When Caleb Hall of Dothan, Ala.-based Southern Hardwood Flooring scoped out a 3,600-square-foot new mansion project in Rehobeth, Ala., he wasn’t sure what kind of wood was to be installed—he just knew there would be a lot of it.
It was only later, after the project was scheduled, that he found out the product was European oak flooring reclaimed from a church in France, and it was more than 150 years old.
“We were super excited,” Hall says of the unique flooring.
When the historic flooring arrived at the new home, its packaging was—to borrow a French term—rather nonchalant.
“They delivered the stuff in boxes; it wasn’t even wrapped up in bands or anything,” Hall recalls. The flooring also arrived in different widths, which meant a lot of time with the measuring tape sorting them into piles.
“It was from about 3 inches to 4 1/2 inches, and anywhere in between there,” Hall says of the board widths. “We’d done reclaimed projects, but absolutely nothing like this.”
Overall, the advanced age of the wood didn’t pose an issue except for the occasional disintegration. “Some of the boards would literally crumble to dust in your hands,” Hall says. “But most of them were absolutely solid as can be, and in great shape; we didn’t put any boards down that we thought might break or chip or anything like that.”
Hall cut the chevron boards on-site with a table saw.
“The job took us three weeks. Cutting the boards took us about two, if that tells you anything,” Hall says.
When the flooring was ready, the three-person crew began at the doorjamb of the entryway, nailing the boards to the plywood subfloor straight up the middle of the room before branching out to the sides of the first row.
To add to the unique nature of the project, after the flooring was installed, the client refused any sanding or finishing on the floor.
“The whole idea with the house was the client wanted to make it look like it had been there for centuries,” Hall says, noting that they also installed the century-old flooring in an elevator. “He wanted the floor to have ripples in it, he wanted it kind of uneven in places, just something that looks like it has been walked on.”
Hall repeatedly asked whether the client was sure about that, offering to at least clean or wax the floors. “He said absolutely not, and get out of here,” Hall laughs. “So we installed it and we got out of there, and that’s exactly what they wanted.”
Nailer: Powernail | Table Saw: Ridgid