New Flooring – Luck and the Prepared Mind.

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Our lives have been in turmoil for the last week. A big truck pulled up and delivered 23 boxes of brand spanking new vinyl plank flooring and we have been installing it. It’s not hard to do but it requires moving everything and laying the flooring and then putting everything back. But I am getting ahead of myself so let’s step back to how I chose what we eventually started laying.

You can see in this picture the original old flooring in this house. It is 9″ vinyl squares. They were installed when the house was built circa 1960 and fortunately  there has not been anything installed over that. I say fortunately because in other homes I have had to tear out stuff like avocado green shag rug from the 1970s or eleven layers just plain crap. Our original idea was to tear up the old tiles. They were cracking and coming off in pieces anyway.  However, we learned that 9″ tiles often contain asbestos and have to be removed by a hazardous material team at great cost. I went on line and found an exact match to our tiles on a searchable database and the database says our tiles don’t have asbestos. My assurances didn’t matter to installers. 9″ tiles must be removed as if they do have asbestos and they just ain’t doing it, lady.

We then began researching alternatives. It had to be something that could go over the old tiles. I am mildly asthmatic and need to avoid carpeting. The old floor was always cold so I wanted warmth. We also needed something that can handle dog traffic, hair and dog nails. Thinking longer term into our old age, we also needed whatever we finally got to be sturdy, not slippery, for diminishing sense of balance. Above all we needed easy to clean and maintain. I also wanted a certain look.

I am trying to do my home in primitive cottage style, charming but not particularly  fussy about chic, because chic changes. Remember the soft peach and cream walls of the 1980s in every new home? And then there was the old style wall paper. (How many layers of that have I stripped off?) Anyone recall “the feature wall”, fake wood panelling, or mirrored tiles? These days plain greys and blacks seems to be all the rage. The problem with fashion is it changes. I have moved into houses where I can tell when it was last painted just by the colour scheme. I wanted an ageless look that was all mine. I picked colours I loved and to hell with what was fashionable. So the house is bright sunny yellow outside and many shades of teal inside. It’s bold and beautiful it’s all mine. I love it that way.

We looked at many options for flooring. Everyone recommended some type of plank flooring. Slap it on right over the tiles and forget it. We looked very seriously at plywood flooring cut into 8″ planks and overlaid with multiple layers of urethane. That method is cheap and easy to fix if you mar the floor and I loved the look. However, I could not see me, with my wheezy lungs, being able to handle and spread 6-10 layers of urethane or living within a mile of the house during the long drying process.

I was very hesitant about commercial layered stuff. A few years ago I bought bamboo flooring and spent hours putting it down only to have it mark up within days. It was a terrible disappointment. I went into hardware stores and checked out many of the flooring available and they all failed what I call the thumb nail test. I would hold the flooring in my hand and then use my very sharp hard thumb nail to try to scratch it. If I could make a mark on the flooring with my nail, it was too fragile for our lifestyle. Everything I looked at flunked the thumb nail test. I ruled out vinyl plank flooring because of that. However, I have been recently blessed a potential son-in-law who renovates homes. I was discussing the thumb nail test and he told me there is vinyl plank flooring that is a lot tougher. The stuff I had been looking at was ‘residential grade’. I wanted ‘commercial grade’. It was like a lightbulb went off. Now I had a solution with a name on it. I began researching vinyl plank flooring sticking only to commercial grade. I soon found some that passed the thumb nail test. Not only that. I took out my truck key and (while the grouchy saleswoman was not looking) tried to scratch some of the stuff with the key and failed. I was delighted and I decided my potential son-in-law was a lot smarter than I had originally thought. (Okay I need to say that was a joke. No guy lacking brains lasts long enough with my girl  for me to actually meet him, much less enjoy a serious discussion about flooring.) Without his expert input at just the right time, I would have never have figured it out.

Now I was ready to really shop. Every chance we had I stopped into places that had flooring and bypassed the ‘residential grade’ they put up front on display and asked to see ‘commercial grade’ instead. I also shopped on line at all the major chains and I got a good handle on typical per square foot cost and what kinds of colours and styles I could expect to find. All of this research paid off because I stumbled on our flooring purely by accident on a trip for something entirely unrelated. It was the precise type of commercial grade vinyl plank flooring, in a style almost the same colour as what I wanted and exactly what my husband wanted. I hemmed and hawed and acted disinterested but eventually I had my deal. Best of all, instead of the $7/square foot original price, it was end of the batch, stuck in the rear, dusty old leftover, discontinued stuff that had not moved. They were very happy to get it out of their way and make room for new stuff that would sell. I was happy to pay $2/square foot no matter how disinterested I acted. I took the 23 boxes. I think I got it at cost. I didn’t argue about the delivery charge. I whipped out my credit card and paid in full on the spot before someone changed their mind.

Sometimes you get lucky. Luck tends to happen most often when you are prepared and ready to grab it. To have such things happen you need to do the background research on the problem. You need to consult with a few experts to get ideas and avoid silly mistakes or wasting effort reinventing the wheel. As Louis Pasteur said at a lecture at University of Lille in 1854.

Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.

Or “Chance favours the prepared mind.”

And that goes for everything from embryonic differentiation waves to finding just the right flooring at a really good price.

And since that day the truck pulled up, we have had our lives in turmoil. We had to undercut the trim on the door frames. We also had to remove all the doors and cut a half inch off the bottom. We had to fill the holes in the old vinyl tile flooring with quick drying cement. The flooring is interlocking lift, place, click stuff. It often goes in easily but other times the stuff sticks and then you have to bang and smack and cuss a bit to get it right. And of course the edges never come out perfectly even and you have to cut the stuff around doors and vents and anything else coming up out of the flooring.

There are other frustrations. We moved the fridge to lay the flooring and discovered that even though we bought that fridge just last year there is about 400 years worth of detritus packed in dog hair underneath. (EEWW!!). When we moved my desk we discovered a broken drawer than needs repair. When we moved my chair we discovered we needed to put pads on to protect the new flooring because I didn’t care about the old tile but even commercial grade can’t take bare metal scraping. Tools for the job are strew everywhere. Meanwhile there is still the need to prepare food and eat, wash dirty dishes and laundry still piles up.

The puppy loves the chaos because when we are down on our knees, we are easy targets for puppy kisses and getting hugs and pats. Nothing is more fun that snatching that tool we are using and taking off with it. She’s knows she’s too cute to get into any real trouble. The cat does not appreciate renovations so he’s in huff and is trying to both get even with us and restore order by clearing off the counters and other surfaces for us before we are ready. It is amazing how much a bowl shoved off the fridge and falling on your head can hurt. Since that experience I have been making sure to never leave a hammer up high. And then there is stubbed toes. Nothing is where you expect it to be so my husband can’t go anywhere without muttering imprecations. However, it is almost finished. It looks lovely. And soon, after I repaint and replace the baseboards, we can return our lives back to semblance of normalcy or at least as normal as my home can ever be. (I hope!)

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