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Hardwood Floor Sagging Around Return Vent – What’s Going On?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to South Carolina where Caroline is on the phone with a question about oak flooring. What can we do for you today?

    CAROLINE: I have an old house built in 1940. Hardwood floors. And I’ve got two almost holes near the living-room door. And on into the hallway here, where each room meets – the hallway is the center – I have this iron grate. It’s about 2 feet wide and 3 feet long and that’s where the return is for the heating and air conditioning. And the wood seems to be caving a little bit around that. And I was wondering, can he fix that back as good as it – I mean is it possible to fix that back as good as it was the way they built it in 1940? Or will there be a problem around the return?

    TOM: Are you still using that return? Is that still an active part of your heating-and-cooling system?

    CAROLINE: It is.

    TOM: So, yeah. Certainly, when you have worn-out oak floorboards, sometimes they’ll wear through or they’ll become insect-damaged. They absolutely can be rebuilt the same way they were when they were originally installed. It’s a bit of a tricky carpentry job but it’s not too terribly difficult.

    You’ll need to hire a contractor for this job.  And what he has to do is he’ll cut out the old board. Usually, he’ll use a circular saw, he’ll plunge-cut down the middle and then use a chisel to kind of break it out. And then putting the new board in is a bit tricky, especially if it’s tongue-and-groove, which most of them are. Because what you have to do is you have to cut the back of the groove piece off so that you can sort of put it in and overlap the older piece with that. Because you can’t use one that’s a full groove because, obviously, you can’t get it in there. It’s like trying to put in a puzzle piece. But you cut the back of the groove side off and then it becomes sort of a lap joint; you drop the new board in.

    Now, if there’s one tricky part, it’s really just in bringing back the oak floor finish. I had a floor that was much like that where we had an old floor furnace that took up a big space in the middle of the room. And so we were able to frame that out and actually put new hardwood floor in there and sort of feather it like almost like a finger joint with the original floor. The floors were different colors for a while because they had a natural finish on it. But over the course of about the next year, it sort of faded and darkened and blended and now you could never tell the difference between the repair and – the new wood that was repaired and the old wood that was there existing.

    CAROLINE: OK. I need to have my house checked for termites, I think.

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