1902 Victorian

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I've been seeing vinyl checkerboard kitchen floors right and left lately, and it's making me wonder.

We could remove the brick-print vinyl and leave the particleboard underneath. Then put the new tile on top (I like 12 x 12 industrial vinyl composition tile and marmoleum tile, but the marmoleum costs five times as much).

We'd do the same through the kitchen, office and back hall, so everything would look continuous (remember the discussion about what to do with the back hall floor?).

But then I saw on the oft-mentioned Sanborn maps that the office and enclosed back hall were already in place by 1925, so I pulled up the floor vent to see a hint of what's under the office vinyl. Looky-loo, we've got pine under there, too. Hmmm.

So now I'm having a quandary. Are you surprised? I feel like I'm always wringing my hands about one house decision or other. Please help me!

Pros of industrial vinyl composition tiles:
  • Darwin and his dad have laid this kind of floor many times before and would do an excellent job.
  • The project would be less labor intensive.
  • We don't know what condition the pine floor is in; we might get the particleboard torn out to discover the pine is too damaged to be attractive.
  • Ooh, what if the floor had splinters? I am a big baby about splinters.
  • Vinyl is easier on the feet and dropped dishes.
  • Painted pine would be easily scratched by chairs pushing back, etc.
  • Industrial tile costs only about $1 per square foot.
  • The tile and particleboard would keep the house warmer than if we went down to the pine (there's no subfloor).
  • The vinyl checkerboard would have kind of a '30s-50s look, which would be nice with my Fiestaware.

    Pros of painted pine:
  • We would be restoring something original to the kitchen; very little else in there is original.
  • Putting down tile would mean adding a layer of glued-down stuff, which wouldn't be fun to remove if we changed our minds later.
  • I would feel guilty about not utilizing an original resource in the house; would I always wonder?
  • Would industrial tile make our house look like an elementary school?
  • We could paint the floor all one color instead of a checkerboard and make some of those cool painted canvas floor cloths to solve the hard/cold/paint-scratched-by-chairs problem.

    As you can see, there are good points for both options. Every time I see a photo of a vinyl/lino checkerboard floor or see one on TV, I think how great it looks. But then I saw a photo in the March Old House Journal from a 1930 ad for congoleum ... it showed a pine floor covered with a congoleum rug, and it looked so like what our kitchen must have then.

    So what do you think? I know a lot of old house people are anti-vinyl of any kind. I think I want permission to go with the vinyl. Or maybe I won't be able to make a decision and feel comfortable with it until we rip out at least one sheet of particleboard and evaluate the condition of the pine floor and how much work it will require to look good.

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    derek said...

    I like the vinyl floors more than painted pine. If the rest of the kitchen isn't going to be restored to look like a 1902 kitchen, then I don't think it matters. A lot of kitchens and bathrooms were updated in the 20's and 30's. Marmoleum has a lot more than black and white tile. They have all kinds of borders, and a lot of colours. We're planning on Marmoleum for our kitchen. Ours was originally douglas fir, as was the whole house. I think it was covered almost right away though, there are 3 layers or linoleum/vinyl on top of the wood.

    12:34 PM  
    Nathan said...

    What about good ole linoleum? Not as expensive as marmoleum, but just as classic; not as cheapo as VCT (vinyl composition tile). A big problem with most VCT is that clear topcoat... you want a contiguous material or it'll wear poorly in time. It's also an environmental problem both in manufacture and once it's installed. Linoleum is contiguous and eco-friendly too. No offgassing!

    12:37 PM  
    Beth said...

    Permission for VCT granted. :)
    I personally feel you can be a little more liberal with kitchens as frankly, I want a dishwasher.
    We used VCT in the kitchen and love it. The dog abuses it on a daily basis as it's on her path from running in through the dog door, and it's fine with just a quick mop.
    You can juuust see it in this picture:
    We checkerboarded dark grey and light grey.
    When we had ours installed (not by us), the installer even cut it around the baseboards so that we didn't have to take anything off, put it back on, etc.

    12:56 PM  
    Beth said...

