house stuff

the floor situation

April 21, 2015

hardwood flooring refinish

Oh, the floors. This has been in the back of ,my mind since the beginning, and for the past few weeks it has made its way front and center, under a spotlight, in my brain. There have been lots of ups and downs, and we still haven’t made any final decisions, but I figure I’ll bring you up to speed with the floor situation.

The First Floor

hardwood floor columbus

Way back when to a time when we actually lived in this house, the kitchen floor was covered in a lovely, cracked, chipped, beige tile. On top of that there was a massive 1″+ transition from the living room to the kitchen. Perfect toe-stubbing height.  And yes, many toes were stubbed. I mean, look at that height! That’s nearly a full-fledged step! And all the while that wood flooring we enjoyed in the living room was running under that less-than-desirable ceramic. How wonderful would it be to have that wood floor go through the whole space.

1. Breaking up the floor the way it did actually made the space feel smaller and

2. Wood floors are so much warmer feeling, both literally, as in having warm (unstubbed) toes and in experience. The room just feels warmer.

The thing is, this house is old and there isn’t a subfloor. That wood floor is just nailed right to the joists and when I would look at the underside of the kitchen in the basement you could see hundreds of nails and screws coming through where they fastened down the tile subfloor.  And although it would be awesome to have the old original floors restored in the house, I convinced myself that the floors were going to be beyond repair and we were going to have to figure out another alternative for the kitchen floors. Ultimately, the kitchen floor’s fate was a big unknown going into this project.


But then the day came when the subfloor actually came off the kitchen floor and we saw what was living under there all along. Could it be? These don’t look so bad! Maybe we can have the original wood floors after all!

I was so excited. Seriously. So excited. I happily emailed our contractor, “So the floors don’t look that bad! Think they’re salvageable?”

I waited in suspense for his reply thinking for sure he’d be like, Yeah! We’re gold! Old floors all the way! *high fives*

Finally he responded, (and I’m paraphrasing for effect) “The floors are a mess, here’s what you have to pay to replace them”

ugh. I was so disappointed and totally in denial after reading that. No way. They were totally salvageable, its just not the easy thing to do, I convinced myself. I promptly called up a couple flooring contractors to get a second opinion.

hardwood floor restoration

Long story short, the floors are a mess. Other people have told me, and I’ve accepted the fact. The living room is potentially refinishable, but the tongue and groove joints are already so thin that they’ll be all squeaky and likely pop up if we tried to sand them down anymore. Once we got over the romantic notion of these old wood floors and objectively looked at them, they really aren’t that great. Especially given all the work we’re putting into all the other surfaces. So it looks like new wood floors for the first floor are in our future.

The Stairs / Hallway

Obviously going into this whole renovation I had high hopes that there was this pristine beauty just hidden under a layer of carpet and tile waiting to be uncovered. I imagined having these beautiful wood steps with painted white risers leading up to a hallway of gorgeous aged pine floors….

Then we took the carpet off and I quickly understood why they put carpet down in the first place. The stairs had layers of rubber gunk, paint, broken treads, different woods–a total mish mash of stuff. I suppose it is possible to completely redo the steps to have the exposed wood, but aside from the fact that we actually do have a budget we need to stay in, I quickly realized after one day of  using the stripped down stairs just how loud wood steps are. Even if it was reasonably inexpensive to fix those steps I definitely want some carpet.

The hallway, and one spot in the office is a bunch of plywood subfloor. There was a fire in this house in the 90’s and from what we can tell the flooring upstairs was the biggest casualty. For the sake of time, money, and warm feet in the morning, carpet is going in hallway too.

The Office

The office is a different story. At first we thought this room was destined for carpet, too, after ripping up the old carpet and finding a layer of thin plywood. However that wood had clearly doubled as a cat litter box because it smelled AWFUL.  The subfloor had to go, but what we uncovered when that was gone was the office is really about 80% decent wood floor!

We’ve considered every option: replacing the floors completely, patching and refinishing, or scrapping the wood idea all together. Spoiler: We haven’t decided the fate for this room yet. But at this point I think we’ll be happier if we decide to go with the wood in here.

The Bedroom

Originally the goal was to leave these floors alone! Stop fixing things! But given our new big closet, we now have a large hole where the register used to be and a faint outline of our old closet. (It looks so small now!) Since the Living Room floor is for sure getting covered up, we’ll probably take some of the better boards from down there and replace and patch as needed up here. And maybe if the office is getting a nice new finish we could do a little something to gussy this up, too. But that’s all still up in the air, too.

Phew! This was a long post. If you made it this far or just scrolled down from skimming, here’s the gist: All the floors are old. All the floors are getting some sort of makeover. All of it is just still somewhat undecided. Things are moving quick, though, so decisions will be made soon!

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