Slate flooring for an old house kitchen?

jlc102482August 25, 2011

How out of place would slate flooring in an old house kitchen be? My house is mid-1800s but the kitchen was added in the 1940s. However, it's well blended with the rest of the house and is pretty indistinguishable as new.

The kitchen needs a new floor (current floor is 1970s lino.) Because of the large size of the room and adjoining areas, installing a wood floor would be too cost prohibitive. We were thinking slate floor tiles instead. Something like this, but with gray grout:

Will this look ridiculous in an old house kitchen? Ideas and opinions are welcomed!

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I had a slate floor in a foyer in the first house I ever owned. I hated it.
It was slick when it was wet. It could never keep it clean. It always looked dirty. Every spot of water on the floor showed. I was always cleaning it even tho the only people who ever used the front door were guess or delivery people. Everyone else went in and out thru the kitchen door.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 10:40AM
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I'm just the opposite - I think it would look perfectly 'at home' in a mid 1800's kitchen. Outside kitchens of that era would have used dry laid brick but I'm sure other stone floors were common. Not sure about an inside kitchen of the era but I suspect whatever floor was used around the cooking area would have been fireproof.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 3:06PM
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Jlc, it's your house - you live in it, right? Does it really matter if others (us, lol) think it's perfectly age appropriate for your house? The question you might ask yourself (or here, again) is how it might look with your existing kitchen. Your cabinetry, countertops, etc?

I'd suggest getting just a few tiles to use for a sample, maybe lay them out in a few areas for a couple of days - & see if you like the way the look & feel. (As well as how difficult you find it - or not - to keep clean, as Carol mentioned. I'd heard that from a family member, also). Oh - & don't forget to drop a can or two on it, to see how that goes over - it's a kitchen, after all, & that'll probably happen a time or two! :-) I've heard it's tough stuff, but you may as well prove it to yourself, right?
That's a cheaper way you could find out how it looks to you, anyway, before making a huge investment.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 5:01PM
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It's rough and difficult to mop and keep clean. It's porous, and will need sealing in order to avoid staining. It's soft, and will scratch quite easily. It can shale and split. It's not as cheap as you think, and may be higher priced than the wood by the time you complete the needed floor prep to accept it. It's very cold in winter and I'd only do such a large expanse of it if I were in a warm climate like Florida. Otherwise I'd want floor warming mats under it. That would definitely make it cost more than the wood.

Those are the negatives. The positives are that it's absolutely beautiful and I think it'd be appropriate to a rustic home.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 5:12PM
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It's rough and difficult to mop and keep clean. It's porous, and will need sealing in order to avoid staining. It's soft, and will scratch quite easily. It can shale and split. It's not as cheap as you think, and may be higher priced than the wood by the time you complete the needed floor prep to accept it.

Depends on the slate.

The polished slate I used in our last kitchen was smooth, did not split and, once sealed, was a breeze to keep clean. Just a damp custodian's string mop, hot water and disinfectant. Of course, if you "experiment" dropping cans on it, as a previous poster suggested, it will chip. Same as tiles. (And a wood floor will dent.) It was much more expensive than any non-exotic wood floor. Yes, it's a soft stone. making it easier to stand on than, say granite or quartzite. But, unless it's in a basement, it actually feels warm. (At least to my big feet.)

Polished slate (supplier:Olympia Tile)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 9:41PM
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Worthy - was the pic you posted actually your "last kitchen", or a general example? If it was yours... How did you leave that??? It's beautiful!

