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  • Fred

I'm becoming a "floor" guy...and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Edit: I've added several new photos in the gallery at the end of this post that show the detail of how we tackled the changing orientation of the flooring.

It's been a while since I've posted an update on the blog. I've been working with a wonderful group of folks installing hardwood flooring in our church, Precious Blood Catholic Church. There is pink (rose?) carpeting in most of the church that has been there as long as anyone can recall. The church was built in 1983, so there's a good chance that it's original. The unfaded color is actually a deep red, but it has faded a LOT over the years and has seen better days. Our priest, after seeing the raised floor in my workshop, asked me if I would be willing to take on this project.

The scope of the project included:

1) removal and disposal of the carpet in the sanctuary area

2) adding a floor section to bridge the area between the altar floor and the floor at the far back of the church (on the left in the photo above)

3) installing hardwood floor in the entire area

When I write it down in three steps, it doesn't seem all that complicated, but like anything that I take on, I always figure out how to make it as complicated as possible.

I'll be clear on how I fit into this project. I was the guy who the priest asked to make it happen. I came up with the plan, bought the materials and made sure the project was up to the standard it deserves and complete on time. I had an AMAZING team of volunteers from our church who spent hours and hours working with me. There is NO WAY one or two people (even professionals, I'd venture) could have completed this project in less than a week as we did. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support (knowledgable support too!) that our church community provided. I really got to know some great folks. All that being said, here's what we did.

We had a tight timeline. Our priest asked that we not negatively affect any of the weekend Masses, so we got right to work after the last Sunday Mass at 4 pm. We knew that we had to be done and packed up by Saturday afternoon so the 5 pm Mass could go as scheduled.

Sunday evening we had a crew move all of the materials from the Parish Hall where it had been acclimatizing, into the church area. We also tore out all of the carpet in the sanctuary area.

The glue used to put this carpet down 30 years ago was the good stuff! It was still pretty sticky and we all had it caked on our shoes and the knees of our pants. The guy who stapled the carpet to the stair noses must have been the glue guy's brother because he put a staple about every 1/8-inch. That was fun!

While the crew was scraping glue off of the subfloor all day Sunday, I got to work on the existing stair nose. As you can see, there are VERY long steps leading up to the highest part of the sanctuary. To install new stair nose on all of those steps, I had to cut the overhang off of the old stair nose. To work, the new stair nose needed a sharp 90-degree drop off, not a rounded nose. To do this, I first cut the stair nose pretty close to the vertical riser using a circular saw. Then I was able to run over the entire step with a flush-cut but on the router. This did the trick.

By Tuesday morning, we were ready to begin work on the floor structure to bridge the gap between the altar and the rear of the sanctuary below the tabernacle.

We built this using Heavy Duty (HD) pocket screws. These screws install in the same manner as any other pocket screws, but they have the shear strength of a framing nail. The structure is very similar to my workshop floor. The joists are 2x4s with support blocks attached every two feet. Building on an existing (and quite solid) floor makes this a very structurally sound option.

It took us all day Tuesday to get the structure in place. If I recall, we started putting down the subfloor right toward the end of the day which left us with just a bit of subfloor to install on Wednesday morning. Here's what the bridging platform looked like after we were done.

In the photo below, you can see where we tied in the existing altar platform to the bridge.

All we had left to do was install the hardwood and we'd be done!

We got started on the hardwood on Wednesday morning. The only way to do this floor was to start at the bottom and work our way up. Additionally, due to the non-rectangular design of the existing steps, we had to be creative in laying the floor out. Unfortunately, I don't have any good photos of the floor layout, but there are a LOT of angles and complications that slowed us down. It all worked out in the end, though and we created some flooring experts along the way.

This is what it looked like after the first step was complete.

Here it is after the second level was complete.

Once we got to the top level, there were a couple of challenges to figure out:

1) How to keep a clean transition from the flooring to the altar.

2) How to incorporate the angles of the bridge we built and make everything come together seamlessly.

In the end, we have flooring on the top level in 7 different orientations. The photo below shows the cross installed on the floor. We did this first to create a baseline. The four diagonal strips leading into the center of the cross establish the baseline for their quadrant of the floor. The floor around the altar (just out of the picture -- sorry) is parallel to the crossing part of the cross. This made it MUCH easier to get good, clean transitions from the flooring to the altar.

I was pretty busy all week, so I didn't take too many photos, but imagine the photo above with all of the flooring filled in. It looks pretty cool.

Here's what it looked like at 3 pm on Saturday (yes, that's just 2 hours before Mass).

You can see the crew of volunteers who showed up Saturday afternoon to make sure all of the dust was cleaned up. It's amazing what a group of motivated people can accomplish in a few hours. We made a MESS!

So, there were a few details that I left out for brevity's sake (yep, this was the short version!). I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the team that worked with me all week and made this project possible. Our Priests are very happy with the results and we hope to enjoy this floor for decades to come.

Thanks for reading!

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