Friday, November 2, 2007

Let's talk kitchen hand towel at a time

We bought our house from HUD-- it was totally cleaned out with government efficiency, so there's nothing left of the previous owners. The layers of the structure-- especially the kitchen-- have been the only little "treasures" we've found. That's the glass-half-full way of looking at this, because in reality, I spend most weekends saying over and over, "Who the hell thought this was a good idea?"

When we first visited the house, we both tripped over the kitchen floor-- about 3/4 of an inch higher than all other floors in the house. Each owner just stacked another layer on the top until we ended up with the lovely black and white sticky vinyl tile:Now, before you say "Oh! I love black and white checkerboard and it's so retro!" you should know it was in terrible shape, matched absolutely nothing else in the kitchen, and showed the impression of the faux-tile flooring beneath it. So we did a little digging at this here location to see if the lovely pine floors were living underneath. They were! But that's also where we discovered that there were a few other layers culminating in some seriously sturdy black stuff that went right over the wood. Hmm.

At this point we decided that, regardless of the state of the wood, we needed the floors to be a bit more level or we'd end up face-first on that floor more times than we'd like to, especially if we were going to have to add to the pile to cover up that crap.

A little internet research, and we started peeling away. Below the top layer was another black and white sheet vinyl. Below that was my favorite-- it looked like candied fruits suspended in gellatin. Another plywood subfloor below that. Then yellow sparkly sheet flooring. We thought it ended there and went straight to the mastic but no-- TRUE linoleum. The stuff that was laid out and heated to adhere to the floor. It was very 30s and very cool:The black border is separate from the red trim is separate from the central art deco pattern. And each piece was put down with a different mastic. So we both spent a lot of time on the internet looking for way so get this crap off the wood, a lot of hours on our hands and knees trying out all the different things we found...

And here's what worked for us so far: Steam and Ace Hardware adhesive remover, which burns like a mofo if you're not careful. Wear gloves.

First, we peeled as much of the actual flooring off as we could. The central rug used a largely water based glue. I used a spray bottle to dampen the area; then I laid a wet tea towel on top. I took my old iron (good excuse to buy a new good one!) and ironed the wet towel on a high cotton setting until it stopped sizzling-- a few seconds, less than a minute, moving around the area so it didn't burn. I then pushed with an old scraper (going with the grain), and most of the leftover backing and mastic just peeled right off. Then I repeated the process and used a carbide blade pull scraper to get as much of the remaining mastic off as possible. It left a white/gray residue that smears with water, so hopefully that will sand off when we're ready to finish the floors. You can see that white overtone-- almost like the wood is simply dried out. But if you wet it a little, you can see the wood beneath it.

The black border areas were a different story altogether. They had no intention of coming off of the wood no matter what we tried. We used Kleenstrip (I think) stripper and adhesive remover. The stripper worked better that the adhesive remover. But then we tried the Ace brand adhesive remover and it seemed to do a better job. Just painting it on, waiting, and scraping with a good, sharp blade. Repeating where necessary. Unfortunately, this mastic was an oil-based one. So it has stained the wood, possibly further down than we want to or can sand. On the other hand, though, this is mainly around the perimeter where the floor will be covered by cabinets, appliances or overshadowed by the cabinet overhang.

Our next step is to sand the floors; however, as we all know, it's a process, and we have to get a few other things done first. Then I think we're going to try staining it a dark red mahogany...? The room is big enough that I think it can take the darker floor and darker cherry cabinets. We're just hoping the dark stain will mask the glue stains enough. We're ok with the floors being "rustic"-- they'll have nail holes from the plywood, etc. But hopefully it won't be crazy obvious.

And if it turns out heinous, we'll look into laying new hardwood-- even though that raises the floor back up to its previous level, we would have had to lay something over the ugly B&W checks, so we'd still be ahead. Or perhaps we'll give cork tiles a try...

I know the dreaded black mastic is a common problem of houses this age-- linoleum floors were so very "now." Any advise on finishing with this kind of distress in the wood would be greatly appreciated!


Jen said...

Great Bungalow and it is in very good shape, not basically falling down like ours.

LisaCarol said...

I have no real advice on the mastic removal, but, as for the linoleum itself, I have a book on linoleum (true old house geek), and that author urges us all to reuse it as drawer liners if nothing else.

While I have been amazed at what refinishing can do for worn floors, if you do wind up putting in new floors, you may want to pull out the old subfloor (which is probably what you're looking at given that the linoleum is about the same age as the house), and relevel the floor before putting in new floor. We did that at our Ashland house, and it made cabinet installation so much easier.

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