I wasn't trying to say that slate was worse than any other flooring, I've never had it, but I think it's gorgeous. I only suggested the can-drop because I think it's a good idea to test all kitchen flooring that way. (On a SAMPLE, before choosing). "Back when" - ages ago, we put (yuck!) laminate wood flooring in our kitchen over plywood subfloor PO's had laid. I had NO idea what a dropped can of corn would do to that (junk) stuff. It's still our kitchen floor - other things have & will come before that - but the chips & dings? Ew. We cook with cast-iron a lot, son bumped an empty skillet onto the floor... Etc! :-)
Another bonus for slate, I'd think... Water! Ice dispenser in your fridge door? Kids? ONE stray cube sits & melts in the wrong spot, I have a weird swollen bump - for years.
If I'd known to do the "test", I wouldn't have my floor... So I always suggest it. :-)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 1:23AM
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was the pic you posted actually your "last kitchen", or a general example? If it was yours... How did you leave that???

Yes, I'm a builder. You sound like mrs. worthy!

I planned bigger and better, but

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley"

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 12:35PM
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I concur that a good quality properly laid slate floor is probably a good deal more expensive than a wood floor. Natural stone is more difficult to lay than porcelain or ceramic and requires a much stiffer subfloor or you will get cracks. Consequently, both the prep and the labor to lay it will cost more than tile and certainly more than wood. Good quality slate won't be the $1.99 stuff you find at a box store (that has at least a 40% cull rate.). It will be in the $7-$12 range. The floor you have pictured is probably a great deal more than that as it's large format gauged and polished Vermont type slate---or a porcelain look alike.

Slate can be beautiful, but it isn't chosen for budgetary reasons. If budget is your primary consideration at the moment, you can find inexpensive vinyl sheet goods that can be DIYed as a temporary measure. That usually goes for less than $1 a foot at a discount store. Wood floors are very budget and DIY friendly if you're not looking at exotics. You can probably DIY lay and finish a nice oak floor for around $3 a square foot. When you have a lot of space, yes that adds up. But if you are able to use thresholds at your doors, then you can lay each room separately as budget allows. If you want the whole floor to flow from room to room seamlessly, then yes, you do need to lay and finish it all at once.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 3:50PM
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Closer view of the polished copper slate above:

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 10:43PM
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Copper & slate are 2 of my favorite things so I'm drooling on my keyboard over those photos, Worthy.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 11:29AM
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I think it would look great. I have it in the back entry and it is quite nice. The only downside as everyone else has gone over is that it's hard to clean. And in a kitchen it will absolutely be cold. Upside is that the stone look is classic, especially if you pick a very old looking style. Downsides are cold, hard (think breaking dishes), and you're stuck with it -unlike wood which can be finished in most any color-. Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 8:08PM
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Antiquesilver, I am drooling also. Slate flooring has probably been the ONE thing I haven't had-to-have... Until now! (Thanks a lot, Worthy - lol).

Jgopp, you also mention the cleaning difficulty - is yours sealed the same way as mentioned above? Also - you said yours is at an entry, is there more mud & dirt tracked on it than a kitchen floor might have? (My kitchen IS an "entryway", so I'm only asking out of curiosity).

What about ease of replacing one damaged tile, compared to other tile options? Is it easier, or more difficult?

This is SO outta my price range... Any new kitchen floor is a back burner issue right now. But - I do have a wish list, for "someday", I'm just considering adding slate to it, (Number 57, I think that would make it.).

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 8:26PM
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We lived in that house and used that kitchen for six years. Four kids, ages 4-13 when we moved in. The slate was sealed when installed and the only cleaning was regular vacuuming and a weekly mopping, as I mentioned above, using a janitor's string mop, water and Pine Sol.

I dread renewing an old debate. But we do not wear shoes in our home and there are no canines and their unclipped claws. We also used floor mats outside and inside of the two entrances to the kitchen/breakfast room. We did end up with a chipped tile or two from dropped cans. (A fitting complement to the permanent imprint of a Stars War sword on the stainless fridge.) Like porcelain tile, the colour is consistent throughout so chips don't stand out.

