For the two of us, there are few things in DIY renovation more satisfying than the idea of reuse of salvaged materials through repurposing. It typically combines all of the elements of a project that we always strive for.

  1. Recycling - Rather than the items ending up in the trash heap, we can put them to good use. That's better for the environment, for us, and for you. (With that last line picture me finger gun pointing at you with a wink, cheesy smile, and a slight head cock.)
  2. Ingenuity - Using our noodles to figure out a new custom application and installation, no manual or cartoon instruction sheet needed.
  3. Character - Old and antique materials often mean tremendous character by way of a time worn and natural patina gained over the items' years in use under its previous life. It's not "damaged," it's "distressed."
  4. Economy - Some would even call it frugal or cheap, but old salvaged materials that are not in great shape and need some help are often pretty inexpensive and can offer huge savings over new material approaches.

Hrm, based on that acronym, we really love R.I.C.E. That could be our new motto. When we DIY, we strive for RICE!

Anyhow, back to the purpose of this post. Over the last few weeks we've been putting RICE to use in one of our latest projects: a retrofit of 125 year old salvaged pine flooring that we turned into wall panelling.

We've had a pile of salvaged random width heart pine sitting in our basement for years. We didn't ever know exactly what we wanted to do with it, but we knew we wanted to do something. Though the rough and weathered surface bore the signs of its age, I knew that below the crusty exterior of stain, paint, shellac, dirt, grime, tar, glue, and whatever else had been applied or dropped on these floors, there was an old growth, sturdy, and great looking distress to the boards...as well as splits, splinters, and even nails.

Every so often we'd think about these boards, in lengths between one and 12 feet, and we'd consider, "what in the world can we do with these boards?" This question was frequently raised while we were either cleaning the basement or tripping on the pile of wood while trying to work in the cramped basement wood shop.

Without anywhere to use these boards as flooring, and unsure of their shape after cleaning them up, Wendy and I recently had the idea to repurpose the boards as wall panelling in our master bathroom closet. Brilliant!

Our master bathroom closet is a small space just inside of the master bathroom to the left and behind the door. We've long planned it to be a catch all space for the supplies and misfit items in our home that do not have a better place like the central vac hose, the ironing board and iron, laundry basket, my socks, t-shirts, shoes, a wifi extender, etc., you know, the normal stuff. It's not a particularly large space, but we're hoping for the best by way of cramming a ton into it.

But as much as it's a closet, we really didn't want it to be a forgotten room and space in our house. Since we feel every space in our home is special and deserves something unique, rather than slapping up some drywall and calling it a day we decided to use the old pine flooring from the basement pile as vertically stacked tongue and groove wall panelling. (I guess you can take these extra steps when your house is only 15 feet wide.)

Over the last few weeks we've been hard at working on the various aspects of this project. It all started by breaking out my new (Christmas present) planer. Yes, the same planer that got hit by a truck. It's been a long project.

I ended up needing to take about 1/16th of an inch from the top surface of each board, but it wasn't as easy as just popping them through the planer. Each board had to be carefully inspected for nails or metal pieces that could damage the planer blades or become projectiles. To do this I ended up using my metal detector that I purchased a little while ago. If I found any pieces of metal, I then had to remove them before proceeding...

...Caked on dirt was then cleaned from around the tongue and along the groove face using a large paint scraper tool...

...And then the top layer of finish was scraped to remove any built up tar or gunk that might otherwise impede the planer in its mission.

Only then could I slowly run each length of board through the planer.

It was shocking how beautifully some of the boards cleaned up. The many years of built up finish and dirt were removed to reveal the deep and rich tight grained pine characteristics.

After several nights and hours of planing, we finally had ourselves a rather huge pile of boards that were ready to go into the closet (rather than sit in the basement). 

These are just a few that I had prepped, snapping a photo as darkness approached

We hauled them all up into the bathroom where Wendy organized them based on width and length and essentially setup a pine board "store." She stacked the long boards on the floor and leaned the smaller ones against the wall.

Installing the boards was like working a giant puzzle. Though we hoped we had enough to complete the 11 linear feet of the nine foot tall wall and three feet of two foot tall wall (above the door) we knew it would be close. We went to great lengths to piece together each and every piece of flooring with as little waste as possible.

Tremendous time was taken to ensure we were altering board widths, hiding and varying seams, and coordinating the install to use every available piece of wood.

When a broken piece was used, or we needed a size that didn't match another board, I'd take the board down and run it on the table saw. Through a series of rips and cuts I could give myself a newly cut board with the right size groove and all.

