Before Moving, Do Floors, Part 1: The Before

We had about a month overlap between purchasing the house and needing to move out of our apartment, so the first project that we decided to tackle was the floors. We felt that it is much easier to redo floors before actually inhabiting the house and needing to use them!

The house has four bedrooms, one bathroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, and half kitchen (more on that strange arrangement later). The kitchens and upstairs hall have asbestos tile that was laid over the hardwood floors. This makes me want to cry. This also makes it so we cannot do anything to rip them up without calling in a hazmat team. So at some point we will need to cover those up. Putting that project aside for now.


Asbestos tile, made to resemble wood, over ACTUAL hard wood. WHYYY???
Also note the 90’s-tastic dusty rose carpet in the bedroom. More on that soon…

Three bedrooms have some version of plush 90’s style carpet in them (pink, crimson, gray, ick), which is completely out of character with the house. The plush carpet has served its time, and must go.

Bedroom Carpet

Fugly plush carpet in bedrooms.

Bedroom #4, “the office,” mercifully still had exposed hardwood floors, but they were in need of a good refinishing.


Bedroom 4, “the office”

Unfortunately, under the carpet in the master bedroom, the wood had been painted at one point and it was too big of a project for us to sand back down to bare wood at this time. Also, one of the other bedrooms had the asbestos tile under the carpet, so we also couldn’t take that back to the original wood. *sigh*

So, even though I hate carpet (nasty, dirty stuff), my husband likes it in bedrooms (keeps his feet warm in the mornings when he gets out of bed), and fate was conspiring against hardwood floors in those rooms. So, I had to do that compromisey thing you do in marriage, and agreed to carpet those two rooms.

Luckily for us, the downstairs (dining room and living room) had a nice, much more period appropriate, Berber carpet that was in good shape, and it was covering hardwood flooring in those rooms. So, we decided to move it upstairs to the two bedrooms that needed carpet. Easy as pie! Only not… But cheap as pie!

Livingroom and Dining room carpet

Berber carpet in living and dining rooms. Nice enough, but doing a disservice to the wood floors underneath.
Lets move that upstairs to where it is needed.

So, to sum up, before moving in we needed to tear the carpet out of 5 rooms (3 brs, living room, dining room), install it back into two bedrooms, and re-do the hardwood floors in 2 bedrooms, the living room, and dining room. Oh yes, and the hallway.


Hallway flooring – exposed wood at least, but in bad shape.

Only 4 weeks to get it done and move. We got this!


1) Craigslist is your friend! Put up any of your salvage stuff from home renovations on Craigslist and see if anyone will pay you for them. I made $40 on the carpet we ripped out, instead of throwing it out. Now it is not in a landfill, we made money, and the person who bought it got carpet on the cheap! Win-win-win.

2) Thinking about redoing your old floors? Check to see how wide the floorboards are first – if they have previously been sanded and you are too close to the ‘groove’ on the tongue and groove, you may not be able to sand again. Your results will not be groovy.

Here is a look at the width of ours – as you can see, plenty of room yet to sand.


3) Know what not to pull up: asbestos tile. Asbestos tile was typically 9 x 9 inches, so if you have an older home and see this tile, ask an expert or get it tested to see if it contains asbestos. Asbestos was ‘the thing’ back in the day, and now it haunts us owners of old houses forever, like some nasty ghost. If you have it, it’s probably not harmful as long as it is in good shape and you don’t mess with it, but you’ll *definitely* need to talk to someone who knows what they are doing for a professional opinion before you panic.


Asbestos tile under carpet in bedroom.
Yep, we ain’t gonna touch that.

4) Pull back your carpets all the way to the middle of the room (at least) before making your plans. I didn’t know this until a friend warned me that when she went to refinish her floors, she had pulled up a corner of carpet (just like I did), saw that there was good hardwood underneath, and went straight to work ripping out all the carpeting… only to discover that the middle of the floor had been made with cheaper soft wood. Apparently, back in ‘the day,’ to save money sometimes homes would be built with hardwood only around the edges, with the presumption that the owner would just throw an area rug around the crappy wood in the center and call it a day.

Upon realizing this, we pulled back our carpeting halfway across the room to reveal that the floors underneath had been halfway redone, and that while the edges looked great (stained and varnished), the middles were bare wood.


The finished wood is a lie.
You can see the remnants of an area rug padding here too (tiny little dots where the stain pulled up).

So, where we might have originally thought that the downstairs floors didn’t need to be refinished at all, it turned out that they all definitely needed a complete re-do. This is something you’ll want to know ahead of time!

Check back later for information on our progress and results!


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