Baby Boomer Houses: This Baby Boomer Was Hiding A Secret

Baby Boomer Houses: This Baby Boomer Was Hiding A Secret

Baby Boomer houses often come with distinctive floors. Beth Williams needed a house for herself and two dogs and the quaint little place outside Decatur fit the bill. It faces east and bathes in the morning sun.  The back yard is fenced in so the dogs had plenty of room to ramble.  And the deck on the back gave Beth a good observation point to watch the pooches during their rambles.

Baby Boomer Houses: Dating Neighborhoods

I get a kick out of being able to date neighborhoods based on the size/style of the houses and layout of the lots.  This particular part of Medlock Park looked like it might be at or around WWII and part of the housing boom that the greeted the returning soldiers.  The houses are squarish, with very little overhang on the roof and their entrances tend to be modest.  They are easily modified, remodeled and are popular with young adults starting families and people like Beth who don’t require much space.

Discoloration baby boomer houses floor image

Discoloration from moisture damage

Damage to Old Floors from Mastics and Moisture

Beth’s issues with her floors were typical.  The finish had very noticeable wear in high traffic areas.  It also had some serious damage from mastics that had been used to keep carpets in place.  To make matters worse, moisture had gotten under the damaged finish and there was serious discoloration to the wood.  Her issues were nothing that a little TLC couldn’t cure.

But that isn’t what got my attention.  As soon as I saw the floors I knew the house had a secret; a secret that most people would never hear.  A house from this era should have oak floors and this house didn’t.  Beth knew the exact year the house was constructed, 1942, and for me, the story started unfolding and the secret was out in the open.

The Greatest Generation remembers 1942 very well as their world, and the world in general, was turned upside down with WWII.  This country was experiencing near panic as it tried to organize an army to fight two fronts and marshal our resources to keep them supplied.  All of this created war shortages and oak flooring in baby boomer houses was more than expendable as far as our government was concerned.  This wasn’t the first time I had seen floors of this era and the consequences of war shortages.  An old friend of mine from high school has a comparable house in Hapeville, GA with a 3 ¼” wide hickory floor.  And I vividly remember working on a pecan floor in the Marietta area that also dated to about the same time.  To make a long story short, when you went to the lumberyard for wood flooring in those years, you bought what they had, not what you wanted.

Floors image

71 years old but looking good after TLC

Beech Wood Floors

The wood floor in Beth’s house is beech.  Many have mistaken it for maple because of the grain pattern and color.  The difference is that beech acquires the rich golden tones of aged maple as soon as an oil finish hits it.  It may take maple twenty years to get that look.  Beech is hard, durable and it is drop dead gorgeous.  I was looking forward to dishing out some tough love to this veteran because I knew we would be repaid in spades.  I have worked on only one other beech floor and that was in Candler Park.  I remembered the look.

Waterborne Polyurethane Finish

We, and Beth, were not disappointed with the outcome.  The old floors responded well to our work and we made sure we that we didn’t put any products with any color or dye to distort the rich color tones.  Our one coat of an oil base sealer was followed by four applications of a top of the line waterborne polyurethane.  This was more than enough for Beth, her two dogs and anyone wanting to visit.  What really caught our attention were the wood floors that had been installed in two closets in a previous remodeling project.

Difference on baby boomer houses floor image

The difference between beech (foreground) and maple (background) in the remodeled closet.

Difference Between Beech and Maple

The difference between beech (foreground) and maple (background) in the remodeled closet.

The owners and their contractor had mistaken the wood for maple and my goodness, look at the difference in color!  It was an honest mistake as I would be hard pressed to find a 71 year old beech floor.

So once again, a story captured my attention and got me going when others would have simply shrugged it off.  I am a sucker for this kind of thing and I freely admit it.  That baby boomer house was keeping a secret but it is a secret no more. Beth has bragging rights, a great looking floor and a story I hope she passes on to the next owner.


  1. Howard Purser says:

    Think you are exactly right in uncovering this secret. I would add that another clue in determining the age of the floor is the many short pieces. This was known as victory grade flooring for obvious reasons.

  2. This is a great discovery and lovely story. That is so funny with the maple next to it. I see way too many mixed species in some of the older homes here in NY. I understand that it’s sometimes challenging to match fir or pine from 100-200 yrs ago, but what drives me crazy is the repair w/ red oak when it should be white or vice versa.

    Yrs ago, my mom had a contractor make this mistake. I’m finally going to be able to fix that (and the handyman special that we have where there used to be a closet. I was probably 5 yrs old at the time. I will fix this all for my mom – finally – after it’s annoyed me for so long.

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