Monday, November 03, 2008

How do I tell if there are hardwoods under my carpet, and other important questions

Contributed by: Janet M. Perry

Lately it seems I’ve been getting and thinking about the kind of questions people have when they buy older homes. An older house can be a wealth of hidden and not so hidden treasures. Knowing how to turn what seems awful, like knotty pine Rec Rooms, ugly carpet on vintage wood floors, or very high ceilings can go a long way into making that “diamond in the rough” you bought into the jewel you envision.

And it can be affordable as well. Sometimes the solution is as simple as an inexpensive device or a can of paint. Here are some common problems and ideas for solving them.

How do I tell if there are hardwood floors under my carpet? What do I do if there are hardwood floors down there? The easiest and least intrusive way to see if there are hardwood floors under your carpets is to take out one of your floor registers. The carpet will not be tacked down there. Lift if up and see if the floor underneath it is hardwood, linoleum, or something else. What this can’t tell you is the condition of the floors. If you want your old floors to be restored, you should contact a flooring company with experience in restoration. Sometimes there is water damage, sometimes there are patches, sometimes parts of the floor have been replaced with plywood. A restoration expert can help with lots of these things. But, mentally at least, I would always be prepared to put carpet back down if the floor was too badly damaged.

I've got knotty pine paneling in some of my rooms? What can I do about it?
Knotty pine was extremely popular in the 1960’s for Rec Rooms and Family Rooms. Actually paneling of all kinds was big. But knotty pine is particularly jarring because it has darker knots scattered all through it, making a strong and irregular pattern. It has a very rustic look, which doesn’t work in many homes. The best method to cover it is to paint it. You will need to use an oil-based primer first and pick one that will add resistance for knots. The knots are darker than the surrounding wood and primers made for lighter colors will allow the knots to show through. You should use two coats of primer.
Once the primer has dried, paint the paneling.

In this case, the joints between the boards have not been covered, so the wall will have a painted board look. Another possibility is to stain the paneling. You can use any wood stain as long as the paneling is clean and not varnished. If it is varnished, it will have to be stripped before re-staining. This is not a job for the faint of heart! Most stores that have wood stain will have samples on pine, but it is clear pine (without knots). The knots will be considerably darker, but the difference between the clear parts of the boards and the knots will be less after re-staining.

The cabinets and woodwork in some of my rooms doesn't match. What options do I have?
First determine if the pieces are all the same wood. If they are you can probably stain them the same color to unify them. They may still have some differences, but they will be minimized with the uniform stain. Different woods will take stain differently, so if they are not the same wood, you will probably want to paint. This will completely unify your mismatched pieces. Make sure to prime and to paint with a semi-gloss paint. Wood painted in eggshell, satin, or flat paints tends to look dusty and unfinished.

Where can I find ready-made curtains 108 inches long or longer?
You’ve just bought a vintage home with soaring 10 foot ceilings. You want dramatic curtains to match the rooms. But you are working with a ready-made budget and want a more affordable option than custom drapes. As the curtains get longer, your options get fewer. Today on, there were 32 different 120” curtains, including these dramatic ones in embroidered taffeta.

Pottery Barn also has curtains this length, like these lovely Silk Dupionni drapes which come in lengths to 124” and in 12 colors. They also have some lovely striped one and, my favorite, ones with embroidery at the top. One important note about curtains, no matter how luxurious the fabric, if the curtains aren’t full enough the drapes will look skimpy. Measure the width of your window from the outside to edge of the frame to the outside edge of the opposite frame. The total width of the curtains should be 2.5-3 times this measurement. That means if you have two panels, each should be 1.25-1.5 times that measurement. If your curtains won’t be closed, you can get away with 2 times the measurement, but anything else often looks too thin. Think of it like the blazer that won’t button, you can wear it, but it still looks like it doesn’t fit.

The heat registers are close to my windows and if I put up curtains, they will cover the registers, is there anything I can do?
This is not an uncommon problem, even in newer homes. I know boo about Heating & Air Conditioning, but you’d think that putting a register near a heat sink like a window would be a bad idea. In my house (built in 1989) every register on the first floor except the Master Bedroom, the Kitchen, and the Master Bath is right under a window. In the case of kitchen and bath other things like the sink and the bathtub are in the way.

The solution is to get a plastic cover for the register that will deflect the air (pictured above). The nicest ones are pretty flat and cover the top of the register. Their purpose is to redirect the flow of air out instead of up. They are made to fit under furniture and are made from clear plastic. They would be even less noticeable under drapes, especially if the drapes puddled on the floor. The vent would come out and the drapes would flow around it. They look like the one pictured above which is from Improvements. The length is adjustable to fit under just about anything. This one is made from PVC and they have discounts if you buy more than one. You HVAC contractor may also be able to order these for you. For registers without furniture or drapes over them, you can get higher deflectors like these ones from Corner Hardware.

Often, when you are looking at older homes, it seems like the amount of work to do is phenomenal. But knowing what is possible and what resources are out there does a whole lot of good to ease your mind and make buying that vintage home a source of joy.

Contributed by: Janet M. Perry

Click here to read all of Janet's posts.

1 comment:

Ashley at Decorology said...

This post is sooo helpful. So many things I've wanted to know for so long! Thanks

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