Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Floor Too Far...

Well folks, I knew I was getting off easy by uncovering those beautiful floors under my horrible avocado green shag... apparently I shouldn't have pushed my luck.

I decided that I really needed to pull the horrible carpet in the bathroom. Partly because it was just horrible - really, who puts carpet in a bathroom? - and partly because one of the nests of carpet beetle larvae that I discovered was right at the bathroom doorway - and why would they stop at the doorway?


I didn't really feel up for a whole bathroom remodel. I didn't want to pull the toilet, or do major demolition... just wanted to get the carpet out of there. So I crafted a plan. I figured I'd just pull up the carpet to expose the ugly linoleum underneath, and then I'd cover that with a layer of cheap peel and stick vinyl flooring. Not a long term solution - but enough to give the room a small facelift and deal with the current problem.

And so I waded in. It only took an hour or two to get the carpet out, and here's what I found:


Alas, it was not just ugly, but also damaged beyond the point where my peel and stick solution was gonna work. But more seriously, I discovered that the toilet had been leaking for God knows how long. Soo.... out the window flew my "easy makeover" plans.

But I watched a few videos on pulling up linoleum and it didn't look too difficult...

And so, once again, I waded in. And... hmm...


None of the YouTube videos mentioned anything about tar paper! And the heat gun/iron/steamer removal method that looked so easy in the videos, only turned this flooring into a melted mess - which made removal much more difficult.

Turns out this floor was vinyl, not linoleum - which, I guess requires a different removal method. And the tar paper was used for waterproofing in older bathrooms. So after a few days of chiseling, scraping, grunting and cursing, I was left with this:


Gotta say, I was feeling pretty darned hopeless at this point. I scoured the interwebs with a new set of search terms, but everything I found showed people using steam or heat to remove this stuff. I don't know if I was dealing with a qualitatively different sort of tar paper or what, but heat just turned this stuff into... well, into tar - like roofing tar. I was lucky if I could get off one square inch at a time.

But then... then... I stumbled upon an unlikely savior! Late one night in a Googling frenzy I happened upon a video of a young woman in a similar situation, with a rather unorthodox solution. She took old towels laid them out on the floor, then saturated them with diet Coke and let it sit overnight. Then the tar paper just scraped off like butter!


It sounded sorta crazy, but it did trigger a memory from long ago. When I was in college I was on a work study program, and I spent my freshman year working in the cafeteria kitchen. One day while working on the cleanup crew, the fry cook handed me an empty pitcher and asked me to fill it with carbonated water from the soda machine. I couldn't quite figure out what she was gonna do with the stuff, and I was totally shocked when she dumped in on the griddle and the thick layer of grease just slid off! Turns out the carbonic acid in the carbonated water eats through grease.

Soo... perhaps the diet Coke woman wasn't crazy after all. And at this point, I really didn't have much to lose. I decided to use plain carbonated water instead of Coke, so I laid out my old towels, saturated them and let it sit... and sit... and sit...

It took 24 hours of soaking, and a razor blade floor scraper, but.... finally... success!


Whew!

But now what? Well, it turns out that vinyl peel and stick flooring isn't recommended for bathrooms unless you have an impervious layer like old vinyl or linoleum underneath it. So I've spent the last week or so doing extensive research on every flooring system on the market.

I seriously considered a next generation vinyl floating floor system - no glue, really easy to install, and waterproof, but there were just too many issues for me to want to go that way. First of all, it's vinyl... which means plastic. And while people are singing the praises of these systems, there are a few caveats to their use. You're not supposed to put them in rooms with a lot of direct sunlight - and this bathroom has a west facing window which bathes the room in sun all afternoon. The sunlight is problematic both because it heats the floor and causes expansion, and because it can cause discoloration. I have a friend who put white vinyl in her kitchen, and 2 years later she has a horrible yellow swath across the room from where the sunlight from the west facing window falls.

