Should we try to restore the HW floors?

fannerOctober 3, 2010

As we are thinking of wrapping up our exterior paint-job for another winter I can't help but move to the next project... I am 98% sure that the original hardwood flooring is hiding under our kitchen linoleum and subflooring. Do any of you have experience or ideas for this project? The issue is the kitchen cabinets are set on top of the subfloor. Is there any way to tear that up without disturbing the cabinets (they are only 8 years old)? I can see that the linoleum and subflooring are about 1/2 inch higher than the hardwood flooring where it meets the dining room floor. Or should we just scrap the whole idea and go with new linoleum...? Thank-you for any feedback and/or ideas!

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Are you sure there's hardwood under there (that is, you've seen it from below or in a place where the floor's been pulled up)? Wondering because 1/2" difference in flooring seems very small if it's accounting for both linoleum and a new subfloor on top of an original floor---our house has ceramic tile on a mortar bed on top of the fir subfloor, and that's more like a 2" difference. Our house is circa 1910s so I imagine it's different for much older homes, but the way they did the flooring then was to lay a subfloor (fir) through the entire house, and then to top it with linoleum in the kitchen and bath, and oak in the rest of the house. So the floors varied slightly, but the subfloor is at the same level across the whole house. (Later owners took up the linoleum and put down the kitchen tile, which created the height difference.)

So it's also possible that your linoleum could be on top of a wood subfloor that could be refinished---but I've rarely heard of laying a new subfloor on top of existing flooring and subfloor (though anything is possible with some of the things I've seen done to remuddled homes!) If you haven't already seen it, is there a place where you could cut through the linoleum to see what's going on down there, especially if you plan on replacing it in some way anyway?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 6:51PM
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I am 98% sure it is hardwood underneath. 2 things: 1) the diningroom flooring appears to contiune on into the pantry (attatched to the kitchen) running under the subflooring. The entire house has the hardwood running from room-to-room. 2) from the basement I can see what is probably the original subflooring; it runs at a diagonal, then between each of those boards there is a very small space where I can see what is probably the original tongue and groove on top of that.

There is still that 2% chance that I am wrong, though. The subfloor that I see under the linoleum is particle board. THere is a spot that our sweet labrador chewed through a few years ago, the good helper that she is ;) I am not a gambler, and we can't afford to be wrong... I'm still on the fence, but tile might be a better option... The particle board sub floor is, otherwise, in good shape. Just not sure what to do yet. THanks for the feedback! I will post when I figure out what we do.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 10:19PM
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Reolving what's under the lino and particle board shouldn't be hard:

1) Look very closely where the sink drain penetrates the floor, you may see what you need to know; or

2) pick a place in a bottom cab (I'd choose one with a bottom drawer, but any one will do.) Take a portable saber saw and cut out a square big enough to allow you to the take a lino knife and then a chisel to expose what's underneath. If you're careful you may be able to cut the cab floor hole on a inward slant giving you a piece you can just drop back in place and tape up.

But even if you find that there's some form of wood floor underneath, you won't know what condition it's in. It could have been irrremediably stained and grungy, hence the decision to cover the whole thing with lino. (One of my floors turned out to have kerosene spilled on it, from an old kerosene cookstove. I'm covering up that with subfloor and lino). Or maybe the wood was fine but when they put down the particle board subfloor they stuck it down with black goopy (and maybe asbestos-y) glue (or leveling compound), or the sub floor was nailed down with dozens of now-rusted, ten penny nails. In any of these cases, the aesthetics of a wood floor may be not what you're hoping for.

If you decide to go ahead and expose the floor, you can just cut the lino and particle board at the base of the cabs and install shoe molding to cover the exposed edge after refinishing the floor.

Your countertops will be 1/2" higher, afterwards.



    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 3:38AM
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You guys are great, thanks so much for the feeback. You are surely giving me some great thinking points. Great idea on looking inside a cupboard ~ in the original pantry there are large drawers. I never thought, I might be able to see the floor inside the bottom of one of those.... I'll let you all know what I see. For now, I'm off to work. Perhaps it's time to start looking at other flooring ideas.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 7:06AM
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We just finished pulling up two layers of old flooring in our kitchen, one from the 40's, one from the 60's. I noticed the wood was there when we had a dishwasher installed. The site built cabinets had plywood bottoms so you couldn't see all the way through but when we pulled out a whole section there were the raw wood floors.

Everyone told us we were nuts and we should just put another layer down but they're raving now. The floors are magnificent and were cost effective too.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 1:30PM
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Well, if the flooring under the pantry cupboard is any indication, it is indeed hardwood flooring. If my husband agrees, I think I will try pulling up a piece of the underlayment that is under the stove (it pulls out easily) to see if the underlayment is glued down or what. I'm just not sure how much work we can put into this right now... yikes! But I do love the look of wood flooring. "Nwkrys", was the restoration of the hardwoods affordable in comparison to installing other flooring? That would be encouraging. Did I mention I am not a gambler?!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 3:23PM
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Restoring hardwood floors is generally more economical than putting down any kind of new flooring. The one thing that could put a kink in things is if you pull up the subfloor and find a layer of ancient linoleum between you and your hardwood floor. The problem is that said ancient linoleum may have asbestos in it and/or have asbestos-based glue holding it down. This is a risk you run, but I have seen forums on older houses where people were able to get the glue up DIY without unleashing the asbestos; they used a wallpaper steamer (normally used to remove wallpaper), steaming the floor section by section, and scraped the stuff up with a thin metal... whatever those things are called. Like a spackle knife or spatula kind of thing. The thing you do NOT want to do is sand a floor that has that stuff on it--sanding will release the asbestos into the air.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 1:50PM
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