Part of building the mezzanine floor was the installation of a temporary work surface which was installed over the exposed jarrah joists in April 2013. A dozen or so large sheets of 19mm particle board flooring was sourced second hand from a salvage yard for a good deal. This floor has served us well and enabled us to build the roof structure with greater ease.
However the time has finally come for the temporary flooring to be retired and make way for something a little more appropriate. This has become to be known as an “icing on the cake” type moment in our project. A finishing off bit. And a fulfilment of another long dream of many years. In the “what you see is what you get” get principle of construction, our tongue and groove floorboards were purpose milled at 150mm wide from fallen timber on a private property down south. We originally started sourcing recycled boards but after much research and relentless searching for a sufficient quantity and quality of recycled floorboards we finally concluded we would need to have them milled to order. What makes our floor construction so unusual is that you will not only get to enjoy the beauty of a wooden floor from the top, but it will be fixed directly to the floor joists and will also be visible on the underside. Reclaimed floorboards containing nails are often cleaned up using a grinder and therefore can sometimes suffer deep burn marks on the underside. This is fine if the board is going to be re-used in a way that you don’t see the bottom. Another aesthetic factor was the presence of the widely used anti-cupping groove or grooves scored into the underside of most floorboards. It was an aesthetical preference not to have these visible, so again another reason to head down the milled to order option. Most floorboards are milled new at 19mm. To give the floor that extra bit of rigidity, we had them milled at 22mm. These boards are absolutely amazing in feature. The colours and patterns of the grain vary considerably and there are a handful of knotty imperfections that lend themselves to the house nicely. Once milled the floorboards were kiln dried (de-humidified) for about 8 weeks to allow the moisture content to drop to approx. 11-12%. It is then best to let wooden flooring become acclimatised in the rooms in which they will eventually be laid. Unintentionally, but nevertheless fortunately, the boards have been waiting since November 2014 for installation.
It was undecided until very recently if we might employ a contractor to help lay the flooring. This decision was to do with time constraints, tools and “tricks of the trade”. However, after doing a fair bit of reading about laying floorboards, we once again turned full circle deciding to do the installation ourselves the old school traditional way was going the be the best for the long term benefit of the floor. It would be hard to convince most floor contractors to ditch the nail gun for the more holdfast and traditional method of hand nailing 75sq meters of floor, over 1900 galvanised nails, into hard jarrah! But to justify my decision a 2.8mm diameter by 50mm long nail driven in on the skew (30 degree angle) that many times was a sure way to ensure the mezzanine floor stands the test of time. Plus, I couldn’t be convinced that the nail guns nails were not going to come adrift over time, go randomly spearing out the side of the joist or leave me with a nicely finished round recessed nail hole in the end. Justifications aside, we invested the next 3 weeks levelling joists, nailing floorboards, sanding and oiling to give us the desired finish.
Rather than investing in a series of expensive joist clamps we devised a system using blocks and wedges to lock 3 boards at a time in place, tapping the wedges to make the boards true and evenly aligned. A small bead (6mm) of sikabond T55 flooring glue was placed along each joist to give the floorboards a good bedding and a bit of give. Then nailed before the clamps were removed and the next rows could be started.
A fair swag of time was spent ensuring the joist were all levelled to within a couple of millimetres before laying the floor. Some had to be planed and a few needed a thin wooden packer to ensure the whole room was level. This turned out to be the single most important part of having a nice level floor.
So after 6 days of levelling joists, 5 days of gluing, wedging and nailing boards, 4 days of sanding and filling (we did get help to do the sanding and filling) and 2 days of oiling we now have completed the mezzanine floor.
It has once again proved to us that the option of doing it yourself brings with it a raft of previously unidentified surprises. The Ikea effect, as it may be, strikes again. In our modern day, the hammer is probably the most recognised tool in the shed however as I emptied the last few nails out of the box of 1,000, ran one of them across a grooved ball of bees wax and sent driving home with 4 well practiced blows it occurred to me how seldom a nail is driven into a piece of wood these days and yet the art of doing so is so therapeutic and satisfying.