Monday, October 17, 2005

anatomy of a floor

After five years in this dingy old faux-ranch house I decided I couldn’t stand the carpet in the living area any longer. The key word to describe these houses is “DARK”. The walls of this room are paneled in wood so dark it makes the fireplace the lightest part of the room. I’ve put at least six coats of paint in varying shades of white, pink, or yellow over the paneling in attempts to lighten the room. The floor was another source of irritation. Beige carpet showed all the dirt and anything else was too dark. And so much work to vacuum. It had to go.

Underneath the carpet was the original linoleum that had been glued down almost 50 years ago when the house was built. The yellow sun pattern, which can never have been anything but atrocious, made me wonder what people who built and bought these houses could have possibly seen in it. It had become deeply gouged from innumerable furniture legs, had faded unevenly and was beyond cleaning. I wanted to buy some of those snap-together planks of Pergo or engineered wood to cover the ugly mess and maybe install them myself to save money. (My bad back was protesting at the thought of all the bending that would be required.) Unfortunately the linoleum had been affixed to particleboard, a sure sign of crappy American workmanship. It was deteriorating badly along the door from water that had been tracked in over the years and none of the manufacturers would guarantee flooring installed on top of it.

So I’m having real hardwood floors installed by people who know how install them. A week ago two guys ripped out the old particleboard. What a job! It had so many big nails they had to cut the board into 3 foot square sections as it lay and then pull up a section at a time. When you start ripping out stuff you start finding out what your house is really made of. I got to look at the subfloor and it seemed to be much more poorly done than the “cheap” 1940s tract house I used to live in. This neighborhood was built during a time when pier-and-beam foundations were being phased out in favor of slab foundations and the uneven spacing and wide gaps of the subfloor show how builders in the early 60s had begun to prefer quantity over quality. My floor installers left the original tarpaper or “builder’s felt” on the subfloor a

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