DIY Projects Wood floors

Kitchen floor project | Part I

Last week I went to Florida on a work trip which meant leaving my dad unsupervised in the bungalow for approximately three days.

Upon my arrival in Florida, I received this text from him:

“Where is Jake when you need him?”

That is…or rather, was my kitchen floor. All two layers of it.

In his defense, my dad can’t sit still when there’s work to be done (even when he should sit still) and all of these layers of flooring had already tested negative for asbestos.

It’s fairly typical of Chicago bungalows to have maple wood floors in the kitchen, and it’s perhaps even more typical for that wood floor to be covered in linoleum. In my research, I’ve guesstimated that the first layer is probably circa 1930/40s due to the pattern, and the second layer circa 1980/90s.

Sheet linoleum circa 1930/40

Something to reiterate: always get your linoleum, and even the mastic used (if any), tested for asbestos. Nearly every other bungalow owner I’ve talked to has had some sort of run-in with asbestos flooring.

Self-adhesive linoleum tile circa 1980/90

Demolition of the linoleum was fairly straightforward, in fact, my dad had the demo done by the time I returned to Chicago.

This is what I came home to.

The black felt-like stuff you see in the above photo is not only fairly gummy, in the high-traffic areas of the kitchen it’s been ground into the shellac finish on the wood floors.

Having run across shellac in my previous floor refinishing project, I had a hunch on how to handle this: Soften the shellac with denatured alcohol and scrape all of that muck away.

Naked maple floors.

It worked beautifully… in my mind.

Shellac finish (where I’m standing) vs the naked maple.

In reality, the black stuff absorbed most of the denatured alcohol and was still really difficult to remove, so we opted to dry scrape the floors instead. Sometimes the best choice is the most labor intensive, but with two of us working we’ve been able to get through it quickly.

The next step in this project is spraying down the floors with denatured alcohol and scraping again (this will take maybe an hour)… look for that in Part II.


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