Before & After: Cartolina’s End Grain Block Flooring

CARTOLINA_BEFORE
One of the things I find most interesting about working in an older building is the way that older building techniques and finishing methods are often thrown aside or forgotten once technological advances take over. But sometimes the old methods, from flooring techniques to paint types, are the most practical for buildings that are going to see a lot of use. A great example is this makeover from Fiona at Cartolina.

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CARTOLINA_AFTERCLOSE
Cartolina built a new workshop at their studio (located in Nelson, British Columbia) and decided to use a time-tested method for flooring that uses the end of wooden boards as the actual flooring material. End grain block flooring is a technique that was used for a long time in factories during the 19 century because it’s sturdy, inexpensive and practical. It works indoors and out and has the added benefit of being pretty great to look at as well! Using leftover beams from their previous office projects (kiln dried fir), Doug Jones (co-creator of Cartolina) sliced over 850 3″ x 7″ blocks (3/4″ thick) from the beams and then glued each one to the existing plywood floor using a non water based, flexible flooring adhesive. Once it dried, Doug applies a coat of Watco oil stain and two coats of oil-based clear finish. The finished result is so cool and feels rustic and modern at the same time. I’m so glad Fiona and Doug shared this with us- I love the result and can’t wait to see how it wears in over the years. Thanks for sharing, Cartolina team! xo, grace

Click through for more images of the floor process (before, during and after)

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alexis

Gorgeous! I would love to know a ballpark cost per square foot. “Inexpensive” means such different things to different people!

Mindy Fox

Beautiful. Thanks for showing the close-up. This is one of my favorite details from Phillipe Stark’s restaurants.

Doug Jones

Hello Alexis – that’s a good question!
I used leftover fir beam ends and cut them up myself. So they were ‘free’ to me.
It would be great to salvage old beams from a building demo because they would have great character.
The only cost I had was the floor adhesive and finish which probably came in at just less than $2/sq ft.

Sarah S

LOVE the look. But how did they make it even? (Or isn’t it?) Would it get frustrating to be walking on an uneven block surface every day?

Jheri

There is a restaurant in Brevard, NC that uses the same technique. I had never seen it before except there. Its stunning in person. I don’t think the photographs even do it justice.

Antonella

gorgeous! it’s like the baby born from Mrs. Brick and Mr. Wood…. Well done
btw: I second Alexis on the price question.

peter lugo

the nice thing about this is that in this mix with the new technology,the old becomes new again !!!

Doug Stanley

I love the love look. It’s amazing really. However was it Sealed . Will it expand and contract? Did they use spacers?

Peter

I visited a ceiling grid manufacturer outside of Chicago that had this type of floor in one department, installed 80+ years ago. It moved with temperature changes, so much so they had to lay sheathing down during the wet seasons for pathways to prevent tripping hazards.

Angela

I’m in love with this! Amazing. Making a mental note for my future house.

peter lugo

it will still expand and contract,kiln drying is only a process to maintain the lumber at a specific moisture content.expanding and contracting are the effects of seasonal changes. the “supposedly “way to stop movement in lumber is to treat it with p.e.g. which “supposedly stabilizes the molecular structure of lumber to stop the effects of seasonal changes

Duane

We had done this a few years past instead of prick pavers in the back yard, cutting up some scrap 4 x 6 treated posts.

Karen Haas

End grain is a hard, durable surface but also very porous; it virtually swallows up finish so expansion is an issue. Check out Oregon Lumber Company’s end grain floor products. They have engineered a lovely end grain floor product and we’ve used it many times with great results.

Mike

I worked in a factory with wood brick flooring that was built in the 1950’s, a great floor until it got water soaked then expanded and blew out the bricks. The bricks were sealed with creosote.

Amanda L.

