Hot Topics: Is it Easier to Tooth In or Rip Out Hardwood Flooring?

Wood floor boards.

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Original Post: Hardwood Floor: Tooth in or rip out?

petethebuilder Member

I'm replacing the tile floor in my kitchen with solid hardwood. Rather than use thresholds, my intention is to "tooth in" to the existing floor by cutting out individual 2.25" boards, and then sliding new ones into place. I intend to use unfinished red oak, and then resand and finish the entire floor as a whole.

If you imagine that the kitchen faces north, then there is a small hallway to the west and a dining room to the east with floor boards running east-west. Of the 11' that make up the west edge of the kitchen, most of it will end in wall with only about three feet going out to the hall, meaning only about three feet of it will need to be toothed in. The east edge of the floor shares an 11' edge with the dining room, all of which will need to be toothed in.

Alternatively, I could just rip out the entire floor that's currently in the dining room and replace it while replacing the kitchen area floor. The dining room area is about 120 square feet, so the cost in flooring would be an additional $400-$500 vs. just toothing it in.

I've done a little work with solid hardwood floors and have laid down about 500 square feet of a no-glue, locking floating floor, so I have some experience. However, I don't know what's worse: toothing in an 11' edge or ripping out and replacing an additional 120 square feet of floor.

I realize the toothing would be cheaper, but in terms of time and aggravation, which option would be better?

1. Tooth in an 11' edge of 2 1/4" floor, OR

2. Rip out an additional 120 sq. ft. of floor and replace it

XSleeper Group Moderator

It all depends if you can find the exact right size flooring. I would probably rip it all out to avoid toothing in.

petethebuilder Member

To be clear, I will have to tooth in some of it regardless of what I do with the dining room side. I'm sure 2 1/4" red oak is locally available even at the big box stores. Of course, the current dining room floor is already stained and finished. If I do rip out the dining room floor, is there a chance I could reuse some of it, or is it usually trashed once it's ripped out?

Before making a final decision, I think I'll try to tooth in a few boards on the west/hall side just to get a feel for it and to make sure my 2.25" boards really are the same as the 2.25" I can buy locally.

XSleeper Group Moderator

You can avoid toothing in by adding a perpendicular transition which would not look odd at a doorway or as a room divider.

There is a chance you might be able to save some; it depends how careful you are when you tear out. If it wants to crack and split, you can cut the nails under the planks to save a few pieces.

petethebuilder Member

A "room divider" was what I was calling a threshold and I'd rather avoid it. Good to know I might be able to save a few pieces. I guess the boards are only finished on the top, so it wouldn't be an issue to mix finished and unfinished boards to rebuild the floor.

czizzi Forum Topic Moderator

Boards already finished and older may not take stain the same as new boards that would be woven in. It’s the same as needing to use the same lot or dye lot when purchasing prefinished wood. Each production run will have a slight variation that can be noticeable when mixed. There’s no guarantees that the new will blend with the old. It’s also possible that the old may have been refinished a couple of times in the past, so matching heights could be troublesome.

petethebuilder Member

Well, the floor was there when I bought the house 20 years ago, so I have no idea about the lot dyes. The plan, after installing the new floor, is to sand everything down to bare wood and apply a new (darker) stain than what now exists.

I hadn't thought about the heights, but in that case I imagine the solution would be to gradually sand down the new floor section along the edges until it meets the height of the old floor. In other words, I assume I wouldn't need to bring the entire new floor down to meet the level of the old floor.

Anyway, for the reasons you state, it sounds like I'd be better off not trying to salvage any of the old floor and just buy new. Of course, I understand the different lots of wood might mean trouble matching the new stain across the old and new wood, but at least this way I'll just have one big section to deal with rather than dealing with individual pieces that may or may not match well.

That said, does this mean I'm getting a second endorsement from you for ripping out instead of toothing in?

czizzi Forum Topic Moderator

I guess I'll go for tear-out. It’s one thing to try to feather in boards to make a repair and another to weave in boards in the middle of a run and try to maintain consistency. While listed as 2 1/4" board, they will vary from a 16th large to a 16th small. The last floor I put in (nail down), I literally had to measure every board and sort into different piles as you couldn't mix one width with another in the same row. You will then have to maintain a perfectly straight line in the middle of the room and then add a spline so that you can then continue out in both directions from there. That, along with the possible height issues, the need to face nail the weaved boards, and the possibility of not being able to match the stains across the two rooms, can open up a can of worms.

We can't see what you see. I suppose it doesn't or wouldn't hurt to experiment. If it doesn't work, you were going to tear it out anyway. Have fun, learn some things, develop a new vocabulary of four-letter words and share your findings with the group.

petethebuilder Member

Thanks again for the advice and things to look out for. (I can't believe you had that much trouble matching boards with a NEW install.) It will be a little while before I do the install, so this is just me doing my homework and trying to anticipate the problems. I think I'd better just rip out and not try to save any of the old boards. It might be more expensive, but it's still cheaper than hiring a pro and this being my first solid floor nail down, I don't want to do anything to invite Murphy into the room. At least I won't have to waste time learning all the four-letter vocabulary words. I'm already fluent.

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