Monday, June 13, 2011

Our kitchen floor: The untold story

You might have noticed a few offhand remarks about having, you know, no kitchen floor. You didn't miss a post explaining how that came to pass... the truth is that I never wrote about it. We needed time to lick our wounds... or something like that. From the beginning, then. It's time.

When we bought the house, faux-brick linoleum covered the kitchen, the downstairs bathroom, and the upstairs hallway. In an upstairs hall closet, a large piece of the linoleum had been taken off, showing the original hardwood floors underneath. We liked to imagine the same thing existed in the kitchen, which originally looked like this:

We spot-checked the floors in the areas where it was easiest to get under the linoleum without doing too much damage: underneath the refrigerator (a simple pull-out) and in the bathroom. In both areas, we saw the original floors that cover the rest of the house. Dirty, but there. We were thrilled.

Like my stair refinishing project, the kitchen floors seemed to be one of those tasks that would be about a thousand times more manageable if we could do it before the cats moved in. And so while I was sanding and staining the stairs before move-in, T was in the kitchen, painstakingly starting to pull up the linoleum.

This was not a fun task. But at last... a square of pantry floor! There's an old chimney in here, so we figured this type of subfloor was here due to the original configuration of things.

By the next night, T's knees were shot, so we picked up a pair of hottt knee pads for him at the local hardware store.

And a night or two later, by hand... a bathroom floor was revealed. Here you can see the original floors and the plywood subfloor that was nailed on top, onto which the linoleum was glued.

At this point in the process, we became concerned about the pace of the work. Keep in mind we were doing this at night after a full day of work. We were exhausted, and the clock was ticking. You might remember that we weren't exactly packing up our apartment yet? So we decided to call in reinforcements. Enter: The Rip'r'Stripper.

This machine rocks. If any of you are contemplating linoleum floor removal, skip the handwork and rent this from the start instead. Seriously. Watch it in action:

This is probably a good time to talk about T's floor removal attire. It actually got better than the knee pads, believe it or not. We were both wearing old clothes and shoes because the work we were doing was incredibly dirty. T remembered at some point that he owned a pair of jeans he'd purchased years back to wear to a Habitat for Humanity mission. A work of art, these jeans. Baggy, stonewashed, and featuring tool-carrying capability? Oh, the hilarity. I'm not kidding when I tell you that some of those long nights at work in the house, these jeans were about the only thing that could make me crack a smile. 

Now with the Rip-r-Stripper, we uncovered a lot of floor very quickly, but would still need to take up the nails on the subfloor and lift it by hand. The pantry and the bathroom were clear at this point, but we hadn't yet peeked under the subfloor in the heart of the kitchen - otherwise known as Gorgeous Kitchen Floor Promiseland. Here's the bare kitchen, free of lineoleum, still covered in plywood and glue remnants:

There are no photos that demonstrate what happened next, so you'll have to take my word for it. As T set out to pull up the plywood in the heart of the kitchen, we made a big, fat discovery: 

The original floors were gone in the center of the kitchen.

What a blow. All that work... and then no payoff. T was pissed and immediately came up with about 5,000 other better uses of his time for the week's worth of 5 p.m. - 1 a.m. shifts we'd invested. I tried to make the best of it, saying that we wanted the linoleum gone and at least now it was... even if what would replace it was a mystery. It was no good. No good at all. Luckily we headed out to the Outer Banks the next day to drown our sorrows in oysters.

And so that last floor photo is exactly how the floors still look today. There's pretty paint on the wall and stuff around, at least... but we're still walking on plywood.

We do have a plan. It's in action as of yesterday, actually - maybe that's why I decided our floor saga was finally worth telling. Tomorrow I'll share our original vision for the kitchen floors, when we thought we had pine under there to work with. Then I'll show how we've shifted our vision now that we'll have to create a floor from scratch.

Any other flooring surprise stories out there? It might make us feel better.

Oh, and as for the upstairs hallway: at least we do have full original floors up there. And now that we had all this practice in the kitchen, removing the lineoleum up there should be quick and easy. (Knock on, you know, wood. Which is waiting to be uncovered after decades of suffocation.)

I think the Habitat for Humanity jeans need to make another appearance for that little project, don't you?


  1. Oh Maggie! I can't wait to hear what you do, but that just sucks. I'm dying over the carpenter jeans though. Love, Samma

  2. as i scrolled through this post all i could think was "i hope she posts a picture of those pants she tweeted about!" and you did not disappoint!!

    sucks about the floor- especially after all that hard work. but i'm sure you guys have something great going on now!

  3. Oh man! My knees hurt just thinking about pulling that stuff up. Can't wait to see what is in store next. Love that your hubs can make you laugh. Best way to get through any house drama.

  4. Our house in Vermont had awful, awful only partially tacked down carpet upstairs. We knew there were wood floors underneath and so we ripped out the rippling waves of blue carpet to reveal wooden floors covered in two colors of potentially leaded paint-steel grey and barn red....enter the giant floor sander we rented, and wearing hepa masks spent many hours of back-breaking work taking turns scraping it off with a sander, while one of us used a small hand sander to get what had been missed. I think I still have a knot in my shoulder from this work...maybe it's awesome you will get a brand new floor :) Also, we did not have such cool jeans-maybe it would have been more fun with those.

  5. Deck paint on crappy floors can be a great way to deal w/ it w/out paying a fortune for new wood floors. White deck paint rules.

  6. Unbelievable... professional photographers shoot hundreds of pics hoping to get just one work of art, and you manage to capture all the majesty of those beautiful, baggy blue jeans with one shutter click. Blogging about them would be a bitter betrayal, if I didn't make them look just so. damn. sexy.

  7. Oh, dear. What a sad thing to discover! At least you found a ray of light in the form of T's jeans. Hahaha.

  8. So luck to come across your excellent blog. Your blog brings me a great deal of fun.. Good luck with the site. tiling contractors London


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