But more seriously, it really limits what you can do with the room going forward. Apparently you're not supposed to put permanent fixtures (like a vanity or pedestal sink) on top of this sort of flooring system, because the floor needs to be able to expand and contract with changes in heat and humidity. And since there's a real likelihood that the sink will need to be replaced sooner rather than later... well, I just didn't want to limit myself in that way.

So... ceramic tile it is! You know what they say... in for a penny, in for a pound!

And that's meant that I've had to immerse myself in researching underlayments, and tile, and mortar, and grout. Holy Moly! Who knew there were so many variables?

But after looking at quite literally thousands of different options, I've finally decided on a charcoal colored porcelain tile that gets rave reviews, should look great, and will leave many different doors open for whatever direction I decide to go with the rest of the room down the line.

And... the nice fellows at Lowes will cut the stuff for me as long as I can provide measurements!

So now I just have to work the puzzle and do a lot of math - oh... and pull the toilet... and then actually lay the tile... Oy! Wish me luck!

So tell me, have you ever gotten yourself in slightly over your head with a DIY home improvement project? I'd love to think I'm not the only one....



27 comments :

  1. Oh, yikes!

    Most home-owner jobs end up very messy.

    Your sink looks like mine. Only in my bathroom, the bathtub is on the same side and I need an L-shaped shower curtain rod for it. The plumbing-free wall is what the door opens against and has a tall and wide but not-very-deep linen pantry.

    Fortunately, there's no sign of carpet in there. There's a green-patterned linoleum (or vinyl) tile over a sheet of cream-patterned linoleum (or vinyl). I'm kind of afraid of tile because it can be slippery, so I'm hoping for sheet vinyl in the future. We also have a window, but it's usually covered. Often with tin foil (against the heat) as well as a dark curtain.

    So glad you found that carbonation idea. I may try that on my concrete floor that still has some adhesive we can't get off.

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    1. Well, you might look at the next generation vinyl for your bathroom. It can be installed over existing floors and it looks easy.

      Oh... and if slippery is a concern and you do decide to go for real tile - choose porcelain instead of ceramic - it has a textured finish so it isn't slippery when wet.

      All that said, I really hope you don't have to have the same sort of adventure that I have! :-)

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  2. Oh my gosh! What a lot of work. How clever to finally find the solution to removing the "tar paper". Good luck on pulling th toilet and laying the new floor.

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    1. Thanks. At this point I need all the luck I can get!

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  3. Good luck with it all. That diet coke/carbonated water solution was just amazing.

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    1. I know, right? I guess sometimes crazy people on the internet aren't quite so crazy after all!

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  4. Another bit of info to consider. Use no seal grout. It never has to be resealed and not a chance for mold to form. We've used it in our last two bathrooms and are happy with the result. However, it's more expensive than regular grout and harder to work with because it's harder to spread. But in the long run, we thought it was worth it. We've had too many grout problems in the past.

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    1. Ooooo, thanks for the tip - I'll have to do some research on that.

      But... the whole project just got slightly more complicated. When I called Lowes to confirm some details for the tile cutting and they informed me that they'll only do one or two tiles - not a whole project. Soooo.... now I'm signed up for a class at a local tile store - apparently they'll help you with the layout as well as teach you how to use the wet saw and do everything else. They also rent the saws. Their tile is slightly more expensive than at the big box stores, but I'm sorta thinking that the extra guidance will make it worthwhile. Oy! The fun just never ends...

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  5. Seriously, who puts carpet in a bathroom? I'm horrified.
    It will be a lot of work, but you won't regret it -- we have porcelain tile in the entire house (it's very hot where I live) and it's so easy to clean, resistant and waterproof. The one you picked looks gorgeous! Don't be afraid of the wet saw, the damn tile spacers are harder to use than it, and buy about 10-15% more tile than you think you'll need; both in case you break some and also as replacement if you need it in the future. Good luck!

