Installing the Antique Heart Pine Flooring

Welcome back! If you are just joining us, we are on the fifth step of a five part series on our living room. A living room that started out as a dark cave of a room:

Before picture shot during daytime with a lamp lit. VERY DARK!

Previous steps can be viewed here:
1. Faux painting brick over a previously painted white brick fireplace
2. Lightening up a room in 5 steps
3. Painting decorative graphics on a wall
4. Preparing to Install Antique Heart Pine Floors (and living to tell about it!)

It has been four days since Christmas and we’ve been working like busy beavers on our living room. Only a few more days until Pretty Handsome Guy has to go back to work. Our boys are getting antsy and tired of being shooed from the living room.

Keeping the troops from getting restless:

I came up with a spur of the moment idea to keep them busy for a little longer! Painter’s tape and a coin made for an instant hop scotch game on the kitchen floor!

I quickly duck into the living room and start the installation process.

When choosing the direction to run the boards, I had to look under the house from our crawl space to see which direction the floor joists ran. We wanted our wood floor to run at a 90 degree angle (or perpendicular) to the joist direction. (This isn’t a rule, but it helps with the stability of your floor.) If you can’t get under your house (or want no part of that underbelly) then study the nail pattern on the plywood subfloor. The nails that are nailed into the floor joists will be in straight lines across the floor.)

To lay the flooring straight, I drew out guide lines in the living room.

Marking Start and End Lines:

  1. Mark the green line first (with chalk line) as your starting line.
  2. Measure the width of the room at the top and bottom.
  3. If these values differ, choose the lesser amount or close to it and mark that distance at the top and bottom of the room.
  4. Snap your chalk line between the two points.

Figuring First and Last Board Widths:

Before you nail in that first board (because I know you are itching to get started). You will need to do some math to figure out how many board widths you will use across your room. Take the total width of your room, divide it by your floor board width.

For example, our room is 187″ wide. My board widths are 5.5 inches wide. So, here is my equation: 187 ÷ 5.5 = 34″  Oh happy day, a whole number!!! I have room for 34 full width boards in our living room.

This very rarely occurs! Normally you end up with a number that has a fraction, let’s say .3 for example. You will be left with 1/3 of your board width at the end. This board won’t look good being so narrow, and it is harder to work with. If you had .5 or larger, you might be fine depending on your board widths. You will need to be the judge.

So, in the case of the .3 excess, you will need to split the difference between both your starter and end boards. Find out what .3 of your board widths is: 5.5 x .3 = 1.65. Then you will add that width to your standard board width: 1.65 + 5.5= 7.15″. Now divide the 7.15 in half: 7.15 ÷ 2 = 3.575. So, now you know that you need to rip your start and end board to be 3.5″ wide. I hope you followed that.

Time to learn two new glossary words:


  • Rip – ripping a board is cutting with the grain along the length of a board. This is usually done with a table saw, but can be done with a circular saw and a straight edge.
  • Cross cut – a type of cut that is perpendicular to the grain or along the width of your board. Cross cuts are usually made with a miter saw or circular saw, but can also be made with a hand saw. (I’ve been known to make this cut using my band saw before I had either a miter or table saw. Okay, I’ll have to give you a lesson on types of saws at a later date. I promise!)

Remember how I said we had a whole number, meaning our room will take full width boards. In other words, no ripping needed (guess we didn’t need that table saw after all. But, no way was I returning my Christmas present!)

Cutting and Dry Fitting the floor:

I started by laying out all the boards across the room. Sounds easy right? WRONG!!! It wasn’t really difficult, just time consuming. I had to cut each board to size with the miter saw (this is where I really learned the value of the old adage “Measure twice, cut once.”  Then, I moved to the next board. Several rows took two board lengths. I was careful to stagger my seams randomly. I also had to take more time to cut the profiles around door jams, fireplace, heating vents and bookcases. Also, be sure to cut a hole where your heating and A/C vent is (more detailed information on cutting profiles can be found in this post.) Cutting around a vent instructions can be found at here. Measure, cut, check fit (and repeat about 100 times).

