Let me first preface this post by saying, DIYers sometimes get a bad rap. But honestly, sometimes we earn it. We cut corners, we find shortcuts, we think to ourselves “Oh this is good enough. You aren’t going to see this or that.” Even Jules and I have been guilty of this in the past. Nothing that would be dangerous, but shortcuts nonetheless. Well, when we moved into this new house, we made a pact that we weren’t going to do that anymore. If we tackled a project, we’d approach it like a contractor and do whatever was needed to make it structurally sound and “up to code.” And even though this has created a lot of extra work on this flooring project, we’ve also uncovered several major problems that would have just gotten worse and worse otherwise. So we’re glad we’re doing it. Now, for our story.
When we first started thinking about replacing our floors, I’ll admit we were a little naive. Okay, maybe a lot naive. Jules and I saw flooring as stuff you put on your floors. “Oh hey, I want wood floors. I’m gonna put in wood floors.” “Oh hey, I want tile floors. I’m gonna put in tile floors.” Shouldn’t it be that simple? Whether it should or shouldn’t is irrelevant. Fact of the matter is, for us, it’s not that simple. Goodness sakes, it’s not simple at all!
A couple months ago, Jules and I were trying to decide between doing wood floors or faux wood tile floors. We kept thinking, “Man, taking this current tile out is a big job, but from there it’s smooth sailing.” Pfft. Right. In speaking with a wood flooring company that wanted to work with us, they helped us determine that our subfloor is made of 5/8 particle board, on top of 5/8 plywood. “Ok…” I thought, “well wood is wood. It’s a subfloor.” Turns out, you can’t nail into particle board, and using other products that just stick wood to subfloor can void the warranty of your wood flooring. If we wanted wood, we’d have to rip out all the particle board, and THAT was just too much work.
So, tile it is! Our friends over at The Tile Shop were just as eager to work with us again as we were them (we seriously love them over there – they’re so helpful and friendly). We started talking with a few of their professionals and when it came out that we have particle board subfloors, they were concerned. Turns out, particle board is horrible for almost anything construction related. The problem is, particle board is just glue and sawdust, and it absorbs liquid like a sponge (it also doesn’t hold nails, hence not being able to use it for wood flooring). When it absorbs liquid, it swells. So with tile, the liquid in the thinset is absorbed by the particle board, which causes it to swell and the tile floor is uneven and cracks.
When they told me this, I was so confused. “But…we have tile. Installed over particle board. I don’t understand.” Well, upon closer inspection, our tile floors are pretty uneven. And after ripping the tile out, you can see places where the particle board has swelled. We never noticed it because the look of our tile did a good job of hiding it. But with faux wood tile, we are determined to make the entire surface flat and even, as though it’s actual wood. So, no swelling allowed. Ergo, I have to do that thing I was trying to avoid doing and take out the entire particle board subfloor. Ugh.
Before doing that, we had to get rid of the mess left behind from the tile demo we showed you on Thursday. 4 heaping piles of tile and concrete board, as well as a few chunks of concrete and chicken wire (I guess the previous installers ran out of concrete board and made their own?). I hurt my back about a month ago and wasn’t feeling up to hauling what ended up being 3.5 thousand lbs of tile on my own, so we hired a few high school kids to haul it for us and sweep up the floors. Those Idaho boys know how to work, I tell you what.
After dumping the last of the old tile at the transfer station, we got to work taking up the particle board. By “we,” I mean Greta and I. That little sweetie has been so eager to help, and she stuck with it for a good 3 hours before deciding she needed a “Horse Land” break.
Taking up the PB (particle board) subfloor is a slow job. And kind of exhausting. Jules is banned from helping on this project, so it’s definitely taking some time.
Like my chair? Greta let me borrow it.
There are screws about 6 inches apart along every floor joist, and sometimes the screws against the walls are angled in a way where I can’t get them out, so I have to muscle the board until it breaks, then snap the screws with a crowbars. The goal Saturday was to get the subfloor out of the areas that were carpeted, which we did, with the exception of the reading room. Julia’s parents came over to help during the final stretch (when Jules snapped this photo)–thank goodness because I was exhausted.
After that day, we’ve decided to–wait for it–hire someone to remove the rest of the subfloor. The problem is this:
You can see in this picture the two different areas–the top surface had carpet, the bottom had tile. The places that had tile are covered in mortar, hiding the screws. These boards are also stapled into the plywood subfloor, which makes them break into pieces when you try to pry them up. It took me all day on a Saturday just to get up the “easy” pieces, and if we’re going to finish this project before baby F gets here, these floors need to be out this week. I’m not sure there’s a way I can do all this in just 2 hours a night after coming home from my 9-5:
There’s also a laundry and two bathrooms on top of this space that have the same issue. So we’re really hoping we can find some affordable labor for the job asap. Yes, we’re DIYers, but this?–I’m ok paying someone else to do. Even though my work on the floors may be on hold for a few days, I have a couple issues to deal with in the meantime, which I’m sure we’ll share this week. A few more not-so-fun things to discover, but I’m glad we did. Specifically, water damage in 4 rooms. Yippee.
Lastly, you may be wondering if we’re disappointed we didn’t just decide to take the PB out in the first place and get hardwood floors. We actually had 2 different hardwood flooring companies wanting to supply us with flooring. But honestly, we are happy with our choice to go with the faux wood tile and have no regrets at this point. Even though it’s more work, tile just makes sense for us with Charly and our growing family (you can read more about why we chose it here), and we’re still convinced it’s the right choice. Stick with us through this long process and hopefully you’ll agree.