Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Questions, answers and advice for people who own or work on houses built during the 20th century.

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Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by doublejay »

Our 1914 cape is the victim of some horrendous re-muddling , 2 sets of POs ago

The kitchen was re-done some time in the 70's, and among other things, the POs installed knotty-pine cabinets (wall and base type) and a "new" floor".

Several months ago we had an unknown leak under the kitchen sink. The water dribbled down the back wall under the sink and got underneath the plywood that was used to level the floor before sticking vinyl tiles to it. There were no puddles under the sink that we could see, because the bottom of the cabinet under the sink is raised off the floor a few inches.

We didn't realize the leak was happening until the kitchen floor started getting lumpy in front of the base cabinets. The plywood continued to warp and pushed up the two layers of vinyl tiles, buckling and cracking them in a section along the base cabinets. Pieces of the tiles broke and chipped. We didn't know all of these layers existed until the warping and cracking happened. We can see parts of the now-broken plywood where parts of tiles have also broken off.

We're pretty sure that underneath the vinyl and the now-warped and cracked plywood, we have wide pine boards (like in the rest of the house). (in fact, we can see them if we look at the "ceiling" of the cellar under the kitchen.

The living and dining rooms have narrow oak hardwood over what we assume is the same pine boards. Where the oak hardwood met the kitchen vinyl, the PO's put a strip of aluminum over the joint. (Like I said, horrible remuddling. Dont even get me started on what they did with the (former) bookcases that used to be between the living and dining rooms. But I digress.

We fixed the leak under the sink, but here's our problem:

We need to fix the floor. We can't afford to remove the knotty pine cabinets. If the plywood goes under the cabinets, is there a way to cut it flush with the cabinet "foot" so we can get down to the pine boards?

I've also heard that vinyl tiles from the 70s can contain asbestos. Is there a way we can have this tested without triggering a invasion by Dudes in Hazmat Suits and having our kitchen declared unfit for habitation?

I'd be happy with just the pine boards cleaned up with a heavy application of "gym seal" or other type of finish that would stand up in the kitchen and be washable. Or even real linoleum.

We need to be able to sweep (and wash) it without stuff getting stuck under the broken layers of tile and plywood. If we start by having to remove the cabinets, then we'll have to remove the nasty plastick-like-vocado-colored-wall-coverings bottom half of the wall, and a bunch of other stuff, but we can't afford a kitchen remodel right now.

(BTW, we're willing to do the removal of the old floor ourselves)

Can we do anything for this floor? All suggestions gratefully accepted!


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Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by LisaW »

"Dudes in hazmat suits" had me laughing out loud. How do the cabinets meet the floor? Can you post a picture? Is there some sort of toe kick under them? I removed layers of vinyl over linoleum over a plywood subfloor to expose the original pine boards. Of course, I did it in conjunction with a complete re-do of the kitchen. It seems like what you're suggesting could work. You'll likely run into some unexpected little challenges in making it work in various places (e.g. how to deal with baseboard moldings that abut the end of cabinets, etc).

In my kitchen install, the new cabinets had a plain toe kick. I bought shingle molding to "dress up" the boring toe kick. As it turned out, the shingle molding played an important role in hiding the gap under the toe kick created by my slightly sloping old floor. Anyway, I'm thinking that if you cut the existing vinyl and subfloor to the edge of the cabinet, you could use some sort of trim like the shingle molding I used to cover the edge of the cut plywood.

Here's a picture of the toe kick and molding (before I painted it!):


I don't know if that helps, but it's a thought. I'm no pro, but I've spent the past 11 months working on my house full time solving such dilemmas!

Anna P. Evans House - 1912
Historic District
Doylestown, PA

haldis fearn
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Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by haldis fearn »

Okay as one of those "Dudes in Hazmat Suits" I can tell you that you can pull the tile. If there is asbestos it is embedded in resin to form the tile, is encapsulated and is considered "non-friable" which is not a problem. You can dispose of it at the local dump by triple bagging it.