I chose to create a mitered frame around our fireplace. This took a little more measuring and time, but the results were well worth the effort.

Phew, that only took a day and a half! I laid out ALL the floor boards without nailing. Moved a few to stagger seams or put prettier planks in a more prominent spot. When everthing fit, I lightly numbered each board with chalk and stacked them up near the end side of the room.

FINALLY! Install Your Floor:

Okay itchy fingers, now it is time to install that first board! Grab that huge pneumatic nailer, right?! What? No?! The nailer won’t fit close enough to the wall for your first (or maybe even second or third row.) Time to bust out the power drill and predrill your nail holes. I put holes approximately every 18″ about an inch in from the edge. Then hammered the nails in using a nail set to countersink the nails. Before you sand, you will need to add some wood putty to fill and hide the nail holes.

Ah ha, NOW you can grab that nailer! I have to admit I was a little nervous. I had never actually used a floor nailer (although my Dad has pictures to prove otherwise).


Please, please, no comments about my topless internet photo!
I was 5 people! And a tomboy, what can I say.

It is true, I had watched my parents lay wood floors. But, that was many many years ago. Luckily times have changed, and the tools are better. We rented a pneumatic nailer with a compressor so that the nailer would do most of the driving with forced air.

We lined up that second board. Used a scrap block of wood and a hammer to tap it firmly against the installed board. Then Pretty Handsome Guy gave me the nod letting me know I could proceed. I trembled a little as I lifted the rubber mallet. Then stopped, moved my feet wider and clear away from the nailer. Then raised the mallet. It was now or never! And {{WHAM!}} The mallet hit smack in the middle of the black button and a loud bang filled the room. Woot! What a rush! I just love power tools :-).

Back to work, one floor cleat in and about 400 more to go. Plenty of {{WHAM}} for me and Pretty Handsome Guy to share.

When we reached the end of the room, we had to ditch the nailer and predrill holes and hammer in the nails by hand again.

Ooo la la! Step back and admire that beautiful floor!

Because our floor planks were custom planed, they had varying heights. But, that wasn’t a big deal because we were planning on finishing our own floor.

Well, at first we were so scared of ruining our beautiful wood floors that we almost paid a professional to come finish them for us. But, Mark Kegler (the guy who planed the wood for us) reassured me that I could definitely do it myself.

He gave me a few tips on Refinishing Your Own Floors:

  • Rent a drum sander (rented at Home Depot.)
  • Watch some videos on YouTube for using a drum sander.
  • Practice on a sheet of plywood to get the hang of it.
  • When you reach the end of your row, gently raise or rock the sander up and of the floor.
  • Whatever you do, DO NOT stop moving while the sanding drum is in contact with the floor.


  • Rent an edge sander (rented at Home Depot.)
  • Again watch a video on YouTube for how to use it.
  • Again DO NOT STOP moving it while it is in contact with the floor.
  • And hang on tight to that puppy, cause it will pull you into the next county if you let it.
  • A side note on the edge sanders, this thing will really give you a good glute and hamstring workout (just in case you were looking for some added results. Okay, yes, I added this last bullet point.)


  • Then rent a Square Buffer (or Random Orbital Sander). It will give you your fine sanding and buffing finishes. (Rented at Home Depot)
  • Yup, you guessed it, watch a video on You Tube. Seriously, how did people learn anything before YouTube?
  • Buy the most expensive floor finishing system they have (it will last much longer than a cheap polyurethane.) We used ProFinisher Water-Based Floor Polyurethane.
  • It can be a water based system.
  • The system should include a sanding sealer and a sealer (polyurethane or varnish).
  • Follow the directions on the bottle.

This site: has some a great video and information for the whole finishing process. They left off the square buffing step, but it’s your DIY project and you can buff if you want to!

After following all the directions for finishing the floor, we were left with….

