I came in to furniture making as a very young man.
Basically I started at the bottom of the food chain.
As a result I didn’t get to start with perfect.
My workshops have been a constant slow evolution.
There have been many, from sheds to simply outside, right up to industrial units.
As long as I had my bag of tools I made them work.
The good thing about this I suppose, is the experience gained.
All the good things didn’t come at once, but I do know what bits I like and what I don’t.
Concrete floors are shite for example.
In my current workshop I wanted to start getting things right. And the floor was one area that wouldn’t be overlooked.
A good floor might seem like nit picking over luxuries, but a good wooden floor is something I’ve craved for, for a very long time.
When you’re stood on the thing all day you notice a difference.
In the industrial unit, the vast space was lovely.
But that concrete floor made working hell.
Concrete lets the cold in to your joints. It ages you…makes you moan a lot and you’re always having to adjust to ease your seized back.
Wooden floors don’t do this.
Wood is also much kinder to dropped tools.
Flooring for The New Workshop
The workshop I’m in now is as old as time itself, so there’s certain requirements that have to be made.
It’s best for the whole thing to stay breathable.
This meant that we couldn’t just go bang a concrete floor down and skim it with wood on top.
Instead we went with joists, and insulated under and between with glass slag. It’s made from recycled glass, and gets compressed so the whole thing is rock solid, breathable yet doesn’t allow water to rise.
The joists then take the final floor covering.
It always seems like kitchens cost a bomb, just because they can.
It’s hard to see the value in the mass produced stuff.
Floors are the same.
The workshop needed a strong floor, but the prices we were getting on boards were stupid.
It was working out cheaper to buy a load of rough sawn oak and planing it all up, than to go with some skimpy engineered flooring.
Scaffold Boards For Flooring.
Then my old man opened his mouth.
To put you in the zone my old man is basically Snape from Harry Potter. He even dresses like him.
We were using scaffold boards placed across the joists whilst we worked on the base.
“shame you couldn’t just use those… sigh…” he mumbled.
Bloody perfect, I thought.
I rang around and found a guy who knows a guy who’s brother works at McDonald’s. We managed to get a full van load of old scaffold boards for pretty much knack all.
Apparently the scaffolders have to get rid of them every two years or so for health and safety, so there’s tonnes of ’em.
I expected a few headaches turning a van load of scruffy boards in to a tidy floor, but they went down surprisingly fuss free.
Never underestimate a good nail.
The trick was in the fixings.
I wellied the boards down with some big old clasps. The proper ones.
Some of the boards were badly cupped and weren’t going sit nicely without a bit of extra attention.
This was easy (if a little messy) to deal with, by running some relief cuts down the length of the underside with a circular saw.
That gave them more than enough flex to get them sitting nice and flat.
Overall, the biggest ball ache was getting those metal clips out of the ends of the boards.
The finished floor is solid.
It has absolutely no give and I’m dead pleased with how it looks. The plan was to hire one of those massive floor sanders and skim it all up, but I think I’m going to leave it be.
If you’re looking for a new floor, definitely consider this. I’m even thinking of using it in the house.
Love the floor – I have been thinking of doing similar for a long time – I currently have those interlocking mats on a concrete floor. Just have to find scaffolding planks – very hard to find in upstate NY .
not used so much in US, most of them are those aluminum rails with aluminum or plywood surface. no one wants to continue to buy these things every few years. you don’t need scaffold planks just get some decking or some SYP 1x. heck even oak trailer decking which is full of knots and whatnot
Andy French says
Nice, sadly they are charging loads in the UK for old scaffold boards, least I have not found any cheap ones. Those nails are very like galv iron dumps used in boat building. Driven in with the end of the nail across the grain of the frame or joist in your case. I am just trying to do my new workshop floor and currently 18mm OSB is likely choice but I sure would like the look of these boards… Maybe a rethink. Thanks. Andy – Sussex, UK
Steve Tripp says
That floor will be beautiful. I’ve been on concrete for more than 10 years and I have to put the foam pads down where I work or else my feet will ache for days. I’ve also ruined more chisels than I care to count and dinged up a couple of nice planes. I’m hoping that my next workshop will have a wood floor.
David Cannizzaro says
I am building my English workbench with scaffold boards, though they were only used for a month to paint the upper portion of our house. I found an old wooden screw to use as well – only new wood is the legs. I will post pics in the user gallery as I make progress…
I wish my garage floor was wood, not cement
Richard Maguire says
That sounds sounds like a very good idea. I’ll look forward to seeing the photos – best of luck with the build!
Andrew Ballantine says
Excellent tip. I’ll do that in my next workshop; we’re moving next year.
Totally agree Richard…concrete flooring sucks big time and now…having moved into my new spruce cabin..the wooden flooring is one thing I really notice!
I put a blanket of EcoFoil under mine which worked out at £100 for 12m2 but I’ll certainly look at the recycled glass idea when I build the next one next year.
Once again…solid no nonsense information…love it!
Jimi and ALFIE!
