The Kitchen Renovation - Phase 1: Wood Floors

5:00 AM


Ok, the Great Kitchen Renovation Project of 2014!!
Our house was built in 1935.
The previous owners did a big gut/renovate/update in 1994.
We bought the house in 2006.
The kitchen was already in need of updating, but that was well beyond our scope at the time, and over time, has become more of a priority. I have always hated the tile floors and the white appliances. And when my oven burners started to quit working, it was just time.

Since kitchens are very expensive to update/renovate, I decided to break this project into manageable bite-sized chunks. 

Phase 1: Replace all appliances and get rid of the tile. Replace tile with hardwood floors like through the rest of the house.
Phase 2: Repaint all the walls in the breakfast room, hallway, bathroom and kitchen.
Phase 3: Remove some cabinets on the top and make some open shelving.
Phase 4: Get all new cabinet fronts (keep existing structure) and repaint the cabinets (white on top, a dark navy/dark grey color on the bottom). Rip out countertops and backsplash and replace with marble countertop and white subway tile backsplash.
Phase 5: all new lighting.


Given the way our house is built, we decided not to try to enlarge the kitchen, because that would cost way more than we could afford, and would probably require extending the whole upstairs too. Again, too much.
And since I felt like I'd rather spend more money on the appliances, we opted to rip out our tile floors ourselves.  If we'd known ahead of time just how BIG a job that was, I might have gone a different route.
Let me just say, sweat equity.
I know my house in a whole new, intimate way.


Since the tile extended under our fridge, dishwasher and oven, it had to come out first. Which means the appliances had to come out first. Which means that we had to basically eat out for about 10 days straight. Eek.


We also stretched our knowledge base in this process. 
We took out our toilet and sink console all by ourselves. 
And ya'll, it is doing such things that really makes you kind of feel like a grown up.
You'd think having 4 kids would do that, but no, not really.


My super shabby cabinets...chewed up by a bored Golden Retriever...their day is coming...


First step: Remove the slide-in range and expose the ungodly amount of Golden Retriever hair under there. Try not to gag and be absolutely mortified as you vacuum up what basically amounts to a small dog!


And then there's the fridge gone. Also revealing lots of yucky grossness.


More ugly tile and nasty stuff under the dishwasher...I think I uncovered a pound of dog hair, half an alphabet, a few fossilized graham crackers and more dirt than I care to speak of.


So that's where you have been...


Since, as you can see, it's impossible to paint behind a toilet, we decided to leave the toilet and sink off until we repaint the bathroom. I'm done with red.


And then, after borrowing some pry bars, protective glasses and some hefty hammers, Kyle and I got to work. The original plan was for the wood to be laid Thursday and Friday (July 25-26). We returned from the Farm Sunday evening, began moving appliances out on Monday and by Tuesday night were ready to rip out tiles. Some tiles popped off easy. Others, not so much. 


Suffice it to say, it was a job well worth paying someone ELSE to do.
Our ears were ringing, our arms were sore, our whole bodies ached. Not to mention the sheer challenge of trying to do all this with a 10 month old baby who is bound and determined to not let you out of his sight.
It made for lots of tears, and teamwork and cricks in the neck.
And this was just the kitchen. Once the tiles were up, there was plywood wall to wall with little bits of glue that had to be chipped off. It was enough to make me almost tear up. 


But what can you do? You just have to keep going. There's no stopping.
So while I plugged away in the kitchen, Kyle got a few feet into the breakfast room and discovered a whole new ball of wax. There were original 1935 hardwood floors under his tile. And apparently, there was a serious issue leveling it all, because as he went to the left of the room, there was some black wire mesh with concrete board on top, getting thicker and thicker the more left he went. There was a serious slope to that floor. And yes, original hardwoods. Did I mention that? Did I also mention we'd already bought all the wood to go down? Real 3/4" solid wood planks, same 2.25" width as our original floors. We just didn't know there was original flooring underneath, or we'd have used it! The tiles we'd pulled up to check had all been in the kitchen where we just saw plywood. Grrr.


Here's the wire mesh and cement board under the tiles in the red bathroom. It was easier to work up than the breakfast room, though. And I actually enjoyed that part.
The thing is, I feel like I really did bond with my house through all this. I got down to its bones. And I love it more for it. 


Under the tile, under the cement board, there it is....the original wood flooring.


And Kyle wrestling to get the snarly mess of gunk off it. This smile was purely for the camera. This was back-breaking, exhausting, really hard work. And yes, we did it!

So if you're wondering what we did about the original wood floors, I have to tell you we really struggled with that.  I would have loved nothing more than to use them. However, they really really sloped. And while we could see the condition of what was in the breakfast room and bathroom, to know what was going on in the kitchen under the plywood, we would have had to rip up all that plywood. And it was secured by 2 inch long staples and lots of 4 inch long nails. And after ripping it up, which would have taken days, there's no telling what the wood would be like. And then, to get the wood in shape, it'd need some repairs and then to be sanded and stained - a process that would have required us to move out of our house for at least a week. 

As much as the idea of using the original floors appealed to me, the work it could/would require was not at all appealing. We opted to continue with our plan - put down solid wood planks over what there was. 


Which required some substantial leveling in the breakfast room.
And during this process, it was decided to move the installation date back to the next Monday to allow us time to get everything ready and for the wood to get to the right humidity levels. 
So Kyle bought some plywood, borrowed some more tools, and added to his growing repertiore of handy-man skills. 


Leveling the floor (sob sob, covering the original floors....) with plywood and roofing shingles. A little trick that allows you to account for gradual declines.


Plywooded up and leveled out.


What a good job he did.
Did I mention the dust yet?
The cement board basically coated my entire downstairs with a nasty layer of dust that probably shortened my lifespan.


And at last, the day arrived when the floor guys came in and took over and gave us the wood floors we'd worked so hard for. 


It's lovely. And man, I kid you not, the feel of wood under my feet in the kitchen is 1,000 times better than tile. And I'm SO glad we went with real solid wood planks instead of manufactured wood. I do not regret that for one second. And now that our floors look nice and fresh....it sadly accentuates the pathetic state of our cabinets and paint. I keep reminding myself...one thing at a time...


And maybe eventually all that cement dust will come off my floors in the foyer (that's why they look so awful in this picture). And some day in the future, we will refinish the rest of the house. Someday. 
(I feel like Scarlett O'Hara...)

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