Friday, December 12, 2008

The Trials of Glued-down Carpet

Neither Beth nor I are much fond of carpet in the home. First, we both suffer various allergies, and not only does carpet typically harbor a fauniferous zoo of dust mites and their sneeze-inducing feces (yech!), but its fibers trap various outdoor allergens tracked in by humans and animals alike (pollen), and liquids can transform the padding and backing into mold and mildew factories. Our relatively short time in a temporary apartment saw increased congestion and related allergic symptoms in both of us no matter how much vacuuming we did, due I suspect to the wall-to-wall carpet.

So in moving to Chateau Papillon, one of the first orders of business was the reworking of the floors. Though the kitchen, dining, and entry hall were done in stone tile, and the living room left in original wood, the three upstairs bedrooms had been carpeted, as had the entire basement. We opted for bamboo for the bedrooms (true tongue-and-groove planks, mind you, and not cheap laminate), planning for the light-toned wood to offset the rich color palette we'd selected and help keep the smallish rooms as "open"-feeling as possible--with the added benefit that the Premium Green Bamboo we selected was inexpensive and represented a "green" flooring option in that bamboo is a largely- and rapidly-renewable resource, unlike traditional hardwoods.

But more on the bamboo in a later post. For the basement, Beth opted for cork, another renewable resource (the bark is harvested every five years or so, with the trees themselves never cut down) and one well-suited to her living space, providing a softer, warmer floor surface than other woods or materials like tile. Cork installs like laminate flooring, "clicking" together in either a floating or glued-down installation. But first things first: the basement floors were very nice carpet, which we'd hoped to salvage and make into a few throw rugs...

I'm cutting strips of carpet to pull up in the basement--tedious work!... until we discovered the basement carpet had been glued down instead of stretched and tacked as was done in the bedrooms. While not unusual for installations over concrete or tile, the carpet glue made our renovations quite painful.  I initially tried pulling up the whole carpet, but quickly discovered how sticky the glue was and gave up on salvaging the carpet.  At that point, I had two options: cut the carpet into strips (which individually would be easier to remove), or apply some solvent to help dissolve the glue.  Given we were trying to avoid fumes--recall we chose low-VOC paints for the basement--and the furnace and water heater would have to be turned off to prevent a possible explosion from the flammable solvent vapors, you can guess which option we chose.

Chance makes his home in one of the strips of carpet we'd cut.Chance decided he'd "help" as he so often does: by climbing atop (or, as in the photo above, into!) the carpet as we were removing it.  Crazy Chance!

We had to remove the carpet in stages; between cutting the strips (itself a difficult task which wore out my hands and several utility knife blades), pulling them up, and using an industrial-strength floor scraper to help pry up the carpet and padding and remove any particularly-stubborn patches of glue, it was back-breaking work.  As a reward to ourselves (and a break from the carpet removal!), we started on the installation of the new floor before we'd even finished taking up the carpet.

Two layers of 6 mil polyethylene sheeting went down atop the old vinyl tiles to act as a vapor barrier and help keep moisture away from the new cork floors, followed by a layer of half-inch OSB sheeting to act as a subfloor (this I had to "shoot" into the old floor using .22-propelled concrete fasteners; I'm sure the neighbors wondered if World War III was breaking out with all that noise!).  After that, the cork "tiles" (approximately 3' x 1') went down, with painter's tape on the seams to help keep prior rows from moving as new ones went in.

The last few rows of flooring to be completed... showing the vapor barrier before subfloor installation.
We're almost done with the basement flooring; above, you can see the last bits of exposed vapor barrier along with a bit of the OSB subfloor.  We've finished now up to the last strip, a 3" or so border down the edge of the wall; once that's done and I fill in some gaps along the base of the wall with foam sealant to keep out bugs and moisture, it will be time to put in the new baseboard.

Although it was a LOT of work, I think the cork floors look great.  They're environmentally-conscious in that cork is incredibly renewable, and the brand we chose had very low VOC content (the glues used in their construction make next to no use of formaldehyde).  They're soft underfoot and warmer than I'd expect for installation over a concrete slab.  Overall, we're both quite pleased with the work so far!


jesterjigger said...


My husband (who also went to VT) and I (who did not) just got a Papillon puppy and I was looking for Papillon blogs through google...which led me to yours. I just wanted to say hello, and good luck with the house renovation! We're going to be moving in March, and may be doing the same soon.

John Nolley II said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting and the well-wishes! I would be remiss to fail to mention that my wife runs the Northern Virginia Papillon Meetup group--perhaps there's a similar group in your area? Every month, we host a group of typically 15-20 Papillons and their owners (January's I think is at an indoor doggie day-care facility vs. our yard, due to weather).

Best of luck with your own house hunt and with the new Papillon; I have to say, they're great dogs (and often a bit too-smart for their own good...)