Way back when I first fell in love with this house (which was eight years ago Thanksgiving week) I had the good sense to hire a house inspector before I plunked down some money and went into debt for 30 years. The house inspector thoroughly checked out the house and gave me a binder with all the particulars about it: type of construction, square footage, the HVAC and electrical systems, and--most important to me--a list of repairs that needed to be made, separated into categories from Minor to Critical. All of the Critical items were taken care of years ago; what's left is a few Moderate and Minor items and one Serious item. (We don't speak of the Serious Item because it fills me with dread and makes me hyperventilate.) Once a year or so I review the list to see what I've accomplished and what still needs to be done. Friday afternoon I dragged out the binder and looked through the Moderate list. There it was: First Bathroom, low spot in floor between toilet and tub, most likely water damage, needs repair. And I thought, well gosh, that's probably a big ole can of worms just waiting to be opened. So I opened it. I figured first things first, let's get all the layers of flooring off down to the subfloor and see what's going on with that low spot. I went in there with my blue wrecker bar and my dad's hammer and started prying up the floor.
I found this:
I first uncovered that little red rectangle next to the toilet, and I thought it was lettering or a logo on the plywood subfloor. Then I pulled off a little more of the three layers that covered it and realized it's vintage linoleum. Holy crow.
But wait, let's not get too excited. It probably doesn't cover the whole floor. Lots of stupid people lived here who did stupid things to the house. A whole floor of vintage linoleum is too much to hope for.
So I kept prying and throwing pieces of disgusting filthy flooring into trash bags, and in a couple of hours I had this:
Okay, so it's still disgusting filthy flooring, but it's vintage disgusting filthy flooring. I'm guessing from the 1940s.
I cleaned it up a little bit, and now it looks like this:
I think it's salvageable. It looks pretty icky now, I admit. It needs a lot of work: the baseboards and the vanity will have to be pulled to get at the rest of the floor; the nail holes need to be filled; some spots where the pattern's missing need to be painted; the toilet will have to be pulled to fix that hideous plywood patch; and the whole thing needs a few coats of poly.
And that low spot in the floor, mentioned by the house inspector? It's only a low spot because whoever put that plywood patch in around the toilet then covered that plywood with a thick layer of what I think is water putty. It's a good half-inch higher than the rest of the floor--so high that the underlayment for the layer of linoleum above this one was shimmed out with little stacks of cardboard from cigar boxes.
After I cleaned up the floor and stepped back, I realized that I have the bones of a mid-century bathroom still intact. The floor, obviously, but also 4" square plastic tiles that are on all four walls, a shiny "chrome" toilet paper dispenser that's built-in, a matching built-in soap dish by the tub, and a pretty cool ceiling fixture.
I didn't appreciate these details until now because they didn't fit with my Victorian house. My friend Saralyn pointed out that leaving the 1940s/50s bathroom features and restoring the room in that style helps tell the story of my house. An excellent point, and one I hadn't thought of.
I think I have the first project of 2015 all lined up, y'all.