It’s been a week of major accomplishments around the homestead this week — big things and big-little things have officially been crossed off the list. But before we get to that, I thought I would share a smaller project that I have been wanting to tackle since we moved into the house — repairing the UGLY plywood patch at the bottom of the stairs.
This “patch” (if you can call it that; kind of a stretch, if you ask me) is part of our main living room floor. I’m guessing that back when the house was divided into apartments, this was the return air vent for the rear unit. With HVAC changes, someone pulled out the vent and nailed down a piece of plywood to close up the hole. Well done, Mr. Home Repair Man.
Our downstairs closet has the same oak hardwood that runs throughout the rest of the main floor. In fact, the closet is basically a scaled version of what our living room looked like when we moved in — custard walls, orange/brown baseboards, and plenty of ugly gaps and holes. With plans to eventually redo this closet, I decided to jump the gun and steal a few pieces of hardwood early to resolve the plywood patch issue.
Our hardwood is fairly thin (1/4″) tongue-and-groove, that is nailed directly to the sub-floor. The big challenge in trying to salvage a few pieces if that the tongue and groove is a little fragile after 90+ years. If you use too much force, you risk snapping the wood. My tools of choice were a flat screwdriver, small pry-bar, hammer, and a set of chisels.
Go slowly. I used the screwdriver to carefully separate the tongue from the groove. Then used the pry-bar to lift the nails.
In terms of actually replacing the patch, step 1 was prying up the plywood, which had been nailed in place with framing nails. This exposed a hole down, through the sub-floor, into abandoned duct work. The piece of plywood I removed was 3/4″ thick, so with 1/4″ hardwood, I found a 1/2″ piece of scrap wood and cut it to size (step 2).
Up next (step 3), I gently removed nails from my salvaged pieces of hardwood, spot sanded a few rough areas, and tested a layout that would help conceal that rectangle patch I was replacing. Ideally, you want to run your salvage past the edges of the patch so that the seams look consistent with the surrounding wood, or at the very least, don’t line up exactly. “Work with what you got” was my motto on this one, meaning that I staggered my seams as best I could with the limited salvage that I had available.
I know there is a photo gap here; too often I get focused on what I’m doing and forget to take photos of all of my steps. The long and short of it: once my layout was set, I marked the required cuts and trimmed them up with our jigsaw (step 4). The miter saw would have been better, but it was all packed up — work with what you got.
With the cuts made, I worked from front to back fitting in my new pieces and using the mallet to lightly tap the tongue and groove joints together (step 5). The chisel came into play to trim away a few bits of tongue to allow my final pieces to be slotted in.
Finally (step 6), I used the best of my salvaged nails to tack the pieces into place.
So that’s it; all done! No question, my own patch isn’t perfect, but it definitely exceeds the previous plywood number. The mill-run style of our hardwood (with a lot of colour and pattern variety) helps the new pieces to blend in. Plus, our entire floor is full of “character,” making this new addition just another part of the “charm.”
Oh yes, step 7: WINE. You’ve done good work, so open a nice bottle and spend a few minutes patting yourself on the back while you admire your handiwork.
What’s been keeping you busy as we slip into spring? Backyard “clean-up” (pup owners are with me on this one) and outdoor planning have definitely been top of my list this week. I can’t wait until the garden wakes up!