Floored Again!

Summer came to an end in late October when we were hit rather abruptly with cold, wet weather. We decided to switch gears from utility work and tackle something indoors. Why not the attic floor?

The attic floor is 4000 sq ft- the entire footprint of the building. We plan to use it for storage, so we wanted a robust floor that could handle heavy loads. Since plywood is still expensive, we discussed some flooring options with Fred at the sawmill.

We decided to have him mill some thick pine boards. The pine floor boards are a true 1.25″ thick, about 11″ wide, and 16 to 18 feet long. Fred cut them earlier in the summer, and they’ve been outside drying at his sawmill. We picked up our first load in September. We wanted to make as few trips as possible, so Fred loaded the trailer to the max. In a less conventional fashion, Sam sat on the boards so they wouldn’t slide off the forks as Fred carried them over.

The cats were very excited about the pine boards. There’s nothing our cats like more than the scent of pine.

Well there is one thing- freshly sawn pine. The boards were rough cut, meaning we will need to sand them later if we don’t want to get splinters when running around the attic barefoot. We also plan to seal the floor but who knows if we’ll ever get to that. For now, the important thing was to square the two ends so they fit tight with their neighbors. We squared one end while the boards were still on the trailer, cutting out split sections too. Buster’s ears were nearly shaved off! He wouldn’t stop sniffing the pine while we were sawing it.

We did this first step outside since the thick boards generate a lot of saw dust. Then we moved bundles of boards into the attic with the chain hoist. I sent them up to Sam for him to stage. He used his fishing rod to direct the longer ones around obstacles.

We still had three more trailer loads to pick up! We wanted to get them inside before it rained much more, which was another incentive to work on this.

Once we got a full load in the attic, we set up the miter saw which has a built-in dust collector. Each board needed to be cut to length as we placed them. Sam measured the spot for each board and cut them to fit. He also carefully selected each board to optimize utilization, minimizing wasted material.

This was a big undertaking for the two of us, so we hired Douglas, an experienced carpenter. Many of the boards were warped, but Douglas had a few tricks to get them to fit nicely. Some required extra shimming to leave appropriate gaps in between. Others were gapping too much and needed to be tightened up with a bow wrench. He drilled small pilot holes in the ends of the boards before screwing them down. Apparently the pilot holes are necessary if you don’t want the ends of the boards to split. Douglas was very fast too.

While Sam was doing the heavy lifting and Douglas was working on his knees, I followed behind with the screw gun. (You’ll notice Douglas on his knees in every photo.) Once the ends were tacked down, I put the remaining screws in. The boards got three screws across every joist. This amounted to thousands of screws.

The cats came up to check on us a few times. I’m not sure if they wanted attention or just couldn’t get enough of the pine smell.

We had quite the assembly line going. We completed a whole bay (out of 7) in one day. Then we got to the first steel beam that the joists hang from. The joist hangers stick up a bit, so we had to notch the underside of the floorboards so they would lie flat.

Sam modified a hand-held planer to make a groove.

Sam and Douglas also had to make a few notches on these boards. They ended up fitting well, although the process was very time-consuming. Luckily there aren’t too many of these beams.

We were ready for another bay. After five days with Douglas, we completed 4 of 7 bays!

The view from the attic window isn’t too bad either! Things were clearing up.

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