Before

After

As we installed the pieces, the closet began to resemble something out of a wilderness lodge more than a bathroom closet. The variation in wood tone was interesting, though haphazard. Some of the boards were victims of water damage and peeling/splintering, while others have an absolutely beautiful yellow/orange look to it.

We were also left with quite the mess of scraps and dirt, leftover from our attempts to piece everything together like a large vertical jigsaw puzzle.

It took us several long days of effort to get everything in place, but once installed the little nondescript closet interior was beginning to look like a special place. Due to the shape of many of the boards, how much they're splintering and peeling, we're planning on hand sanding them a bit and then covering them with a nice coat of glossy white paint or white wash. The hunting lodge look just isn't the right look for the room, though it could be quite lovely in the right house.

As a test fit, we rolled in the carcass of the dresser that will eventually hold so many of my clothes. Just about a perfect fit!

We'll probably also add several shelves in the area above the dresser. After all, we do have nine foot ceilings to do something with in there.

All in all, I'd like to point out once again that my wood hoarding habit can pay off. Even if it means tripping over a pile of 100+ year old boards for the last several years.

Have you ever attempted to salvage old materials and repurpose them in a new way? Have you ever worked with old pine flooring? What were your takeaways? I'll tell you one thing, old pine sure smells great when you cut it! 

Comments 16

Comments

Ryvyan
9/30/2013 at 9:32 AM
The wood grains are gorgeous!
Alex
9/30/2013
I was shocked when I put the first piece through.
9/30/2013 at 10:20 AM
That grain you exposed is beautiful!

I once got my little hoarder paws on an old high school gymnasium floor that I kept in our basement AND THEN MY HUSBAND GAVE IT AWAY.

Blame it on miscommunication, but it was not a nice evening in our house.
Alex
9/30/2013
Oh noes, that's simply awful. I can assure you, our "not a nice evening" would have easily stretched several days if not longer. He got off easy as far as I'm concerned.
9/30/2013 at 10:21 AM
I think that would look AMAZING whitewashed, but then again, wouldn't blame you for going full white. That would definitely suit your home better.

I love old heart pine. The floors in our old house are just random width pine, and it is so, so soft you can scrape it with a finger nail.
Alex
9/30/2013
Don't I know it on the softness. Our poor stairs + Lulu's nails have left quite a bit of character. She's lucky we love her so much!

I think we'll end up doing full white, but we've got to at least play with the coloring a bit.
9/30/2013 at 10:28 AM
Excellent re-use of lumber none of us will live to see harvested again. I would much rather use original old-growth lumber than the stuff they mill today.
Alex
9/30/2013
Don't think I haven't tried to come up with some plans on how I could possibly use lumber like that all the time. I'm thinking I need something that would allow me to dredge the James River looking for 200 year old timbers.
meg
9/30/2013 at 11:02 AM
It seems such a shame to cover that lovely grain you uncovered with white paint (even though I know it really doesn't suit the house) - I wonder if wood bleach would take away enough color to make the wood live a bit more harmoniously with the rest of the house?
Alex
9/30/2013
Every time I look at the grain I have the same thought, but then I just feel like I'm being overly sentimental. We're very torn, though we feel like painting it is the best move. Still can't help but have a little voice in our ear.
Margie
9/30/2013 at 9:36 PM
Are you going to also paint that beautiful old dresser? If not, why not let the beauty of the natural wood in the dresser and closet interior be your little secret.
Wendy
10/5/2013
Yep, painting the dresser is on the ole to do list. I'm hoping with new hardware and a new color it will be more to our taste. :-)
bfish
10/2/2013 at 8:31 PM
I'm a fan of painted woodwork and closet interiors that are white -- however, it really would be a shame to cover up the grain of your old wood!

Down here in the hinterlands of southern VA, all of the floor finishers we've dealt with over the years are partial to old pine (vs old oak, maple, whatever) just because of the beautiful grain effects and variations in color.

Sure enough the oak floors downstairs and on our stairway are very nice and quite resistant to pet paws/claws, people shoes, etc. and the pine floors upstairs really take a beating, but appearance-wise I find that I agree with the floor-finishing pros.
Wendy
10/5/2013
I'm a bigger fan of pine vs. oak as well, but agree with you on the durability. Our heart pine floors in the kitchen are a total wreck from pet nails and dropped cans/food items.

Usually we're all for restoring a piece's natural wood beauty, but in this case we're going to paint the dresser so it fits in with the bathroom and is a bit more updated.
10/2/2013 at 9:35 PM
So beautiful. This was a great idea. I hoard things for future projects as well, so I totally understand you.
Wendy
10/5/2013
Hoarders unite! :-)
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