Day 5: We tore out the nasty carpet. Hallelujah!!! The carpet was the easy part. It was glued down to vinyl flooring and came up with very little effort. The vinyl on the other hand was an entirely different story. In places where moisture had loosened the glue (at the back door and under the washing machine) it peeled up okay. Everywhere else we had to use a floor scraper and a thin square-nosed shovel. (I’ve seen these tools most often used tearing shingles off roofs.) This process took the entire day. The paper backing proved to be very difficult to get off the floor. We eventually decided that because we were covering it all, we didn’t have to get the sub-floor perfectly clean.
We also removed the baseboard heaters. It took some doing to find the right circuit breaker because it wasn’t marked. But once that was done, we un-wired the heaters, pulled the wiring back to the thermostat and covered the electrical box with a plate.
Days 6, 7 and 8: So the major issue with replacing the flooring in our kitchen has always been the fact that the floor is not level. We aren’t talking about a slight sag where the fridge sits. No, we’re talking about a two-inch drop in a six-foot span that is our dining room. To understand the problem, you first have to know that our house (at our closest estimate) was built in 1914. At some point, a back porch was enclosed to make the back entry/laundry/dining room. After some investigation, we determined that the back portion of the house was not sinking or sagging. We believe that the back porch was built with a slope for the water to run away from the house. When it was enclosed, they didn’t worry about silly things like the floor being level – specifically the big hump in the floor where the old outside wall used to be.
So, how to fix this problem? We brought in Hubby’s laser level, which he uses for sloping pipe, trails, sidewalks, etc., to figure out what “level” would actually look like. We determined that if we brought the outside edge of the flooring up the full two inches to make the floor level, we would have issues with the baseboard trim being above the electrical outlets and there would be some major issues with the door – as in we would have to cut at least an inch off a metal door, and then there was the threshold to deal with. We decided that if we brought the outside edge of the floor up one inch, that would significantly reduce the hump and slope of the floor without screwing everything else up.
Because we had a level line drawn on the wall, we determined that we could lay a sheet of one-inch plywood down against the wall, and that would bring a significant portion of the floor up to the right grade. I measured the area we needed to fill and came up with 150 square feet. We got three 50-pound sacks of a concrete floor leveling compound, which were supposed to cover 50 square feet each. We also got the recommended primer product because we were applying to a wood surface. If we hadn’t been doing this project in the middle of winter, I would have opened every door and window in the house because the primer stunk! I was expecting it to be a latex product, in reality it was really watery, and I have no idea what the purpose of it was, but we followed the directions and applied it.
We mixed up the floor leveler outside in a five-gallon bucket. After trial and error, we found this was definitely a two-person job. We put water in the bucket, ran the cordless drill with a paint stirrer while the other person poured the powder into the bucket. Every other technique left us with waaaay to many globs. Then we started pouring. Using a mason’s trowel, we broke up lumps that we missed. It was about the consistency of muffin batter, so it spread out on its own. The three bags didn’t cover near what I’d hoped. After going back to read the directions I saw that each bag was supposed to do 50 square feet 1/8 inch deep. That wasn’t even close to deep enough! We made another trip to the big box store and ended up using nine bags total.
Once we got the technique down, it was a relatively simple process. The only issues we had were building up a “dam” for the floor leveler around a really un-handy crawl space access door in the middle of the laundry room floor.
Oh yeah, and that little problem of the hole in the floor near the back door. I was standing on the island of plywood in the dining room watching the concrete level near the back door. It was moving and moving, and I kept thinking that I should be seeing it stop any time now. I got down on my hands and knees to study the situation, and I could see that the concrete was disappearing under the door. I stuck a corner of paper towel in the hole, and that didn’t slow down the flow. I shoved a broken splinter of wood in the hole – that didn’t stop it. Finally I took a scrap of plywood and shoved it into the concrete. There was still no noticeable slowing. I pushed down on the scrap of wood and found that it was floating. I held it there until the concrete got tacky. By then we had lost about half a bag of mix - back to the home improvement store.
Did I mention how happy I am to have a “flat” floor? Now my chair won’t rock back and forth while I’m eating. Hooray!
P.S.: I do not ever intend to go under the house to find out where the concrete went. I’ll leave that discovery for the next owners to look for and wonder about.