A SOURCE OF warmth and charm in any older, period home is its hardwood flooring: weathered Colonial pine, glowing Victorian oak or opulent art nouveau parquetry. The years take their toll, however, and it is difficult to believe how awful-looking these floors can become. When renovating a floor, a first-rate floor specialist must be a combination artist, craftsman, scientist and historian, using today's technology to re-create yesterday's floors. If the boards are sound, refinishing will restore their former beauty. But what if some planks have rotted or if old rooms have been expanded or new rooms added?
To try to match existing floors, renovators sometimes recycle antique floors rescued from demolished schools, churches, barns and mansions--but those boards may have been warped by too many decades of heat and cold. Salvaged hardwood is unlikely to match unless it is taken from a closet or bathroom in the same house. The answer is usually to use new wood that is made to appear old.
Although mills now mass-produce economical, straight-cut lumber, renovators can special-order planks, strips and squares of any thickness, from any type of tree, quarter-sawed like Victorian hardwood for a more decoratively patterned grain. Renovators antique wood by hewing, grooving, chamfering, scraping and wire-brushing each piece by hand, even distressing it with chains and hammers. They may add peg-and-groove detail. Once floors have been installed, bleached, stained and sealed, even fellow experts cannot distinguish old from new.