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    Floor maintenance

    Summary: Learn how to draught-proofing the floor, secure loose or creaking floorboards, raise a floorboard, remove square-edged boards, remove tongue-and-groove boards and replace a damaged tongue-and-groove board.

    There are a number of problems people have with wooden floors that can be quickly remedied. But when working on floorboards you must be aware at all times that pipes and electric cables could run under the floor.

    Draught-proofing the floor

    If your floorboards do not fit tight against each other or have warped over the years, cold draughts can come up through the gaps. To remedy this:

    • Cut strips of floorboard to fit the gaps and apply wood adhesive to both sides.
    • Gently hammer the strips in place.
    • When the adhesive has set, plane off any excess wood sitting proud of the floor using a block plane. Small cracks between boards can be filled with wood filler or flooring sealant.

    Cut strips of floorboard to fit the gaps and apply wood adhesive to both sides.

    Securing loose or creaking floorboards

    • To resolve the problem of creaking floorboards, trace the line of the nails across the floor to locate the point where the nail is no longer gripping the floor joist.
    • If the nail is still there remove it and secure the loose floorboard with a countersunk screw that is slightly bigger than the existing nail hole.
    • If there is still movement in the floorboard it maybe necessary to repeat the process on the other side of the board.

    Raising the floorboards

    Many of your electrical and plumbing projects will involve having to take up floorboards to access cables and pipes or you may wish to replace a broken floorboard. There are two methods depending on your floor type: square-edge boards or tongue-and-groove boards.

    To test to see which you have, try slotting a thin blade between the boards. If the blade slips unhindered between the boards, you have square-edged boards, as the interlocking structure of tongue-and-groove boards will prevent you inserting the blade between them. For removing chipboard floors, follow the same process as for tongue-and-groove boards.


    Removing square-edged boards

    To remove square-edged boards:

    • Trace the line of the nails across the floor to locate the joists and mark their position with a pencil.
    • Insert a crowbar between the edges of the boards at the point where it is nailed to the joist and try to lever up one end of the board.
    • If the boards are so tight together that the edge of the crowbar cannot be inserted sufficiently, drill a hole 10mm (1/2in) in diameter at one end of the damaged floorboard but avoiding the joist.
    • The blade of a jigsaw will fit into the hole allowing you to cut across the board thus giving you a leverage point.
    • Having lifted the end of the board, work your way along its length pushing the handle of a hammer under the board as you go. This creates a shock wave that runs along the length of the board that loosens the nails.

    To remove a damaged section rather than the whole board:

    • Mark a line over a joist so the damaged section is situated between the one end of the board and the marked line.
    • Use the same method described above to raise the end of the board.
    • Raise the board until you are beyond the damaged area, sliding a strip of wood under the board to jack it up, until the section of board with the mark indicating the joist has been lifted sufficiently for it to be cut with a jigsaw.
    • Remove the damaged section and replace it with a piece of floorboard of the same dimensions, nailing it securely to the joists.
    • If you have removed a square-edged board by cutting the board before the joist, you will not be able to fix the board to the joist. To overcome this, nail a piece of batten to the side of the joist to extend it and fix the new board to this instead.

    Using a crowbar, lever up one end of the board. 

    Cut across the board with a jigsaw to create a leverage point.

    Raise the board, using strips of wood to jack it up.

    Where there is no joist available to fix to, nail a piece of  batten to the side of the joist to extend it and fix the new board to this.

    Removing tongue-and-groove boards

    For tongue-and-groove boards, you will need to saw through the tongues.

    • Set a circular saw to the depth of the board, usually no more than 20mm (4/5in). Setting the blade at too great a depth will damage the joists.
    • Slide the blade between the boards and saw down the length of the board to cut away the tongue.
    • With the tongue removed the joists will be visible, allowing you to lever up the board with a crowbar.

    Replacing a damaged tongue-and-groove board

    As tongue-and-groove boards interlock you cannot simply fit in a new board. But this problem is easily overcome.

    • Ensure your board is the correct length and using a wood chisel or plane shave off the tongue.
    • This will allow you to insert the tongue of one of the existing boards into the groove of the new board, while the edge of the new board with the tongue removed will butt against the grooved edge of the existing board on the other side.
    • Secure the board to the joists with flooring nails.

    Shaving off the tongue allows you to insert the new board.

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    Tools Needed
    • Block plane
    • Claw hammer
    Materials Needed
    • Flooring sealant
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    Tools Needed
    • Claw hammer
    • Screwdriver
    • Power drill
    • Countersink bit
    Materials Needed
    • Screws
    Tools Needed
    • Crow bar
    • Power drill
    • Jigsaw
    Tools Needed
    • Circular saw
    • Crow bar