We used an unhoned slate in the basement. But I wouldn't put it in the kitchen because of the difficulty of cleaning it.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 9:02PM
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What's the debate? Some wear shoes indoors, some don't. (Some argue about it? Seriously?). Lol - I'd love to have the family take shoes off at the door... But I'm the one trying to wash white (gray) socks. Your fridge would be a match for the permanent Star Wars figurine imprints on the bottom of my feet! Any Lego marks on that fridge?

Did you ever replace a tile? I've wondered if slate would chip up more, leaving a shale-like surface stuck to the adhesive... All would have to come off, but might it be more complicated with slate? (Trying to convince myself to leave it off the dream list, I think!).

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 9:56PM
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I think it would look wonderful...if it goes with the rest of your kitchen. What cabinets, countertops and other finishes do you have in the space?

If the slate goes with the room....and you can install and maintain it easily...and most important, it's a safe, non-slick floor, then go for it! It's your house and if you like it, it fits the rest of the house, and it's safe to sounds like it will be a great choice :)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 10:34PM
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What's the debate?

Oy vey!


The chips in this particular slate never got worse. In other types, there may be some flaking. I kept spare tiles just in case. They're removed and replaced as with any tile--break them out with a hammer. Steel trumps rock! We liked this slate so much that we extended it through the breakfast area and family room.

Copper toned polished slate flooring complemented with copper coloured
tin crown moulding from American Tin Ceiling Co. Photo: Heather Joy Investments Ltd.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 8:34AM
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We chose an Italian "slate" porcelain tile for our kitchen, in our 1915 Craftsman home. It has been holding up really well. We've already broken several glasses on it and no chipping of the tile at all. Cleans easy, and never really looks too dirty in between cleanings.

Here is a photo of it in the store, their set-up:

Here it is in my home before the kitchen was finished. It just happens to show it in the best light:

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 1:05PM
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Slate floor (otr any stone or large tile) require a very rigid floor and framing.

It is like standing on concrete.

It is hard enough on knees and ankles that commercial kitchens (that are often tile on concrete or even just concrete) often have pads for the workers to stand on (they are replaced almost daily with clean ones, and the old ones returned for cleaning and re-use).

The cooks are standing for almost their entire shift, but if you do a lot of cooking hard flooring is NOT your friend.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 3:16PM
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A victorian next door to ours was recently remodeled to include a slate floor in the kitchen. If you forget you are in a (previously) fabulous victorian home, the floor is lovely. If you wanted to remember you are in a fabulous victorian home, the look (to me) is gastly. 12x12 tiles weren't used in 1800's terribly often (if ever???)

We are a bit nuts about keeping our home appropriate on all four levels as we restore it. Right now we're looking at redoing the basement, which is poured concrete and completely unlevel (it was storage for wood, coal and maybe a servant's room). We're talking up to 3" difference from the walls to the center in most rooms. So we looked at the options...first we could level out the concrete, but would a victorian have lived in a room with a concrete floor if they weren't a servant? No

Then marmoleum because the lower floor wasn't used as housing until after 1920 and marmoleum is basically the same as 1920's lino or congoleum so it would look somewhat age appropriate. Cost is a factor there and installers are not certified here so we let that go.

Lastly we decided to use the most age appropriate finish we could, which is fir, not tongue and grove but just basic fir, not finished, and definately not the top quality because we aren't going to stain it. Our servant's areas floors are fir that has been painted which is exactly what we'll be using in the basement. Very inexpensive (unless you have to build a floating floor like we do) and TOTALLY age appropriate to both your home and mine. We use an industrial quality floor paint from sherwin williams (latex based even) which we have on the subfloors that are exposed for now in the dining room and parlor (we will replace those with parquet in a couple of years) but to me the painted fir was a much better open than leaving in a 40 year old carpet. We have had parties of up to 150 people tromping around on those painted fir floors with shoes on during charity events and house tours and we also have a dog, three cats, and the most destructive thing to floors on earth...a five year old! The painted floors look fabulous. I'm actually painting the one in his bedroom as we speak because the fir floor was so badly damaged in the past that it wasn't savable without major work (which we'll have done when he's older).

