Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Floors

When I renovated a small early 1900's cottage in Australia, I found some beautiful hardwood floorboards hidden under shag carpet and black tiles. Chipping the tiles up was a chore, but once I'd finished, there was the floor, ready to be sanded and polished.

Nothing in this house has been that straightforward. Originally the entire first floor was done in nice maple floorboards. When James and I began this project, the kitchen was half aging linoleum and half tiles. The mudroom and bathroom were done in the same tiles. The hallway, and master bedroom that we converted back to a living room, were covered in wall to wall carpet. 

When all of these floor coverings were removed we found (in addition to the black mold in the mudroom/laundry area and bathroom): a complete patchwork of flooring. The maple floors were mostly intact in the living room, hallway and kitchen, albeit covered in glue. We scraped this off with a scraper and rented a floor sander to do the living room. It took us a full three days of tag team style working to sand the floor, due to how undulating the surface was, and how much glue remained. I've heard said floor sanding should be left to the professionals; you can end up with sanding drum marks if you don't have the right touch/timing. We have some light scuffing here and there, but it looks much improved from the tired old carpet. This isn't a museum quality renovation: we're not killing ourselves here. Working with what we've got, I coined the look I'm shooting for in this renovation: Rustic Farmhouse Chic.

As I mentioned in the first post, I don't believe this house ever was built to perfection. 

When we did all the glue-scraping and sanding in the living room, we came across an unpleasant surprise. At some point someone decided to stick a square of plywood in the middle of the room (maybe this was an opening to the basement?). At that, the perfectionist in me had to admit defeat. Did we want to try to track down some matching maple boards and re-floor half the room? No. We were renovating to a deadline and budget: our living room doubles as our guest room and summer, a.k.a. guest/tourist season, was upon us. I decided this eyesore would probably be under a throw rug, anyway. I took a straight edge, drew some pencil lines matching the adjoining floorboards, and the entire floor was finished in a couple coats of Varathane. It still pains me, but at least your eye doesn't shoot to that spot anymore. It is under a rug now.

In the kitchen there was more glue under the lino. I've slowly been scraping if off when I have a spare moment. Sometimes I prefer to work that way, rather than spend an entire afternoon in tedium. Plus, my wrist gets sore, so my scraping is less effective anyway. So short bursts, here and there is my preferred approach, when James is working on some heavy duty one man job and I feel like I'm just standing around. Eventually it'll be ready by the time we need sand and paint. (This is how I got the tiles up, too, for the most part: a few concentrated bursts.) I've discovered white vinegar poured and left to soak into the glue allows it to be wiped off instead of scraped. It's messy, but effective.

Speaking of tiles, once those were gone, it became apparent so too were the original maple floorboards: they'd been cut away and replaced with plywood. I managed to track down some maple flooring on Craigslist the same depth as our boards, but not the same length or width. We decided to paint the floors to tie them in better. Considering the kitchen/hallway/mudroom used to be part tiles, part lino, and part carpet, even with mismatched boards, our new look would be more uniform, and painted floors are in keeping with the old farmhouse aesthetic. 

We're re-flooring the bathroom, too, but our bathroom reno has gotten so involved I'm going to leave the entire topic for another post.

Literally chipping away

Tiles are off here. Plywood and various bits and pieces are being removed to make way for new flooring.

A new sub-floor: most of the old boards needed replacing.

The new (secondhand) floor going in over tar paper. The original floors are on the far right.
(Edit: I should add, before we laid this floor, we brought the wood inside to acclimate to the
temperature and humidity of the space we were installing it in (a week or more is recommended).
Because these were secondhand floors, we had to file out the grit that had accumulated in the
tongues and grooves. It had already been de-nailed.)
Pippi helped a lot. She made off with the chalk line chalk and proposed a game with Thomas, our older,
somewhat more sedate dog. His bed was covered in chalk, but her paws bore the tell-tale mark of a chalk thief.

I don't know who's reading this (bar a handful of our friends/family), so I am erring on the side of not boring you senseless with minutiae. But, when I'm mid-task/quandary and poring over the Internet, that is sometimes exactly what I want: the finer details, the tools used, etc. So please, ask away if you ever want me to go into more detail. 

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