Ta Da! Droolingly Gorgeous Antique Heart Pine Floor

I hope you noticed that I didn’t mention the stain color we used. That is because we didn’t use a stain. This is the actual color of antique heart pine wood! No stain, just glorious amber red heart pine.

Which we had to cover up with a rug. But, every once in a while I pull back the rug and admire this:

You can just barely see that little spot of turquoise paint in the nooks of this knot.
It is just whispering, “I’m old and I have a story behind me.”

Before I reveal the room to you:
Do you remember the before picture?
Here are a few more:
And this was before we moved in:

Here is the final reveal of our living room:

I should note that it took another few hours to cut, install, and paint the quarter round molding to hide the edges of the floor. And I had to wait a month for custom transition strips for the doorways and special heart pine quarter round for around the fireplace. But, I’m one proud and happy Pretty Handy Girl now!

Post Note:

Several people have emailed me asking where we got our rug. It is from Pottery Barn and is called Adeline.


  1. Wow, that floor is beautiful! Well worth the angst and work!!

  2. marty (A Stroll Thru Life) says:

    Oh my, your floor is absolutely stunning. Such a lot of work, but oh so worth is. It is truly gorgeous. I am green with envy. Good for you, you should be proud. Beautiful room. Hugs, Marty

  3. Melanie@The Old White Cottage says:

    I'm speechless … just WOW! That's all I've got.

  4. Sandra {sawdust and paper scraps} says:

    Beautiful. It looks so good and you didn't even end up using a walker because you hurt your back bending over all day, day after day. I'm so jealous! No seriously, that floor looks fantastic.

  5. Stephanie from "Furniture Fun" says:

    Absolutely Gorgeous! I love the end result! I love it when you finish something and you can sit back and enjoy the finished product and know that all the hard work was worth it! Awesome job!

  6. Becky@Organizing Made Fun says:

    It IS beautiful…I'd say you didn't need to cover it up with the rug! But, I'm a rugless kind of person cause I love the wood floors showing! But…I'm sure it would be cold without it where you live :)

  7. That is one gorgeous floor! I enjoyed reading all of the detailed steps. Enjoy your floor!

  8. The DIY Show Off says:

    Wow! Great tutorial and your floor is gorgeous! This is a project on our to do list…for the entire first floor. Not looking forward to it! But, good to see that it's worth all of the hard work! Your entire living room is beautiful! Great job on the faux brick too! It is so real looking!!!

    Have a great weekend!


  9. Wow! The room is just gorgeous all fixed up with the floors finished! Your color combination and mixture of textures is beautiful!

  10. Wow, your room really came together. I have a stack of this wood sitting in my LR ready to be installed in the kitchen. So did you poly it? It looks shiny, so I assume that you put something on there, but you said you did not stain. I love your area rug too!

  11. Momma Rhyne says:

    Oh that floor is just to die for… LOVE IT!!

  12. Beautiful floor, beautiful room! That is a forever floor — it looks like it's been there forever AND it will last forever. Can't get any better than that!

  13. Funky Junk Interiors says:

    Wow, unreal amount of work but what an outcome! Stunning! Your rug is very pretty, but I'd be tempted to roll it back all the time to keep peeking at that glorious wood. :)


  14. Korrie@RedHenHome says:

    Oh,I would be pulling back that rug on a daily basis to admire that floor!


  16. Gorgeous!!! I want to know where the rug came from as well! I want hardwoods so bad…..maybe next year!

    GREAT Job!

  17. Boy you are good! Those floors are gorgeous! Did you add my link somewhere and I just do not see it:) I would love to get word out on my party, thanks so much:) Debbie

  18. Sonya@Beyond the Screen Door says:

    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!

  19. Lee Laurie says:

    Wow! They are beautiful!

  20. Beautiful room Brittany. I love the use of colour.. especially since introducing it is still something I struggle with…
    Goes without saying that the floor is gorgeous.. and I admire all the hard work it took.
    Now I know it's sacrilegious to talk about the rug..because the floor is the star..
    But Brittany I LURVE that rug… where did you get it.?

