Welcome back! If you are just joining us, we are on the fifth step of a five part series on our living room. A living room that started out as a dark cave of a room:

Before picture shot during daytime with a lamp lit. VERY DARK!

Previous steps can be viewed here:
1. Faux painting brick over a previously painted white brick fireplace
2. Lightening up a room in 5 steps
3. Painting decorative graphics on a wall
4. Preparing to Install Antique Heart Pine Floors (and living to tell about it!)

It has been four days since Christmas and we’ve been working like busy beavers on our living room. Only a few more days until Pretty Handsome Guy has to go back to work. Our boys are getting antsy and tired of being shooed from the living room.

Keeping the troops from getting restless:

I came up with a spur of the moment idea to keep them busy for a little longer! Painter’s tape and a coin made for an instant hop scotch game on the kitchen floor!

I quickly duck into the living room and start the installation process.

When choosing the direction to run the boards, I had to look under the house from our crawl space to see which direction the floor joists ran. We wanted our wood floor to run at a 90 degree angle (or perpendicular) to the joist direction. (This isn’t a rule, but it helps with the stability of your floor.) If you can’t get under your house (or want no part of that underbelly) then study the nail pattern on the plywood subfloor. The nails that are nailed into the floor joists will be in straight lines across the floor.)

To lay the flooring straight, I drew out guide lines in the living room.

Marking Start and End Lines:

  1. Mark the green line first (with chalk line) as your starting line.
  2. Measure the width of the room at the top and bottom.
  3. If these values differ, choose the lesser amount or close to it and mark that distance at the top and bottom of the room.
  4. Snap your chalk line between the two points.

Figuring First and Last Board Widths:

Before you nail in that first board (because I know you are itching to get started). You will need to do some math to figure out how many board widths you will use across your room. Take the total width of your room, divide it by your floor board width.

For example, our room is 187″ wide. My board widths are 5.5 inches wide. So, here is my equation: 187 ÷ 5.5 = 34″  Oh happy day, a whole number!!! I have room for 34 full width boards in our living room.

This very rarely occurs! Normally you end up with a number that has a fraction, let’s say .3 for example. You will be left with 1/3 of your board width at the end. This board won’t look good being so narrow, and it is harder to work with. If you had .5 or larger, you might be fine depending on your board widths. You will need to be the judge.

So, in the case of the .3 excess, you will need to split the difference between both your starter and end boards. Find out what .3 of your board widths is: 5.5 x .3 = 1.65. Then you will add that width to your standard board width: 1.65 + 5.5= 7.15″. Now divide the 7.15 in half: 7.15 ÷ 2 = 3.575. So, now you know that you need to rip your start and end board to be 3.5″ wide. I hope you followed that.

Time to learn two new glossary words:


  • Rip – ripping a board is cutting with the grain along the length of a board. This is usually done with a table saw, but can be done with a circular saw and a straight edge.
  • Cross cut – a type of cut that is perpendicular to the grain or along the width of your board. Cross cuts are usually made with a miter saw or circular saw, but can also be made with a hand saw. (I’ve been known to make this cut using my band saw before I had either a miter or table saw. Okay, I’ll have to give you a lesson on types of saws at a later date. I promise!)

Remember how I said we had a whole number, meaning our room will take full width boards. In other words, no ripping needed (guess we didn’t need that table saw after all. But, no way was I returning my Christmas present!)

Cutting and Dry Fitting the floor:

I started by laying out all the boards across the room. Sounds easy right? WRONG!!! It wasn’t really difficult, just time consuming. I had to cut each board to size with the miter saw (this is where I really learned the value of the old adage “Measure twice, cut once.”  Then, I moved to the next board. Several rows took two board lengths. I was careful to stagger my seams randomly. I also had to take more time to cut the profiles around door jams, fireplace, heating vents and bookcases. Also, be sure to cut a hole where your heating and A/C vent is (more detailed information on cutting profiles can be found in this post.) Cutting around a vent instructions can be found at OneProjectCloser.com here. Measure, cut, check fit (and repeat about 100 times).

