How to Salvage Wood from Old Floors (And What to do With it!)

It’s time to replace your old flooring. You’ve ripped away dingy carpet and discovered the original hardwood plank flooring that’s long since been covered up. Perhaps the flooring isn’t in great shape or you’ve already selected your new laminate. You might just plan on covering up this aged hardwood and getting on with your renovation. But this old wood is in hot demand, and because it’s typically made of good quality wood, it can have a new life with a variety of great décor ideas. This original part of your home could live on in a new way by salvaging the wood and giving it a new purpose.

The first thing you’ll need to salvage your old hardwood is a little time and patience. It can be a time-consuming task to remove and preserve it, but it can certainly be worthwhile. Additionally, you will need:

  • Protective gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • A pry bar

Before you get to work, you’ll want to assess whether or not these wood floors are really worth salvaging. To be useful for later projects and able to withstand the removal process, you need wood that is still at least an eighth of an inch thick on the groove side of the wood. If there is still enough life left in your wood planks, complete the following steps to remove it intact.

Step 1: Using the pry bar, remove the baseboards in the room and any heat vents.

Step 2: Pry up the first board, which will need to have an exposed tongue. A good place to find these exposed tongues is where you’ve just removed the heat vents. Remove the board by sliding the pry bar under the board at the nail and pry the board away from the floor. The board will not lift entirely and trying to do so may cause the board to split. You will need to do this at all nails along the board. You may need to go back to the first nail and pry it again once the other nails are loosened. If you are unable to lift a nail, use a reciprocal saw to cut the nail to remove it – but don’t forget to wear your protective eye gloves and goggles!

Step 3: Continue on to pry away all boards, being careful not to damage the tongue and groove connectors of the boards. While the wood would still be usable for some projects, you will find they are harder to fasten tightly together without them. You can help to protect the tongue and groove by working in the opposite direction that the floor was installed.

Step 4: Clean your wood planks. There’s a good chance these old boards have accumulated a fair amount of dirt and grime over the years. There are a number of products available to easily remove this build-up or mix up your own solution using a little dish soap and hot water.

Now that you’ve salvaged this history-rich wood, the options for creating great design pieces are endless. Consider these ideas for using your new old wood:

  • An eye-catching ceiling cover
  • A barn-board style feature wall
  • A unique tabletop
  • Homemade storage bins
  • One-of-a-kind shelving
  • Flooring for a small room like an entrance or hallway with the most usable planks
  • Unique-to-you headboard

If you can create it out of wood, there is a good chance you can make it out of your salvaged flooring and have a piece truly unique to you and your home. However, if you’re not sure what to do with this wood or you have more than you need, you might consider listing it on resale sites to connect with designers and DIYers looking for reclaimed wood for their projects.

You might also want to donate this wood to a local charity building group or restore it. You might be surprised to learn that a significant amount of landfill waste comes from home renovations and demolition, so by salvaging your hardwood to reuse, resell or recycle, you’re not only getting a unique product but you are doing your part to cut down on waste going into the landfill.