Just Add Wood


I’m exhausted, but there’s still a few hours to go until the “Downton Abbey” finale; I had to do something to stay awake. So I decided to fix some floorboard problems.

At some point in the distant past, presumably for electric work, someone made a bunch of crap cuts in the second-floor hall floorboards. There were four that had no support at one end, because the horizontal cuts made to pull out short sections are well shy of (or well beyond, depending on your POV) the joist. I guess “16″ on center” was just too difficult to remember?

I’ve been stepping around those soft spots for almost 10 months now. But I also had to pull floorboards for electric, so before I nail the boards back in place, I fixed the squishy bits.

A trip to my (obscenely large) trash pile out back yielded an old 2×4 (with some really tight grain, as it turns out) off which I chopped some 1-1/2″-long chunks. After drilling clearance holes in the chunks for 3″ screws (yes, they’re Phillips head; sue me), I clamped each little piece flush at the top of the requisite joist, and screwed them in place.

Now, I have something to which I can nail the floorboards…just as soon as I order some proper cut nails for flooring.

In the meantime, with all the floorboards properly supported, I can quit hopscotching from my bedroom down the hall to the bathroom.

Wish I had those nails, though; there’s still two hours before “Downton Abbey.”

* Yes, I know I should have cut lengths off the 2×4 and screwed face grain to face grain. But then I’d have to rip it, too, because 4″ (and it really is 4″ wide) wouldn’t fit because of the wiring . So we’ll see if it holds. I suspect it will be months before I get around to nailing those floorboards down; plenty of time for a test.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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25 Responses to Just Add Wood

  1. adamwelker says:

    Nailing into end grain like your picture shows might not be such a great idea. It looks to me that you screwed a piece as wide as the floor board to the side of a joist. Cutting some thing longer, say the width of three floorboards, and ripping it to fit the space gives a better connection. Fasten into the long grain. Nailing into end grain is never a good idea.

  2. jetzombie says:

    I’m quite enjoying your blog, and admire your ‘can do’ spirit.

  3. Ann says:

    What about using small headed finish screws, they are dark in color and have a square recess in the head. That would allow you to remove the boards again later if need be and probably not be any bigger than the heads of those specialty nails.

    • fitz says:

      Yeah, that would work – and you’re probably right that it would be smart to allow for later access. But for anything that shows, I’m committed to doing it the way it would have been done in 1906 when the house was built. (Except for electric and plumbing, of course…those I want done to 21st-century standards 🙂 )

      • bsrlee says:

        As I mentioned in an earlier post, my friends 1880’s terrace house had floor boards screwed down over the gas piping on the upper floors – these were original. The boards that didn’t go over the piping were nailed in place with the tongue and groove removed for fitting the removable boards too. It lasted until the 2010’s when some expert electricians used a sledge hammer to remove the boards as screws were too hard for them to figure out it seems, even after being shown the screws and told what they were for. The master bedroom also had a floor board hatch in the middle of the floor to give access to the back of the ceiling light fitting (gas converted to electricity way back) in the down stairs dining room – the electrician just took to that with a circular saw, cutting a # sign around the hatch. Just lucky they didn’t keep going and cut the floor joists too.

        • fitz says:

          Oh sure – I know screws were in use then. But nails were used in mine, so I’ll stick with the original approach for this particular house.

      • miathet says:

        And here I was looking forward to Popular Woodworking tackles authentic outhouses. Might even overtake the bird house books.

  4. I’m always amazed by the corners cut when someone would rather do a job quickly as opposed to right.

    At least you’ll have some peace of mind when you’re finished. Keep up the good work!

  5. John Wolf says:

    You mean your floor joists ARE on 16″ centers !?

    • fitz says:

      Yes – so you’d think, with a tape measure in hand, it would have been a simple matter to cut those floorboards at the middle of a joist.

  6. To h_ll with how you fastened the support block. I noticed that you did not clean out the debris in the cavity nor sand and finish the inside surfaces. I suppose this type of shoddy craftsman just goes with how you youngsters do things these days.

  7. wb8nbs says:

    You are SO lucky you can run Romex.

  8. JC says:

    I write checks for drywall, plumbing and electrical. I can cover most everything else with sweat and colorful language.

  9. pogo930 says:

    No apologies for Phillip heads. I like the Torx better. My son who does remodeling now has 4 different screws on the truck. Phillips, Robertsons (square) and 2 different sizes of Torx. Drives him crazy.

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