Then I would very carefully cut straight down to the pine floor and do what Lisa suggested - add a toe plate. As for the pine floor - have it carefully sanded, apply whatever stain and then three coats of polyurethane - suggest satin finish. We did that to our douglas fir floors and have been very happy after 5 years.

I agree can you post some pics - I am curious about the avacado green wall stuff - there may be an easy way to remove it, but can't comment until I see a pic.


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Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by angolito »

removing the knotty pine cabinets and replacing them shouldn't be much of an expense, just a PITA.

you likely have more water intrusion under the cabinets. it will ultimately cause additional problems. the base cabs should just be screwed into the wall behind them. just remove the screws and do the floors the right way the first time. then re-install the old pine cabs.

if the pine cabs are obnoxious, you could use the opportunity to paint the base a nice color which would compliment the upper cabs.

i love to recommend lots of additional work for Other People....... 8)

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Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by frameteam2003 »

We need to fix the floor. We can't afford to remove the knotty pine cabinets. If the plywood goes under the cabinets, is there a way to cut it flush with the cabinet "foot" so we can get down to the pine boards?

Answer--no.--you can cut very close and at a very small angle,with the right saw.This is a lot of hard work and stopping at the pine boards is next to impossable.

If you can't afford a redo at present(we all face this at times),maybe you might cover the floor with 1/4" hard board unlayment and new linolium.Nail any puckers in the plywood down first and glue the underlayment so as not to add aditional nails to your pine floor---which might be a great looking floor when you can remove and replace everthing you need to.

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Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by Sombreuil_Mongrel »

You can cut flush with a Fein Multimaster, if you can afford it and the blades. It's crazy expensive. But it will absolutely cut flush. I have recently heard that Dremel makes a version of it, and it sells for far less than the $350 of the Fein.

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Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by mgb1234 »

Well you could also use this http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=p ... lpage=none
If you get it with the small miter box attachment it becomes a very versatile tool for not a lot of money,the blades have cutting edges on the teeth only so if you are doing floors and need to undercut the door jambs you can lay the blade sideways on the floor and make your cut and it will not scratch the flooring as an example.

It is also nice for doing trim work as it makes a very fine cut without a lot of splintering.In your case you could lay the blade up against the kick plate and just work your way down,you can flip the blade around from side to side on the tool when you get to the other end and have limited space.You can buy a fine tooth or rough cut blade,if you can find the blades at the other box store they are way cheaper but they do not actually sell the machine.The only draw back is if you hit a nail with the blade the teeth are shot. :) A few drops of 3in1 oil on the slide of the blade goes a long way.
1915 Dormitory

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Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by angolito »

mgb i have one of those and i love it!

i still think you should just take down the base cabs move them out of the room, do the floor, and then REINSTALL the knotty pine. it is totally easy to take out the lower cabinets, usually.....

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Location: San Diego

Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by kellie »

Since everybody covered all of the other matters, I'm just going to suggest painting the knotty pine cabinets white, or some other color. It will make a HUGE difference. Look at these pictures:

http://www.thisyounghouse.com/2009/06/c ... ma-solved/

http://www.thisyounghouse.com/2009/05/r ... -uhmazing/

http://www.thisyounghouse.com/2009/05/r ... t-kitchen/

http://www.thisyounghouse.com/2009/04/r ... ighten-up/

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Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe

Re: Floor Woes in the Kitchen

Post by Texas_Ranger »

I don't know, but around here the "good" old Armstrong cushion vinyl floors (which were apparently sold all around the globe) are definitely considered highly(!) friable asbestos! The actual laws concerning this are pretty unclear... they only seem to apply to professional flooring companies (Workers health and safety) and some people say that means homeowners don't have to follow them while others say this means homeowners can't touch this at all, but that's Austria (and worse Germany, I got most of those answers on a German board). At any rate, I'm fairly sure the asbestos in vinyl flooring is not encapsulated once you start taking up the floor and break tiles/rip up roll flooring. (Source: Swiss environmental protection agency).
The bad thing with electricity : it almost always works.


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