Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last of the Lino

Every once in a while you just have to marvel at the magic of the Blogosphere. Back in June of 2007 I posted a picture of the linoleum that was under the carpet on the stair landings in my house. Within a week someone saw the post and sent me pictures of my linoleum in a Omaha, NE catalog dated June of 1929. Pretty amazing.

Needless to say, that pretty much nails down the date of when the linoleum was installed. This was not too surprising. It was during the 1920s that the house went through the major cut-up in to apartments. When they did this, they covered all of the common floor areas in the house with linoleum. This included the foyer, 2 stair landings, and the upstairs hall.

Then in the 1970s the linoleum was pulled up in all of those areas except for the landings. The reason they pulled it up was because they were putting down a 3/8th inch under-lament (particle board) and then the floors were covered with a 12X12 fake wood tile. This under-lament and tile was put down in all rooms and the linoleum in the common areas made the floors uneven and caused problems when transitioning from the common area floor to an apartment floor. There was no transition necessary for the landings, so the linoleum was left and covered.

So now you may be asking yourself, “Well, if it was pulled up then how do you know it was there”. The answer to that is, because when they pulled up the linoleum they left behind the under-lament that was used for it. In this case it was a paper product. You can either think of it as really thin cardboard or really thick newspaper. This product was glued down to the wood to get a really smooth surface and then the linoleum was glued down to it. When the linoleum is pulled up half of the paper under-lament comes up with it and the other half stays glued to the floor. What remained was not really thick enough to cause problems for the 1970s particle board under-lament, so it was left.

It did, however, cause me problems. I had to pull it all up to get back to the original 1X6 T&G redwood floors. I tried all kinds of things from different scrapers, heat guns, chemicals. In the end what worked best was water. Lots and lots of water. I mean really, really a lot of water. The adhesive that was used to glue down the paper product is a water based adhesive. It becomes active again when you get it wet. The challenge was to get the water down under the under-lament to where the glue was.

If you just pour water on to the paper product the water beads up on top and just sits there. What I found works best is towels or sheets. You lay the towels and sheets down first and then soak them in water. Now the water sits on top evenly and penetrates over time down through the paper product. Once the glue gets wet the stuff comes up in big sheets. For small areas you can also use boiling water. It penetrates even faster.

As I said, it takes a lot of water. When I did the upstairs hallway I must have had every sheet and towel I own down on the floor covered in water. There may have 20 or 30 gallons of water on the floor. It was quite surreal to have that much standing water on the floor of an upstairs hallway that is 30 feet long and 4 feet wide.

Once the paper stuff comes up the floors must be washed down immediately before the remaining residue hardens up again. I did the upstairs hallway first and it was a huge mess. I would not attempt to do such a larger area like that again all at once. When I did the foyer I did it in several 4X4 foot sections. This is about the size of one of the landings.

Believe it or not, that is linoleum on the landings

It comes up easy

Except on the leading edge where people walk

They used tacks and a stronger adheseive that is not water based

The paper product covers the landings completely

Add water and let simmer for 60 minutes

They did not skimp on the paste. This is what it looks like once the paper comes off.

It goes pretty fast. It is really only about 20 minutes worth of work per landing, but it must sit for an hour with the water on it. At this point the wood is still very wet and damages easily. I won't even walk on it until tomorrow.

Once it dries, any remaining paste turns white.


Karen Anne said...

The more I read your blog, the more I am:

Amazed at the beauty of your house.

Staggered at the amount of work you do.

Consumed with envy :-)

Jesse said...

Dear Greg

It is so cool that you were able to date the lino to the 1920's. I am sorry you did not make your vacation but look what all you got done. You are lucky that there were so many layers of coverings over the original floors. They probably protected them. I volunteer at a house museum called Glenmore Mansion in Jefferson City Tn. The floors in the service area are worn so badly in the halls and butlers pantry that it looks like pot holes in the road. Your landings are beautiful when they are all wet. Your floors are going to be amazing. Have a great day and good luck

Greg said...


I'm not sure if it's a dream come true or a nightmare that won't end.


Yes, I think the lino going down 80 years ago did a lot to save the floors. Prior to the lino there was a 27-inch carpet runner, which I will be putting back down.


Anonymous said...

you're really getting down to the finish line, wow.

bewler said...

Wow, Greg! It's going to look great! If it makes you feel better, we removed 7 layers (including luan) of lino in our kitchen. It was a huge drag, but so worth it in the end. You are an inspiration to all of us "old house"DYIers!

Greg said...

Thanks, it really is worth it.