When we first got the keys to the new house, i pretty much went straight form the Lawyer's office back to the house to pull up all the carpet. Part of me was dying to see what was under there, while another part of me was dreading to see what was under there. You really never know what you'll discover when you pull up carpet that someone else has put down in an old house.
Here's what i found, some of it was quite a surprise for me:
The Good - I started pulling up carpet on the main floor and i got really excited when i found that the original 100 year old quarter sawn white oak was still intact. I got even more excited when i realized the living room also had a beautiful hardwood border inlaid around the perimeter. As i peeled back the carpet i felt like i was hitting the reno jackpot.
The wood was dull, dirty and covered in paint splatters, but hopefully they could be refinished. I was feeling pretty good...That is until i hit The Bad.
The Bad - Turns out the closet in the foyer isn't original. I already figured as much, because the house has two foyers (one after the other), which doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I know in the other neighbourhood houses we looked at, there would be one large entry hall, often with a fireplace in it. The kind of hall where you could put a large Christmas tree or a grand piano if you wanted too. Well ours once upon a time was like that too. At some point the corner fireplace was removed to put in a double coat closet. And once i removed the carpet i discovered the large ugly concrete remains of where the corner fireplace once stood. You can see it under the broom in the picture below. If i wanted to refinish the floors, i would need to find a way to cover up the concrete.
As i worked my way up the house pulling off carpet, i learned a lot. First i learned that 30 year old carpet smells and gives me big red hives. Secondly i learned that the builders of this house used the best stuff on the main floor (all quarter sawn white oak with herringbone and inlaid borders), meh stuff on the second floor (mix of rift cut and flat cut red oak), and cheap stuff on the third floor (soft wood). Even the stairs and landings used cheaper wood the high up you went. The stairs from main to second were ash, and the stairs from second to third were soft wood.
The Ugly - Unfortunately the second floor hardwood was completely shot. They had been sanded down to the point where nails and sharp shards of wood were beginning to stick up and become quite dangerous. This was not salvageable.
Decisions, decisions, decisions - I knew i couldn't leave the second floor as is, and wasn't sure if i could salvage the beautiful main floor hardwood, i worried about the cost to get the floors back to a safe and presentable state.
Re-carpeting would be the easiest and cheapest option, to recarpet everywhere that i had just pulled carpet off, would probably run 8K for anything decent. I however am not a fan of carpet (the big red hives were still fresh in my memory), and i felt that carpeting over the splintery second floor, is like burying your problems. I knew replacing the hardwood everywhere would be ridiculously expensive, and frankly not something i was willing to entertain. So i decided to use the same sort of ingenuity the builders of the house used.
Here was my plan - Restore the hardwood on the main floor, and pray to the reno gods, that the floors had enough left for another sanding, and more importantly that the hardwood in the closet could be used to patch over the concrete, where the fireplace once was. Replace the hardwood on the second floor with what would have always been there, 2" wide red oak strips in a mix of rift and flat cut then as a cost saving measure - paint the third floor floors.
After talking to many other hardwood guys, who encouraged me to just replace it all with pre-finished hardwood (um...NO!), i finally found Bill from Smithwood Floors. And i'm glad i did, cause this is what my floors look like now:
Patch over the concrete remains of a fireplace, made up of pieces salvaged from the closet:
I'm over the moon with how the floors look now.