designing ways to a better world

Floor Me: Reclaiming Lumber for a Tiny House

Floor Me: Reclaiming Lumber for a Tiny House

After planing both sides for uniformity, we cut tongue and groove into these sample boards to test our concept.

I’ve looked everywhere for solid wood flooring for the tiny house, but selection is limited and the cost for even the most affordable option – knotty pine – is quite high.

We got an offer a while ago for several pallet loads of cheap 2x4s. The only drawback is, they’re all about four feet long. At the time the only thing we could imagine using them for was blocking. We had no easy way to look at it and assess it first, and we didn’t appreciate the difficulty and expense of sourcing solid wood for flooring.

Fortunately, our source called us back and reminded us before it was too late. This time we had ideas for using it, especially after we saw it was stamped “kiln dried”. This lumber must have been used as sticking between pieces of higher grade wood as it was dried, a process of taking the wood down to specific low moisture levels under controlled conditions. Controlled drying reduces warping and cracking later on; it doesn’t mean the boards haven’t picked up atmospheric moisture since the drying process that will dry out again later, but it increases stability nonetheless. After milling there will still be some changes and irregularities, due to natural variations in wood grain and structure, but we could rip these 2x4s and use them as plank flooring without excessive risk of buckling, cupping, or lifting. With a few extra milling steps, we could even make our own tongue and groove planks, increasing the stability of the finished floor even more.

This time we said yes and took delivery on Sunday. I was nervous. Nine pallets sounds like a lot, and we’d have to move them by armloads to a couple piles strategically placed around the tiny house. Plus I hadn’t even seen them. Would they be scattered with nails? Ridiculously knotty? Why would anyone give away perfectly good lumber?

Sorted stacks of the lower grade lumber we picked through.
Sorted stacks of the lower grade lumber we picked through.

It turned out to be perfectly good lumber. Mostly. It was clear right away that a certain small percentage was good for nothing but firewood. The remaining boards fell into three categories; good enough to make two ripped planks, good enough to make one ripped plank, and not good for planks at all. Overall we sorted out over 550 boards we wanted to keep and mill, and approximately 750 we’ll find another home for.

After we sorted and re-stacked it by hand into our keep and go piles, we got out a few power tools to see how the milling process would go. The first tests weren’t so hot. Our 8″ bandsaw has only a narrow scrollwork blade, and we suspect it doesn’t have enough engine power to drive a bigger one. We hand fed a couple boards through the table saw in two passes each. We got a quick idea of what our method would be and how fast we could produce usable tongue & groove.

I think the resulting boards were quite beautiful after we ran them through the planer twice, once on each side. For production we would set up feather boards and keep things beautifully aligned. Now we’re trying to source the router bit set designed for cutting tongues and grooves on 1/2″ stock. We’ve been to three stores already with no luck yet. Might have to order that one on the internet.

Edited by me, Paprika -Pepper- Clark, from an original post  I wrote on my former blog RealTimeRealTiny

Paprika Clark

I’m a lifelong student of language, art, and human nature: an ENFP Aries Fire Dragon Sex Positive Intersectional Feminist Independent. Join me as I feel my way through this. If you have any questions, send them my way - as far as I'm concerned, every day is an Ask Me Anything.

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