Richard Maguire says
Sounds lovely Jimi. Are you collecting those spruce cabins?!
We used the glass insulation because the old building needed to be breathable, I do think you need quite a lot of it to make the insulation value similar to other options.
Great Idea! Yes I believe your work space is just as important as to the work you do. I’d be interested in further thoughts about your shop space.
“That looks like foamed glass,” I thought.
“But it can’t be. Not in Britain. Those poor sods haven’t invented insulation yet.”
Glad to read I was wrong! Built our house on that stuff. Nice to work with.
Richard Maguire says
Ha ha… yep, we were pleasantly surprised. It’s a nightmare insulating old building which weren’t designed to be so insulated!
Marcus Nielson says
The timing of this post is very interesting. We recently bought a historic home in the States that needs the old beautiful Douglas fir tongue and groove flooring removed back to the floor joists and unfortunately we can’t salvage it. We have been debating for a long time about what to replace it with. I’m wondering what you would do differently if anything if you were to do the same thing in your home?
Richard Maguire says
If anything, I think I’d just be more selective with the boards that I used, to get a better colour match. Also some boards were from different batches and the widths varied, it was only slight but still made it a bit of a ball ache, which I didn’t notice until it was underway.
So I wouldn’t really do it differently, it would just be nice to start out with that bit of experience.
Cas Sedgwick says
The floor looks great. Nothing like a wood floor in a workshop. It adds to the charm, warmth, and comfort of the place you spend most of your waking hours
Thanks for sharing. I hate a concrete floor for several reasons. First reason: i feel a back pain when cold is coming, second – it’s easiest way to damage tools and third – it’s a dust (if concrete is bad quality). At the end of work or cleaning the concrete dust is in every hole, even in nose. Greetings from Ukraine.
Micheal Kingsley says
Great Idea for flattening the boards!
Paul Craig says
Relief cuts. Genius!
John Verreault says
Brilliant. Simple yet totally effective. Good on you Richard. It gives me an idea or three for my concrete nightmare of a shop floor.
Quite the fine job. As long as you keep a full bucket of dry around, they will give comfort to those that follow you in many years.
I lay a series of dry fit tongue and groove plywood sheets over the concrete floors in my shop. They go down quickly, are inexpensive, insulating, shock absorbant, and mean I only have to hone versus grind wayward edge tools. Best of all, they are re-usable whenever I have to change shops! My current stock have been with me for five moves now.
Great floor. The weight of the boards will be good too and plenty thickness to bolt things down if you ever need to. I’d never come across this glass insulation, thanks for the tip. A couple of strategically placed lifting boards (screwed) might be worth considering. For bits of unavoidable concrete floor I find that rubber workshop mats are good, though they tend to move around.
Thanks for the amazing post! This really takes a wood shop floor to the next level. I also think the relief cuts are a phenomenal idea! I enjoy all I learn from everyone and hope I can turn all this great info into the finished product!
Good call on not sanding the floors.
Steven Searle says
Proper job, have you any boards spare?
Neil Christie says
When I was a lad I stood at metal lathes , drills etc for hours. What made a huge difference were wooden duck boards. Strips of 2 1/2 x 1 1/2” timber laid across smaller ones. These ran the length of the machine. They had a bit of bounce , which eased the joints and the back. They also let oil, tea and lemonade run through the gaps onto the floor . This kept the wood slip free. They would save tools too.
Nice! Now it’s less painful wen you see your chisel roll over the edge of your bench! (y)
One question: in my experience, foamed glass insulation tends to smell like rotten eggs.. Your’s?
I built my heavy bench when I was 30 it was great. Now at 66 I have had to increase its height as it was very bad on my back. My family laugh at it and say its got elephants feet but my back says thank you. My workshop floor is concrete and you are right it can strike its cold right up your body, but a wooden floor is not solid enough for hammering and is more noisy. Seeing your floor build reminded me of my dads floor just the same, great for your body. What would be Ideal would be a wooden floor with a small concrete pillar under each leg, now that is the best of both worlds.
Kevin de Silva says
Nice blog , Can I ask where you got the insulation from and our its trade name
The idea of the wood flooring is wonderful, and the little details that you have facilitated in this write up is wonderful, but somehow I can still not relate to the usage of nails in the entire process. Don’t you think using a wood glue or adhesive would give it a better and a more classy look..!!
Jim Linn says
…use it in the house. You like your jokes, don’t you?
Looks great. Are scaffolding boards heavily treated, like tantalised fence boards? Just wondered if they would get nasty if you were to sand them?
Floor looks great. I’m building a wooden house and was thinking of using scaff boards for the floors throughout. Partly due to cost but also like the look. Loads of people are telling me it won’t work. Was looking at maybe using new ones as I have a source. Any views on new vs old? Also, how do you reckon is best to join them? Fillet has been suggested but most of the “anti” folks tell me they will gap badly over time whatever I do.
mike stanmore says
Hi Richard Love the idea of scaffold plank flooring for my new workshop but wondering about the placement of heavy cast iron machines, do you have any sat on the wood? Cheers Mike