  21. Brittany (aka Pretty Handy Girl says:

    Jo, thank you for your compliment! The rug is from Pottery Barn, called Adeline. You can view it here:

    Anonymous, wow, that room does look a lot like ours. Our rooms could be in that book, Separated at Birth.


  22. Handy Man, Crafty Woman says:

    Wow, you are my new hero! :-) We've done hardwood floors, but hubby always does the "hard" work. I line up and hand him the boards, he uses the tools. (The saw scares me!)

  23. I'm so impressed with all the work you did! The floors look amazing. Your living room looks so cozy! Nice job!

  24. just another stay at home mom says:

    I would lose the rug…the floors are too nice….also the fireplace brick would work well in white now that you have the wood floors!

  25. You are extremely talented! Your floor looks beautiful. I also used to have a red sofa like the one you have. I just sold it on Craigslist…but I miss it.

  26. I am new to your blog and absolutely love it! I'm wondering where you found the white "birds in a tree" stencil or wall stickies you have on the walls aside your fireplace. Could you please email me where you found those? Thanks.

  27. Michelle @ Ten June says:

    Oh my goodness those floors are to die for! Seriously!! Absolutely perfect!! I can't believe you guys did so much of it yourselves. The whole room came together perfectly!! Great job :)

    I'm definitely your newest follower- I love your work! And thanks for stopping by over at Ten June!! I'm glad to have found a new friend!

    xo- M

  28. Your floors are beautiful. We have heart pine in our kitchen and love it.


  29. Lisa at Paint in my Hair says:

    good for you! that is awesome!

  30. One Life Many Journeys says:

    I "heart" your floor! Was it hard to find the flooring?

  31. Christin@Pregnant with power tools says:

    Topless Tomboy 😉 I think I have a few pictures like that myself… thanks for reminding me… I need to find and burn those 😉 Love the floor – what a great job!

  32. Emily, Timeless Paper says:

    First time visiting your blog – I had a wonderful visit! Thank you for sharing your wood floor tutorial. So helpful! I'll be back to visit soon.

  33. I love how the floor turned out. Where did you get your painting that is above the fireplace? That is really cool.

  34. You’re a first rate handy girl, Brittany. You really empowered us by just looking at the photos.
    And the living room looks spacious and organized.

    Two thumbs up while I continue nodding my head with a smile on my lips!!! 😀

  35. stunning. stunning. stunning. When are you available for hire? :)

  36. Floors look beautiful. Where did you order the custom made transition strips from??? Were they heart pine?

  37. Wow!you are one talented girl. You have given me more inspiration just when I thought I didn’t know what to do with myself. The floors are purely beautiful. You have a lovely rug but the thought of it covering your hard and amazing work baffled me a little. Sorry to say it:( Anyway, you have a new follower. Love so many of the items on your website!


    • Tina, believe me, I’d love to leave it uncovered and stare at it daily. Sometimes I pull back the rug to peek at it. But, sadly with two boys and a dog, we need the rug for wrestling matches and to protect it from the dog nails ;-).


      • Brittany,
        Read your reply, believe me I understand. Been there and done that with 3 kids and 4 dogs. So, just keep lifting up that rug and admiring your work. You did it girl:)

  38. Julia Brown says:

    Hi! My husband and I are working on an addition and are about to lay the reclaimed heart pine floors. Found your site to brush up – it’s been a long time since we’ve done this. Thanks for such a great article! We also have 3 boys and 1 dog – I understand the rug!


  39. I’m SO glad I found your blog! I just started a similar blog about our new home and we are planning to put hardwoods down. This was so helpful! Doing old reclaimed wood would be great to save some money, but I was very nervous about the finishing-it-ourselves part. I’ll definitely be coming back to this post when we are ready for wood floors. :)

  40. Brittany I am considering undertaking a similar project. Where did you get the wood you used, if you do not mind me asking. I personally want a wide plank look… hard to find apparently.

