Tag Archives: flooring

Thirty-two feet

It’s amazing what we can accustom ourselves to living with when we’ve been in the midst of remodeling chaos for over a year.

ugly old linoleum

This is the story of how all that changed in one day. Months ago, Eric hacked up the floor and removed about 3/4 inch of accumulated vinyl and plywood underlayment, leaving us with what may have been the original linoleum … or maybe linoleum from the 1940s remodel. At any rate, it was in sorry shape with cracks and chipped edges. We removed what we could in the area where the new cabinets were installed. And it sat that way … for months.

We made our flooring choice early on, after considering our lifestyle, which can best be summed up as “parents of fur kids.” Ideally, I’d have liked hardwood to match the color of our fir floors, but wood would not hold up well to Duke’s toenails. I love the look of cork, and although it’s supposed to be tough, I doubt it’s tough enough to withstand a bouncing 90-pound boxer who leaps and spins when asked if he wants to go to Starbucks. Then there’s all the winter wetness that our feet track in the back door … and I’m talking about ALL our feet: two humans, one dog, and six cats. That’s a total of thirty-two feet. One hundred forty-four individual toes.

Then I thought about linoleum—no, not vinyl—the real thing! It’s tough enough for hospitals, totally green and recyclable, and best of all, appropriate for our century-old house. The perfect solution. We chose a light gray, finely marled pattern guaranteed to hide pet hair. Our pattern is Armstrong Linorette ‘Silver City.’

But before the linoleum could go down, the crew would have to level and prep the floor. The night before they arrived, I felt compelled to sweep and mop the old lino before it disappeared forever. FOR-EV-ER.

old lino is clean

First, the floor had to be made level again where we’d chipped the old linoleum away. The installers used the same quick-setting concrete compound that we used to level the subfloor under the new cabinets. Then they started covering the whole floor with 1/4 in. plywood. You can see some of the gray leveler compound in the background.

floor being covered by plywood

Even the paper-faced plywood made the room look so much brighter and cleaner. (You know it’s been bad when plywood is better than your previous floor.)

plywood underlayment covers floor

More leveler smoothed the seams between the sheets of plywood. And then … the back hall (which I’m trying hard to call the mud room, but it doesn’t seem to stick) went from this … to this.

mudroom before and after

For about a minute, you could eat off the floor in the breakfast room. After that, you’d probably swallow a cat hair.

breakfast room with new linoleum

Duke and Fred checked out the new surface. Duke is happy he has lots of room to play kitchen island again.

Boxer and cat on new linoleum

The next day the installers were back to heat seal the seams. Some people don’t bother with this step, and trust that nothing will get in the crevices … but we have those 32 feet. Pets do have accidents sometimes (me, not so much). I wasn’t going to take any chances. I was concerned, though, that the gray weld rod would be so obvious that I’d curse it every time I walked in the room. Linoleum is only 6 ft. 7 inches wide, which meant there was no way to avoid a seam smack in the middle of the kitchen.

gray linoleum weld rod

I am amazed that most of the time I don’t even notice the seam. During the day it’s virtually invisible.

broom and linoleum

At night, the overhead lights pick it up a bit, as Lacy points out.

Black cat sits near seam in linoleum

We didn’t move appliances back in until two days later, after we had a chance to paint and install base molding. I’m still working on that little task! (Prime, sand, prime, sand, paint, paint … remember?)

white base molding applied

I am beyond thrilled with the linoleum. It feels great underfoot, and looks perfect in our kitchen.

I immediately reclaimed the breakfast room as my paint lab, covered in rosin paper, of course. The cats are miffed that their Kit Kat Lounge is taking so long to reopen … but I’m afraid it’ll be a while longer. Sorry, kitties.

base molding being painted

In the meantime, all you critters—wipe your paws!


Domestic archeology

The vertical dig

You know when you have a sunburn that’s beginning to peel, and you just have to grab that piece of snakeskin and see how big a sheet you can pull off? It’s irresistible. That’s what happened when I looked at some loose wallpaper in the breakfast room. I knew a couple different patterns of wallpaper were under all the layers of paint. I’d indulged in peeling before, over behind the fridge. So I picked … and I pulled … and picked and pulled some more. Until I created this. Oops.

The yellow-and-white plaid with cheery cherries is from the 70’s (Eric remembers the pattern from his youth). Under it is a much older paper with red trellises and gray ivy vines, handpainted little red starbursts and stripes of tiny silver leaves. (Click the photo to see the detail.) I believe this is the original kitchen wallpaper because it’s the same color scheme as the gray and red geometric linoleum that’s in the back hall, under today’s laminate. When I picture either of these busy prints covering the entire kitchen, my eyes cross!

Of course, I had to keep peeling–I couldn’t stop until I got to a point where the paper was once again adhered to the wall. But inevitably, when you’re peeling that sunburn, you go too far and—ouch! Uh-oh … what’s this? Some loose plaster. Hmm … I thought this wall was in good shape. Let me say here, I know real renovators would gut the whole room and start from scratch. But we’re not fixin’ what ain’t broke. We have enough on our hands just replacing cabinets, flooring, counters, lighting, and paint. I don’t want to get into plaster repair. But oh dear … now look what I’ve done! The wall is practically bleeding.

Whoever papered these walls didn’t properly tuck the paper into the corner. They just kind of swooped it around the corner like a banked track. Close enough! I sliced into the corner and kept peeling (thinking, what have I gotten myself into?) and finally, finally … peeled it back to a point where the paper stuck to the plaster and the plaster stuck to the lath. The broken plaster was a bit powdery, making me wonder if it’s been water damaged. I’ve never noticed moisture in this wall in the 29 years I’ve lived here, so maybe it’s just, well … old. Or maybe the damage was caused when we removed the plastic tiles.

A large tub of spackle later, and it’s much better. Apply bondo, sand, repeat. I’m pleased—feels quite smooth and ready for paint. See the new bead board paneling that replaced the white plastic tiles? So far it’s only primered … waiting for its coat of glossy white.

The horizontal dig

While I was away on a business trip, Eric lit into the floor with a variety of Medieval-looking tools. We could see the layers where the built-up floor formed a small cliff that we had to jump off to enter the dining room. I installed the black and white checkerboard commercial tile in 1995. I liked the look, but the tile was hard to keep clean and never had the shine I’d hoped for.

The checkerboard covered some ugly Mediterranean-inspired 70’s vinyl, which lay on a bed of particle board, and, last but not least, was swirling ochre, dark red, and black linoleum.

This was not what I expected. I thought we’d find gray and red inlaid linoleum like on the back porch. Had the gray and red layer been removed? Is the ochre stuff original? I sure can’t picture it with the red and gray wallaper. We may never know. The ironic twist is that this old pattern is almost the reverse, colorwise, of what we intend to install: Forbo Marmoleum, Granada pattern.

This ochre layer will also be removed before we have the new floor installed. For now, we’re enjoying the old lino even though it’s scuffed and scarred.  It’s proving its boxer-and-kitty resistance and feels good under foot. And if I drop some crumbs, I dare ya to find ’em!

With these layers gone, our kitchen floor has lost nearly 3/4 inch of elevation, and is now level with the fir floor in the dining room. No more cliff to scale!