The Treehouse: Floors

pulling up the carpet

Images and text by Gabrielle.

When we moved in, pretty much the first thing on my fix-it/change-it list was getting rid of the carpet in the dining area. Partly because the carpet was stained and worn, but mostly because carpet + eating doesn’t work for our family. I realize there are many, many people the world over who have carpets or rugs under their kitchen tables and get along just fine. But I feel like carpet under the table leaves me spending too much time scrubbing out stains from spilled milk, and I also find myself feeling angry at totally normal messes or spills that wouldn’t typically stress me out. Best to get rid of the carpet.

So we immediately started scheming about what kind of flooring we would put in instead.

My first instinct was concrete. I adore a highly polished concrete floor! And I like a nice industrial looking matte one as well. I like concrete floors when I see them in stores. And I like them when I see them in homes. Concrete floors appeal to me immediately whenever I encounter them. I’ve been warned the floors can feel too cold or unwelcoming, but after the old stone floors in France, I wasn’t too worried about it, and know I can warm things up with area rugs (just not under the kitchen table! Hah.).

But. After an initial consultation with a contractor, we thought we should also look at alternative options. Because he told us concrete floors would actually be quite expensive — even more expensive then hardwood! And he also said that the weight of the concrete floors might be too much for our house to structurally bear.

So, I didn’t totally give up on the idea of concrete (I’m wondering if there is a light-weight/skim-coat alternative? Or maybe a DIY version we can tackle ourselves?), but I began to think of second choices, and I landed on industrial grade linoleum/vinyl. Imagine the hallways of a school or a hospital. That’s the sort of material I’m thinking of.

We had this type of flooring put into the kitchen of our first home and I loved it! Because it’s industrial-grade, it’s made to handle high traffic and heavy use. The maintenance was wonderfully easy, you can give it high shine or keep it matte, there are dozens and dozens of color options available, and since the flooring pigment goes all the way through the material, if you scratch the floor, you don’t see a contrasting undersurface.

By the way, it’s been over a decade since we last looked into this flooring, but I remember hearing that true linoleum wasn’t really made any more, and that available options were all types of vinyl now. I have no idea if that’s still true.

Anyway, I started really thinking hard about linoleum/vinyl floors.

wood floors revealed

But then we got curious. We decided to pull up the carpet in the living room/dining nook area and find out what kind of subfloor we’d be working with.

Turns out the carpet was hiding (and happily, protecting) gorgeous hardwood floors!

We couldn’t have been more excited. The floors are truly beautiful, and in really good shape. We couldn’t believe our good luck! So of course, we immediately forgot all about the cement floors and linoleum floors and starting picturing our furnishings with these lovely hardwoods. We especially loved the idea of being able to use what was already there.

And then.

We pulled up the carpet in the dining area.

wood then plywood

Alas! No hardwoods there. Just plywood subfloor. Turns out the dining nook was an addition to the original floor plan. Seeing the plywood also explained why the beautiful wood was covered up in the first place — the owners had wanted one consistent flooring throughout that space. Which makes sense. We’ve already experienced that the two different floorings make the rooms feel smaller.

Which leads me to this: How hard would it be to add-on to the existing wood floors? Could we mimic the widths and the style and then refinish everything in the same finish or stain? Would trying to work with the existing floors end up being cost prohibitive compared to replacing them? I’ve never worked on any kind of wood floor restoration and don’t know what my options are.

It seems like I either need to add to the existing wood floor, or replace all the flooring in that area and pretend we never uncovered the beautiful hardwoods in the first place. Which seems like a shame. But then again, the existing wood doesn’t cover that big of an area, so maybe saying goodbye to it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

I know it’s hard to form an opinion without being in the space in real life, but I’d love your thoughts. How would you handle this existing wood floor? Would you do everything you can to work with it? Or say goodbye and go with something else — perhaps even a different hardwood?