I chose to create a mitered frame around our fireplace. This took a little more measuring and time, but the results were well worth the effort.

Phew, that only took a day and a half! I laid out ALL the floor boards without nailing. Moved a few to stagger seams or put prettier planks in a more prominent spot. When everthing fit, I lightly numbered each board with chalk and stacked them up near the end side of the room.

FINALLY! Install Your Floor:

Okay itchy fingers, now it is time to install that first board! Grab that huge pneumatic nailer, right?! What? No?! The nailer won’t fit close enough to the wall for your first (or maybe even second or third row.) Time to bust out the power drill and predrill your nail holes. I put holes approximately every 18″ about an inch in from the edge. Then hammered the nails in using a nail set to countersink the nails. Before you sand, you will need to add some wood putty to fill and hide the nail holes.

Ah ha, NOW you can grab that nailer! I have to admit I was a little nervous. I had never actually used a floor nailer (although my Dad has pictures to prove otherwise).


Please, please, no comments about my topless internet photo!
I was 5 people! And a tomboy, what can I say.

It is true, I had watched my parents lay wood floors. But, that was many many years ago. Luckily times have changed, and the tools are better. We rented a pneumatic nailer with a compressor so that the nailer would do most of the driving with forced air.

We lined up that second board. Used a scrap block of wood and a hammer to tap it firmly against the installed board. Then Pretty Handsome Guy gave me the nod letting me know I could proceed. I trembled a little as I lifted the rubber mallet. Then stopped, moved my feet wider and clear away from the nailer. Then raised the mallet. It was now or never! And {{WHAM!}} The mallet hit smack in the middle of the black button and a loud bang filled the room. Woot! What a rush! I just love power tools :-).

Back to work, one floor cleat in and about 400 more to go. Plenty of {{WHAM}} for me and Pretty Handsome Guy to share.

When we reached the end of the room, we had to ditch the nailer and predrill holes and hammer in the nails by hand again.

Ooo la la! Step back and admire that beautiful floor!

Because our floor planks were custom planed, they had varying heights. But, that wasn’t a big deal because we were planning on finishing our own floor.

Well, at first we were so scared of ruining our beautiful wood floors that we almost paid a professional to come finish them for us. But, Mark Kegler (the guy who planed the wood for us) reassured me that I could definitely do it myself.

He gave me a few tips on Refinishing Your Own Floors:

  • Rent a drum sander (rented at Home Depot.)
  • Watch some videos on YouTube for using a drum sander.
  • Practice on a sheet of plywood to get the hang of it.
  • When you reach the end of your row, gently raise or rock the sander up and of the floor.
  • Whatever you do, DO NOT stop moving while the sanding drum is in contact with the floor.


  • Rent an edge sander (rented at Home Depot.)
  • Again watch a video on YouTube for how to use it.
  • Again DO NOT STOP moving it while it is in contact with the floor.
  • And hang on tight to that puppy, cause it will pull you into the next county if you let it.
  • A side note on the edge sanders, this thing will really give you a good glute and hamstring workout (just in case you were looking for some added results. Okay, yes, I added this last bullet point.)


  • Then rent a Square Buffer (or Random Orbital Sander). It will give you your fine sanding and buffing finishes. (Rented at Home Depot)
  • Yup, you guessed it, watch a video on You Tube. Seriously, how did people learn anything before YouTube?
  • Buy the most expensive floor finishing system they have (it will last much longer than a cheap polyurethane.) We used ProFinisher Water-Based Floor Polyurethane.
  • It can be a water based system.
  • The system should include a sanding sealer and a sealer (polyurethane or varnish).
  • Follow the directions on the bottle.

This site: www.easy2diy.com has some a great video and information for the whole finishing process. They left off the square buffing step, but it’s your DIY project and you can buff if you want to!

After following all the directions for finishing the floor, we were left with….

Ta Da! Droolingly Gorgeous Antique Heart Pine Floor

I hope you noticed that I didn’t mention the stain color we used. That is because we didn’t use a stain. This is the actual color of antique heart pine wood! No stain, just glorious amber red heart pine.