My office has this type of flooring. It is beautiful but it can’t handle any kind of water damage. One year a Christmas tree that was over watered created a small mound. Another year there was an door cracked during a rain storm which caused all of the edges to raise up in the area. We have spend tens of thousands of dollars repairing and re-staining the floors. So, don’t do this in areas like kitchens or bathrooms. The repairs are just nuts.

Alice

I think this would work great on a vertical surface, like a backsplash – less moisture/movement issues. It’s beautiful.

Doug

Thanks for all the comments! I love how this floor looks sort of like a wooden cobblestone street. Its rustic look is perfect for our workshop. I have many years of construction/woodworking experience and am well aware of expansion and contraction in wood floors of any kind, more so with end grain, as it absorbs moisture much more readily. You definitely need to leave an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room, and use a flexible elastomeric flooring adhesive. (Bostik EFA adhesive) I finished the floor with three coats of an oil based finish. If you’d like to see a more refined version of this type of floor, check out the gallery section of ww.kaswell.com , who’ve been manufacturing and laying this type of floor for over 6o years.

Bill

end block flooring was used extensivly thru out our machine shop–how ever they were creosoted–very durable (as some had been there for over 50 years) and confortable on the feet and legs–a govenment machine shop where big guns were made!!

JOHN HASHIMOTO

I WORKED AT THE KANSAS CITY MUNICIPAL AUDITORIUM IN THE 70’S. THE FLOOR OF THE MAIN ARENA AREA WAS BUILT UP OF 2′ LONG END GRAIN BOARDS,SET ON END. REALLY COOL –IT HAD BEEN REPAIRED AND PATCHED UP BECAUSE OF A RUPTURED AQUARIUM TANK ( HUGE ) THAT HAD BURST AND CAUSED THE FLOORING TO EXPAND AND BUCKLE UP. EVEN AFTER THAT IT WAS MEGA AWESOME. THIS WAS BUILT IN THE “WORKS PROGRESS” ADMINISTRATION OF THE 20’S. lABOR WAS CHEAP AND SKILLS WERE HIGH THEN.

Charlotte

The Frist Center in Nashville has floors like this. The building was originally an Art Deco post office… now an art museum. Worth a visit for so many reasons, including the floors.

eka

I understand needing space for swelling between the blocks… but how much space is necessary, and how do you space them so uniformly? Like with tile spacers? Truly fantastic results for all the obvious effort. Looks amazing.

Terry

In my younger years as an engineer we always put wood floors like this in maintenance shops. Easier on the feet and legs! I love it.

Tammy

Was wondering how this would work for a shop work bench surface? Love the look!

Carla

This floor is gorgeous. I love learning about techniques not commonly used these days, thanks for sharing this project!

Lynne MS

There are wooden cobblestone streets under the asphalt here the old neighbourhoods of Vancouver, B.C. You can see them here and there when the newer surface fails. Considering the rain we have, I think they were originally soaked in creosote. They’re still in perfect shape.

Erica

I love this floor! The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has this flooring in one of their pavilions and I became obsessed when I first saw it. So great to see this post and the how-to behind it.

Karen

I saw this technique once on this Old House (when Bob Vila was still there – in fact it wa at his house). They also grouted the floor using sawdust mixed with the grout.

merlinconeer

Wow !! Its fantastic and unique flooring. Thanks for sharing this beautiful project to over here. You have done such a nice job.

charlotte

have seen this in old barns in Massachusetts….talk about durable!!

Cindy Ivie

Funny I should come across this now. I am building a new house (next year) and had considered using this technique. I also had seen it on This Old House years ago. I will have a slab floor and not sure if it can be done on concrete.

Elham

I love this flooring, it’s much better than parque, this is a real wooden floor that makes you breath the smell of wood and feel it’s warmth.

hickory hardwood flooring

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Deirdre

How do you keep the seams clean? I would think, especially in high traffic areas dirt gets stuck even with a good vacuum. Can you wash it as it’s not a sealed floor? I love the look but I’m reluctant to do this for the above reasons.

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