    • Angela, yes, it is hard to find. We bought ours from a guy who tears down barns near the NC/VA border. I saw his listing on Craig’s List. He said that a lot of time the farm owners will let him sell some of the salvage pieces from the tear downs to help pay for his fee. I’m not sure where you live, but Mountain Lumber in Earlysville, VA is a good source.

  41. Your floors look fantastic! Was wondering if you used any filler or anything between the strips or were yours all very evenly cut. We have installed reclaimed pine floors and are having some issues with the spaces in between the boards. Would love to get your opinion.

    • Gail, the gaps happen after years of drying and shrinking. Our original floors in the house have gaps like you have described. Honestly, I have just left them be and accept the fact that it makes them look that much more aged. But, I do get frustrated by all the dirt and dust that falls into the cracks. A while ago I saw a tutorial where they had inserted rope into the gaps and stained it to fill the void. I didn’t like that solution, so I left well enough alone. But, you could try it if you like:,,1631562,00.html

  42. Well looky there – I did comment on this two years ago! haha! Thanks for pointing this out again, Brittany. It makes me feel like I can refinish that little apartment floor after all! :)

  43. Attorneypeacock says:

    Can you tell me the specific products you used to finish the flooring? I am searching for ProFinisher but I don’t really see a “system”. I just see the poly. We are installing about 3000 square feet of reclaimed heart pine…so i really want to get the finish right.

    Also, has the finish help up well? Thanks so much for your help.

    • I think we bought it at Home Depot. Our floors have held up well, but be forewarned that pine is a soft wood. So we do have plenty of grooves and some scratches, but the finish isn’t peeling or flaking at all.

  44. Jennifer says:

    I stumbled upon your blog today. We are having 1000 s/f of hardwood floors put down this weekend. We are stoked! Mostly I’m looking for a way to take my old pine table/deacons benches in the kitchen and paint and distress them. Your site popped up when I googled and I love it!! Thanks for all the pictures and steps on “how to” distress and age things. I’m going to be brave and buy some paint.

    Thanks for the inspiration,

    PS – Your floors are soooooo lovely, why cover them up with a rug?

    • Jennifer, thanks for your comment. Oh trust me I wish I could leave them naked, but with two boys and a dog I wanted to protect them. Plus, the living room doubles as our after dinner wrestling mat ;-D.

  45. your amazing!!! What is the name of the final color that you used? I LOVE IT its the perfect neutral green!!!

  46. Hi there! I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about installing antique floors. I have all the tools, whatever. However. Here’s where I could really use a suggestion or recommendation. I have a bunch of antique pine boards. We’re talking 6″ to 16″ wide, with some 10′ long. Can you say GORGEOUS!?

    So I want to install them as my kitchen floor. They’re NOT tongue-n-groove where I could use my pneumatic nailer. But 100 years ago, they didn’t necessarily have tongue-n-groove. Any ideas where I can get info for properly laying flush edged boards?

    I’m pretty excited about this, but don’t want to screw up these gorgeous boards. Thanks for any advice or referral you have.

    • Christine,

      Here are my thoughts on your flooring. First, you can definitely install your flat edged planks. But, it will be a lot more work to install them correctly without risk of nails popping up and cutting your feet. We have floors like this in the rest of the house, and although I love them, I have to be wary of nails popping up all the time. Plus, over time the planks shrank leaving big gaps between the boards where dirt and dust collects. Granted, your old boards probably won’t shrink as much.

      To install straight-edged planks, you can use screws, but you’ll need to countersink and fill the holes (with wood putty, or you can drill larger counter sink holes and fill it with round dowel plugs (it will look like pegs were used.) You can use nails, but they are more likely to pop up. Ironically I was just watching Daryl’s Restoration Over-Hall last night and he installed his flush edged planks with square nails. They didn’t show the process, but I know from experience that to avoid splitting the planks, you’d have to pre-drill holes before using the square nails. It will be time consuming. And there is still the probability that the nails will pop up from time to time.

