Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Natural flooring - no chemicals needed! Part 1

Original carpeting
When I bought my new house in Roslyn, all three bedrooms had carpeting in them. The two downstairs rooms had older carpeting and the bedroom upstairs had relatively newer (2011ish) carpeting. Since the home had been used as a vacation rental for the last 5+ years, the carpeting needed replacing. Even though the carpets had been professionally cleaned after the sale, they still smelled like pet stains. In fact, the whole house had a weird, musty odor to it. Which isn't too surprising for a house built in 1925. But, I wanted to get to the bottom of the stink. And, frankly, I hate carpeting so I wanted them out of there!

Daniel and I decided to pull up the carpeting in the downstairs bedrooms to see what we had to work with. My hope was that there would be some magical hardwood floors down under there. That was the case in my 1956 Seattle home. In that house, it was an easy carpet removal and the underlying floor didn't even need refinishing. This was not the case in my Roslyn home.

Vinyl under carpet pad
Underneath the carpeting and carpet pad in Roslyn was some stylistically challenged linoleum/vinyl floor. It turns out that it was circa 1957. How do I know? Well, because underneath the vinyl flooring was a layer of newspaper, dated from 1957 (the other room had vinyl with newspaper from 1963).

I didn't want to get my hopes up as Daniel sliced through the vinyl to uncover all the newspaper. Fortunately, the vinyl flooring in both bedrooms was not glued down but was just laying directly on top of the newspaper. We weren't so lucky in the hallway leading to the kitchen where the vinyl was glued down directly to what was underneath (more on that later).

1957 newspaper!
We saved quite a bit of the newspaper that we could salvage. We thought it would be fun to frame some of the more bizarre advertisements and articles. And, it turned out the strange, musty smell throughout the house was actually coming from the newspaper in the bedrooms and the hallway. Imagine 60-year-old newspaper that had been annually moist and then dried out again. Removing the newspaper removed the smell!

Douglas Fir!
And, what was underneath the newspaper? Beautiful, glorious Douglas Fir hardwood flooring. The type of flooring commonly used in homes built in that era. They weren't in great condition and the end result of doing any sanding or refinishing would still look rather rustic. But, I felt it would be a criminal act to cover it with new flooring or otherwise replace it. I was determined to try to rehab what was originally there. And do it in a non-toxic way. Of course.

Unfortunately, there were a few spots in one of the bedrooms that needed repair and/or replacement, so that sent us on a hunt looking for reclaimed flooring from a few different reuse stores in Seattle. We ended up not being able to secure anything suitable in time and just got new Douglas Fir panels for the repairs.

After sanding and repairs
After the repairs were done by Daniel, he went about sanding the floors (with a little help from his son). This ended up being a lot more work than we were anticipating, but he got it done.

After the sanding, I vacuumed and cleaned the floors. I had already done a ton of research on what I wanted to do with the floors after they were sanded. I definitely didn't want to use any kind of polyurethane floor varnish or finish, even though it would look really cool. Every decision I made on making updates to this house would be non-toxic. I was determined to not compromise on anything.

After the final coat
I had decided to use a mix of pure tung oil and citrus solvent (an alternative to mineral spirits). Tung oil has zero VOCs and, when mixed with citrus solvent, makes an all-natural finish. The process is rather painstaking, it takes about a month to fully cure and it smells a bit like an orange bomb went off in the house. But, it was fully worth the effort and the lack of chemical horrors that generally comes with refinishing floors.

The floors are still a little oily feeling a month later, but have dulled down to a nice color. I can do a non-toxic coat on top of it to give it more sheen, but my kids really love and prefer the rustic look. So, at this point, I'm just going to leave the floors as they are for now.

The finished floors!
What about the bedroom upstairs? What excitement did we find up there? Well, I'm planning on covering that in Part 2 since this post is already getting too long. Needless to say, I'm thrilled with how the floors turned out. The total cost was fairly minimal (renting the sander, dump fees and the cost of tung oil and citrus solvent was only a couple hundred dollars).

What about the downstairs hallway, you ask? Well, the vinyl was glued directly on the Douglas Fir. We pulled up as much as possible but the hardwood was not salvageable, even with sanding. I'll be covering what we did as a temporary measure on Part 3, which is pretty exciting (to me) as well! I'll give you a hint - it was free and we used 100% reused materials.

2 comments:

Kris said...

I'm so happy you are blogging again! Welcome back! I love Roslyn and am envious you've gotten to move out of the city. Bonus that your new partner is handy, too!

Crunchy Chicken said...

@Kris - Thanks! The handy partner wasn't by design, but certainly is a huge bonus!!