It’s finally time to share about the big floor renovation of 2017. As with most projects, we had some ups and downs with this one. Here goes!
First up, a look at the floor today. It’s made quite an impact on the look of the house, as you can see. It is BRIGHT.
How did we start? Basically, after staring at our old floors for a while (years), I decided one evening that I’d had enough. I borrowed a neighbour’s sledgehammer and chisel and smashed a corner of one room to kick things off.
The old floor was a basic ceramic tile, with a texture that made them pretty impossible to clean without a lot of scrubbing. It was everywhere, and so we commenced demoing the entire house by hand. With that one hammer and chisel.
(Thanks Farman, it served us well.)
The process was back-breaking but so satisfying.
We’re having fun here. I swear.
I admit we didn’t go into this project with a plan. We really should have had specific ideas about what the new flooring would be, but I figured we’d come up with that while we did the demo. We smashed tile room by room, moved our stuff into a storage unit in our driveway, purged a lot of junk while we were at it, and piled the tile debris in our carport.
This went on for a few months, until it all 1600 square feet of ceramic was out of the house and it was time to decide.
I researched a lot of options and eventually settled on solid vinyl tile for our main living spaces. (The research really deserves its own post, if only as a sort of therapy for me to get out all the indecision I went through on this. So if you want to hear about all of the options we considered, please let me know in the comments.)
The product we chose is Cortina Grande in Black & White (CG402).
We’d seen it installed in our friend Blaine’s beautifully renovated desert house. It felt like a good choice for our Eichler, with its still-operating radiant floor heating. The SVT doesn’t insulate the floor as other coverings do, allowing the heat to radiate properly.
It also closely resembles one of the originally specified floor coverings used in Eichler homes: asbestos tile. Luckily for us, the previous owners had that removed, and we found no trace of asbestos after a lifting up the ceramic tiles (phew!).
I have to share this, because if not here, then where? Paging the archaeologists…
After the floors were up, I noticed some red lines in a few spots and decided to take a closer look. Could these be original to the initial construction of the house? A clue is that we have one that starts at a beam near our garage, then continues UNDER the kitchen, and all the way to the corresponding post at the back of the house.
Ah, Eichler-geek delight.
I even tried taking this pano while standing on a chair. The lines are quite faint but one of them runs between these two posts. We spotted a few others in the living room and our bedroom too.
After our DIY demolition, we had the floors prepped and installed by professionals (our wisest choice in this project). This phase was completed by Jayson from Conklin Bros. Floors.
The prep required the slab to be perfectly smooth otherwise the tiles would telescope any bumps or cracks. The leftover thinset from the tiles was ground by hand.
This generated incredible amounts of dust but Jayson did a great job containing it and cleaning up at the end of each day. He also poured self-leveling concrete to make it perfectly smooth.
I love the velvety texture of that cement. Concrete floors were one of my dream floor options, but one we passed on for practical reasons. The main one being we’d probably be jack-hammering it soon enough, due to the inevitable leaks that our radiant heating pipes spring up.
The installation involved laying the tile and rolling it afterward, creating a nearly seamless look.
After the install, we sealed the floors ourselves. This is where things went VERY WRONG. To anyone considering Zep products for SVT, please learn from our mistake: Zep Floor Sealer is apparently not compatible with Solid Vinyl Tile (SVT).
We found that Zep Floor Sealer did not absorb into the tile as I expect it does with Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT), which is popular in Eichlers. I’m only guessing that the chalk contained in the VCT helps it soak in. On the SVT however, the floor sealer would pool into little bumps on the surface.
The bumps hardened and remained visible after applying the subsequent coats of Zep Floor Polish, giving our floors a lumpy texture. We also (most likely) didn’t wait sufficiently long between coats of polish, so we added streaks to the bumps.
Our ugly creation:
At this point, we had only done applied Zep Sealer to the floor in our living area, so we called in some more pros to fix the mess we made.
Heavenly Touch stripped the floors with chemical stripper and scrubbed them with a burnishing pad on their machine to get all of the Zep off. It took them a few hours to get the floor perfectly stripped again, going through two of those pads. They then applied ONLY two coats of floor polish.
The shiny, smooth result:
For the remaining rooms, we carefully applied Zep Floor Polish (no sealer this time!) and they turned out perfectly fine with no issues.
Feelings, thoughts, and caveats
We’ve been living with these floors for about six months now and we’re mostly happy with them.
They’re super tough and easy to clean. Since the tiles are solid vinyl, they arrived in perfect condition when we ordered them. No cracking or crumbling around the edges which I’ve seen with some VCT.
Since I’ve had questions about this specifically: yes, our dog’s claw marks are somewhat visible if you look at the floor from the right angle.
You can see a bit of that above, where he likes to frantically bark at the squirrels in our backyard. To remedy the scratches, we’re going to try polishing a small section again using Zep at some point, but it’s really quite minor. The white colour does a great job at hiding things like scratches and dust.
One other caveat is that, once polished, these floors are as slippery as they are shiny. I’ve found that when the floors are wet, they can be icy slick. Something to keep in mind for those with small children or for anyone who is not steady on their feet.
The seams have started to look dark after about six months of use (you can see a bit in the photos above), but we expected it would happen eventually. Patina is fine by me.