Anyhoo, if you care about the historic value of the house looking to painted wood might be the trick for you. It's totally appropriate, easy on your back (which a cook cares about) and worst case if you ding it you can either touch up the paint or you can leave it and let it look like a 100 year old painted floor :)

I'd never buy the house next door (even if I didn't own mine) because of the floors. They are lovely...they'd look fab in my 1980's townhouse, but they make me sad in a victorian :( It is your house...totally your option, but painted wood is so much more appropriate! Just a thought.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 12:17PM
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Why limit "historically appropriate" to flooring only?

Early 1800s historically accurate kitchen of Elizabeth Latimer, Wilmington, N.C. Source: flowergardengirl

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 1:49PM
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A bit out of date for the house being discussed? :) A great kitchen though!

If I can get my oven thermostat to work, I'll be using my early '20s gas stove again, and the only reason I have a microwave (not in the kitchen) is my mom gave it to me. I don't believe that a kitchen needs a hundred gadgets to function well--and actually, how much time are you really saving once you clean all these gadgets? I do admit to preferring my '20s stand mixer to a spoon, but I do use the latter for making cookies and fudge.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 2:11PM
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one can always tell an old house hater :) Actually the kitchen (historically accurate above) shown is a great example of how you can pull historic appropriateness out of history and make it flow in a modern world. First...looks like a painted floor...I believe I've covered that so I'll leave that at that. Secondly, open shelving is a great option in a historically appropriate kitchen. We're doing an entire wall in a very tall open shelving unit on which I will keep my bown collection. Nook for a stove? Well that's nothing we haven't seen before. We're going to put our stove (a modern stove that has the appropriate look of a victorian given they've been making them basically the same for 100 years) which we'll put in our nook (created when the old servants stairs were removed). Under the nook I'll hide a modern hood so the look will be appropriate but the function will be modern.

Table in the middle? Yup that flows very well in an old kitchen. Or you can do an island that is styled to a later date (ie we're doing an old country store cabinet for the half of our island that shows and adding to it to hide refridge drawers and the prep sink).

Our sink will mimic a gorgeous dry sink I saw at a home we considered. The top will be zinc with stainless. It will look appropriate and yet be modern.

And yes, we expect to do a painted floor (fir) in there as well. Our home had servants and the usual finish would have been either wood or tile and I hate standing on tile. Historically accurate can be done well if you plan it. Our historically accurate kitchen will feature dishwashers, a large sub zero, prep sink, ice maker, drink refridgerator, islands (two) trash compactors and recycle centers. And it will all look historically accurate to a victorian home. It can be done. :)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 7:59PM
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Our historically accurate kitchen will feature dishwashers, a large sub zero, prep sink, ice maker, drink refridgerator, islands (two) trash compactors and recycle centers.

Now, that's what I'm talking about!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 9:29PM
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Dishwashers, trash compactors... Both plural? It'd be easy to hate you - but I just can't do it. :-)

Worthy - I'd like to have hostile feelings toward you, as well - but I don't, lol. Slate, in general, I've never thought much about - but that polished copper in your pics? I fell, hard.. Showed DH, & he said "wow...", (that's his calm version of an emotional outburst...). Following your link, there was no polished copper on the site, or prices. We have no flooring plans, but do have a bathroom project going. (No kidding, right?). How would those tiles work out as a shower wall installation?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 10:55PM
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I should have added we are also doing the butlers pantry (hence the additional dishwasher) at the same time.

It's fun to read about people thinking of redoing their kitchens in vintage homes. I recently gut remodeled a kitchen in a 1980's townhouse and had no restrictions as to style given that the only style I didn't want to consider was 1980's :) It's a very eclectic space that I love and was easy to make work well because of the lack of an identifiable decade to focus on. A kitchen in a victorian or any older home IMO is much harder. To make the right items for a busy cook work well and yet also nod carefully to the home's history is a challenge. Our home has special rules attached to the first floor so research has been my best friend. I was originally not happy about the rules, but now I'm glad they're there so no one comes in and does something evil to the house.

