Repair & Care
Installing Herringbone Floors
I recently had the opportunity to install a hardwood floor in a herringbone pattern. Now, many people have probably seen a completed herringbone installation and have been captivated by it's beauty and symmetry. However, only a small percentage of people know what it takes to lay-out and construct this stunning pattern. If you have ever wondered how it's done, read on.
River Recovered Heart Pine
The wood for this particular installation was unfinished, heart-pine harvested locally from the rivers around Northern Florida. This type of pine is not very common up in the northern parts of the US but is very common down south. There is a unique history to this type of hardwood and how it is harvested, as well as unique characteristics as a floor but that is a discussion I'll cover in the near future.
Goodwin Heart Pine
This particular hardwood installation took place in Northern Florida at a seminar offered by Goodwin Heart pine. The wood had been acclimated in the structure for 2 weeks prior to this installation. The sub floor and the wood were both monitored constantly prior to the installation and both were within the recommended tolerances for moisture content the day of the installation.
The first picture illustrates the work area, which is on the right side of the photo. This area was swept and vacuumed and then black, roofer's felt was installed over top of the sub floor. The adjacent area on the left, installed as a diagonal, will eventually be separated from our herringbone area by a 2 board border that will be installed after our herringbone.
The stack of short boards you see stacked on the diagonal floor will be used for the herringbone installation. All of these boards were cut to a uniform size from longer & wider lengths of heartwood pine. All of these boards had the tongue side still on the boards but on most the original groove had to be cut off. Those boards had to be grooved with a router after they were cut to length to allow for a tongue & groove installation of this floor.
Sub Floor Condition
The second picture illustrates a final check of the sub floor as a small height problem was detected before the installation. As is common with sub floor installation, the joint between the two installed sheets of 3/4" plywood was off slightly but was well within tolerance. As with any flooring installation, regardless of type or location, the sub floor preparation has to be checked and, if necessary, brought into proper tolerances set by the manufacturer.
After a careful check, we dry-laid our pine flooring boards over that section to check the amount of height difference. After we determined the height would not be a problem, the installation proceeded. However, had the area not been checked properly the unevenness would have been detected after the installation and at that point, it is much tougher to fix. Extra sanding in that area or complete rip-up and re-installation might have been the only course of action to correct the problem at that point.
Picture three shown on the right, begins with the set-up and installation of the most important area- the starter row. Without properly checking and setting our layout guidelines to be completely square, the installation can run-out quickly in as little as 1 to 2 ft. If the installation starts to run-out it is extremely visible in the square ness of the herringbone pattern. Again, proper planning and measuring make this time intensive installation run much smoother.
At this point we have nailed a long, straight board to the floor to act as an artificial "wall" to prevent our short boards from moving while we install them. It also helps keep our installation straight on our layout lines and it will be removed later.
You will also notice a piece of wood next to the installer left foot. This is simply a triangle with a right angle that we cut out of plywood and screwed to floor against the side of our straight board and also against the side of the previously installed floor. This plywood triangle will set the 45 degree angle of our herringbone installation and, much like the straight board, will prevent the boards from moving as they are installed.
Our next image illustrates the 2 completed center rows. The square ness of these rows sets the stage for the overall appearance and smooth installation of the rest of the floor.
Another plywood triangle can be seen on the upper left of our completed row. This triangle was also screwed into the floor to give us a solid starting point as we started from there and worked back down to our original starting point. Once these rows are installed, the rest of the installation will start to move along easier but our attention still has to be focused as we proceed.
As you can see in picture five to the left, the floor installation is moving along smoothly at this point and both sides can be worked on at one time by 2 installers, if necessary. Extra floor triangles are cut and screwed in as necessary to prevent movement in the boards.
At this point all the boards will be installed larger then the actual installation area. After all the boards are installed, we will come back and re-measure the area to mark the floor and make it square in the work area. Then the floor will be cut square to size with a circular saw with the use of a straight edge to guide the cutting.
Picture six shows the completed herringbone floor after it was marked and cut square in the area. This installation will have 2 rows of wider pine running around the herringbone as a border. The first outside row of the border is shown installed here. This was done purposely so we could custom cut and fit the second inside row to the square edges of the outside border and the finished floor.
You'll notice 1/2" plywood scraps next to the walls used for expansion spacing. Baseboard will be installed later to cover this large but essential expansion space.
Picture seven (last) shows the completed floor with the installed double border. Once the final inside border was custom cut to size, it was inserted and faced nailed, with the nail heads counter sunk. Eventually, this floor will be sanded flat and any nail holes will be filled before the floor is finished and coated.
This type of installation definitely takes a good deal of preparation and layout, as well as time. This small section took an entire day to install starting from the board fabrication down to the final border pieces being hand-nailed in place. There can be no doubt that this was truly a hand-crafted installation.
However, all the time and planning involved was definitely worth the eye-catching beauty of this unique wood floor. If you desire a truly stunning hardwood floor design to accent your home or office, then considered the herringbone. I can guarantee this design will always have attention focused on it.