pulling up the carpet

Images and text by Gabrielle.

When we moved in, pretty much the first thing on my fix-it/change-it list was getting rid of the carpet in the dining area. Partly because the carpet was stained and worn, but mostly because carpet + eating doesn’t work for our family. I realize there are many, many people the world over who have carpets or rugs under their kitchen tables and get along just fine. But I feel like carpet under the table leaves me spending too much time scrubbing out stains from spilled milk, and I also find myself feeling angry at totally normal messes or spills that wouldn’t typically stress me out. Best to get rid of the carpet.

So we immediately started scheming about what kind of flooring we would put in instead.

My first instinct was concrete. I adore a highly polished concrete floor! And I like a nice industrial looking matte one as well. I like concrete floors when I see them in stores. And I like them when I see them in homes. Concrete floors appeal to me immediately whenever I encounter them. I’ve been warned the floors can feel too cold or unwelcoming, but after the old stone floors in France, I wasn’t too worried about it, and know I can warm things up with area rugs (just not under the kitchen table! Hah.).

But. After an initial consultation with a contractor, we thought we should also look at alternative options. Because he told us concrete floors would actually be quite expensive — even more expensive then hardwood! And he also said that the weight of the concrete floors might be too much for our house to structurally bear.

So, I didn’t totally give up on the idea of concrete (I’m wondering if there is a light-weight/skim-coat alternative? Or maybe a DIY version we can tackle ourselves?), but I began to think of second choices, and I landed on industrial grade linoleum/vinyl. Imagine the hallways of a school or a hospital. That’s the sort of material I’m thinking of.

We had this type of flooring put into the kitchen of our first home and I loved it! Because it’s industrial-grade, it’s made to handle high traffic and heavy use. The maintenance was wonderfully easy, you can give it high shine or keep it matte, there are dozens and dozens of color options available, and since the flooring pigment goes all the way through the material, if you scratch the floor, you don’t see a contrasting undersurface.

By the way, it’s been over a decade since we last looked into this flooring, but I remember hearing that true linoleum wasn’t really made any more, and that available options were all types of vinyl now. I have no idea if that’s still true.

Anyway, I started really thinking hard about linoleum/vinyl floors.

wood floors revealed

But then we got curious. We decided to pull up the carpet in the living room/dining nook area and find out what kind of subfloor we’d be working with.

Turns out the carpet was hiding (and happily, protecting) gorgeous hardwood floors!

We couldn’t have been more excited. The floors are truly beautiful, and in really good shape. We couldn’t believe our good luck! So of course, we immediately forgot all about the cement floors and linoleum floors and starting picturing our furnishings with these lovely hardwoods. We especially loved the idea of being able to use what was already there.

And then.

We pulled up the carpet in the dining area.

wood then plywood

Alas! No hardwoods there. Just plywood subfloor. Turns out the dining nook was an addition to the original floor plan. Seeing the plywood also explained why the beautiful wood was covered up in the first place — the owners had wanted one consistent flooring throughout that space. Which makes sense. We’ve already experienced that the two different floorings make the rooms feel smaller.

Which leads me to this: How hard would it be to add-on to the existing wood floors? Could we mimic the widths and the style and then refinish everything in the same finish or stain? Would trying to work with the existing floors end up being cost prohibitive compared to replacing them? I’ve never worked on any kind of wood floor restoration and don’t know what my options are.

It seems like I either need to add to the existing wood floor, or replace all the flooring in that area and pretend we never uncovered the beautiful hardwoods in the first place. Which seems like a shame. But then again, the existing wood doesn’t cover that big of an area, so maybe saying goodbye to it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

I know it’s hard to form an opinion without being in the space in real life, but I’d love your thoughts. How would you handle this existing wood floor? Would you do everything you can to work with it? Or say goodbye and go with something else — perhaps even a different hardwood?

P.S. — Curious about that white area between the hardwood and plywood? It’s a sloping transition made of wood and plaster. There was a lip where the hardwood ended, but the owners didn’t want to feel the lip under the carpet, so this made the transition more gradual. Here’s a close-up:

plaster transition