That said...I would agree that the copper slate above is would have made a wonderful floor in my other place as I'm a total copper/gold/bronze color nut. :) It's rich and magnificant and best of all...interesting :) not the same old stuff you see everywhere. I just don't want to see it in a victorian :oP I'm odd that way I guess LOL

ohhhh the compactors are because we recycle here and they only pick up every other week. We have a child and four hundred cats and dogs (ok 3 and 1 respectively but sometimes it seems like more). We always seem to overflow the recycling and would like to get down to one can someday. Squishing it seems the easiest LOL

KS...the kitchen is 20x25 or so....plenty of room for plural LOL I will say despite the size it's harder to design than my 13x18 kitchen back in alaska. But at least I have the floors figured out heh heh

We did find a piece of a lino carpet under the old servants stairs and I went off in a wild tangent thinking I could do that in the new kitchen....gorgeous stuff, just like a persian rug but lino :) Turns out they're rarely available and when found cost an arm and three legs. I did find one from the 40's which we'll put in the servants dining room (where we eat the most LOL) on guessed it...painted fir floor heh heh

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 1:38AM
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~~~Waving "Hi" to I-chic. You need to come around more often and update us on the beast in the works. The Kitchen Forum would drool all over the shots of the before, during and after of that kitchen!~~~

You can often find the old lino "rugs" pretty cheap if you are OK looking for "parts and pieces" of them. The small pieces make great framed room accessories, even when they are kinda ragged looking. Just put them over a colored mat that shows off the ragged edges in an artistic fashion. If large enough, a remnant can make a great counter segment for a butler's pantry or other small area like a dresser top in a kids room or a pretty vanity for m'lady.

If you love something, you can find a way to use it. But, using something you love, just because you love it, can be your worst enemy when it comes to an old house. I don't have to tell you about people who loved orange shag carpeting more than the maple flooring, do I? ;) It's the same with other materials that you fall in love with that aren't historically appropriate. Use them in a way that doesn't affect the basic bones of the house. Use that copper slate as a topping to a vanity in your bath, or framed pieces of art, or a towel table, or other piece that someone else can replace with something more authentic down the road without ripping out thousands of dollars of your hard work. If folks in the 70's had only used that orange shag as an area rug.......well, I guess there wouldn't have been so many old homes available for a relative bargain because people couldn't see past the sins of the ugly fad adopters.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 12:06PM
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How would those [polished slate] tiles work out as a shower wall installation?

According to Michael Byrne, contributing editor of the Journal of Light Construction and a tile industry consultant:

"Some stone tiles, including slate and limestone, have shown themselves to be absolutely the worst choice for use in a shower stall because of pin holes, flakes, porosity, or structure. Sealers not made especially for tile will not give good performance and top-coating sealers are a disaster when they yellow and begin to chip off.

"It is almost impossible to keep slate or limestone in a sanitary condition, and it is also close to impossible to get the dirty clothes smell from these stones once the smells have been established by the accumulation of the very things we try to wash off our bodies.

By the way, while porcelain might seem to be the first and best choice, some porcelain tiles are the worst possible choice because they were designed to have a coarse texture to make them more slip-resistent. Unfortunately, the same non-slip qualities also guarantee that dirt, grime, grease, oils, etc will lodge permanently on the surface of the tile giving it a five o'clock shadow look. "

For further info on the polished slate, you have to burrow down in the original link till you get here. Olympia has for decades been the largest tile distributor in Canada. Its prices are greatly and variably discounted to the trade, so they don't publish prices.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 12:38PM
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We're using 6" natural cleft locally quarried black slate in our kitchen reno, with grey grout. Unfortunately its not done yet, I don't know when it will be done to be honest but I'll try to remember to return and post pics when we're done. it's a DIY project and unfortuantely other projects are quickly moving up the priority list.

