Prepare yourself for lots of words and pictures.
Before I start explaining and showing off pictures, please remember that we are absolutely not experts at home improvement. So there were probably several things we did that aren't so perfect. But hey, we did our very best and that's all a person can do, right??? Right.
We started on Friday, the 27th, by moving our refrigerator and pantry cupboard, along with the drawer to our oven into our dining room (if you've ever seen a pregnant lady and one fella try to move a fridge without scratching hardwood floors, you know it would make a heck of a comedy). We also propped up our stove on blocks because we were a bit nervous to truly fiddle with the gas lines going into the oven. Then, we really got going by peeling up the layer of orange squares linoleum. It took about 3 minutes. It felt great. Underneath the orange squares was a layer of plywood, so Dillon used a fancy brand-new pry bar to pull it up. That took about 30 minutes. Under that was the speckled green linoleum. Feeling good!
I left for work while poor Dillon continued by himself because we were both nervous about what little particles we would kick up and how they would affect the baby. We don't really know, so we played it a bit safer just in case. I was so curious all day about what was going on!
When I got home, this is what I found:
Not so encouraging, eh?
The green speckled was adhered firmly to the red tile, which was adhered firmly and stapled to the plywood underneath. Dillon and his dad used his pry bar and determination to peel pack both layers together. It smelled like an old, nasty house. There were small bits of black adhesive everywhere in our house from being tracked around on shoes. There were lots of little pieces of red tiles and green speckled floors still stubbornly stuck to the floor. Literally thousands of inch-long staples were sticking out of our floor by about 1/4inch.
So we started pulling staples after dinner. We have a minimal assortment of tools, so we did the best we could with needle-nosed pliers, pry bars, etc but I just didn't have the physical strength to get these suckers out and each staple was a battle. Not to mention that we had to either kneel on a towel (so as not to get staples in our knees) or bend in half while sitting on a step-stool. A person can only do so much bending in half before indigestion kicks in.
So we called it a night around 9pm, with hands starting to bruise from our pliers.
Saturday we got up and pulled a few staples, but we had a family Christmas party to attend. We stopped at Menards on the way and picked up a long-handled needle nose pliers, a 4" scraper found in the wallpaper section, and a jug of adhesive remover for the black stuff. After the party, we got back to work pulling staples. We each had our own system: I used the long-handled pliers (which gave me extra leverage since otherwise I'm not strong enough to get the staples out) set on a hammer for the fulcrum (oooh math terms) and pushed down to see-saw the staples up. Dillon had a similar system, except his pliers handles were so thin they would dig into his hands and he had bruises. So he set his pliers into the staple with a hammer underneath and pounded the pliers with a hammer. Here's a blurry picture of the hammer action:
It worked well, for the most part. Some staples were too stubborn, and broke. When this happened, we used a massive pipe wrench to clamp on to an end and twist it out. I wasn't strong enough to use the pipe wrench to pull both staple ends out at a time, so each little metal end had to be pulled separately.
I cannot express how long and discouraging this process was. Hours and hours on Saturday night, and literally ALL DAY on Sunday.
Finally on Monday, we were 95% done pulling staples so we did the best we could with the rest of them (we had to give up and just pound a handful in with a hammer, later filling the divot with compound). I went off to work while Dillon uncorked the adhesive remover (just in case the baby doesn't like super-strength adhesive remover fumes). Apparently it didn't smell too bad, like a strong cleaner. He tried it in a small area and discovered that it was not the right thing to do.
The adhesive remover made the black stuff gum up, the tar paper underneath deteriorate and peel up in strips, and while Dillon was using the 4" scraper it gouged the floor into a mess.
Let's just take a second to talk about why we were doing all this darn work. The first step on a box of self-adhesive tiles is to "prep the floor" by making it level and smooth. How sad that this first step took us 4 days. Our last kitchen floor was so high compared to the dining room wood floors that adding another layer would have created a serious tripping hazard and would have just been silly. So removal was really the only reasonable option, and we needed a smooth level floor to continue.