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    1. The ick factor with the carpet was pretty high. But, having experienced first hand how much work it was to get that old floor out of there, I guess I can understand why someone would take the easy way out and just carpet over it. But still...

      Anyhow, the guy at the tile store let me come into the back room and test out the wet saw, so I'm much less freaked out about it than I was. Many years ago I knew a guy who cut off half of his hand with a table saw, and ever since I've an irrational fear of power tools. But the fact that the blade doesn't have teeth made me much less afraid of the thing.

      Thanks for the well wishes, I think I need all the luck I can get on this one!

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  6. Oh this is our life. We are currently in a never ending spiral that was replace the upstairs and stairs flooring that turned into scraping all of the (asbestos containing) popcorn ceiling, retexturing, painting, installing flooring, and now building a new banister since the old one won't fit since we had to cut the stair treads to work with the wood stairnoses. It seriously never ends! Good luck with the tile project! We installed wood-look tile throughout the downstairs and I LOVE IT!!! Tile + cats is the best :)

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    1. Oh my! That sounds like quite a project. I was a bit concerned about asbestos with ripping out the old floor, but the fact that it was vinyl and not linoleum means it's less likely there was any - though I think some old tar papers contained it. Anyhow, they say to keep things damp to avoid it getting airborne, and my soda water method certainly did that!

      I've gotta say, even with the bathroom a torn up mess, it feels much cleaner in there without the disgusting carpet. Can't wait to get the tile in there. I'm sure once I do I'll want to start working on the rest of the room, but hopefully the rest won't be such an enormous project... maybe?

      Now I'm off to do some research on toilet flanges...

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    2. Yes, my first thought was, "Oh no, I hope you didn't have asbestos!". I didn't know you were supposed to keep things damp, and I hope that did the trick!

      I think I mentioned before that our bathroom was also carpeted (actually, our 1/2 bath still is .... someday ... ). I think that it's not just the "easy" solution but the "cheap" solution--but it still grosses me out!!!!!!!!!

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    3. I wore a mask the whole time I was tearing it out, and kept the fans & a/c off, and kept the bathroom door closed. So hopefully if there was any asbestos I didn't spread it around!

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  7. Well done you for getting down to it! Some weeks ago I had problems with the toilet flushing - why??????? I don't recall my childhood home ever having any toilet parts need replacing! Anyhoos....off to Googleland I went and discovered it was the syphon that needed replacing. I decided 'no plumber for me'.....and proceeded to take the close coupled cistern off the wall. This was relatively easy and so should the installation of my fancy duo-flush syphon be. However, I need one or two minor parts to replace worn parts and big homestores don't sell the little bits so I need a plumber's merchant. Only they aren't open when I finish work! Oy! That word says it all! I'm fed up of flushing with buckets of water and having a towel on the floor to catch the excess!!! I'm off a couple of days this week so hope to restore toilet to original condition sometime soon. We women are mighty diy champs when we put our minds to it!

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    1. Oh my goodness! I don't even know what most of that means, but I'm duly impressed. I saw an article the other day about a woman who built an entire house. She had no previous experience, she just taught herself watching YouTube videos! It's pretty amazing how much one can learn online. Of course there is a flip side... you can also find competing & conflicting instructions & recommendations on just about everything!

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  8. Gah! The tar paper was almost the death of us in our kitchen. We rented a wallpaper removal steamer, which eventually did the trick, but I sure wish I'd known about the carbonated water (though we were trying to preserve the hard wood floor underneath -- I wonder if the acid would have also damaged the wood?). Anyway, yes, totally in over our heads, wishing we'd just layed new flooring down on top. We did finally prevail, and the restored hard wood looks lovely! Best of luck on your bathroom project.