Our slate tiles cost us $4 per SF, not including floor prep, mortar, grout or sealer.

I plan on sealing with a matte sealer, I don't like the high shine look and it's not at all slippery when wet.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 1:01PM
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Worthy, I suppose those negatives would still apply if it were only applied to the wall - above the tub - & not lower? Bummer. (We are also building the top for the new vanity... ).

A note about marmoleum/old lino rugs - the reason (I believe) they are so expensive is the difficulty in removing large pieces intact. They become SO brittle with age. I have 2 in upstairs bedrooms - 1 still under carpet, & a 4x4 foot square in upstairs bathroom.

The downstairs bathroom also has it - under subfloor & bamboo. We didn't see the point in tearing it out - may as well leave it for future owners to discover. Hopefully they appreciate that, & don't simply think we left it to be lazy.
I do have the pieces I removed from the landing at the bottom of the stairs, it's a beaut! Obviously not original, there - the 2 layers of paint prove that. (mustard under brown, ew).

Pretty beat-up, torn, etc. Beyond salvage, in my opinion, but if anyone wants to try... To make a small "mat" or something, as mentioned by another poster - They're welcome to it. I don't know how old it is, it seems newer than the upstairs rugs.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 5:01PM
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A Big Howdy back to you Live Wire :) You always make so much sense LOL I love it in a poster...I'd hate it in a a spouse :p

I am planning a trip to KS's home to dig up those scraps :) Actually in a home a few doors down from us lies a very valuable lino rug that they don't know if they can move. I love your ideas! I think I'll check in with them and tell them if it breaks I'd take the pieces. I could certainly see using it for a counter or small dresser top with a little rehab.

KS I'm glad you kept the pieces under your floor. The tiny piece we found gave us great joy...maybe yours will do the same someday. If nothing else it's a clue to the decor of that home during that period, something we value immensely here at our house.

So Live...the kitchen is probaby a couple of years out. We did the gardens this year and added a gorgeous fence. We're also adding heat...yes heat throughout the house (first three floors...the top is on electric and we'll leave that). Heat pumps and hidden duct work all begin happening on the 19th. We figure the pay out on the change from the furnace will take only about 20 years...what a bargain! But we'll have a zone for almost every room in the house and can get rid of propane fireplaces that don't fit the home as well as a furnace we were concerned would give way soon or burn the house down. Next year we do the master suite which is half of one floor,and the outside of the house...rebuild roof lines, take off outbuildings that don't belong, new roof, repair chimneys as necessary, paint, replace a victorian porch, (which means demo of a huge amount of concrete) and the addition of a sprinkler system to the balance of the property we didn't do this hauling sprinklers...heaven! then the next year we expect to do the kitchen. Though I have done the would be fun to post it :)

Ahhh time to put baby to bed (ok he's five but still....) night night all. We spent the first day of school on a long beach treck, got flooded in by the tide and had to wade home to pick our child up covered in sand and salt water...we looked like nutty parents :)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 10:37PM
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Igloochic, (and anyone else), if I could mail these pieces for reasonable postage, & not have them break apart on the way... I'd send them to you - & pay shipping! I know you're kidding... But if someone that really cared about this stuff came to get it, I would also give them the weird blue Asian 4x4 from upstairs, also. (& meet ya at the truck-stop, lol!). We're going to cover it, & I'm lacking confidence that future owners will see it as anything but "yucky old junk, to be hauled to landfill". Our neighborhood is not what it once was... (I suspect when our house was built, it wasn't a neighborhood at all, but don't know).

Baby bottles? Anyone read Chinese? Always wondered what the symbols meant... It's scruffed up, seen foot-traffic, & lower right corner broken off. (I think we found & saved it, that's my way, lol).

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 11:31PM
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