Monday, December 26, 2011

Renovation An Inch At a Time

I like before and after pictures. In a big gorgeous magazine spread, preferably. Of someone else's project. That is the junk food of renovation. Tasty, prettily wrapped, easy to digest, and not your problem.

In my own personal renovation world, I had to cook up my own satisfaction, and it meant getting things done down, dirty, and dusty. And about one inch at a time. In July we were still working hard to get any progress on the upstairs. We had carpet out of one room, paneling out of both. There were nails and carpentry staples and carpet tack strip everywhere.

It was at that point I started making some decisions that were based more on the time I had left to get moved in, the money I had available (practically none, and dwindling rapidly), and being too tired to really fight it anymore. This all sounds like a bad way to go, except that it totally wasn't. I think in a way it ended up keeping me from ripping out some of the charm of the house.

In the twin's room was a built in desk that I wavered all over the place about whether to keep or rip out. At first? Keep it. Discover the ooky pinkish paneling went behind it? Rip it out! Running out of time? Keep it! Then I was going keep it, but replace the top with a new counter.  And then......duh. What was I thinking? I kept the desktop, which was metal edged and topped with old sheet linoleum, dark blue, and marbled throughout with lighter colors:

We will fight to the death to defend our linoleum!

 This linoleum was built like serious TANK. It wasn't cut, scraped, faded, dinged, stained, warped, or bent after at least a solid 40 years. And I was about to set two 7 year old boys loose in this room. Why mess with it?

The only other thing to deal with was the paneling that ran behind the desk. Painting it with white paint made the bizarre-colored stain bleed through, and I wasn't at all fond of the idea of the boys finger-printing up a white wall behind such a high-traffic area. I found a $5 mis-tint of dark blue paint that worked well with colors we had chosen:
This is as clean as a desktop ever gets in my household.
I still need to paint the end of the desk, on the right, and underneath. It's difficult to tell in the photo, but the dark paint color and the blue linoleum actually coordinate well. And the $5 paint was a better, and more time saving solution than either ripping out the the whole thing or even replacing just the counter.

In the same room, I was at first so disappointed to NOT find hardwood floors under the carpet that it took me a while to realize that the vinyl composition tile, while not perfection, was in reasonably good condition. True, it had holes in it here and there from carpet tacks and an occasional cracked tile, but it was SOLIDLY down. Besides, a serious amount of my discretionary money had gone literally down the tubes in plumbing repair. And again, I repeat,  I was about to set two 7 year olds loose in this room.

There was, however, the question of the green carpet glue scum left behind. That's where my Mom came in. To say she's a clean freak is seriously underestimating the threat she brings against dirt. My Mom brings the clean like the Marines bring amphibious landing. Smack down, take out, and kill. She spent days on her hands and knees with a paint scraper, a scrub brush, hot water, and various other weapons of destruction, and in the end defeated that carpet glue. While we had to go looking for the now almost unheard of "liquid floor wax" (Hey, 1966, your household cleaners are calling!), Mom performed miracles on that floor.

It's a streaky brown tile, almost purple looking in the right light, very dark, and with lighter colors of caramel tan and ivory. It's a great counterpoint and good grounding to the pale blue we chose for the walls. It's set in alternating directions, and despite the nail holes and other distress of aging, it's been a good floor for little boys.

Looking much better.
Like milk chocolatey swirls.

After hauling out all that stinky stained sculptured carpet in that room, after my Mom possibly set herself up for her second hip replacement scraping scum and waxing that old floor, we thought nothing could really be worse.

We were wrong.

After Grant had to take up the carpet in the other bedroom (the Cowboy Room) because of the bathroom faucet leak, we had to take it all the way. Which was easier said than done. We hoped we'd find some linoleum tile underneath like we had in the other bedroom, but it wasn't to be. In fact we couldn't find bottom. The previous owners had put down carpet. When that needed replacing, they smacked another layer of carpet pad and carpet OVER the first, instead of removing the first. And they did that TWICE. It was nightmarish. And filthy.

When Grant got the carpeting out of there, he found.....we don't know. It was as if once we worked through three layers of carpet plus pad there was no "there" there. I'm guessing it was some sort of carpet under-layment at one time, pre-decay. It was black. It was sort of spongy in places like foam. It was glued down solid in places. It was powdery in places. In some of the darker corners of the bedroom, it would puff up off the floor in the drafts, like it was attempting a gaseous state. It creepily seemed as though it might suddenly become an old episode of the X-files, where some weird black thing leaps up and tries to eat Scully and Mulder's brains by way of going straight up their noses. We could catch glimpses of plywood subfloor under there, but it was hidden under what I seemed to keep referring to in my mind as "the black fog."

It did not, in the end, attempt to kill anyone. But we never turned our back on it.
 A paint scraper didn't seem to work because in places it was still foam-like. Vacuuming it didn't seem to work either, because it was still, a lot of it, anyway, stuck down. And I didn't have any cash to just put down something else over it. I was going to have to get down to the subfloor, somehow.

I was beginning to consider an exorcism.

Reinforcements were about to arrive, in the form of my sister, otherwise known as My Favorite Contractor. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds and looks like the black stuff may have been roofing felt (also called tar paper).