P.S. — Curious about that white area between the hardwood and plywood? It’s a sloping transition made of wood and plaster. There was a lip where the hardwood ended, but the owners didn’t want to feel the lip under the carpet, so this made the transition more gradual. Here’s a close-up:

plaster transition

113 thoughts on “The Treehouse: Floors”

  1. We bought a 100 year old home which had beautiful hardwood floors in the dining room, but the wood floors in the kitchen were stained, rotted and simply unusable. We decided to install new wood floors in the kitchen only, but were worried that the 100 year old patina of the floors in the dining room could never be matched. Truth is, the installers did a great job– you could tell where old meets new, but the difference was subtle. Good luck!

    1. I love hearing that, Mary! That’s how it looks in my head — that you can see the difference between the old and new if you look, but it’s not the first thing you notice.

      1. exactly – this is one of those little quirky things that you’d never do when you’re first building a house, but which make older houses so nice… funny how that happens!

  2. Hello Gabrielle,
    I love your blog and these days am looking especially forward to posts about the treehouse. I had something similar happen for our renovation. Although labor intensive, I pulled the original flooring out of a bedroom and installed it in our great room addition. Since both floors were laid at the same time, they were a perfect match. Perhaps one of your bedrooms has the same flooring underneath the carpet?
    Best wishes to you and your delightful family. I am looking forward to the Big Reveal!

    1. Oh man, that would be great! So far, we haven’ found any other hardwood under the carpet (though there’s still some to pull up), but there is matching hardwood in the kitchen. Hmmm.

      1. Kelly’s idea seems the best…we pulled up floors in one room and put them in another. The installer should be able to “thread” them in so that you don’t even see any horizontal seam. It’s easier to re-do/match a standalone room, but work them into the dining room for one long look.

      2. My husband just patched a spot in our floor where we opened up a wall. He found someone on Craigslist who was selling maple flooring from an old basketball court. It matches really well. I’m sure in your area there is a place that specializes in recycling old homes.

  3. Pull up the wood floors and reuse them elsewhere in the house. Then design your space the way you want it while still getting wood floors elsewhere…

  4. We pulled up carpet in a living room that adjoins our kitchen and replaced it with hardwood. The floor guys were able to marry the new wood beautifully to the old wood. They then finished (or re-finished in the case of the kitchen wood) it all to match.

  5. When we gutted the kitchen of our 95 year old house, the floors were unsalvageable. We put in new hard woods and they match up very nicely with the rest of the hard woods in the house. They have taken quite the beating in the last 8 years: lots of cooking, dropping things, two kids and hundreds of people at countless parties, but still look great.

  6. I would definitely try to keep the wood floors and have them matched in the dining room. You may need to sand the old floors and have them refinished to match the new ones but there’s no sense wasting all that gorgeous hardwood! If you do decide to go the linoleum route, there’s a product called marmoleum that is awesome. Comes in a bunch of different colors and styles and is eco friendly. http://www.marmoleum.com Good luck!

    1. We have marmoleum in our kitchen. Our room is combined kitchen/dining/living, and the marmoleum is only in the true cooking space. We love it – it’s easy to clean, maintain and looks cool. That said, your space is begging for that wood to continue, and I bet it will be pretty cost effective to add wood to just that space. That wood is gorgeous!!!

  7. I would try and match to the existing flooring and possibly stain them all the same color. You might make an interesting transition with two different stains of wood (a checkerboard) where that transition is that the previous owners created. Sounds like so much fun!

  8. I would install new hardwood in the dinning area using a contrastin pattern, herring bone or even just right angle or maybe even square wood floor tiles.

  9. I love the idea of linoleum, too! There is a product called “Marmoleum” that offers great options including “Glow-in-the-dark Marmoleum weld”! Can you imagine? If you search it on Pinterest, you’ll see lots of fun and crazy patterns.
    I would probably try a good hard-wood installer first to see if it’s possible to match the wood closely, then, if not, jump on the crazy-fun flooring train!! But my whimsical sense of style is not for everyone!
    You’re getting sleee-py!! http://www.pinterest.com/pin/287104544967723105/

  10. I’d probably keep the original wood. I like the suggestion of doing a different pattern in the dining area. I had thought of just having the wood perpendicular, but a herringbone could be really nice. So fun, though! What a great house.

