What To Expect When Removing A Floor

The previous owners had installed VCT or vinyl composite tile throughout the large eat in kitchen, pantry and bathroom. VCT is inexpensive (less than $2 a square foot) and incredibly durable. It's the flooring you often see in older office buildings or even hospitals. It usually has flecks of colors and can be buffed to a glowing shine. The problem is, it's so dang ugly and looks like commercial flooring.

So I ripped it up. I could see from the stairwell that the kitchen floor was slightly raised so I knew it was covering up some other type of flooring. I said a quick prayer to the hardwood floor gods hoping that I would uncover hardwood since the home was built in 1917. (Finding hardwood on a second floor is not all that realistic.) Ripping up the VCT and the sub-floor was not as difficult as expected, and what made it slightly easier, was that we didn't have to remove all of the trim. The VCT was installed inside of the trim and not underneath it.

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What we uncovered is what you see in the first picture and below. There was hard wood! However, it only runs from the stairwell straight into the hallway in front of the bedrooms. The rest of the kitchen floor is wide yellow pine boards that had been painted at least three times.

Yellow pine is okay with me and is far better than VCT but it's not as easy as sanding the floor and re-staining it. There are holes every 8 inches or so from the former sub-floor and there are nails hammered directly into the pine as they tried to secure this floor to prevent squeaks or movement before adding the sub-floor. As my carpenter says, people cover up floors for a reason! Expect problem areas!

Another issue is the two stripes of plywood flooring around the kitchen pantry. I am guessing these strips must have been walls in the apartment's former life.

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Do I strip the floor and repaint it with a durable floor paint which would cover any nails? (I would need to test the paint for lead first.) Or do I install another floor over this which would be more expensive but less mess, and raise the floor once again so it is not level with the hallway? The bathroom was easy, I chose to tile it it with black and white mosaic tile.

For those of you who have uncovered gnarly floors like this, what decision did you make?

Images: Tanya Lacourse

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