Friday, January 30, 2009

Look up

Please don't look down. Please don't see the carpet.

When we moved into our home 15 years ago there was a really grotty carpet in the big room, the room which at that time served as a bedroom for three, home office, storage area and family room. The carpet looked like it had been installed (using the word "installed" very lightly here) 15 years earlier and was already used at that point. It wasn't stretched. There was no separate underlay. It was probably the cheapest stuff available way back when it was purchased. The only point in its favour: at least it wasn't shag. We decided to just live with it, knowing that with young kids anything new and lovely we put down instead would likely get trashed.

Here are the wrinkles. Three large ones run across the entire width of the room. For a while they bothered us, because they prevented the Brio train track from lying properly and staying together. But we bought enough bridge pieces to get over these geological obstacles.

Here's what I mean by "installed," putting the word in those little sarcastiquotes. The thing was sort of trimmed to match the shape of the room, but where it didn't quite fit there was really no attempt to solve the problems.

Rust stains. Some kid likely spilled a jug of water which seeped under the file cabinets and refused to dry until it participated in a colourful chemical reaction. The standard remedies were ineffective at removing this. And really, why would anyone pay professionals, and bring in questionable chemicals, to remedy the sort of carpet we're discussing here?

A year ago when our old vacuum cleaner broke I bought a Dyson figuring that we might experience a partial rejuvenation of our grotty carpet as the result of its exceptional performance. Alas while our grotty carpet is probably cleaner than it's been in 15 years, and the newer bedrooms carpets are loving the treatment, the Dyson is actually sucking up the grotty carpet. It's happening all over the living room too -- the poor carpet there is being plucked bald as whatever crusty bonding material decays and releases its pile. That one is a Berber, so what lets go is not shaggy tufts, but long strands of knobby snythetic fibres punctuated by decaying clumps of whatever used to hold it together. And I spend an inordinate amount of my cleaning time cutting and unwinding these from the beater bar of the vacuum. The living room carpet now suffers from a sort of punctate metastatic alopecia, as we'd describe it in the medical field. Raging divots in the golfing world.

In the case of the grottiest of all carpets in the big room, though, the damage is more of the macro variety. Whole edges and corners of the carpet are ready to surrender to the thirsty call of the Dyson's suction. We've even had occasions when entire sections of perfectly flat carpet have been called up to meet the beater bar, causing (thankfully!) the Dyson's clutch to disengage, resulting in a nasty sound by no stinky melted rubber belts.

I'm the sort of person to just make do. I don't much like making issues of things, I don't like spending money, I care more for function that appearances. But gradually a resolution has been forming in my mind, expedited by certain unmentionable deposits the dog made beneath the piano to celebrate the rest of the family's overnight birthday adventure for Fiona.

The carpet has got to go.

There's nice engineered hardwood available these days that is certified for use over radiant heating and over concrete slabs. We need some. We live in this room. I do the taxes, my web-publishing, photo-editing, blogging, desktop publishing, arts administration, music publishing, homeschool reporting (times three), bookbinding, sewing and paper-crafting here. My kids do math, handwriting, music theory, blog, play on the computer, talk and play imaginatively together here. The piano lives here too. This room stores our craft and homeschooling supplies, the computers, fax/scanner, laminator, chalkboard, microscope, office supplies, children's artwork. It's our largest room, about 15 x 15', and it gets the majority of the our time and use.

I'm tired of not looking down.

So it remains to map out how we'll tackle this. The subfloor will need to be patched and levelled and someone who knows what they're doing will need to work out how to lay flooring over the edge that doesn't really have a subfloor. We'll need to tear down and replace the loft stairs which are sinfully ugly and are currently installed right on the concrete. And we'll need to find some way of installing without having to hire piano movers from 4 hours away to come (twice) to move the grand piano out of the room in question. Stay tuned. It may take a while, but I think it's got to happen.


  1. We have put down wood and we have put down tile. Both are quite doable. However, given the stairs and the piano - what shape is the concrete in? I think I would be giving serious thought to putting a painted finish on the concrete and using area rugs over that.

  2. Thank you for the huge giggle! Even dh laughed at your description of the carpet and it's reduction to dust. I hope things go well and you get the flooring you want so you are no longer afraid of looking down!

  3. kitmf, thanks for the thoughts. We've done a lot of flooring stuff before too, but I think this is a job for the pros. The concrete is really messy (zoom in on the photo above showing the concrete ... nails and deep pits) and it also doesn't fill the whole room -- there's a strip of more or less nothing (some loose plywood laid over plumbing stuff) along one entire edge of the room).

    The stairs need to go anyway -- they're really ugly and dangerous. So that's more a timing consideration than anything. As for the piano, I don't think it would be that big a deal to push it into half the room, work that side, and then push it into the other. We'd use pre-finished flooring for that reason among others.

  4. This post made me laugh out loud! Good luck on your new floor endeavors!

  5. Anonymous9:39 pm

    What a great litany of metaphors...

    what we usually do is (or how not to DIY):

    a) one of us gets impatient and rips out the offending item: electrical circuit, bathroom, driveway, whatever...

    b) it turns out that the project is 100 times as complex as originally thought

    c) we spend the next six months deciding how to deal with the out of control project, with every now and then the least powerful person letting fly with zingers like "I'm pretty sure it's illegal to not have a functioning bathroom in town"

    d) some passive aggressive stuff goes on for a few years

    e) meanwhile another such project or two has been started

    f) we finish the project in time for the next occupant to be able to enjoy it!

    g) the guiltiest party engages in periodic self-recrimination for years, goaded on by everyone else: "and we had to use a camp toilet for six months!"


  6. Very droll! We have Anon's situation, except that the first phase involves several years of research by He Who Is Interested In These Things, thus extending the pain over a long timescale.

    Our Dyson makes the most interesting noises when it eats up rugs. We haven't got to the blue smoke stage yet.


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