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I live in a mid-1800s house, which I plan to sell this Spring. The original (I think) wood flooring has gaps between the planks, some pretty sizable (photos follow).

Is there any good fix for this? I've seen people use wood filler/epoxy, and it didn't seem to turn out well. Perhaps doing that and painting/dying it black might work better.

I've heard the "old" solution was to pack those spaces with rope, but I don't think that would look better than the status quo.

Any suggestions?

Photos, big gap:

enter image description here

Medium gap:

enter image description here

Small gap:

enter image description here

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I think those gaps in the floor are part of the charm of old wood flooring. I definitely would not slosh epoxy all over them. I guess it partly depends on the style of the house and the type of buyer you're trying to attract. Original wood flooring may be attractive to some people if it's restored nicely.

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    I agree. It isn't like the wood was "broke" and needs fixing. This is how it was laid. You either like it or put something over it. – DMoore Mar 15 '14 at 4:44
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you might be able to make some shims, and stain them to match, but frankly I don't think it'd turn out well... but best bang for buck is a juggle between fix it properly (which'll cost a mint but up your house value), cover it up if you think it's that bad, or leave it. Some people will find it to better demonstrate it's "antiqueness"

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I have a house just like this.

We do all of these:

  1. fill with wood filler - definitely doesn't look great - no matter what folks say

  2. leave - but then you get bits of paper and crap in them so you have to vacuum

  3. spend some time putting a piece of pine wood in there with wood glue - it won't match at first.

Note, don't stain a piece of wood you put in. Just get some pine and put it in. It will darken over time to match.

Also, your floors will look awesome if you get them sanded and varnished...

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I have seen flooring experts for old homes using different sizes of rope in the gaps. They actually dye or stain the rope to match the floors and then glue them into place. I have seen the results and I have to say that it looks good and adds character.

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    OP specifically states they have reservations about this method. Maybe you could post some pictures of the finished technique. Otherwise, I think I'd personally have a hard time trusting a stranger on the internet saying, "Trust me, it'll look good!" – Doresoom Apr 30 '15 at 14:15
  • That kind of rope chinking is indeed a very traditional solution; you can get material specifically made/sold for the purpose. (Websearch quickly found at least one brand.) I haven't done it so I can't give any specific advice. I would suggest checking with the local historical society to find out whether this was common in your area and what materials would be appropriate. Or leave it and suggest that the buyer might want to do a historically accurate restoration of this sort. – keshlam Jun 28 '15 at 1:52
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I have the same issue in my early 20th century home. When we had the floors refinished, they used wood fill for the gaps. It does not hold up over time - perhaps only 2-3 years at best. Our gaps are not wide enough for rope. There is no subfloor (the floor is attached directly to the joists below), so I do have direct access to the underside of the floor from the basement. I have decided to use black round window spline of various widths as a "backer rod" in the gaps along with Gorilla Tape (rated stickier than duct tape) to seal the gaps from below. Not sure how long this will last, but this should prevent dirt/dust from filtering down through the cracks and will eliminate the basement light from peaking up through the gaps as well. Inexpensive, tedious, DIY project - I'm hoping for a minimum of 5-7 years. I'm planning to cover the taped areas with a removable ceiling in between each joist due to a low ceiling height in the basement.

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This is an old question, but since the system just bumped it to the front page...

Those gaps are there for a REASON!

Wood is a natural product. It expands and contracts with the seasons. Those gaps allow the wood to move without splitting, buckling, warping and ruining your floor.

If your house was built in the mid-1800s, then those are probably pretty wide boards (especially in comparison to modern "strip" flooring) and will require more room to move. You don't give us any perspective, but I'll bet the bigger gaps exist between wider boards, while the smaller gaps exist between narrower boards.

When desired, rope could be used to fill those gaps because it is soft and pliable and will compress when the boards expand, then expand when the boards contract. You have to consider though, that for a wide gap, enough rope to fill the gap might actually bluge up during the summer when the wood expands, squeezing the rope (which is also absorbing moisture and expanding). Once the rope has no more internal space to contract horizontally, it will expand vertically - some down under the flooring, some up into the room. This can potentially be a trip hazard.

The only thing I see there that I'd even consider fixing is in the first picture where the edges of the boards are feathered somewhat. However, that feathering looks like it's due to the board having been cut near the edge of the tree an it got into the rounded exterior of the tree. They do not look like they're the result of damage where a sliver of wood was chipped up then peeled back, widening the gap as the tear followed the grain.

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