  11. That wooden floor is beautiful – it’d be a shame to cover it up again. I reckon a good fitter will be able to do wonders with the dining nook; whether it’s matching new planks exactly, or finding a way to blend a new pattern in.

  12. You are indeed lucky!!
    There has to be some way to match the original hardwood floor. I’d say a really good handyman could match it and make it more than work. Even if you had to make a small step up to a subfloor in the dining area. Loving the tree house!! I might add that I have a bit (okay, a lot) of tree house envy. ;)

  13. Some friends just installed beautiful cork floors in their dining area – the cork looks similar to hardwood at first glance (it’s in long “boards”) but it’s got a lovely matte finish. And it’s softer underfoot, which makes me think that dropped glasses would be less likely to break.
    In any case, you could always use that lovely hardwood elsewhere! Or, you could sell it to one of those wood reclaiming outfits to help defray the cost of the new flooring.

  14. Go with the gorgeous hardwood and match as best as possible! If you need to transition more smoothly, paint a colorful edge to delineate the dining space- that will make the potential differences in the wood less noticeable!

  15. Stick with the existing hardwood!!! Hardwood installers can match anything. They will weave in the new planks with old at the transition into dining nook and stain to match perfectly. Once they are done you won’t even know there are two eras of flooring.

  16. I’m not sure what to do about your current question but it looks like you already have some good suggestions. I was going to say I have also been looking at linoleum and share the link for the Marmoleum but someone already did. I’ll be anxious to see how you like it if you go with linoleum. It feels like I have been looking at flooring forever and it seems almost impossible to find a baby/kid friendly, low toxin, durable floor.

    1. Jennifer,
      I installed Marmoleum in the kitchen of the house we sold a few years ago. It survived, very nicely, the baby, toddler, elementary school, and tween years of my two boys. One of the best things about Marmoleum is that it is a completely natural product. When it was installed, the house smelled like linseed oil! I loved it, it looked great, AND it was a big selling point when we sold the house.

      1. Thank you Amy! It is so nice to read your experience with Marmoleum. That is what I am leaning towards right now and I’m glad to hear how much you loved it.

  17. You should have no problem matching and refinishing the floor. Or you could put doen a transtion strip and do something differnt in the dinning area. With all the money your going to save I would have a company come in and do the work! Great find!!!

  18. Marmoleum comes in lots of colors and is very hard wearing and environmentally friendly. When we added on to our old house we kept the original hardwoods and added Marmoleum in a similiar color to the hard woods. Its great with little kids and big grownups!

  19. When we remodeled our kitchen we put in hardwood floors to match the ones in the rest of our house. It was pretty easy for them to make it look similar enough in both width and color, so unless you’re looking right at it them side by side you don’t really notice they are different. They also put in a piece that transitions between the two since we have a difference in height of our floors. It looks great, so definitely consider doing it!

  20. It looks like the hardwood floors are of varying widths, which should make it easier to match. It would break my heart to rip out something so lovely. I’d find a good match and refinish everything together.

  21. I would put in new hardwood to match the old hardwood..but run it in the opposite direction and then stain everything the same. You could also put a pattern around the outside edges of the dining room floor to mimic the idea of a carpet. Don’t pull up those floors!! :)

  22. We ran into this issue when we added a room on to our (1950’s) house. We were told by a general contractor that the new hardwood flooring would clash with the old hardwood flooring. What ended up happening was that we found a fantastic wood refinisher who was able to make it all work without having to stain or sand our old hardwood. You cannot tell where the old and the new meet. A skilled woodworker can make magic happen! (BTW, we just moved to the north bay and are in the process of laying new hardwood to match the existing hardwood. We meet tonight with our hardwood contractor and are excited to see the magic happen again!

