Technically, my next de-stress project wasn’t just in the kitchen , rather it was throughout the whole house. But it started in the kitchen.
For a year, I lived with this gorgeous new kitchen, and I was happy with it until I looked at the floor. The floors of the kitchen, hallways, and dining room were covered in the same gunmetal grey small tiles that had previously covered the kitchen counters. It was like a slap in the face anytime I had to look at the floors.
Don’t get me wrong. I actually like tile floors. They are easy to clean, cool in the summer, and when done right, can look fantastic. But the “brilliant” person who installed the tile in this house, used counter top size tiles on the floors and the effect, along with the poor grout job and cracked, uneven, and broken tiles was pretty unappealing. I hated the floors even before we bought the house.
Finally, I was fed up enough to start this project. I knew it was going to take at least two weeks to accomplish. It actually took three. And I had to convince my husband and two older sons to help with some of the heavier work.
One of the reasons we kept putting off this project was because we couldn’t agree on the new flooring. My husband wanted larger newer tile or planed wood. I wanted wood floors but I didn’t want to have to do all the staining and treating myself. I have done this before and not only is it time consuming and stinky, it has to be redone every couple of years. It took some time to convince the man of the house that prefabricated wood flooring was the better choice. But eventually, the price and my arguments won the day.
We began the project by removing the tile in the kitchen. This is where my sons came in handy. The older of the two was home full time for the holidays and could be my “labor” force during the day. His brother joined him in the evenings and their father joined in on the weekends.
The flooring in this room had a crack that ran from one end of the kitchen under the cabinets, to the other end under the dishwasher. The tiles were loose and in really bad shape so out they came. Had they been in better condition, we could have laid the new flooring on top of them. More on that in a bit.
Once the flooring was out, we realized why the original floor had cracked. It had been laid over an expansion seam. That’s the seam in the upper half of this photo. As this house was built in the early 50s, I guess expansion seams in the foundation were normal. I’m told it was one way of keeping foundations from cracking due to earthquake damage. The darker grey area of the floor is a patch where the foundation was cut into and a sewer line from the kitchen to the outside was later laid in the early 70s. Before that, the house was on septic. Unfortunately, these two issues had caused the floor to be unlevel. This was something we had prepared for.
Once the tiles was out and the kitchen’s concrete subfloor was cleaned, we coated it with cement “glue”, the same compound that we used on the counter tops to get the cement to adhere to the tile that we covered.
This had to then cure for 24 hours. While I waited, we tackled the rest of the tiled areas of the house. In several places, the tiles had not been laid flat so we had a lot of ridges. We took a 3 foot metal level and on our hands and knees, ran it along the tiled floors. Any tiles that were not level, were removed and adhesive and filler were applied. For a day, the floors looked pretty bad.
We could have removed all the tiles from the house , but after some research we discovered that tile underneath our new wood flooring would add an additional layer of moisture and heat protection. As we live in an area that has HOT summers (we are in the desert after all) and does get snow and rain in the winter, we figured additional protection was a great idea. So we left as much as the original flooring intact as possible.
Once the cement patches were cured, the vapor barrier went down.
This was the fun part. We bought interlocking wood planks and the floors, once we reached this point, went fairly quickly. We had both the kitchen and the dining room laid in one Saturday. The halls took longer because of all the cutting and fitting involved.
Before we could install the baseboards however, we had a bit of a problem to solve.
The floors where we had kept the tile as a subfloor, were now higher than the floors without tile. This was a problem in the doorway between my kitchen and dining room, in the doorway between the hall and the hall bath (we chose not to lay wood in the bathrooms since these rooms get a lot of water spilt on the floors and this would be detrimental to wood flooring), and in the doorway between the kitchen and the game room where we have a step up and a Dutch door separating the two rooms.
We needed a solution. We couldn’t slope that wood and expect it not to buckle and crack. We needed another medium for the thresholds. After some careful thought, I suggested we try a rock floor (Quickset cement embedded with smoothed river rock). In order to do this, I had to create a pattern of stone that could be put in place in a matter of minutes before the cement hardened. So, I created ma template on a sheet of paper, and laid out my rock.
Each threshold was different in depth and length so this template pattern had to be recreated three times and the appropriate number of stones counted out for each threshold before we began to work on them.
We built a wood frame for each threshold area and poured in levelor to create a slightly ramped surface between each elevation. I picked up several bags of polished stone at the Dollar Store for the thresholds.
Then it was time to try to recreate what I could see in my mind. We had to work fast. My husband poured the cement while I quickly set the rock. My daughter watched the clock to let me know about how much time I had. There was no way one person could do these areas alone. The cement hardens too fast.
Once the thresholds were in, the cement had to cure for 48 hours. That meant locking the pets out of the house and keeping the kids off the newly placed flooring.
It didn’t look like much as it dried. But after the 48 hours were up, the thresholds were sprayed with water, the stones were wiped clean of cement dust, and three coats of water sealant were applied. The finished thresholds turned out better than I’d hoped.
Once the thresholds were completed, we could put in the baseboards. I wanted rustic so we bought plain 1×4 strips and routered them on the tops. Viola, instant baseboards.