So we gave up on the adhesive remover. (p.s does anyone know someone who needs a nearly-full jug of strong adhesive remover? I think it would work well on cement floors that had been covered in something) and instead Dillon and his dad made another run to Menards. They got one sheet of plywood to fill in the spots that had been just subfloor and to replace the plywood that wasn't the right height. They also got a small tub of self-leveling compound. They spread that stuff on (it started out blue and dried white) anywhere the plywood met, anywhere we had pounded in staples, and anywhere things needed a bit of "lets make this a gradual decline rather than a sharp dropoff".
Tuesday was a big day. We started by rolling on primer we got that is specifically for self-adhesive tiles. It seals the pores of the wood and helps the adhesive stick. So I'm told on the bottle. Two coats only took a couple of hours since it only took 30-60 minutes to dry.
Then we realized we still didn't have a truly straight line to start. So we found straight lines by measuring off the walls, checked that it was a 90degree angle by using more math (a 5-4-3 triangle), and then measured out 3 feet from the intersection on each line. Connecting these dots meant we had a perfectly diagonal line. Now, we're not math majors so this took awhile and there was a joke or two about googling "How to make a straight line". But we made it.
We started in the center of the room, and laid the tile out in quadrants like the box told us to. We used these spacers in between the tiles since we wanted to grout. TIP: don't squeeze the tiles into the spacers too much! It just means when you pull the spacers out, you'll also pull the top layer of vinyl tile off with it. It went down pretty well! It was amazing!!!! Then we got to the part where you have to start cutting for edges. And we were stuck. How in the world do you get an accurate measurement for each tile to cut? Well here's how. I won't try to explain it because I'm not a math major and it looked like magic to me. But we made our cardboard template and transferred our lines to our tiles. I measured, Dillon used a utility knife and straight edge to score each tile and then bend and snap it apart. This took us the whole day, we didn't finish until around 10:30pm (on New Years Eve!). We each showered and went to bed just a few minutes before midnight, we're such party animals.
Wednesday, we awoke to the most beautiful sight in the world. We didn't even have to worry about uneven floors or staples sticking out. So we set ourselves up to live without a kitchen for a day since the grout isn't supposed to be walked on for 24 hours. Lots of paper plates and using the pizza pizazz.
Grouting was a surprisingly quick process (about 3 1/2 hours) that Dillon was not good at. Since I have always wanted to grout something, it didn't bother me! We borrowed my father-in-law's grout float and used premixed grout meant for vinyl flooring. I spread it into each grout line and worked in small sections around the room so that I could reach it all to use a sponge to wipe the excess off of each area. Dillon then followed up with some paper towels on the surface of each tile since we were pretty paranoid of having grout haze on the tiles. (EDIT: We had extremely little grout haze leftover, but we also had a few spots where I have to go back and touch up the grout because we removed too much. Choose your battle, I guess!)We had to replace the water in the sponge bucket constantly since it was immediately tinged white after one use. I'm glad we didn't have a larger surface area to tile, or I would have lost my mind with all that sponging and wiping.
After not walking on it for 24 hours, we can finally get back into our kitchen. And it's the most beautiful kitchen I've ever seen in my life. It's so nice to not worry about the floor height every time you enter or exit the kitchen, and it looks much better than the orange squares (although the previous owners so delightfully stuck up the orange square linoleum as a backsplash, so we still get to look at it everyday).
Congratulations, you made it to the end of this post!!! Sorry for the length, but I'm writing it all down so that I remember the details as well as share it with whoever is interested enough to read all this!
Here's a few other things I want to mention:
-we do have about 10 extra tiles leftover just in case something tragic happens
-I do need to go over and grout a couple of places where I missed grouting the first time (a couple of teeny dots where I didn't use enough grout or it got wiped down too well)
-This project would have been a bit easier if we had removed the oven, but we were too lazy for that. I just used my finger to push grout into the seams underneath the oven where the grout float couldn't reach
-we still need to get transition pieces and baseboard from Menards to complete this project (WILL IT NEVER END???)
-if another person hears about our floors and asks me when we're doing the railing, I'll scream. We just finished the longest project in history, are you not entertained?
-It was difficult, as a pregnant lady, to keep getting up and down off the floor. Also, I twinged my back on grout-day so I had to be a bit more careful to not reach too far. This probably slowed us down because I was wiping with the sponge more frequently (so more frequent water changes, too).
-Maybe someday I'll calculate and post how much this project cost. We had some unexpected tool expenses and that darn adhesive remover. Though I think we're still under $250.