    I didn't realize there's a better picture of our VCT, complete with dog attempting to ruin it:

    12:58 PM  
    Brian Heckel said...

    you gotta check the pine. when your gonna do the floors at least look. all its gonna cost is maybe a 2 ft sq of underlayment.

    1:08 PM  
    mindy said...


    We've thought about VCT checkerboard too...... but like you, I can't make any decisions about the kitchen. Why is that room so hard?? I worked in the kitchen of an old mansion-turned-banquet-hall (http://www.oneidacommunity.org/) that had a checkerboard vct floor. It was constantly used and abused, but held up well. It had a lot of scratches, but you wouldn't notice until you looked closely. And it seemed to blend well with the house's historic interiors.

    1:27 PM  
    Kristin said...

    I just did a price comparison for VCT vs. linoleum/marmoleum ... the VCT would cost us $900, the lino $2,700. That's a pretty big difference for us. Armstrong actually has a pretty wide variety of color options in VCT, too. If we choose tile, next will be figuring out what color!

    2:53 PM  
    Anonymous said...

    I'll be the lone wolf on this one, I guess: go with the pine floors you already have, if they are in reasonable shape. Why do the floors have to match, by the way? I can understand ripping up nasty floor, but old homes usually have additions with different flooring types or colors. Not mucking up the floors you have with another layer would be appreciated by future homeowners, too.

    Also: paint a dark undercoat beneath your top coat and it can look neat with a few scratches. Most floors will require sliders beneath chairs anyway. No home is ever perfect; wear and tear makes it special.

    In the end, you've got to live with it, so do whatever your heart desires and budget allows. I still vote for the pine! I'd kill to have old wood floors beneath the shag we had in our house.

    – Texas T-bone

    4:08 PM  
    Jocelyn said...

    We were in a similar predicament last year. We had decided to use vinyl as a compromise and bought some nice granny smith and blue muted tones. Then we ripped off the 3 layers of old tile and found a nice maple floor underneath-not perfect mind you- but nice.
    We are now storing the tile to use in our 2nd floor unit when we turn the apartment. (We have a 2-flat)
    I'd advise inspecting the floor before buying anything. We couldn't bear to screw a subfloor into the maple floor and destroy it.

    I suppose purists would be against the vinyl, but the look is pretty good really. We have a 100 year olf building and we try to stay period, but we are not purists- can't afford it always.

    4:39 PM  
    Jocelyn said...

    We purchased Armstrong Imperial Texture in Granny smith and Silver Blue-both muted tones. It's on their website under commercial tile and it was like 55 cents/per tile from Home Depot.
    They have some nice colors and I agree that it fits in period homes. Most people wouldn't know the difference in my opinion between lineoleum and vinyl unless they have looked into it or are environmentally conscious.

    4:45 PM  
    Gary said...

    For the sake of cost and asthetics you could paint a checkered pattern on the original pine floors. Sanding the floor for painting is easier than sanding for a wood finish. Paint the floor and slap polyurethane over your paint job. If you don't like it, when you have the money you can put down some masonite or backerboard and then tile the floor how you want it done. I'm betting you won't tile it after it is painted. If you find holes in the original floor I can tell you how to plug them. All very simple (not easy, but simple.)

    10:16 PM  
    Kasmira said...

    If you are concerned about chairs scratching the floor, just put sticky felt pads on the bottom. I'm in my second all-hardwood floors place and I love sticky felt pads!

    7:49 AM  
    Nathan said...

    I love what T-Bone said about wear and tear~ a good material ages well and shows use as character, not damage. I'm absolutely shocked at the linoleum price you got~ my HD has the flecky type for about a dollar tile, and it looks great in my bathroom. I also love that in bare feet it FEELS like something, not a plastic film.
    There are different grades of VCT~ if you use it (as these posts are trending), use the commercial grade stuff. My horizon for wear and tear is more on the order of decades than years.

    And, yeah... why ARE kitchens SO HARD? So much equipment and activity? We expect so much of them.

    8:27 AM  

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