Answers to Flooring Questions

Q. We just purchased a house that was built in 1954. When we tore up the carpet in the dining room, we found beautiful oak floors with zero scratches on them. The kitchen has linoleum on it. As I was peeking under the flooring while doing some renovations, there is a sub floor and underneath is wood flooring. I have been told that back in the 50's it was required that these houses be built with hardwood throughout for war veterans or something. I would like to tear out the linoleum and sub floor in the kitchen. How do I do this without damaging the wood underneath?

A. Hopefully they did not do anything silly like glue the underlayment to the hardwood flooring. You will need to get an area to start in and get a pry bar under the underlayment and on top of the hardwood and start prying it up. What you should find is about a million little crown staples and one spot nails, so be careful when doing this so you don't get poked. If you have one use, a long pry bar about 3 or 4 feet long. When pulling this up, this will help when getting under the flooring to pry it up.

Try to get the full pieces or bigger ones anyway. You may need to cut some of these to get them out, so keep a utility knife handy, you will need it to cut around the toe kicks of the cabinets (if the cabinets were installed over the vinyl).

Wear gloves and safety glasses and watch those little staples. Be ready to cry a little cause this won't be easy. Keep some Band-Aids handy too - hopefully you won't need these but better to be prepared than not. When finished you will have a bunch of holes to fill but they should be able to take care of those when refinishing the floor.

Q. I live in a 1980 Woodcrest mobile home in California. I was going to put new flooring in my kitchen and was told that I have asbestos in my floor. I thought that they stopped using anything asbestos in 1977 so my question is how did they put asbestos flooring in my kitchen?

A. Chances are very remote that you have any asbestos in your flooring. Unless you have 6" square tiles that are almost impossible to shine, you are probably OK. If in doubt, simply cover the existing floor with 1/4" plywood and lay new floor on top. The only time asbestos becomes dangerous is if it is disturbed and the dust gets into the air. If you go over the floor, this can't happen and you'll be perfectly safe. You can always contact your local government environmental authority for further advice.

Q. We have natural maple cabinets/bookshelves/etc. throughout our house and we are now considering putting in laminate flooring. Here is our question: Would it be best to stay with the natural maple for the flooring (too much maple?) or go with a cherry - will it be contrasting?

A. Most tend to recommend a contrast when it comes to flooring. The white sapwood in American Cherry would certainly be complimentary to the natural maple cabinets. It is a beautiful wood, but note that it is very soft and tends to ding and dent easily. Hickory is a fun wood if you like a more rustic look, and it is very hard and dense like maple. Its white sap wood contrasts with the deep, rich, reds and browns of the heartwood. You can also select the all-time favorite oak with a warm stain for contrast.

When you're selecting a flooring that will compliment your cabinets/bookshelves, etc., also be thinking about how it will work with the actual colors that you'll be using for upholstery, draperies, wall paint, etc., especially if you're thinking of using burgundys, reds, rusts, browns, golds, etc. The yellow and/or reddish tones in wood can get tricky.

Q. I removed the varnish and stain from my floor using 3M strippers, however I have a few deep, dark stains that don't seem to come out. I've used TSP. Now I am looking for Oxalic (sp) acid. I'd rather not sand it down as this is a 100-year-old house and it looks like it could do more damage than good. What can I do to fix this?

A. If these stains were under what you removed with the stripper and won't come up even with more strippers and a brush, you may have to live with them. I would give a trial to a chemical stripper even with its fumes to see if it will remove the stains. Just the difference in chemicals from 3M to something akin to Strypeeze might be enough to make the final removal.

Even oxalic acid (wood bleach) won't remove everything. There is something about an old item that must be referred to as character because it cannot be repaired or removed.

Q. How do I leave an expansion gap around my metal doorframes? I cannot place any sort of skirting board on the doorframe. The Laminate floor joins the doorframe at a 45-degree angle. Do I cut / grind away the doorframe and slip the laminate floor under it or do I leave the gap on the outside and fill it with a silicon sealer?

A. 1. Use a "nibbler" tool to cut without grinding the metal; this leaves a metal burr on the inside, which rusts very easily.
2. To prevent rust, you need to rust treat and paint the frame after you have cut it.
3. Getting into the inside of the frame to rust treat it is difficult since you only have a 13mm gap at the bottom of the frame for the rust treatment / primer. I recommend using an aerosol can and spraying through a small plastic tube, and would rather spray too much than too little. Gravity makes the excess run back down onto the naked metal edge of your cut. The rest of the excess is inside the frame so no one will see it.
4. Leave the rust treatment / primer and touchup paint to dry properly before installing the laminate - otherwise the excess that you sprayed runs onto the plank and ruins the laminate.
5. Make sure to clean out enough of the cement behind the frame to create the expansion gap.

Q. My husband and I started a project of pulling the carpet in our bedroom up and wanted to stain the wood floor underneath but when we pulled the padding up we realized that the floor beneath had dark spots. The spots we think are from pet accidents that we cleaned up but maybe never dried completely. Can we get the stains out without replacing the wood? Or can we just stain it without the spots causing dark areas where the spots are now?

A. Pet urine stains tend to be permanent. You can try using wood bleach. If that does not work, perhaps using a dark stain will camouflage the pet urine stains.

Visit our Community Forums for more answers to your home improvement questions.