Saturday, December 28, 2013

New kitchen flooring! (or: Apartment makeover part 2)

Yesterday I introduced the update to my living room as part 1 of this post.  Today I get to reveal my new kitchen floor!  Thanks to help from my family, particularly my dad, the final product is this cute, old time-y vinyl flooring.

For the past year and a half, my floor has looked like this.  While the concept was cute, the original flooring was over two decades old.  The white parts were yellowed and there were permanent stains all over, which always left me wondering whether my floor was actually clean. It was definitely the biggest drawback to my apartment.

With a little extra time on my hands over the Thanksgiving holiday, I convinced my family to help me update the flooring.  I was willing to put in the man hours, but needed my dad to guide the project, which he graciously did.

Day 1: First things first, we had to move everything, including refrigerator and oven, out of my kitchen.  This was how my apartment looked for the week that we took to work on the project.

Next up, we started to pull up both the tiles and the baseboard, those pieces of wood between the floor and the wall.  We saved the baseboard -- my mom sanded the pieces down and refinished them -- but the flooring was thrown away.

Exposed: the very old and very tattered wood floor beneath.

We used wide paint scrapers and hammers to pull up the old vinyl.  In some areas it pulled up easily; in others it took a lot of hammering and maneuvering.  Here's a short video that shows the basics of pulling up old tile, as well as getting the sticky residue up afterwards.

Here I am standing on the last tile. Pulling them all up took about an hour.

Day 2: Once all the old tile was up, we had to get all the crap up.  There was a lot of dirt, but most notably tons of sticky residue all over the floor.  To do this, we sprayed the whole thing down with Goo Gone, let it sit for about 45 minutes, and then used the scrapers to get it up.  The end of the previous video (here again) shows an abbreviated version of this process.

Once we had scraped everything up, we went over the floor by hand with wet rags, cleaning it off.  This process took between two and three hours.

Day 3 (not shown): The next day I went over the floor with TSP, a heavy duty cleaner normally used to prep surfaces for painting. (As a warning, this stuff is very chemical heavy and should be used with caution.)  This took about an hour.

Day 4 (not shown): Even though the floor was at this point totally cleaned, because vinyl tiles show bumps and cracks, all the cracks and imperfections needed to be smoothed out.  My dad did this using a floor leveler and the aforementioned scrapers.  Here is a short video showing the technique for doing this.  He used duct tape to create a border between the kitchen and living room.

Day 5: We lay the tile!  The first step in this process was to quarter the room using lines of chalk.  We did this by first measuring the width of the kitchen, then measuring and marking that same length the long way.  This gave us the dimensions of a square.  From there, we strung a chalk line from one corner of the room along a diagonal to its opposite, squared off corner.  We flicked the chalk line and voila!, a perfectly straight line appeared on my floor. We then repeated the process across opposite corners, giving us a perfect 90 degree cross within the squared off section of the kitchen. This was our starting point.

Working from this intersection, we began to lay the tile, quadrant by quadrant, paying close attention to laying each tile snug up against its neighbors. It was also important during this step to use our hands to feel the flooring before we lay each tile: If there were any imperfections, we sanded them down before laying the vinyl.

I bought these self-adhesive vinyl tiles, which were honestly just okay. The dimensions were perfect (every square was the exact same size), which was extremely important, but the pattern within each tile was not perfect, and therefore I have some tiles that don't look like they match up corner to corner.  C'est la vie.

We continued to place tile down, leaving space at the edges where a whole tile wouldn't fit.  For these spaces, my dad used a piece of cardboard to measure and mark what the tile size would need to be, then he used an exacto knife to cut down the tile and place it.  Laying the tile took between two and three hours.

As a final step, we hammered the baseboards back in.

And here we have the finished product! This floor is so much cleaner and whiter and nicer than my old one.  It's a dream to walk into!


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