Introduction: Patterned Hardwood Floor

About: This picture is how my daughter painted me; old and grumpy. She and the other kids think this picture is funny. My wife agrees

I have always wanted to lay a patterned hardwood floor and this is it. The finished result is more Ad hoc than planned, based on a simple sketch drawn with my wife on an envelope and modified multiple times.

In this particular project, the material used was from a combination of end lots at the local Restore store and local floor and tile dealers. As you might expect, while the wood was all 3/4" thick, it originates from multiple manufactures and consists of multiple woods, colours, and widths.

Step 1: Materials and Costs

The spread sheet shows the woods, sources and cost for the hardwood used. The most costly was from a local floor and tile store for 2 boxes of honey Oak at $50 Cdn. The least costly was from the Restore store having a half price sale at $12.50 /box.

Step 2: Tools and Material

I used:

7 1/4" Chop saw to give good clean cuts. (Had it, so used it.)

10" Chop saw to allow mitre cuts on 5" wide board. (Quite heavy but, had it so used it)

Table saw to cut tongues and grooves and rip lengths

Vibrating saw to adjust plaster to clear flooring. (Hand saw works fine as well.)

Nails as you prefer (I used 2 1/2" Ardox )

15" wood plane to cut "adjustment" boards.

Honking big vacuum cleaner

Step 3: Plans and General Ad Hoc'ry

Some considerations that affected the design choices are:


Between lots and manufacturers, the tongue and groove position will differ. While pieces join, they may not join at the same level. The board thickness was consistently 3/4" and the tongues and grooves were quite consistent, it followed that that the tongues and grooves were positioned either higher or lower between lots and manufacturers. Guess that's the reason we have odd lots right? In fact, I think we all know that, when you buy a hardwood floor installation, you will be asked to buy all the wood in a lot, to establish consistent dimensions.

Some lots have the tongue oriented differently, so that joining pieces end to end may require you to remove a tongue and replace it with a groove, that is you have to swap tongues for grooves. For example, in the bordered squares it was necessary to cut 2 grooves and 2 tongues to fit the yellow oak square into the surrounding dark Birch border.


Odd lots are inexpensive because of the above. If you look at the spread sheet, you will see that our discounts were substantial. Since we are doing a patterned layout, these problems can be overcome with a judicious pairing of lots and or "adjusting" groove and tongue positions.

Wood types-

In the last year, with constant visits to wood resellers, we have accumulated a good number of odd lots in Oak, Maple, Birch (and with any luck Walnut this weekend.) For this project we chose to use 5" wide dark Oak, 3 1/4" dark Birch, the same width in light Birch and yellow Oak.

We chose to use the 5" wide oak around the periphery to offset the 3/4" overlap of the baseboard and because we had just enough of the 5" to do the edge. I chose to use a mitre cut at each corner to keep the design square and to allow for the off square room. (Is there any other kind?) In all other joins I used butt joints.

Dimensional Stability-

View this project as an experiment. Can I implement the design? probably. Will the floor buckle and bend with boards intersecting at right angles, leaving no room to expand and contract? I haven't a clue, but patterned floors have been around for many years, so ....

Step 4: Doing It!

There are several of instructables that give excellent advice on laying a hardwood floor. Here I describe some of the problems I encountered and an edited version of my mistakes.

Normally, one chalks the centre of the width and length of the floor, to establish a start point for the first boards and, to keep adjustments (out of square) to the floor edges. My approach was a little different. I didn't care if the room walls were square (which they weren't) since I wanted a 5" boarder around the periphery of the wall. By doing the border, where I start is really moot. I chose an outside wall, cut my 90 degree mitres, which hopefully allowed for the design to be implemented squarely within the border, and started in the corner. After much discussion, the main pattern was to be centered in the most narrow part of the room and extend the full length of the room. By a happy accident my wife and I decided on two rectangular patterns within the border, with all corners in a line. Then we got the idea that a square ribbon look would be nice. Hence we begin as shown in the image of the corner. The logic was move from the edge of one wall until we could establish when to start the mirror image to the opposite wall.

Some issues-

I always strove to keep the tongue facing out and toward the unfinished end. This was of course to allow for nailing. By the way, I chose to use 2 1/2" nickel plated Ardox finishing nails as opposed to a nail gun. I am old fashioned and like to drill, drive nail, set nail and use 1 nail per 6" or into the joist or both! It cost me six pounds of nails at Rona at $2/Lb.

When cutting the ribbon squares, I had to cut 2 tongues and 2 grooves in the yellow oak centre. to join with the surrounding dark Birch border. The design of the ribbon is straight forward; cut three squares - 1 yellow Oak and 2 dark Birch (all at the same time), cap off with dark birch 3 squares long, and on the base a piece of dark Birch of a convenient length. Be careful here, or you may end up with the tongues and grooves mixed up.

I eventually left my table saw set up to cut tongues and grooves in 2 passes. I used the chop saw to cut pieces to length when required, and the table saw to cut tongues/ grooves. Also, remember that with different lots, groove and tongue positions often require adjustment.

As I proceeded from the start wall to the opposite wall, I was careful to keep an eye on the alignment of the boards over the length of the room. I have 2 areas that are all yellow Oak from border to border, BUT in the pattern itself there are 2 dark Oak and 2 dark Birch that are allegedly 3 1/4" wide. The centre panel is filled with light Birch. Dimensional creep, badly joined boards all resulted in an extra 1" slice of yellow Oak to be inserted at the top and bottom of the pattern before reaching the opposite wall. When I got to the doorway entrance, another 1/2" slice of dark Oak had to used to complete the job. Over its length, this last adjustment had to be trimmed by 1/8" using a plane to taper the piece.

That's it. Any comments or suggestions are welcome, as I would never describe myself as proficient wood worker, so I have lots to learn! P.S. I am now doing the closet floors.