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Mysterious Hardwood Flooring Under Carpet

Answered by Jeffrey ~ October 14, 2010 ~ Comments

My house was built in 1983. Under the carpets are wide (not narrow) wood planks with grooves beneathe them. Was this meant to be a substratum for carpets or other flooring? Or is this hardwood that could be cleaned to function as flooring?

Roger ~ Oakland, California

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Roger, By 1983 just about all the builders I'm aware of in this area were using 3/4 inch plywood as sub-floor if they knew carpet or another type of flooring was being installed. It was even installed in rooms that were going to receive hardwood. That wasn't the case in older homes as my house has many rooms where the wood flooring is nailed directly to the floor joists.

I'm not sure how they were doing it in Oakland, California in 1983, but I suspect it was the same way and there should have been plywood installed before any flooring went down. When you say that there are grooves beneath the wood I'm assuming you mean between the wood boards as if the edges have been shaped. Without seeing it I would guess that this wood was installed over plywood and intended to be the finished flooring in those rooms. However I wouldn't assume that it is hardwood as older homes sometimes have wide plank pine flooring in them that also makes a beautiful floor. My parents have wide plank pine flooring in their home and my flooring is pine, but it's been milled a little narrower than most wide plank flooring.

The only way you're going to know for sure if your hardwood floors are actually hardwood floors is to have a hardwood flooring contractor or someone who's familiar with different types of wood come out and look at it. I don't see any reason why you couldn't take up the carpeting and sand and finish the wood flooring and end up with a great looking floor. The carpeting should have protected the surface, but there may be some holes to fill around the perimeter where the tack strip was installed. The only thing you're going to have to be careful of if they're pine or another softwood, is that they may scratch and dent easily. If you have dogs, their toe nails may do a lot of damage to the wood and that could be why the carpeting was installed in the first place.

There are a lot of beautiful wood floors in homes that are covered up because the homeowners didn't want to bother with the maintenance required to keep the wood flooring looking good. I was in an old house the other day that had linoleum on a lot of the floors. The lady told me she had it put down when she moved into the home in 1969 as it was too hard to keep the floors clean with her young (at the time) children. I looked at the edge of one of the rooms where the linoleum had worn away over the years and the wood floor was a gorgeous 8 inch wide oak plank. Such a waste!

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