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    1. I can't even imagine trying to get that stuff up and leave the floor underneath in good enough condition to finish! I took a few serious gouges out of the sub floor. I'm not sure why I couldn't make the steam work. Maybe my little hand held steamer didn't produce enough of it or something. Anyhow, this experience has made me seriously reconsider the idea of pulling up the kitchen floor - which is in good shape, it's just ugly. Perhaps I'll just lay something down on top of that one! :-)

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  9. I am in awe of your intrepid spirit and great results! Good for you, putting all of that physical effort into taking out the carpet and scraping up all of that gooey tar. I LOVE the new gray tile and hope you will share the "after" photo with us.

    I didn't know that Lowe's would cut things like tile, so that opens up a whole new world of possibilities. I've been thinking about replacing our kitchen backsplash with something prettier for a long time. (I think that project is about #468 on the list!) To answer your question, I am constantly getting into projects that turn out to be so much more complex than I originally thought. But hey, it keeps us out of the bars, right? Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Well, don't get too excited about Lowe's cutting the tile for you. I called back to confirm some details and they suddenly said that they wouldn't cut that many tiles, only one or two. Sooo... tomorrow I'm buying a wet saw (cheaper than renting.) Wish me luck and intact fingers!

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  10. Oh No! I've never run into tar paper, knock on wood, what a mess you uncovered. Good thing you caught the toilet leak before you had to replace the subfloor too.

    I can't count the times I've run into a big problem thinking it was going to be a little job. I lost count on this house alone.

    I love the tile you've selected. Laying tile is one job I haven't tackled myself yet. If I found your floor I probably would have painted and stenciled before tackling tile.

    Ripping up the carpet and finding that a new subfloor was laid over the hardwood eliminating any option for a hardwood floor, or any other type of good flooring because any floor I wanted would have made it impossible to open the doors in those rooms I let my son talk me into a vinyl flooring. Yes it looks like wood but I am having a love hate relationship with it. It's a pain to keep clean because of the grooves cut into the surface, everything gets in them. Also while they are supposed to lock in place my chair causes them to shift, the glue strips just aren't enough to deal with that kind of use. And as you said, it's vinyl. One day I may actually do what I considered and raise the doors up, a big job because we would have to make all new openings in the frames and then lay real wood down.


    Can't wait to hear your tales of tiling.

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    1. Oy! I remember your floors and uncovering an area where concrete had been poured. And I never would have considered the issue with the chair making the vinyl shift - how disappointing! Maybe I don't understand the problem with the doors, but is there a reason you can't just saw an inch or so off the bottom of the doors themselves?

      Anyhow, the process on infinite digressions continues with my bathroom. I went to pull the toilet today and discovered that the shut off valve wouldn't work because of years of gunk built up on it. Ug! Spent the whole day taking it apart, putting it back together and trying to make it work, but no dice. And... this is a valve that I installed myself when I first bought the house. Holy Moly! Have I been here long enough for things I installed to get old and non-functional? I'm starting to feel like a track runner who's gotten lapped by the competition!

      Soo... tomorrow I get to go buy a new valve and see if I can get the toilet shut-off to work - and who knows what will be waiting for me when I finally get the toilet off!

      Maybe I'll have new tile by Christmas...

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  11. Wow, I admire your tenacity in tackling these projects--I'm much more of a wuss and usually call for help at the first sign of trouble. DIY is such a pain most of the time but I'm sure the finished result will be worth it.

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    1. Time will tell... this project is sorta turning into a comedy of errors. At the moment I'm up to my ears in toilet flange problems! Maybe some day I'll actually get to the tiling part!

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  12. I think tile is the way to go in a bathroom: you'll be happier with the project down the line.

    And so cool that they'll do the tile cutting for you. That's a huge part of the work! Will they nip the tile for the space around the toilet, too?

    My dad is still renovating the bathroom in his house...and has been for over 2 years. Dude is still working but, man, it's just taking too long.

    With that in mind, we bought a flip for our current home. No DIY for us. :)

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  13. Shop the Habitat for Humanity store. I got nice tile,,, more than enough for my bathroom. gail

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  14. What you described is par for the course for every "little" project we have ever started! Have you looked into self-leveling floor compound? It might be useful in this room.

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