Barn wood for flooring???


Old 04-22-08, 06:37 AM
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Barn wood for flooring???

Ok, so we are building a log home in WV in the next 6-12 months. We have a 19th century barn on my wife's families land that is going to be tore down soon, and we have been given the ok to take all of the lumber. The flooring, ceiling, and walls are all 1" thick, by 10" wide Oak. We took a short piece, plained it down, and it is still very great looking, solid wood. We figure that there is enough to do our entire 2 floors in the house, and some board and batten siding on our gables.. I'm planning on plaining and tongue and grooving them.

My question is that, some of the boards have cracks, knots, nail holes, etc...adding to the aged look that we love.. What would be the best way to treat them to keep liquids from having a negative effect on them? Should I put a different kind of underlayment under it? Should I try to fill the bigger holes with some kind of wood filler??

I can't pass up this opportunity to recycle some of our family history into our new home, but I want to do it right..
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Old 04-22-08, 07:44 AM
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For flooring, an acquaintance did the same and did nothing more than run the boards through a planer to achieve a uniform thickness, then hit it with a sealer coat after installation. They elected to direct nail, rather than T&G. It was a 200+ year old barn, with the boards exposed to the elements, so they figured any abuse they could do over the next few decades would pale in comparison. They cherry picked the boards to use for the flooring to select pieces without major holes. They experimented with the wood filler in holes, but the look was too artificial. They did not use an underlayment, just installed on top of half inch subflooring over joists 12 inches on center. I'm sure there are other approaches, but it still looks awesome after 8 years, is durable, easy to maintain and pretty much defines "historical character." Good luck. I'm jealous!
Old 04-22-08, 07:59 AM
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Well, I guess you have a good point about not being able to hurt it anymore than 100 years of elements could do..

I'm going to have to consider face nailing..cause to be honest, I'm a tad concerned about eating up my router bits on this hard oak..

but I still am a little concerned about moisture in the floor..especially in the kitchen area..

Yeah.. I had priced barn wood in the past and was floored by the cost.. $10-$15 a bd ft on average... so we feel very fortunate to get some thrown in our lap this easy..
Old 04-22-08, 09:32 AM
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dirt, what a great find (gift?).

I'd say if you have an otherwise great board, but it has a bad knot or surface flaw you just can't live with, repair it with a "dutchman". Thats the way it was done 100 yrs ago and more. I'm not sure what tools are required other than a template and router (table saw? band saw?), but I've seen old wood floors and even tabletops done that way.
Old 04-22-08, 09:39 AM
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Do install a 15# minimum asphalt vapor retarder over the subfloor before installation. On wider plank flooring face nailing is recommended. The nails are countersunk. Here are some pointers:

After planing down and installation, sand and seal. Go to to download for free the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association's technical manual on finishing wood floors. Click publications and download. There is also a manual on installation.
Old 04-22-08, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Gunguy45 View Post
dirt, what a great find (gift?).
Well, the barn was built by my wife's great great grandfather, and right now it is being used as junk storage.. Her dad just told us one day that he is going to be building a new "functional" barn, is tearing this one down and we would have first dibs on the wood, if I help him tear it down..

So I'm working alittle bit for it I guess...

Originally Posted by twelvepole View Post

After planing down and installation, sand and seal. Go to to download for free the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association's technical manual on finishing wood floors. Click publications and download. There is also a manual on installation.
Great info and links twelve.. Thanks a ton!!
Old 11-02-10, 10:44 AM
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Reclaimed barn wood

I am also looking to re-use barn flooring in my new home. I would like to keep the wood as rustic as possible with all of the knots and grooves that come with the 140+ years of wear. Since it will be used in a kitchen, I'm going to clean the wood first and dry it to 6-8%, but was wondering if anyone knows of a sealer that will uniformly seal the wood voids to make a "liveable and easily cleanable" surface? Is there a sealer that will fill the cracks and uniformly seal the wood to create a level surface? Thanks.
Old 11-02-10, 02:05 PM
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Welcome to the forums barnwood!

Several coats of poly will seal the wood for the most part. Hopefully you won't have a lot of cracks to deal with although you could fill them...... but that might take away from the rustic look. I doubt you can make the floors simple to clean with out sanding them smooth. Several coats of poly will seal the floor good enough so you can clean it, it just won't be as easy to clean as a smooth slick surface.
Old 11-02-10, 09:47 PM
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I think it would be a bad idea to face nail the boards down to the floor with ordinary steel nails. I've seen pictures of what happens to a hardwood floor when installed this way, and the result is black stains in the wood around every nail. If you want to face nail the boards down, I'd contact Forintek (see below) to find out if anyone there knows if using stainless steel nails would prevent iron gall ink staining around the nails.

There is a chemical reaction between the iron in the nails and "tannins" in the wood to form something called "iron gall ink" which is a black pigment that was used for centuries in Europe as a writing ink. Some species of wood have a lot of tannins in them, so much so that the brown tannins bleeding out of the wood can discolour latex primers applied to those species of wood. I know RED oak has a lot of tannins in it. Tannins, aren't just tannic acid but a whole family of polyphenols that all were used in the leather tanning industry a century ago to convert animal skins into leather.

Whenever tannins from plants comes into contact with iron ions (usually present in ground water and in water in contact with rusting iron, that chemical reaction causes black iron gall pigment to be produced. You need water (or moisture of some sort) to be present to get the iron to rust so that there are iron ions in water. Then the iron ions in the water react with the tannin in the wood as the water is absorbed into the wood, causing a black stain to form right inside the wood.

Take a look at the Canadian Wood Council's web site at:
Welcome to CWC
click on the "Publications" link,
click on the "PDF Publications" link in the bottom left corner of the Publications web page
In the section headed "Durability", download the 8 page brochure entitled:
"Discolourations on Wood Products: Causes and Implications."
Forintek fact sheet (8 pages, 2002).

In that brochure, on the 4th or 5th page (IIRC), they talk about "Travel Stain" which is caused by tiny (even microscopic) particles of iron discolouring lumber transported by train. They state that these tiny particles of iron could come from the iron chains and racks used in processing the logs into lumber, or even microscopic iron particles from wheel on rail friction in transporting the lumber to market on trains.

By putting T&G edges on the boards, you'll have your nails well under the surface of the wood, where they're not as likely to get wet and start to rust, and, where any iron gall ink produced has to diffuse through some distance of wood to discolour the surface of the floor.

Or, contack Forintek to see if they know if face nailing with stainless steel nails would avoid this potential problem.

PS: That PDF brochure does say that you can remove those stains with a weak (3%) phosphoric or oxalic acid, but it seems to me to be better to avoid staining the wood in the first place, especially if you have to remove any polyurethane on the surface of the wood to treat any stains.

Last edited by Nestor; 11-02-10 at 10:18 PM.
Old 11-10-10, 07:32 PM
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Hi. Just found this nforum and thought I would chime in. I would say don't fill anything. By the time you seal and put down a few coats of finish it will be sealed up well.

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