  23. We have old(ish) hardwoods in our living room/dining room, and when we opened up our kitchen, we installed new hardwoods in there to “match.” I am SO happy we did this. The consistent flooring really makes the space flow and feel bigger. The hardwood contractor matched the type of wood and width and stained to match as close as possible (we didn’t even have the original floors restained . . . which would have made it even more seamless if we had!). While the new wood definitely has fewer dings than the older floors, we’re doing our job denting it up and scratching it with just living in general. :) (And it makes me stress less if the kids drop utensils or things on the new kitchen wood floors . . . they are just helping it blend better! Ha!) All of this to say, I would definitely bring in a hardwood guy and talk to him about the type of wood in your living room. If it was custom, I could see it being hard to match, but standard, easy-peasy! Good luck!

  24. We had wood flooring put in my daughters room and stained it to match the hallway outside her room. It’s an exact match. You would never know it wasn’t original to the house. We had a really good wood flooring installer. It took him 3 days. to do the job. It was a little messy due to the fact that they have to sand the floor between coats of stain, but totally worth it.

  25. Agreed. Keep them! Figure out what species they are, have a ‘picture frame’ border made of wide planks and mitred corners. Fill in the middle running the same direction in random width planks like yours. Then stain the whole floor to match :)
    You’re so lucky to find original hardwood underneath!

  26. What about adding tiles to that area…something to complement the hardwood that you already have? I think either slate or terra cotta tiles wouldn’t be too expensive. Here’s what I envision…you could do a border around the perimeter, and then lay the tiles diagonally in the center in a diamond pattern (rather than laying them like a checkerboard). The side tiles would frame the center area which would be under the table. Cute?

    1. I agree that a tile floor might be a fun addition. Could introduce some color and pattern with a graphic design. Think Moroccan…a wide array of colors and designs. Also, tile adheres to the 70s vibe of the house since pottery was one of the things the 70s did well!

  27. My design two-cents:
    I would KEEP the wood floor…it’s a beautiful color and the varied plank width is interesting and unique and they are in great shape. I would let the Dining Room have it’s own identity – it’s a three-sided glass box. I would put down a wood threshold (perpendicular to the direction of the wood from and it spans the opening of Dining Room) and put down a Cork floor in the Dining Room. Cork is warm and eco-friendly. You can create great patterns too. It can even be a DIY project!

  28. We had concrete floors throughout our entire house. They were great except I have 4 young boys and the floors were impossible to clean. Any black smudge was there for life. We were lucky to be renting so when we moved (2 months ago) it became our landlords problem :)

  29. We added space after laying hardwood and were able to get the same width and thickness of hardwood with a similar satin finish from a hardwood specialty supplier (that milled and finished the wood). We had extra so sending a sample was easy but perhaps you could print out photos that you color match as close as possible and take exact measurements of the different widths to a wood floor supplier. Your floors are gorgeous by the way – what a lucky find!!

  30. I don’t know anything official about it, but I’d leave the wood floor and get some wood that harmonizes with the existing wood but make it look special somehow with a bit of a border or pattern in that area? Just a thought…

  31. Hello friend to the south! I am SO NOT a design person but I am going to throw this out there. What if you went with matching color but laid the wood in the dining room perpendicular to the existing floors? Thus “separating” the space but keeping the stain uniform so it wouldn’t be a visual shock.
    So happy you are transitioning in so well. Time to change your “about” paragraph at the top left of your page- you are now living in a tree house!

    x

  32. Is your sub floor a bit below the hardwoods? Depending on what that difference in height is, you can install new hardwoods that will flow right into what you have – and you can very likely find floor boards that match – for that small amount of square footage the cost should not be much.

    If you want it to all look like the same floor your challenge will be #1/the height difference and #2/the finish. Your old floors were likely finished with an oil based varnish and they don’t sell oil based anymore (at least not here in California) so it is tricky to match the finish. For a bit more $ and the hassle of removing everything in the living room you could have the new and old hardwoods sanded/finished and then it will all look the same. If current hardwoods aren’t that big of a space – and it’s in your budget – maybe just have new hardwoods put down to cover the entire space so it is seamless. Hardwoods are not that expensive these days – I have heard good stories about Lumber Liquidators (we have here in Southern Ca – maybe you have up there too?)

    My two cents would be to keep the wood at all costs … but you have killer style and whatever you do will be great!

