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I recently installed some reclaimed flooring during a remodel in which a kitchen became a dining room. I removed the 200 square feet of vinyl flooring and, in an effort to match our existing 1950s 2 inch wide, 5/16" thick, top nailed red oak strip floor in the rest of the house, I picked up some flooring that had been ripped out of another home.

I had already replaced most of the diagonally-laid, crappy uneven subfloor in the room with matching thickness plywood, so I though the subfloor was quite flat. I then used a pneumatic finish nailer to attach the reclaimed strips, but I have found that a number of the strips "stand proud" of each other at places. I am going to remove the old finish with a floor sander anyway, but my concern is that there is so little thickness to start with that leveling this floor could make it too thin to hold the fasteners.

My options, as I see them, are:

  • Remove the boards that stand too tall (or under the plane of the others nearby) to see if there is a shim that can be used (for boards that are too low) or if there are obstructions (board is too high). If the quantity of these boards is really high, consider:

  • Remove all of the boards and eat the cost of the replacements (ouch!), or:

  • A hybrid of the two above -- remove the "proud" boards and replace with new wood, in the hopes that the new wood is flatter.

These are just the options I can think of. I'd love to hear of other possible solutions, and, as always, I will be grateful for any advice received.

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    Welcome to Home Improvement, please take the tour. You'll note that "options" and "opinions" questions aren't a very good fit for this site. Any of your options will work and the "best" one is the one that works for you within your time, financial, and skill constraints. Since we don't know those, we can't suggest which one you should choose.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Feb 22 at 18:50
  • Hi Free, I will indeed take the tour. To answer the other parts of your reply, I am an experienced DIY person that has taken on pretty much every discipline -- electrical, plumbing, painting, and many more. I would prefer not to start over because of the cost and time required, so I was hoping to get the perspective of someone who may have taken on a project like this... Are you saying that any of the above options can work based on your experience? I am still trying to grasp how boards of the same thickness, installed on the same substrate can be of different heights. Thanks, David
    – 2002sheds
    Commented Feb 22 at 22:34
  • By how much are the boards too high/low? If it's 1/16" or less, well, have at with a sander. You're already starting with thin flooring, but it's not so thin that a 1/16" will matter. If they're off by 1/4" then you've got serious issues and you'll really want to pull them and figure out what's wrong with your nailing technique (presuming the sub floor is as flat as you assert - maybe check that with an 8' level).
    – FreeMan
    Commented Feb 23 at 13:49

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Oak holds nails very well--even finish nails. I've pulled thousands of pneumatic nails (18 and 16 ga.) through red oak base trim that's about the same size as your flooring in order to reuse it. It takes a good hard tug with a levering tool. 18 gauge nails are actually more likely to break than pull through.

Therefore I don't consider pull-through much of a concern as long as you don't grind the heads off the nails or set them too deep. They'll probably pull out of the subfloor before they pull through the oak. Do a little testing to see for yourself, then make the call.

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  • I have seen oak about that thickness bend finishing nails that I tried to put in it... I agree with you, pull out is not a big concern, as long as OP isn't sanding the boards down to far... A little bit off the top shouldn't have an impact.
    – Questor
    Commented Feb 23 at 0:31
  • I'm not too concerned about pulling the boards and whether or not the nails will come with them. My question really is more about boards that are next to each other not being on the same top plane. They are the same thickness and nailed onto the same thickness subfloor. My main concern about it is that if I sand the floor flat, I will need to take off so much of the high boards that little of the 5/16" thickness will be left... I am going to remove a few of the boards (boards that seem too low and those that seem too high) and see if there is a pattern to what I find. David
    – 2002sheds
    Commented Feb 23 at 1:39
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    The problem is that you've been rather vague about that. Give us some real dimensions so we have something to consider. Put all information in your question, not in comments.
    – isherwood
    Commented Feb 23 at 13:40
  • It seems that the 5/16" boards are not 5/16", if some are more raised than others. You can quantify how much you need to remove by sampling the board you have not nailed down to understand how much variation you have. You could also be more thoughtful as to the sequence the boards are laid down. Alternating strips of thick/thin is going to cause more of a headache than progressively going from thick to thin across the kitchen/dining floor.
    – CrazyArm
    Commented Feb 23 at 20:20

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