A labour of love - restoring old woodblock parquet

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imageel

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I've not posted for a while and this is going to be a long one but I hope of interest to folks -
Preamble - a while back I bought an old property circa 1920's which had part woodblock and part quarry tile flooring and as part of a new extension wanted to lay the entire ground floor with similar parquet even though the original was in a pretty sorry state.
I sourced on eBay 2 separate pallets of similar style pitch-pine flooring and then events kinda overtook me - work, health issues etc such that these pallets ended up under tarpaulins and felt in my garden for circa 7 years and so this is how I ended up processing and laying them, albeit it is still work in process and only ~10 sq m out of a total of 60 to go....
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Looking online at what others had done was instructive however most to my mind weren't doing it right in that this type of flooring was commonplace up to the 1920's at which point synthetic materials were available that enabled cheap carpet covered flooring for the masses.
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All the examples I could find of re-laying this type of flooring seemed to focus on how to manage the fact that typically this was originally laid using hot bitumen and ignoring the fact that now some 100+ years later as we all know wood does, the blocks had shrunk or moved and were anything but regular in block shape!
My plan was to obviate these problems by trimming the blocks such that each were all the same dimensions and thus could be laid together whatever their heritage with impunity!
So because of the mixed history of the blocks I had - existing + 2 separate eBay purchase I had to work out the minimum common size that I could trim them to whilst not creating too much wastage and across the most worn to the least worn I ended up with a size of 225 x 75 x 20mm.
So come last August I thought I'd unpack the pallets and start moving the blocks back into the house to acclimatise there whilst I set too to resize them
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Some wet rot evident on some blocks - but in the main they are dry. I did find a few desiccated rodents amongst the blocks -
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Against advice elsewhere on this forum I planned to make a sliding jig for my bandsaw and using some hardened M42 tipped blades here was the 1st attempt -
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I was processing them in batches of maybe 2.5 sq m at a time as otherwise I would run out of space in my workshop, and what became clear was that after bandsawing maybe 3-4 sq m the blade was well and truly blunt, and at £24 a blade this was not an economic route to follow.
Next step was to try running the blocks through my old Startrite PT260 thicknesser, and this seemed to work quite well, not too much snipe and relatively fast to take 2-3mm off in each pass. It was however a truly filthy job and even with my cyclone chip extractor running the entire workshop was covered in filthy dust. Also after every batch the feed roller and beds needed cleaning with cellulose spirit to remove gummed on bitumin.
This batch of blocks had come from a house that had seen some wear and tear and it looked like the floor had been sanded and varnished at least twice and the sides of the blocks had significant dirt encrusted lacquer on the sides which I found to be incredibly abrasive even blunting a carbide scraper, so I tried coating one side with cheapo paint stripper and leaving it overnight. This seemed to work fine and the following day it was relatively easy to scrape the accumulated crud off one of the long sides such that I could subsequently plane that edge at a true 90 to the planed base on my jointer.
Having now 2 sides prepped I needed to make a jig to do the final cuts on the other 3 sides on my small table saw - plan was to take ~2mm off both ends to remove darkened bits where the grain had shrunk and then using the fence to cut the remaining uncleaned long side.
I machined up a scrap of maple to make a T track to fit the saw and then with a scrap of ply and a block of sapele and a 2mm shim of brass made a slide, fence and adjustable end-stop to finish the blocks -
underside of the slide with four embedded nylon guides
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T-slot guide
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Guide in-situ with a test block ready to trim end - fence to the right is set to the required width...
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So once through the saw as in the pic with the brass shim up, turn the block around and put shim down to take 2mm of the other end, then run through the saw against the fence to trim the final side.
Prepped block -
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To be continued.....
 
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scholar

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I will follow with interest.

I recall a colleague extending some parquet in his home and he would come in after a full weekend and say he had done another few square feet!

I don’t recall if this is what he did, but I have heard that one way of removing the bitumen is to put the blocks in the freezer after which the bitumen can be chipped off (no experience myself).

