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Replacing Hardwood Floors in a Basement on top of wood & dirt floors

I just bought a 1910 home in new England. The house has a finished basement with a hardwood floors. The floors were in rough shape so we tore them up today. We knew that the hardwood floor that we took up was added probably 40-50 years ago (square nails). What we didn't know is what we would find underneath. We found a very solid "original" hardwood floors, with some rot we cut out from a leaking foundation but otherwise very good shape. It seams however that the floor has a sub-floor and was built right on top of the dirt. The floor we tore up was solid, was not buckling and did not show signs of moisture from under the floor. questions:

1. Our thought was to leave the "original" hardwood, level over it and lay the new hardwood. In this scenario do you put a vapor barrier between the "original" wood and the new wood floor we are installing?
2. How is a floor that is 100 or more years old "original hardwood" still strong, solid and not rotten? They must have an extensive vapor barrier? Any thoughts on how that was done back in the day?
3. Should we cut up some of the "original" hardwood to look at the supports below it? It is not soft but the floor is very unlevel "probably over an inch on ends out of level.
4. Trying to figure out if you put the vapor barrier between teh new and the "original" will that destroy the current ability for the sub-floors to all breathe and will it cause the "original" and old sub flooring to buckle under the vapor barriier and new floor......

LOTS of info here but seems to be a challenging dilemma!!!


Re: Replacing Hardwood Floors in a Basement on top of wood & dirt floors

Where you say "right on top of the dirt" bothers me. Wood should never contact dirt, but instead should have good airflow to prevent moisture build-up which can lead to rot and mold problems. Current codes require 16" space here, but so long as it's ventilated well less shouldn't be a problem. With the levelness issue, I'd be prone to going deep and seeing what is needed to make the floor framing level and strong enough- and also to remove dirt for airflow if that is needed.

What you seem to describe is a nightmare in the waiting- I saw an entire 40 year old house (built before codes were implemented in the area) need it's entire floor framing redone a couple years ago because it was too close to the dirt. The rot had even traveled up a number of the rim joists and wall studs! Believe me, you don't want to chance that headache. Go deep into the inspection and then do what's necessary to make sure you never have that expensive headache.


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