Cannot refinish hardwoods under layers of linoleum - now what

eccccpJune 25, 2009

Ugh ... I knew this might be a possibility, but I have not figured out what to choose, if I did -- in fact -- have to choose alternate flooring. I need input making a tough flooring decision. Opinions: please! (See below).

We are re-doing our kitchen (ourselves ... with help from electrician friend and cabinet hanging acquaintance and a couple of just very helpful friends:) ...). Anyway, we pulled out the gross 70s cabinets last night and peeled up one layer of linoleum, then a layer of plywood, then a layer of linoleum, then a layer of plywood, and then there's another layer of linoleum and then ......

Several hardwood floor refinishers had told us there was probably hardwood underneath everything and they could refinish the whole first floor and restore the kitchen floor to match pretty decently with the rest of the hardwood on the first floor (but we have not yet seen any quotes $$$$ on something like this). The other option, of course, is they strip everything down to the subfloor and put in new flooring and attempt to match it to the rest of the floors. However, I'm not sure if either of these are options at this point.

My husband says it will be way too messy and too time consuming and (inevitably too expensive as well), to actually go this route, after seeing the black tar-like glue under each layer of linoleum. He has at least one or two helpers lined up for each day of the kitchen project, all of the appliances ready to go, new cabinets are arriving today, etc. If we really wanted to do it the 'right way,' we would have to reschedule everything and deal with a half way torn up kitchen for a lot longer than we would otherwise have to .... My husband plans to peel up two layers of linoleum, a layer of plywood, put down a new layer of plywood, and then lay down new flooring ... flooring of what sort, we have no idea.

My question is: if you couldn't exactly match the wood in the kitchen to the dining room and living room and the wood floor in the kitchen would be at a different level than the dining room and living room floor (hubby would do the install of new wood flooring, after the cabinets were installed & then we would have the refinishers figure out a stain & attempt to match the rooms), would you even bother with wood flooring in the kitchen????

Should we choose something else entirely?? What's fairly easy to install, fairly easy to keep clean, and fairly inexpensive, that would match okay with our house, and still feel like an upgrade/update??

Our house was built in 1930; it is relatively small (hence the idea of wood floors throughout, coordinating some of the colors from the kitchen into the dining room and on into the living room, etc). We're installing painted white maple cabinets in the kitchen, along with the charcoal-colored soapstone-looking Formica from HD, a white Domjsko (sp?) sink from Ikea, and yet to be decided hardware and lighting (probably from Restoration Hardware). Kitchen will be a pale blue, but we're doing white subway tile backsplash on the longest wall in the kitchen (may incorporate some small black tile liner accents).

My husband thinks we'll be sorry putting in linoleum. I think we'll be sorry tiling; (we re-did our bathroom a couple of years ago; we were trying to go with a black and white vintage look. In my opinion, we ended up with a sometimes dirty-looking, hard to keep clean, black and white vintage look ...). We both like cork flooring and have friends that are very happy with cork flooring they recently installed in their kitchen, but I'm worried about whether that will 'go' with the house & look a little weird next to old wood floors, etc.

Sorry for the incredibly long, rambling message!! Any ideas would be GREATLY appreciated. Demo will be done by tonight. I need to come up with flooring decision in the next 24 hours.

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You could install one of those floating laminated floors but then you will have a transom at every doorway that is a real dirt magnet. If it were me, I would get down to the sub floor and install a new wood floor. If you are afraid it won't match, then get something very different from what you have in the rest of the house and tell everyone you planned it that way. To me the important thing is that the floor is smooth from one room to the other. After all tile and vinyl won't match either.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 11:33AM
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I'm sorry.

Don't make any decision because you're angry at your house!

Cool down. Get the stuff up and have a look at where you REALLY are.

I don't think everything has to match exactly in an old house (though depending on where things are, the different levels could be a problem for tripping if it's more than a little bit. So check that out when you know more.)

