Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It all starts with a small detail. Some water damage by the corner of the sliding glass door in our kitchen. And a little water damage in the bathroom ceiling in the basement, directly under that door.

We've been talking replacing carpet in our family room for a while. Hemming and hawing over what to replace it with. We like the idea of wood. Or bamboo. And then we watched four kids dragging toys across new wood floors in my sister-in-laws house of Christmas. (Truthfully, mostly my kids. The cousins aren't quite as...unrestrained in their physical activity levels as mine are). Maybe laminate would be better.

Which rooms? The family room is the worst. 9 year-old "builders grade" carpet in the most trafficked room in the house. One spot in particular is the main thoroughfare between the garage and the rest of the house. Road grime. Tracked food. Toddlers.

Decision time. The family room is one large room with the kitchen and breakfast room. It would look nice to do all of them at once. But the kitchen has "builders grade" cabinets that are groaning under the weight of my dish addiction. And the vinyl was run under the cabinets. There is no removal of vinyl possible without removal of cabinets. The family room is also very open with the front room (the formal dining/sitting room). Upgrading the floor there would be very nice for the show-off appeal when you walk in the front door. Oddly, there is little or no carpet damage near the front door from foot traffic.

Back to the water damage. My husband cut up a small section of the vinyl near the door, to examine the results. Water is flowing into the house, not out of it, from the door. Probably poor installation. And the subfloor there needs replacing. Badly. Maybe the door as well.

Decision time. The kitchen floor has just received a unanimous nomination for floor replacement. There is no repairing the small patch of vinyl removed. And really no repairing the much larger patch that must be removed to fix the subfloor. But the $%^& vinyl is run under the cabinets. We will have to put new flooring on top of it.

Or remove the cabinets. And there's no way to remove and reinstall them gracefully. So that means new cabinets. And countertops. And everyone knows that I've been itching for double ovens, which means a complete re-design of the layout (where to put them? And how big of a fridge will fit? And can I get a 6-burner stove? Gas?) And did I mention my idea of moving the laundry room upstairs and using the existing laundry room as a walk-in pantry?

Ok, now its time to panic. Could we afford to re-do the kitchen? Possibly. Perhaps not with the laundry-room move idea (Plumbing. Re-configuring walls. And closets. And new flooring for the affected rooms).

But should we do this at all? Or should we cut enough of the vinyl back, repair the subfloor, and just install laminate in the family room and kitchen? And what if we feel like refurbishing the kitchen in, say, a year? Take up brand-new floors? What a waste.

Ack! Time to go hide now. Because I dream big, but when it comes to actually spending money, I freak bigger.


flatflo said...

I was looking at my kitchen as reading this and our vinyl disappears under the cabinets' toe kick. What if you carefully took off the toe kick and cut back the vinyl as flush as possible, then run the wood under the toe kick? You may need to trim down the toe kick to accommodate the height of the wood.
If you are thinking of a whole kitchen re-do, this may not work with a completely different floor plan.

Bethany said...

I recently had to make a choice like this for my house in New Mexico. I had no flooring actually. I'd torn out the carpet upstairs, finished the bedrooms, but hadn't gotten around to the landing before I was mobilized to Boston. I asked a friend to be a property manager and finish the work, telling him I would pay the amount necessary to put flooring down...which he never did. So after 3 months of a tenant living without flooring, I finally called Home Depot and got a quote.

I could have done the upstairs landing only, either in wood or in carpet, or finish the downstairs too, which had cheep laminate put down to have something other than concrete visible. In the end I decided to carpet the landing, stairs and living room and tile the dining room and kitchen. This was a hard decision because initially I wanted a carpet free house AND I also want to redo the kitchen someday.

I figure I can find cabinets that will fit the same flooring space as the old ones or refurbish the old cabinets. Mine weren't really falling apart, although they definitely are old. All in all I had to call it an investment and shell out much more money than I really wanted to, but I think in the long term it will be okay.

None of which solves your problem. I think if I were you I'd look into cabinets that I wanted and see what they require for flooring. Some cabinets sit on the flooring and some require flooring to be cut around the base cabinets. If you know what you would like you might be able to either get more flooring to fix the space around the cabinet area later or find cabinets that have the same dimensions as your current cabinets.

Anyway, good luck. Houses can be wonderful, but also such a pain. Where's the landlord when you need him?!

Kristi said...


In our kitchen, there is subfloor (thick, oriented strandboard sitting on top of the joists), and then a layer of "plywood underlay" which is about 1/8" thick plywood that was stapeld to kingndom come to the subfloor, and then the vinyl is glued to the plywood. In the one water-damaged spot by the door where M. cut out a stretch of vinyl, the "plywood underlay" shredded as it came out. The glue pulled it off unevenly, like you'd tried to rip a sticker from cardboard. M has suggested cutting out the vinyl around the cabinets and removing it, but I suspect that will cause a huge mess as the plywood layer won't come off easily and we'll be scraping and sanding and hand-pulling staples out forever before we see subfloor.

Assuming there's no other kitchen remodel, the plan for the moment would be to remove the carpet, and leave the vinyl. We'll then have to add a layer of thin plywood equal to the existing vinyl + underlay over the subfloor in the living room, to make both surfaces level with each other. Then run the laminate over the whole thing. Luckily, the laminate's a floating floor, so no worries about hitting underlay staples with flooring nails.

Kitchen remodel is still being kicked around. I'd love to be able to just paint or re-face the existing cabinets and save some $, but the insides are crap, and they didn't install corner cabinets (filler strips! wasted space!), and you just can't turn a sow's ear into a nice kitchen.

With the floating laminate floor, it is possible (maybe) that we could lay it now over the vinyl, around the existing kitchen. Then we could (maybe) un-snap all the pieces when we re-do the kitchen and either re-fit them to the new space, or use it elsewhere in the house (basement?) Or not worry about it since we chose a pretty inexpensive flooring knowing that the kiddos will gouge and stain whatever we put in now.

Don't know if I mentioned it int he initial post, but we have actually purchased the laminate already. Enough to do living/breakfast/kitchen (we did not take cabinets into account when measuring, so we actually have more than we need, and could accomodate any potential cabinet layout). We're just paused trying to decide whether to demo the kitchen now (and take on a payment for it), or to wait and just fix the floor.