Tiny House Flooring – Part I

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First comes flooring, then comes plumbing,
Then comes electric which is pretty stunning.

Anyway, it’s been a while since our last post, so let me back up a bit and get you up to speed. Drew and I have been working on plumbing. When I say working, I mean we’ve been researching like mad trying to figure out the greenest, long-lasting materials to use. (Drew will go into more detail on this in a blog post soon.) In the process, we also discovered that we had to install our flooring first before doing plumbing so that our water tank(s) have something to sit on for installation. …Yeah. So we had to backtrack and figure out flooring.

I’ve realized that there are two very separate aspects to building the house. One is the technical throw-boards-around aspect, like framing. In framing it doesn’t matter (too much) how the structure looks, as long as it’s structurally sound. You can use weird looking boards and leave obvious nail holes and not worry too much about it. Plumbing is similar. In plumbing, it doesn’t really matter how it looks – what’s important is that it functions the way it should. It’s all hidden away in the cabinets and walls.

The other category is aesthetics. The first time we ran into this was when we installed our cedar loft beams. It was surprisingly jarring to switch modes. It made us think, ‘wow, now I need to actually consider how these things are going to look in the house’. So we bought nice-looking beams, then had to decide what placement/order they would go in. ‘Well, that beam has a nice lighter area that curves in the front, so uh, I guess that one should face the great room?’ We haven’t had too many of these tasks so far (except for maybe when we worked with the cedar siding and shakes on the exterior).

Flooring is different. While yes, it must be functional and we must consider the tech involved, I would mainly put flooring in the aesthetics category. It’s something we see everyday and influences the entire aesthetic atmosphere of our house. We’ve been debating the interior color scheme/feel for months now, and weren’t really ready to commit to a flooring scheme yet. (I was hoping to delay it at least until plumbing and electrical were finished. So much for that grandiose plan.)

So we explored our options. We found a local lumber mill and looked at their options online. Luckily there were different varieties of local wood samples laying around our shop, so we stained them with lineseed oil to see what they would look like.

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Wood samples from left to right: cherry, birch, white oak, maple, poplar, walnut

We were particularly partial to the red birch flooring; we thought it’d go well with our red door.

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Birch sample under the door. The door really brings out the red hues in the wood.

So we went to the lumber mill’s showroom to see what they had. We spoke with a very loquacious saleswoman about our different options and noticed that we really liked the look of the hickory samples they had. So we brought one back to see how it looked.

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Nice, huh? Hickory is a really beautiful wood.

We loved the design of it with the darker markings throughout, but after further research found that hickory is a much heavier wood than most. We need to consider weight because our trailer is limited to 10,000lbs. Meanwhile, Drew had been doing research on how we could make our own flooring. (It would save us a few hundred dollars.) Since we had access to Drew’s dad’s woodworking shop, we had access to all the tools needed to make our own (planer, tablesaw, etc.). So we decided to visit the lumber mill once again and buy the lumber needed to make our own flooring. (Thank you Diane!!)

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Our new birch lumber.

We selected the straightest, cleanest boards we could find and brought them back to the shop. From there we had the challenging job of planing them all to 3/4” thick by 3.5″ wide and making them straight. It wasn’t as easy as we thought it’d be.

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Here we’re passing the boards back and forth as we run them through the planer to maintain a consistent thickness.
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We also tried using a joiner for a while, but it wasn’t as uniform as the planer so we went back to what worked.

Then it was time to cut them down to size on the chop saw and cut tongue and grooves in the boards using a tool called a dado blade. A dado blade is essentially a special blade for a table saw that allows you to stack multiple blades together to increase the size of the cut on a table saw Most table saw blades leave cuts that are 1/8” thick, but with a dado, you can stack blades up to make cuts just under an inch. They’re great for mortise and tenon joints, and for making consistent tongue and groove joints. We used the dado to make cuts that were ¼ inch thick so we would only have to pass the boards trough a few times instead of a few dozen times to get our tongues and grooves.

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A rather large (and blurry) photo of me using the chop saw. I divided the boards evenly at about 3 feet long each for consistency. Our lengths ranged from about 2-4 feet. I tried not to chop up the dark patterns too much.
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Drew cutting the trimmed boards down to width on the table saw.
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Next he added the tongues and grooves to each board. This took a while.

After that step was finished, we cut grooves into the bottoms of the boards to allow for expansion. If you look on the bottom of most wood flooring, you will see these rounded grooves running lengthwise on the bottom the board. This is to take some of the bulk out of the wood so when it starts expanding (as wood does) it doesn’t make the wood buckle so much that it breaks.

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A test to see how the boards fit together. Looks good!

Then we put all the boards in the house to acclimate to the house’s temperature and humidity so they would be ready for installation.

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Next comes installation!

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