Thursday, March 06, 2003

We need a new kitchen floor. We’ve replaced it once since we moved in, and it is now that black and white checkerboard pattern so popular in the 80s. It’s very beat up, due to our poor installation job (sheet vinyl requires more than average do-it-yourselfer skills it seems) and Rudy’s puppyhood. I patched the places where Rudy tore big holes; only some came out good. Others lasted a while and are now fraying.

The original floor was old-fashioned grey tile. That was beat up too, and also dull. The sheet vinyl is still shiny, on those rare occasions when it is clean. I’ve learned that “easy to maintain” is a more important criteria than color and design when choosing floor covering.

Last year we decided to update the floor and ventured to the little store (no big boxes for us) where we bought the current Mannington, in search of the perfect vinyl. This time we’ll pay for installation, we resolved. We looked at every brand and every quality level. Three sets of laminate swatches graced the kitchen for several days each. We compared them to the counter top and table. We stepped on them with dirty shoes and splashed water on them. We dripped tomato sauce and soda. We considered them in natural and electric light. Rudy obliged us by sprawling across his favorites.

We made so many trips over the course of a couple of weeks that we started to develop a friendly relationship with the salesperson. Finally we made our decision, one of the more expensive Armstrongs. The salesperson stopped by one evening to measure and give us a definitive price. When she finished, her quote was so much higher than the rough estimate in the store that we both were shocked. One disdainful sniff (my memory may be embellishing a little) and she quickly left, making no effort to close the deal. I think she didn’t like dogs, didn’t like this crooked little house, and maybe even changed her mind about me. She started to act funny after I told her that I work at home most of the time. But I guess a pair of hounds howling in the yard and the obviously difficult install didn’t help. Was she expecting a houseplant-free track house?

Years ago we did some contract painting and wallpapering to make extra money. I remember we gave an overpriced estimate any time we didn’t want the job. That’s kind of a polite way of getting away. There is always the risk that it will backfire and the person will accept your fee, but then the price is generous so it (sort of) compensates.

If that is what she was doing, it almost backfired, because we wanted a new floor so much. It was way, way past the time to replace it. But cheapness prevailed, and we’ve lived with the worn black and white checkerboard for another year. It’s a great kitchen even with the battered floor, but not in the granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances sense of kitchens circa Y2K. It’s homey, in the 1940s birch cabinets, built-in pantries and ceramic tile walls way, with a pot of soup bubbling on the stove and a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. When the water main in front of our house snapped in December, the man who fixed it smiled as he walked through the kitchen. The house had belonged to his grandparents when he was a kid. “I had a lot of Sunday dinners in this room,” he remarked.

At the same time as our quest to fix the Castleton kitchen, the floors in Samsonville are a question. They are completely unfinished, a few area rugs over a concrete slab. We go ‘round and ‘round on what to do with them. Wood? Slate? Ceramic Tile? Carpet? Vinyl? Pergo? Which one where? What color? What can we do ourselves without too much aggravation? What will it cost to have someone else do it? And here I really don’t like shopping, become paralyzed by too many choices.

Enter a brand new product in this land of consumer wonders, Trafficmaster solid vinyl floor tile. Of course Bob, and not I, discovered it. It can go on top of concrete or sheet vinyl. It is self-stick, but commercial grade. The best part is there are only four patterns. Actually, the website lists 11 - but four are available at the store right now. (Yes, unfortunately it's from a big box.) Get it now before more come out and complicate things! He tested this one on the pristine cement floor of the bedroom closet in Samsonville last weekend. Eureka! Where can we put this color? And how about this one for the bathroom?

This weekend is the real challenge, when the Castleton kitchen becomes Verdestone. Bob observes that it most likely will take us longer to clean the floor than to lay the tiles.

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