junkout » Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:39 pm

i am was a cabinet maker to for 15 years and let that pva cure completly and it is brittle especially when mixed with sawdust
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby Texas_Ranger » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:31 pm

Well, in the worst case you could still take the wood from 3 rooms to do 2 in a decent manner. I see why you're reluctant to pull the wood, but I think if you're careful you could get up most of the floor without breaking too much. The advantage of larger boards is that even if you break part of the groove on a stubborn nail you can most likely still nail the board down again. Personally, I'd hope for less than 10% breakage.

Besides, as far as I can tell from your blog, you shouldn't have any trouble milling some new boards to match, except for the material cost.
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby mross_pitt » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:07 pm

In my experience, most any homemade mixture of sanding dust and glue won't take stain/finish very evenly.

There are numerous websites online with people who have used the Timbermate product for the purpose of filling floor cracks. For example, this guy running a floor company in Maine claims to have used it to fill gaps up to 7/8 inch in an old pine floor.

http://floormasters.com/flooring-pros/viewtopic.php?t=386


Sooth,
How flexible is the flooring? That would be an issue as much as any seasonal expansion and contraction. We have an area with some damaged edges on the tongue and grooves and it was patched with regular old wood filler. Some of it stays, some of it doesn't because the floor isn't rock solid.
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby sooth » Wed Jul 11, 2012 7:10 pm

The floor is not "rock solid" because it's an old house, but I'd say it's very firmly in place with a few select areas that could use an additional nail or two. When I walk across it in either room (only two of the three have been stripped of the laminate and plywood so far), I hear no discernible squeaks or pops.

Tex:

I'm still not crazy about trying to take-up the floor. If I were to do this, I think I would just scrap it all and redo the entire first floor back in hardwood like it was originally, but that's big $$$ and I'd want to do it with traditional unfinished hardwood, sanded, and then finished (rather than that awful prefinished junk that everyone has these days).

The problem I have with modern hardwood floors is that the lengths are all puny. It ends up looking more like brickwork than an old floor, which often has continuous boards 10 feet or longer. I could mill some myself at work, but that's very time consuming...


Slowly, I'm starting to lean towards living with the cracks, which is going to bug me every single day.
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby Sombreuil_Mongrel » Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:24 pm

I wanted to clarify that within the 800 sq ft of heart pine we took up and re-layed, not a single board was trashed. Each board had three nails into the sleepers (2 face nails and one through the tongue!), so we cut hundreds upon hundreds of heavy cut flooring nails with sawzalls to get the floors up. It's a matter if time, skill and will. And dozens of sawzall blades as well.
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Re: Filling Cracks & Gaps in Hardwood Floors

Postby GreekRevival » Wed Jul 11, 2012 10:50 pm

Sooth,
I have to say (and this practice might not be acceptable to some) I used caulk for my gaps which look to be a similar size (and some were actually even bigger) with great results. Specifically I used DAP Dynaflex 230 in a dark brown color. It had the elasticity I was looking for and it has been working great for me. Even with the changes of season where wood can swell or shrink, this stuff has held up. No cracking of boards or of caulk. It seems to expand and contract properly and has not worked its way out of the gap. It has a 50 year guarantee. I'm glad I filled my gaps, and in my opinion, they look much better. Hope you find something that works for you!
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