  33. I would either try to match the existing hardwood since it sounds like some people have had luck with that or find the same species/kind of wood (doesn’t have to be the whole floor, even just some inlaid with other wood types) and put it down in the dining room in a different pattern. I would still look like it flowed together.

  34. I think you could try and match the hardwood, but if you don’t want to fool with it and it would be pretty costly to refinish the entire space, I’d do tile in that area. A beautiful natural stone/slate…even brick would be beautiful. it would make that area seem like a sunporch. It wouldn’t look weird, it would look intentional and really bring focus to that area of the room. I’d use this “find” as a positive to play with the floor!

  35. Hey Gabby,

    I am a total preservationist, so I’d say, by all means, keep the wood! My partner is a flooring installer (@hohmanhardwood on Insta), so I did a little research for you. He said to pull out each piece of wood that butts up to the transition from the joint and then “toe in” your new pieces. As for leveling the transition, he said you could use patch or shims. To make it match, install the new flooring and then sand the entire floor (old and new). When you’re ready to apply the finish, tinting may help to match the tone. Feel free to email him if you have any questions (hohmanhardwood at gmail); he said he’d be happy to help. Good luck!

  36. What a find! I would say have a flooring contractor out who could identify the type of wood and then get something to match. If you plan on refinishing the rest anyway, they should be able to give you a nearly seamless look. If you do decide on something else though, please do linoleum (Marmoleum) over vinyl. Linoleum is made from linseed oil and is very sustainable, rapidly renewable, and doesn’t offgas. Vinyl contains lots of nasty chemicals, plasticizers, etc. (think pthalates and all those things we are now being told to avoid exposing our children to). Marmoleum truly has some beautiful colors and patterns too, so I know you could come up with a really cool look if you go that route. Best of luck!

  37. Wow! I loved seeing your surprise find and all the amazing suggestions. I agree to keep the wood, and make the dining space it’s own cozy nook. I can definitely see something like a a dark slate floor in that small space to contrast with the wood. Can’t wait to see what you decide!

  38. We just did a kitchen remodel and replaced the old tile flooring to match the wood floors in the rest of the house. The wood floors in the rest of the house were not standard, so our contractor recommended Amber Flooring (http://www.amberflooring.com) out of Oakland. They matched the wood/pattern/finish so well, you can’t tell where the old floor ends and the new flooring starts. It wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth it.

  39. What if you found a similar wood & finish, but put it in at an angle? Then it might not matter as much if it’s not a perfect match.

    Our kitchen and living room had continuous pergo flooring, but then our dishwasher flooded our kitchen and we had to rip up the flooring in there. Our landlord didn’t have any extra of the original flooring, so he found one in a different colour and put it in perpendicular to the flooring in the living room, so it didn’t matter so much that they didn’t match (plus they define separate areas without making each space seem smaller).

  40. I’d keep the original wood, acknowledge the addition and the house’s history, and go with a complete contrast, maybe linoleum squares in a checkerboard pattern. Or a contrasting wood parquet? Quirky, but definitely a statement.

  41. Hi Gabrielle,

    Just a tip re. the oil-based varnish mentioned in a comment above. You still can buy oil-based paints and stains in Nevada, and the Treehouse is only 2 hours from Reno. My mother-in-law lives in the Sacramento area and always drives to Reno when she needs paint for her various remodeling projects. Good Luck with the space. I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with—if it were me, i’d go with the wood and make it work ;-)

  42. I just dealt with the **Exact** same thing…but in my bedroom. I had 2 spots that were trouble – one – like yours, that sloped and the other a patch in the middle of the nice floors. The sloping area I ended up covering with a new engineered floating hardwood floor that now is a reasonable match. There was no exact matching the stain or the width. After they were installed I painted it all white. I simply love the painted wood floors – they are so clean and fresh and all the diparate colors and widths are no longer a problem. The area that needed the patch I wrestled with — and then finally – tired of wrestling, I tried painting it white like the rest of the floor. suddenly it was all ok — it is mostly under an area rug, but even those areas that are not are not a big issue once they have been painted. Painting is a big commitment…but I think a great option and I haven’t regretted going that route.

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