Last weekend, my husband finally tackled the one project he has been dreading —uncovering exactly what lies underneath the old kitchen floor. When you own a house that was built in 1840, you expect a lot of “decorating” and “modernizing” has happened over the years. With this house we have already had to wrestle with whether or not to save the 80-year-old oak floors that were laid over the original wide pine floors in the downstairs. We decided to save the oak. We knew there had been a fire in the original kitchen so there was a good chance those floors were trash. The back summer kitchen that would become our mudroom laundry area was a mystery.
The first layer was modern laminate that the former owners installed. It looked okay but they were not contractors and all of the original doors dragged across the floor and a few wouldn’t open all the way. Plus we had opened back up an original hallway and it had different flooring.
The second layer was plywood.
The third layer was black and white linoleum.
The fourth layer was yellow linoleum.
The fifth layer—you guessed it—was plywood. Did you know plywood was introduced in 1865? Me neither.
The sixth layer was wood. Unfortunately, it was not stunning wide pine. The back kitchen was a later addition so although the wood was pine, it was a uniform eight inches wide.
Now what? That’s always the problem with old houses. The hallway boards were in pretty good shape. The main area was in pretty good shape, too, but the connecting pieces were a mess. The big problems started with the bedroom. It is half covered with heart pine. Also a later addition but a nice one. We had already been wrestling with how to finish the bedroom floor because we added six feet to the room and matching with antique heart pine is very expensive.
I like wood. Before this I have always lived in a house with all wood flooring. Even my closets had hardwood, but that was because all of my other houses were neglected and a mess but not modernized. People do a lot of bad with current trends to old houses. Remember 1970’s avocado green? Our first house barely had a bathroom and hadn’t been occupied for ten years. My first choice ( whatever I do to a house) is to make it timeless.
The argument began. My husband was all for putting 12x 24 slate tiles across the whole back- hallway, mudroom, laundry and bathroom—easy to clean and lasts forever. We would patch the bedroom with oak and paint over the heart pine. The utility areas would be neat and durable and the bedroom would maintain the look and feel of wood.
I really like wood. Turns out, painting over the heart pine doesn’t really bother me. I even like painted wood. Why couldn’t we paint the whole thing, imperfections and all?
My husband hated that idea. Painted floors show dirt, scratch easily and in this area, with all the patching would never look great.
He’s right. I know all those patched floors with different size wood, going in different directions would be messy looking. Sometimes I am too much of a romantic. The painted uneven wood floor of my dreams would be charming. The real thing would be a headache. Even with the six additional feet the bedroom is tiny so that floor would hold up to paint. I am purist but I really cannot see spending several thousand dollars just to match the heart pine that will be under the bed.
And so it goes: sometimes what hides underneath is a gem, sometimes it’s just old. You can’t always tell until you scratch the surface.