Which we had to cover up with a rug. But, every once in a while I pull back the rug and admire this:

You can just barely see that little spot of turquoise paint in the nooks of this knot.
It is just whispering, “I’m old and I have a story behind me.”

Before I reveal the room to you:
Do you remember the before picture?
Here are a few more:
And this was before we moved in:

Here is the final reveal of our living room:

I should note that it took another few hours to cut, install, and paint the quarter round molding to hide the edges of the floor. And I had to wait a month for custom transition strips for the doorways and special heart pine quarter round for around the fireplace. But, I’m one proud and happy Pretty Handy Girl now!

Post Note:

Several people have emailed me asking where we got our rug. It is from Pottery Barn and is called Adeline.

72 replies
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  1. Scott Watson
    Scott Watson says:

    Great Looking Floor!

    Did you have tough and groove or did you just but up against each other and nail them down? Just wondering.

  2. Christine
    Christine says:

    Well. An update.
    First, I found matching pine boards, 11″ x 16″ at a reuse center in Baltimore. 2nd Chance. Incredible place for architectural reclamation. $.25 a LF. Oh, my. Picture me with 16′ boards hanging out of my 6′ truck bed, driving along the Baltimore to DC beltways in rush hour traffic. The boards floating up and down, practically in slow motion, 8′ behind my truck. I could have bought a cinder block to hold them down, but Nooooo.

    Then, I talked with a friend who works on restoration. He’s very OCD with historical detail and finish work. He took one look at them and suggested I bevel the side edges. They’ll overlap, but when they shrink and expand, they’ll still cover what would be a gap. To me that sounds perfect. There might be a slight depression during the contraction period, but there wouldn’t be a GAP.

    I have yet to dive into this project, but my plan is in place. I will also probably seal each board before it’s placed, to help with shrinkage.

    I’m just hoping against hope that my floors turn out to be as incredible as yours.

  3. Christine
    Christine says:

    I was just rereading all the comments and ideas. I just noticed the “leave them naked” thought. There are a couple methods most furniture refinishers/painters or woodworkers aren’t familiar with, evidently, to get a raw wood finish. Particularly people working with reclaimed lumber.

    For wood that won’t have a lot of wear and tear, there are lovely, matte finish varnishes now, that really ARE matte (vs. satin). Decoart, Beautiful, and BM (whose product escapes me) are just a couple that make matte finishes so matte, they don’t look like anything is on them, but seal the wood well.

    For more heavy wear, I have been using paint base. Right. The stuff pigment goes IN. I choose Exterior, latex, flat, dark (i.e. 4 or 5) paint base. Exterior has the UV protection stuff in it and latex is for easy clean-up. The base for the darkest paints goes on a frightening white, but dries so clear and matte I have to lay a pencil down to see where I left off. For “chippy” pieces, this seals them without that gummed down, poly look. I’ll seal both sides and edges, and after a day or so curing (maybe longer, since I’m lazy) it’s hard as nails. I’m probably going to start my pine floor with this, since it’s extremely durable. If I don’t care for the final look? I’ll probably go satin on top.

    Just thought you might like that trick for any other reclaimed project you find yourself into.

  4. Christine
    Christine says:

    If I wait until winter, it’s dry and wood shrinks.
    If I don’t space them, when it’s more humid, they’ll swell together and most likely force the wood fibers up, where they can be scuffed or torn.
    So, given the fact it’s hotter than @#$@! here 9 months of the year (ok, I might be exaggerating) I’d be better off to accommodate hot weather than cold.
    Make sense?

  5. Christine
    Christine says:

    You’ve addressed some of my thoughts, too. I’m leery of nails, but can’t imagine the insult of screws showing up. I can tongue and groove them myself, but eh. what a PIA.
    I’m liking more and more the plug idea. They’re obvious, but part of the “look.”
    It will also take me a long while to get this in, so my plan is to do it in the winter when it’s shrunken, space them with a dime, and go for it.
    It’s my kitchen. If I decide I don’t like it? I’ll rip it out. Like I’ve done with my cabinets 3x now. LOL!
    Thx for getting back to me!

