Introduction: Feature Wall From Salvaged Hardwood Flooring

Do you have some scrap or remnant hardwood flooring that it would be a crime to turn into firewood?

Do you think hardwood floors are over rated, or unsuitable in a home with a big muddy dog?

Here's a project that will use up those leftovers and turn heads when company comes for dinner.

Step 1: Organize Your Materials and Project

I had some salvaged oak wall panelling that was full of nails and glue and nobody wanted to deal with, but you could just as easily use hardwood flooring.

After a dozen years of shifting this wood from one storage spot to another, I decided to use it - one way or another.

I found a local cabinet maker who was not interested in buying the material, but would refinish it in his shop - provided I could guarantee I had pulled all the nails.

First he fed it through his 30" wide planer (two passes), then through his giant (30") roller sander (two passes).

By then the profile of the wood had changed to the point it could have been used as flooring rather than wall panelling, but I didn't want to worry about the dog damaging a nice floor, etc. so we hit upon the idea of creating a feature wall.


Carpentry: hammer; chop saw; table saw, belt sander & belts; power brad nailer & nails; framing square, level, measuring tape, carpenter's pencil; good quality orbital sander & disks; folding aluminum saw horses; etc.

Painting: brushes; high quality UV resistant clear varnish & varsol (or paint thinner); respirator; sand paper & tack cloth (for wiping off the dust)

Step 2: Instal the Panelling

Make sure the wall is clean and free of any defects (like air leakage, etc) that you might want to fix some day - now is the time to do it.

Organize the refinished panelling into similar lengths and sort out the nicest wood grain.

Mark a line for the first row with a good 4' level. In our case we did not start at the floor because the finished wall is actually built out from the structural wall by about an inch, to allow air to circulate between the two (because this porch was designed to be a hydroponic greenhouse).

Start with a long pieces (e.g. on the left), and finish the first row with a small one (if you want to use up the small pieces of salvaged material, as I did). Then install the next row starting on the opposite end (e.g. on the right), with long pieces, ending with a short piece on the left end of the second row.

Each piece has to be trimmed and then cut to length with a good chop saw (and the cut edge sanded), to ensure a nice, consistent, tight fit. Using salvaged material was a little finicky because not all the tongues and grooves were of the same thickness and shape...

Continue to alternate directions, and from time to time choose pieces with particularly attractive grain.

If the ceiling is sloped, you will have some challenges cutting the planks on a table saw, but with care it can be done to good effect (see last photo). Having a good pneumatic brad nailer is nice.

Step 3: Applying the Finish

If you really want to feature the natural beauty of the wood grain, as I did, be patient and apply as many coats of clear varnish as you can stand. (I put on five, given there would be direct sun on this wall.)

You MUST sand between each coat, because otherwise when you run your hand over the surface you can really tell that it's not quite as beautiful as it looks...

Step 4: Use Up the Leftovers!

It turned out we had used less than half of the salvaged material we had planed and sanded...

What to do, but feature another (larger!) wall - in the master bedroom.

When working indoors, it was great to have access to the carpenters' professional grade ("Festool") orbital sander with its extraordinary integrated dust collection system.

Remember to allow (make cut outs) for electrical boxes. You can then install a metal box extender so that the electrical outlet (or light switch) is reinstalled flush with the new wall surface.

In this case I put on only 3 coats of varnish because there would be no UV exposure - don't forget to use a proper respirator when using oil-based paint indoors.