Linoleum can be cool, cork can be cool. Both can be appropriate in a 1930s house. I have seen it used in old houses and even hotels and it gives king of a wood-like feel. So if you both like it, and it would "feel like an upgrade" and make you stop feeling bad about not being able to have wood, and you HAVE to make a decision now, then that sounds like a good one for you.

Maybe someone in the flooring forum has some thoughts?

Either way, good luck! It's got to be better that the crappy vinyl!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 11:40AM
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Circus Peanut

Hang on! That sticky black disgusting stuff (lino adhesive) is easier to remove than it looks. You need the right tools -- ours came off fairly quickly with a heat gun/infrared Silent Paint Remover. And you don't have to get it all; you just need to scrape it down to the point that the big floor sanders can take over. I know it's awful and will probably take longer than you'd planned, but I did it in my 1923 house and it's SOOO worth doing. For what it's worth. :-)

Otherwise, I think that Marmoleum is a much better choice than vinyl, both aesthetically and historically, for your home. Check out some of the wonderful colors and patterns available - you could have fun cutting in designs along the perimeter, etc.

Crossing fingers for an otherwise happy remodel!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 11:56AM
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I think I'm confused...did you actually get down to hardwood in the kitchen? And it's got the black sticky stuff on it?

If you did, and you've got the same hardwood running throughout the whole floor, I'd definitely spend the extra time and get it refinished. It's not as big of a deal to refinish as I think you think it is. Plus, it's certainly cheaper than new flooring. I was quoted $3.50/sq ft to refinish. Certainly cheaper than new wood...

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 12:59PM
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We had a similar conundrum in our kitchen. Layers of linoleum and plywood revealed a lovely wood floor... for most of our kitchen- the rest was a plywood subfloor. So, after much hemming and hawing, we put in a very thin hardwood right over the wood/plywood floor. It's not totally finished otherwise I'd post a photo, but it looks great in the kitchen, and the cherry in our kitchen transitions beautifully to our heart pine floor in the dining room. With a thin thin wood, there is hardly any level difference from one floor to the other. As a quick note, although the black stuff looks icky, it isn't too bad to get up- my husband got up a big area with the sander pretty easily. Just beware of the dust, it covers everything and makes a big mess. If I had the option of going for the refinished floor, I would have done it in a heartbeat and would suggest you do too. If you are DIY, refinishing floors is actually pretty easy- you just rent a sander from Home Depot and go to town.

If you are considering doing wood though, check out Trailrunner's kitchen- she has wood to wood (although I believe it is matching), it looks fabulous and was what convinced me to do it in our kitchen. Her kitchen is worth a look anyway, it's amazing!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 1:17PM
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That black adhesive is probably cutback adhesive and usually contains asbestos! Regular vinyl flooring adhesive is a light grey color, not black. You really should have that tested before you go any further.

Seriously, this is a STOP WORK EMERGENCY until you get the test results back.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 1:18PM
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We are in the middle of the same process--we have hardwood floors in our whole house, and for our kitchen remodel we wanted to uncover the wood floors under however many layers of stuff had been put over it.

We busted up the tile and metal mesh (that came up quickly), and underneath lay linoleum. Much of it came up fairly easily--I used a putty knife, and my husband chipped away at it using a crowbar.

At first we were using a hairdryer to soften up the black goo, and then a friend lent us a heat gun. The hair dryer works fine, but the heat gun is fantastic! We scraped up a lot of the goo, and the hardwood guys will take it from there.

We got a quote of $1650 to refinish the kitchen floors (which require some patching) and recoat the floors in our dining room and living room.

I am so glad we are doing this, and the work we have put in will just make us appreciate those floors all the more. Don't give up on them yet--the process hasn't been that bad!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 1:26PM
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I tend to agree with live_wire_oak, which is why my husband didn't pull up the old 30s or 40s era checkerboard linoleum type stuff. He just peeled up about 1 cm of 1 square and decided that we should just put down new flooring, as to not disturb what is potentially an asbestos product. Same type of thing happened to us when we tackled our third floor remodel.

