The Exciting Escapades of Bowling Alley Countertops

Sometimes Nick gets these crazy ideas. These totally wild, completely over the top ideas. They usually involve a grand concept, an elaborate production, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make them come to fruition. Kind of like this whole “let’s buy a house together and renovate it extensively” thing.

A couple of months ago, a friend passed along a miraculous Kijiji find – someone had salvage rights to a closed down bowling alley and was selling the materials therein. Now, if you’ve ever spent any time in rented shoes trying to knock a dozen pins down with a heavy ball, you’ll know that bowling alley lane floors are solid wood. It stands to reason that they would also be very sturdy, durable, and, well, pretty. So Nick, in all of his crazy idea wisdom (is that a thing?), decided that our house needed….RECLAIMED BOWLING ALLEY COUNTERTOPS. Yup.

Now, let it be known that I wholeheartedly supported this idea. Butcher block countertop is my favourite kitchen work surface (white jar!), and I was missing it dreadfully after I had been spoiled with it at The Nest. So I was super eager to have it in our new house. Little did I know that this would turn out to be potentially the most labour intensive material we’ve ever worked with.

Step 1: Harvest the Flooring. Nick and our dear friend Peter (God love him), drove Peter’s truck up to Truro where the flooring was located, hauled it all out of the bowling alley, loaded it up, and brought it back to the city. Remember how we talked about the flooring being made of solid wood? Yeah, each 7×4 length of floor is around 2.5 inches thick of solid maple. So each piece is easily 300 lbs. And we were getting 9 of them. It took two trips.

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Step 2: Store the Flooring. When we found the bowling alley flooring, we weren’t in our new house yet. So Peter and Nick loaded all of the flooring into a rented storage locker. When we took possession of our house a month later, our able-bodied and overall nice guy friend Conor helped Nick move them into a cube van and into our new house. They took up residence in the front room of our house. I became slightly worried at the thought of 2700 lbs of wood just hanging out in our living room. So Nick decided we should probably reinforce the floor from the basement, you know, just in case:

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 Mmmm safety.

Step 3: Cut It. Yeah, so this part is a wee bit tricky. In case you’re wondering, bowling alley floors are stuck together with a bazillion nails and a lot of glue. Nick knew it would be a pain in the ass to cut the flooring, and indeed, his theory was proven true when he and our friend Doctor Ben started cutting the floor up. Turns out that the blade of a nail-cutting saw can only cut about seven feet of flooring before the blade dulls to the point of uselessness. There are also lots of fun sparks that appear when this happens, making me oh so glad for that all important home insurance.

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We tackled the upstairs kitchen countertop first. Just to be clear, the “cutting it” phase lasted for an entire day. For nine feet of countertop. Let’s not even discuss needing to cut a hole for the sink.

Steps 4, 5, and 6: Install, Sand, & Oil It. Once the flooring was cut to the proper lengths, the install was fairly straightforward.  Nick sanded down the top layer with all the finish on it so it would return to natural wood, and then applied multiple layers of mineral oil to the surface.

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And now, after all this work, we actually have a countertop. And, to be clear, it is GORGEOUS. Major props to all the awesome people who have helped us out with this project over the past couple of months! Many a glass will be raised in your honor, and once we have a functioning kitchen, you’ll be invited over for dinner.

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Yeah, that’s what’s up!

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