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Why would you space them with a dime? I’d but them up against each other. Trust me, the gaps in our other floor are a real pain. If you spill milk you have to suction it up. Or juice, think about all that sticky being stuck in the groove inviting ants. Especially in the kitchen, I think having gaps is a bad idea.

  6. Christine
    Christine says:

    Hi there! I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about installing antique floors. I have all the tools, whatever. However. Here’s where I could really use a suggestion or recommendation. I have a bunch of antique pine boards. We’re talking 6″ to 16″ wide, with some 10′ long. Can you say GORGEOUS!?

    So I want to install them as my kitchen floor. They’re NOT tongue-n-groove where I could use my pneumatic nailer. But 100 years ago, they didn’t necessarily have tongue-n-groove. Any ideas where I can get info for properly laying flush edged boards?

    I’m pretty excited about this, but don’t want to screw up these gorgeous boards. Thanks for any advice or referral you have.

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:


      Here are my thoughts on your flooring. First, you can definitely install your flat edged planks. But, it will be a lot more work to install them correctly without risk of nails popping up and cutting your feet. We have floors like this in the rest of the house, and although I love them, I have to be wary of nails popping up all the time. Plus, over time the planks shrank leaving big gaps between the boards where dirt and dust collects. Granted, your old boards probably won’t shrink as much.

      To install straight-edged planks, you can use screws, but you’ll need to countersink and fill the holes (with wood putty, or you can drill larger counter sink holes and fill it with round dowel plugs (it will look like pegs were used.) You can use nails, but they are more likely to pop up. Ironically I was just watching Daryl’s Restoration Over-Hall last night and he installed his flush edged planks with square nails. They didn’t show the process, but I know from experience that to avoid splitting the planks, you’d have to pre-drill holes before using the square nails. It will be time consuming. And there is still the probability that the nails will pop up from time to time.

      The alternative is to find a local cabinet builder or woodworker who can add tongue and groove edges to your boards. Be forewarned, you will lose some of your width when you go this route.

      Hope this is helpful. I can tell you that you will love those floors when you are done. Antique wood is so beautiful!!!

  7. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I stumbled upon your blog today. We are having 1000 s/f of hardwood floors put down this weekend. We are stoked! Mostly I’m looking for a way to take my old pine table/deacons benches in the kitchen and paint and distress them. Your site popped up when I googled and I love it!! Thanks for all the pictures and steps on “how to” distress and age things. I’m going to be brave and buy some paint.

    Thanks for the inspiration,

    PS – Your floors are soooooo lovely, why cover them up with a rug?

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Jennifer, thanks for your comment. Oh trust me I wish I could leave them naked, but with two boys and a dog I wanted to protect them. Plus, the living room doubles as our after dinner wrestling mat ;-D.

  8. Attorneypeacock
    Attorneypeacock says:

    Can you tell me the specific products you used to finish the flooring? I am searching for ProFinisher but I don’t really see a “system”. I just see the poly. We are installing about 3000 square feet of reclaimed heart pine…so i really want to get the finish right.

    Also, has the finish help up well? Thanks so much for your help.

    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      I think we bought it at Home Depot. Our floors have held up well, but be forewarned that pine is a soft wood. So we do have plenty of grooves and some scratches, but the finish isn’t peeling or flaking at all.

  9. Roeshel
    Roeshel says:

    Well looky there – I did comment on this two years ago! haha! Thanks for pointing this out again, Brittany. It makes me feel like I can refinish that little apartment floor after all! 🙂


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] 1. Faux painting brick over a previously painted white brick fireplace (this post) 2. Lightening up a room in 5 steps 3. Painting decorative graphics on a wall 4. Preparing to Install Antique Heart Pine Floors (and living to tell about it!) 5. Installing Heart Pine Floors and the Final Reveal […]

  2. […] 2009, I pulled up the wall-to-wall carpeting and installed antique heart pine wood flooring. I also painted the previously painted white fireplace to look like brick again.  You read that […]

  3. […] Living Room Before […]

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