Anyway, I think complete, professional asbestos removal would be dangerous and expensive, which is why we don't want to touch the stuff. (Also, I have a toddler who touches everything and a cat who is in quite bad health, so that's why the safest, quickest way to proceed is sort of what's at the forefront of my brain ..).

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 1:30PM
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"disturb what is potentially an asbestos product"

Not friable so not that much of a hazard unless you grind it up with tools, like trying to sand it off.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 1:45PM
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I did a lot of reading on my state's asbestos removal policy before we began our demo. Like brickeyee said, linoleum tile is considered nonfriable (which means it doesn't break apart like powder and go into the air like dust), so my state doesn't even have a policy on where/how to dispose of it. We wore the masks that we wear for any demo work, and it worked just fine. It is not an emergency at all...

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 2:22PM
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I recently went through exactly the same thing. Asbestos test was about $150 I think. Flooring experts said that black adhesive penetrates the wood so much that it's practically impossible to make it look good and it certainly wouldn't match the living room floor. Demo happens soon and we'll see what's under there. If it's as we suspect, then I'll have my alternate choice ready: Marmoleum. It's a great product and I found some of the colors beautiful. It's also period appropriate for old homes. There's another long thread about different colors that's been going awhile.

Let us know how it goes!

Here is a link that might be useful: Does this floor look tacky?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 4:28PM
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I know you seem to be in a hurry w/sched -let the flooring people give you a quote & advise if they think they can even get the adhesive up/out of flooring then I would take the route of testing the adhesive - all you would be out is the testing cost. Then decide, If I could have all my 1st level matching hw (esp in small home) I would go that route - You can't get nicer hw today then what they used in 30's. It really should not cause a big delay
You can get a test kit at the hardware store - they send it to lab for analysis

Try not to get the "hurry up and finish" game -

Good luck
To me it's worth holding things up a little

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 4:51PM
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collins design

I haven't read all the replies, but I echo what circuspeanut said. our last house was a 1926 Foursquare and it, too, had that black tarry stuff under the lino in the kitchen, on hardwood. I'll have to ask my husband what he recalls from our reno but we did refinish the floors (gorgeous birch!) and it turned out fine. I think that we personally ripped everything up and scraped as much of the black off as we could, and then the hardwood refinishing guys (who we hired to do the entire house) sanded off the rest. There were one or two spots where the wood was stained, but other than that it looked great!! (And it's an old house so I personally like a little bit of "character".)

We even had to patch in some new boards where we removed a wall, and that blended pretty well, too.

So don't give up!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 8:54AM
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We had that "gunk" all over our hardwood floors also. Had them refinished and they look great... sanded right off.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 9:35AM
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I echo everyone who says refinish the hardwood floors. Yes, you will have a slight delay, but think about the big picture. It's important to get the remodel right now bc you probably won't be doing another remodel for quite some time. However, if you decide not to, marmoleum is a great product, and I also recommend cork. I used cork tiles (and not cork on floating boards) in a 1923 kitchen that had a cement floor that could not be leveled in one section. The cork looks great, and it's very period appropriate. People have been using cork as flooring in this country for more than 100 years.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 10:37AM
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We have a 1923 house with a three layers of vinyl flooring and some plywood subfloor in the middle. I just had a sample tested this week (cost $50). It was the backing to one of the layers that contains asbestos. I know when we built out our space for our business, it was the mastic (sp?) behind the VCT tiles that contained asbestos. I would definitely have a sample tested before you start ripping out your floor!

As for wood underneath, we found tongue and groove pine flooring that was never finished (different than the original top-nailed oak throughout the rest of the house). So, you won't necessarily find the same wood flooring.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 11:55AM
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Ecc, any news on your decision? Because of this thread, I'm now in flooring limbo until I get more info on possible refinishing. What I wonder is why did the flooring guys talk me out of it, if it's so easy?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2009 at 7:55PM
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