living & dining, part 1: tearing out the carpet

06.02 heaven has hardwood floors. so does hell.

click to see the full photo galleryOur first project, a dark episode in our lives hereinafter known as "Tearing Out the Carpet", will undoubtedly shock you into speechlessness if you don't run screaming from the room in terror. The project itself was deceptively simple and we expected that with some hard work and cleaning, we would be enjoying the luxuries of beautiful hardwood floors in a relatively short amount of time.

It was a stereotypical carpet horrorshow: horrible orange and brown shag as far as the eye could see. It was about twenty years past the end of its life, smelled of stale smoke, and left a fine film of fibers on our shoes when we walked across it. It was long past time to put the thing out of its misery.

We started in the living room, This story would've ended differently if we'd started in the dining room; it's probably a good thing we started where we did, since it went more or less as expected. Okay, so there were stains. We weren't surprised -- the former owner had two small dogs and after ten days spent cleaning the kitchen, we knew all too well what kind of housekeeper she was. Still, you can see the lovely pattern of the two types of wood used in the floor. Sure, the stains aren't going to disappear completely even after it's sanded, but all-in-all, it's in pretty good shape. It has character. And since we figured it would be the worse of the two rooms, it's encouraging. We were excited to do the dining room and figured it would take us less time.

Which would've been funny if it had happened to someone else.

Note that the pictures were not faked or modified in any way. And keep in mind that those pictures were taken a week and a half after the carpet came up, after it had been swept, vacuumed with a shop vac, and scrubbed with TSP...twice. In fact, we were getting ready to sand the floor when those pictures were taken.

Realizing that there was no salvaging this floor but that structurally, it's fine (i.e. none of the wood is rotten), we decided to paint it. Someday, when we have some money, we'll put down a new hardwood floor. But in the meantime, this was a good, workable solution. And at least we can walk on it now.

It didn't go smoothly, of course. It never does. We had trouble with the sander -- the one we rented sucked rocks in a major way -- and the worst of the spots wasn't completely dry so sanding it was somewhat impossible. We weren't going to wait the months it would take for it to dry out, though, so we managed. Yeah, yeah -- you're not supposed to sand, then primer and paint over wet wood. Then again, the Laws of Home Improvement are null and void when it comes to this floor. We did it anyway.

And the floor speaks for itself.

It took us a full day to sand the dining room floor and another full day to put down the Kilz primer (nasty stuff, that) and two coats of paint. We didn't have the time, energy, or money to sand and finish the living room floor at the same time but that's okay. A good scrubbing with TSP and it looks pretty nice.

(UPDATE: We finally painted the living room floor when we painted the living and dining rooms. We also repainted the dining room floor because of a certain Spot of Doom. The overall layers of Kilz and paint can now be measured in inches. The more layers of stuff between my feet and those spots is a Very Good Thing, says I.)

click to see full photo gallery