Cheers
 

imageel

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So after a few months refining my technique I got a workflow going and processed around 27 sq m of blocks and had to stop doing more - I have a total of about 60sq m to do, since I was running out of storage space!
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So decided to lay some in my hallway and downstairs toilet which was approximately 10sq m but 1st needed to check that the adhesive would work not only on bare concrete but also partially bitumin covered flooring where I had lifted some of the original flooring.
I thought I'd try Bostik Laybond because whilst the manufacturers don't recommend using it in bitumen contaminated areas I thought the fact that it is petroleum solvent based it ought to melt the bitumin a little.
I laid one block on a partially bitumen covered patch and left it two days to set then attacked it with an old chisel - it was well and truly stuck down and when I did break it free it sheared a layer of the bitumin off i.e. was stronger than it ! -
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One thing I will mention - This glue can be had quite cheaply from a local Screwfix, however if you look at the forums almost everyone complains that the coverage is nowhere near what the manufacturers claim. On the basis that in all the posts I read no-one complained that whilst they sold the glue they don't stock any suitable notched trowels - all are way to coarse against the manufacturers recommended 2mm pitch, so that might explain peoples poor coverage rates...
I merely bought a cheapo Rubi one and spent 10 mins with a ruler and scribe then set the blade up in a vice and cut v-notches with a 1mm cutting disc in an angle grinder- as supplied their trowels are only notched on one end and one side :)
Did some ball-park marking out to set the areas for the borders and set out the 1st line of blocks -
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Filled in the rest -
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I then used a small circular saw and a guide made out of a long spirit level with sandpaper pads on the bottom side attached with spray contact adhesive so the guide would not slip-
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I had a few tricky cuts around some of the reveals but with a sharp chisel they came out ok -

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I had some fun taking a wall hung toilet bowl off the wall, the retaining 8mm dia grub screws were well and truly seized and the Allen key twisted like butter -
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So after a liberal soak with WD-40 and gentle persuasion with a hammer (the grub screws are recessed 80mm deep into the porcelain) and a quality CK hardened key the grub screws gave in with a mighty bang, and I could take the bowl off!
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When re-hanging I will liberally coat these with grease - it appears to be a design 'feature' since these same holes are the mounting point for the seat and cover so subject to bleach and cleaning fluids etc which obviously have seeped down and into the joints..
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To be continued....
 
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imageel

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Finally all blocks laid -
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Time to hire a floor sander - this is after a few passes with 40 grit -
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One drawback with the processing technique I've used is that whilst it's relatively easy to see and reject say worm eaten or water damaged blocks, some as I found were hiding defects under the old varnish like this one that appears to have a dark water stain on it, so prepared to chop it out and replace -
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So after an intermediate and (nearly) final sand with 120 grit it was time to fill the minor defects.
I had decided to use Bona finishing products and so used their Mix and Fill product where you mix some of the final sawdust into the liquid to form a slurry and apply to the entire floor using a sponge backed grouting trowel. Whilst this worked ok it was IMHO a mistake and I won't be using it again because the subsequent sanding of this after it had dried was a 'mare. As anyone who has belt sanded a piece of glued timber to remove excess PVA glue will know, this stuff clogs sanding abrasives big-time! I eventually managed to get it all off but there were areas where it had left burn marks on the timber so I had to hand sand them..
For the rest that I lay I will try Lecol 7500 which is a solvent based product and around the same price as the Bona stuff.
To be continued....
 
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imageel

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This is after the 1st of 2 coats of Bona Whitening primer -
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Slight hiccup - I spotted this !!
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..so chopped it out and replaced it!
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Finally finished it all off with 2 coats of Bona Traffic HD extra matt- here after 1 coat still drying in the late afternoon sun
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And here after the 2nd coat, and fully dried -
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There are a few minor defects, again because of using the the Bona mix and fill product, one drawback is you do get some shrinkage however I think overall it has not turned out too badly.

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Finally re-hung the throne -
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...for those wondering the overspray on the ply behind the bowl is WD-40 .... ;)

Forgot to post this earlier - the notched trowel I modded -
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So wrt glue coverage I used 1.5 tins to cover 10sq m against the manufacturers spec of 1 tin for 11.6m. This disparity is almost certainly down to putting the edges down separately where it was easier to 'butter' the blocks than use the notched trowel because it was just physically difficult to manipulate in such a narrow gap up against the walls and equally underneath radiators and the like.

