old house project: that $@%$*& upstairs floor

Prior to buying a house,  “refurbishing” had a romantic-but-deeply-obnoxious-force-of-gentrification-urban-homesteader connotation for me.  Perhaps that’s true when you’re talking Craftsman bungalows in Detroit, but a box-shaped multi-family (that was quite possibly a rooming house) in a gateway city in New England? Turns out that connotes less romance and more why-bother.  Some days that why-bother gets pretty mouthy.  Why bother w/ these floors that have been neglected for quite seriously more than 100 years? Why bother cleaning them when the dust of ages will resettle in 3 to 4 minutes? Why bother putting on shoes when I go up there?  Oh yeah, b/c the threat of universe-sized splinters is REAL. Basically, I was feeling kind of whiny about the floors.

The Problem – Destroyed Old Wood Floors

But seriously, what do you do w/ janky floors that have huge spaces, loose boards, are super cracked and dry, littered w/ bent nail heads, and are constantly coughing up old paper insulation dust all over everything? You replace them w/ gorgeous new floors, obviously.  Of course that’s only an option if you have several thousand spare dollars. So the real question: what do WE do w/ these floors.

paper-mache floors
IRL this floor is breathing dust on you

Incidentally, the bad floor occupied a long stretch of hallway and a largeish landing.

paper-mache floors
drywall + brown lead paint trim sure does catch the glare

While we we trying to figure out what to do w/ said floor (wall-to-wall carpet?! linoleum?! area rugs?! laminate wood planks!), we figured we should paint world’s narrowest hallway.  So we (actually me, I painted the whole miserable thing and deserve a cookie, so pretty please mail me one)  did that part… but the floor remained.

paper mache floors
halfway through the painting…nice edges, right?

The Solution – Paper-mache

Then, my brilliant husband came across a bizzaro article in Yankee Magazine about covering your floors w/ brown paper bags, basically paper-mache for your floors. ANNNNNDDDD SOLD! He poked around for others who actually did this…to their floors…covered them w/ glue and paper.  This tutorial wins the prize! The methodical testing of all the components really sold the Huz. If you’re planning to undertake this project, definitely read her tutorial.

So after a investing a very small amount of money on a roll of brown paper and a gallon of wood glue from from the Home Despot, we were on our way. Fill in the larger holes w/ rope and/or pieces of wood, then tear/dip/smooth our way to freedom. This is what last Saturday night looked like:

paper-mache floors
easy peasy

And by Sunday morning, it looked like this. You’ll notice that there are no holes in the floor AND that I had finished painting the trim. :) Another cookie, please.

paper mache floors
look Ma, no holes

Then the Huz stained the floor w/ a left-over can of Minwax Espresso. After it dried for a few days, he did two coats of Bona Traffic poly. It was much less noxious that the generic poly we used on the 1st and 2nd floors, plus it dried faster. Huz said he’d prefer a lighter stain next time, but I’m thrilled that I no longer risk tetanus by walking around in my socks.

paper-mache floors
paper-mache floors

Not sure how well they’ll hold up, but right now I’m viewing paper-mache floors as the best idea ever.  Apologies to those w/ preservationist tendencies, but I’m truly pleased w/ the result.  Now we should maybe consider modifying that glorious overhead lighting?

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