For some background, my house is a 120 year old Victorian, and over the past two-plus years I have been making improvements and renovations. It's slow going because we still have to be able to live in the house day-to-day, and having two small children means no late-night projects. Also, we are budget constrained, and thus I do all the work myself, as well as make creative use of the space we have rather than building major additions and the like.
In the spirit of keeping to a budget, I'm making limited updates to our small galley kitchen instead of gutting it and starting from scratch. For instance, instead of adding on, I cut out the wall between the dining room and the kitchen, and will be installing a bar/island which will give us more counter space and storage, and provide additional casual seating. Also, it means leaving the old but still functional cabinets in place.
In this photo from 2 months ago (sorry for the poor quality -- it's all I have available right now) you see the first stage of the wall demolition, looking from the dining room to the kitchen. I told you it was a small galley kitchen. In the second shot, you can see from the back door into the dining room. Soon after this, the remaining studs were removed and I put in a header across the span.
OK, back to the flooring. T and I decided that I may as well rip out the old bouncy wood floor while the walls are torn up, so I started that job Saturday morning. It's hard to describe how much I hated that floor. It appeared to have been cobbled together with a mix of nice oak and whatever scraps the original builders happened to have lying around at the time. Some boards went side-to-side, some front-to-back, and there were random 1 ft. wide pine boards thrown in. It made me insane. Though I wasn't looking forward to the work, I knew it would be worth it.
Remember that I said the kitchen cabinets are staying? This meant that roughly 70% of the boards I ripped up had to be cut flush with the bottom of the cabinets using a reciprocating saw in order to remove them, while leaving the supporting floorboards under the cabinets intact. This is exhausting, back-breaking work. After 5 straight hours of labor, the wood floor was gone, leaving just a single layer of 1" thick sheathing. The sheathing is pretty sturdy -- none of the bouncy squeakiness we were accustomed to -- so it's clear that 120 years of water and foot traffic had just warped the old floorboards.
Then, bright and early Sunday, I went to Home Depot to pick up what I thought would be just a few sheets of plywood to create a solid sub-floor. Thankfully, I spoke to Kelly the Flooring Expert (after getting a bunch of half-assed advice from other people there) and came up with the following plan:
- Because the 120 yr old sheathing is bound to be spongy, even though it feels pretty solid, she recommended putting down 1/2" plywood first (not thicker, because I don't want much more than one inch of total height from the sheathing to the top of the tile).
- Then, a layer of 1/4" HardiBacker. It's a cement board similar to Wonderboard, but easier to work with and thinner. This is glued down to the plywood with thinset, and also screwed into the plywood with special screws.
- Finally, install the tile (I'm leaning towards slate, which would then have to be sealed).
In anticipation of installing the tiles sometime in the next few weeks, does anyone out there have any experience with either installing or simply owning a slate-tiled floor? I was told that if I use a really good sealer, it will be maintenance-free for a couple of years, and then will just need to be sealed again periodically. I'd really like to use slate because it will tie in nicely with our bluestone patio.
For now, the kitchen is in a state of half-doneness, just like most of the rest of the house. Sigh.