Cheers!
Ed
 
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Sgian Dubh

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Very informative. The result so far looks good. No doubt it will look even better with an appropriate skirting and any other tidying up around the edges complete. Slainte.
 

--Tom--

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Nice job with that. Had pitch pine parquet hidden under carpet in my place, took a fair amount of work to just refinish it, and I didn’t get it looking anywhere near as good as the finish you’ve managed.
 

imageel

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Very informative. The result so far looks good. No doubt it will look even better with an appropriate skirting and any other tidying up around the edges complete. Slainte.
The original skirting was I suspect made up by the on-site chippy when the house was originally built and as such it was pretty rough and uneven. So what with additional required because of the extension I'll probably buy some in or get a load made up by a local shop.
It was interesting doing the reveals since I wanted to finish each room with a joint in the centerline of each doorway only to realise that most of them are randomly offset...!
 
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Solicitus

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That looks a top job. I've wavered a few times on job lots of parquet. Any idea of a ball park time per metre start to finish?
 

imageel

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Hard to say definitively - cleaning the blocks takes around 2-3 days per 2.5sq m, but laying them is super quick, just checked the timestamps on my phone pictures and it took 2 days to lay the blocks excluding the reveals and edging and bear in mind the last time I did this was about 30y ago and this area I was covering was complex. With a larger say oblong area I reckon you could easily lay 10m in a day if you were fit!
 

okeydokey

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Superb job well done
I worked with someone who bought a similar quantity from a school that was being demolished - at the start he came into work every morning grandly saying that he did 10 tiles or so last night. Things got better as he progressed -- the finished job was good not a good as yours but wow.
This thread has reminded me not get involved in this sort of task :)
 

wallace

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I did something very similar a few years ago. the bitumen was very thick on the blocks so I sawed it off with a toungston blade. I also trimmed the sides and the faces. I then put every block through my little triton thicknesser so every block was the same exact size. This meant I had very little sanding to do when finished.
 

DBC

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Nice job but wish this thread was about 5 years ago so that I could have pointed it out to the guy I quoted to do the same job as you have just done in his ground floor. He rang me up and more or less told me I was a criminal quoting back to me the labour price. I had a bit of solace a few years after this when I drove through his village and saw the large pile of bags of timber blocks were still at the end of his driveway.
 

Limey Lurker

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The floor looks amazing! A friend renovated an old proprerty, and removed all the parquet floors and laid a new concrete sub-floor. He didn't remove the bitumen from the wood blocks: he reasoned that, there is an adhesive that is used to stick concrete tiles to bitumen substrate, so that that adhesive must be capable of sticking bitumen (backed) tiles to a concrete substrate. That was 16 years ago, and there have been no problems.
 

imageel

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Thanks everyone for the compliments - as the thread title alludes, this was a lot of work upfront with little to show for my efforts until the final moments.
Equally and as others have commented I would not think this was a commercially viable project in that most clients would not appreciate the effort involved and hence agree a sensible price, albeit they might like the end result!
Also I think you can get away without cleaning all the bitumen off the blocks and it may be one could achieve similar results by simply using the existing old varnished face as the reference point to clean up from, with the blocks I had the sides certainly were not square to the top and also the end grain had shrunk and was very dirty and thus impossible to clean without trimming and a jig made this a relatively simple if repetitive process - but then to me most woodwork is similar - from rough sawn timber to the finished project takes a lot of sometimes repetitive steps!
And again like most projects the time spent prepping far exceeds that of the final build, and certainly laying them was a breeze because of the consistency in sizes and the ability to randomly replace a block laid where I had missed spotting a defect.
I'm taking a short break to sort out some of the storm damage in my garden - I have 70m of fencing the majority of which has posts which have sheared at their base and a few trees, some dreaded Leylandii that need felling, however when I've tidied things up a bit I'll press on with laying the remainder of the ~14sq m of prepped blocks.
...Then I'll get back to prepping the next batch of my stash - some 35sq m -
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