      The alternative is to find a local cabinet builder or woodworker who can add tongue and groove edges to your boards. Be forewarned, you will lose some of your width when you go this route.

      Hope this is helpful. I can tell you that you will love those floors when you are done. Antique wood is so beautiful!!!

  47. You’ve addressed some of my thoughts, too. I’m leery of nails, but can’t imagine the insult of screws showing up. I can tongue and groove them myself, but eh. what a PIA.
    I’m liking more and more the plug idea. They’re obvious, but part of the “look.”
    It will also take me a long while to get this in, so my plan is to do it in the winter when it’s shrunken, space them with a dime, and go for it.
    It’s my kitchen. If I decide I don’t like it? I’ll rip it out. Like I’ve done with my cabinets 3x now. LOL!
    Thx for getting back to me!

    • Why would you space them with a dime? I’d but them up against each other. Trust me, the gaps in our other floor are a real pain. If you spill milk you have to suction it up. Or juice, think about all that sticky being stuck in the groove inviting ants. Especially in the kitchen, I think having gaps is a bad idea.

  48. If I wait until winter, it’s dry and wood shrinks.
    If I don’t space them, when it’s more humid, they’ll swell together and most likely force the wood fibers up, where they can be scuffed or torn.
    So, given the fact it’s hotter than @#$@! here 9 months of the year (ok, I might be exaggerating) I’d be better off to accommodate hot weather than cold.
    Make sense?

  49. I was just rereading all the comments and ideas. I just noticed the “leave them naked” thought. There are a couple methods most furniture refinishers/painters or woodworkers aren’t familiar with, evidently, to get a raw wood finish. Particularly people working with reclaimed lumber.

    For wood that won’t have a lot of wear and tear, there are lovely, matte finish varnishes now, that really ARE matte (vs. satin). Decoart, Beautiful, and BM (whose product escapes me) are just a couple that make matte finishes so matte, they don’t look like anything is on them, but seal the wood well.

    For more heavy wear, I have been using paint base. Right. The stuff pigment goes IN. I choose Exterior, latex, flat, dark (i.e. 4 or 5) paint base. Exterior has the UV protection stuff in it and latex is for easy clean-up. The base for the darkest paints goes on a frightening white, but dries so clear and matte I have to lay a pencil down to see where I left off. For “chippy” pieces, this seals them without that gummed down, poly look. I’ll seal both sides and edges, and after a day or so curing (maybe longer, since I’m lazy) it’s hard as nails. I’m probably going to start my pine floor with this, since it’s extremely durable. If I don’t care for the final look? I’ll probably go satin on top.

    Just thought you might like that trick for any other reclaimed project you find yourself into.

  50. Well. An update.
    First, I found matching pine boards, 11″ x 16″ at a reuse center in Baltimore. 2nd Chance. Incredible place for architectural reclamation. $.25 a LF. Oh, my. Picture me with 16′ boards hanging out of my 6′ truck bed, driving along the Baltimore to DC beltways in rush hour traffic. The boards floating up and down, practically in slow motion, 8′ behind my truck. I could have bought a cinder block to hold them down, but Nooooo.

    Then, I talked with a friend who works on restoration. He’s very OCD with historical detail and finish work. He took one look at them and suggested I bevel the side edges. They’ll overlap, but when they shrink and expand, they’ll still cover what would be a gap. To me that sounds perfect. There might be a slight depression during the contraction period, but there wouldn’t be a GAP.

    I have yet to dive into this project, but my plan is in place. I will also probably seal each board before it’s placed, to help with shrinkage.

    I’m just hoping against hope that my floors turn out to be as incredible as yours.

  51. Scott Watson says:

    Great Looking Floor!

    Did you have tough and groove or did you just but up against each other and nail them down? Just wondering.

  52. Very good post. I’m facing a few of these issues
    as well..


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