As far as regrets, my main one (as David will tell you) is the colour choice. The product itself is great, but I’m actually not too happy with the brightness. Initially I wanted to go with a dark floor then started to worry that it would make the house too dark … and then panicked when I realized my indecision had gone on for so long that it was time to make a choice, really ANY choice at that point.
The white has worked out in that, yes, the house is looks pretty nice and it’s very practical. And we get some amazing light moments throughout the day thanks to the floor bouncing it everywhere. I think the lesson here is to go with your gut, but white floors are also OK? I haven’t figured it out yet honestly.
One place where I am happiest with it is in the kitchen. A big goal for this floor was to make sure we didn’t put in something too slick for our Eichler’s original kitchen, with its slightly dinged-up edges and aging countertops. The Cortina Grande really fits here. Even the flecks of the black and white mimic our flecked counters.
Thanks to all of those who cheered us on through this process. Hope this post was useful, and in case I’ve missed something, I’m very happy to fill in more detail in the comments. Looking forward to what you think of the result!
Thanks for the great post on the flooring.
We’ll be installing the tile ourselves in two weekends (eek, a bit nervous about that) so I’m hoping we manage to do a decent job (we’re on a wood subfloor). I was however thinking of hiring someone professional to seal and finish the floors but maybe if they only need to be polished we could manage that ourselves.
Any tips on how to apply the finish so that it looks even/smooth? What kind of application method did you use (mop, rag etc)?
We also went with the Black&white tile based on yours and Blaine’s house and I suspect my husband is going to complain/have the same concerns as you do about how bright/white everything will look.
It looks amazing in your space. Thanks for all the info!
Good question. To apply the polish, we used a micro-fiber mop — looks like a rag mop, but with micro-fiber fabric strips instead of strings. The key for us was to apply gently, to keep any fibers from coming off on the tile edges. The instructions with Zep tell you to do a figure-8 pattern, which I think we took too literally making tight figure-8s on our first (messed-up) application. On our second round, we found that pulling the mop along in a straight line from wall to wall was best. That way you don’t smudge the polish that you’ve applied as it starts to dry.
We were pretty paranoid, so we also watched a few videos online to get the technique down, like this one — the way the guy walks along the edges is what we did for the entire room. Definitely give it ample time to dry (I think we did at least an hour between coats). And we only did two or three coats of polish.
Good luck with the install!
I too have mixed feelings about the tile that we installed about 6 months ago in our Palm Springs home. Love the look of it, the color, the smoothness, the contrast with Teak wood is beautiful, but i feel im going to hate having to strip and repolish after a few years. Lol. We too have a dog and paw prints are visible, like you said, if you look at it from the right angle.
I still think we made the right decision. If we ever get tired of it, it will be sooo much easier to remove than tile, and hopefully by then Terrazo tile will be much more affordable.
Thank you for your advise over Instagram on not to seal it because we were definitely going to. We just applied Zep polish and it was good to go. The chemical smell of the product lingers for a while but thankfully we are just there on weekends, which made it much easier. Thank you again for the post and advise!
Hi Martin! So glad it helped you. And so true about the potential for future floors, haha! That slab sure is smooth now.
Your floors are absolutely gorgeous! I can completely relate with second guessing yourself, but I truly think you went with the best choice! My husband and I ( and our 3 kids) started remodeling a mid-century home several years ago, and I *almost* went with white SVT or VCT floors. I ended up choosing dark walnut solid wood instead though, and regret it!!! Dark floors are gorgeous, but they show evvvvverything! Every dog hair, crumb, piece of wool lint. I’m literally counting down the days ( okay, the YEARS, *tear*) before I can refinish them in a lighter color. White is bright, but it hides so much more!
Thank you for this post! It was fun to look at the process, and to see the beautiful end result! Your house is one of my favorite sources of inspiration <3
Thank you for the kind words, Keely!
We are awestruck by your eye for detail and the meticulous work you’ve done on the floors and the kitchen drawers. Also we’re appreciative of how carefully you’ve documented the process in words and with images.
It all strikes close to home – literally – because my sister and I grew up in a 1962 4-bedroom Eichler in Diamond Heights which we have been renting out to tenants over the years. Although my mother ended up doing some 1980s-era renovations, we are keen to make changes that are in keeping with the original style and features.
Fantastic work that really highlights the stunning simplicity of these homes – my friends who lived in ornate Victorians always called our place a “ranch house”.
It’s nice to know that we’ve been respecting and revelling in attributes of the Eichler style with people in different parts of California…
We would so much appreciate corresponding directly with you by email about a few points.
Hi Leah! Nice to meet you and thanks for reaching out. I love doing these projects at our place, so I’m happy to hear you appreciate the posts about them. And always great to meet more Eichler people! Diamond Heights doesn’t exactly bring “ranch” to mind, though it is quite a contrast to the Victorians of SF… how funny.
More than happy to chat via email for any questions you may have about what we’ve done here. Cheers!
Thank you so much for your informative posts! We are in the middle of deciding on new floors for our Eichler in San Rafael. I would love to hear more about the options you considered and process of elimination to land on SVT. We are leaning toward polished concrete throughout, but we have radiant heating and the thought of jack hammering the floor to fix a leak, and then having to patch it(!) is definitely frightening! I like the look of SVT, but I imagine there are many options of color and pattern, leading to indecision and second guessing, which I’m susceptible to! Thanks again for the timely post!
Hi Bettina! We considered polished concrete too, and every time I see it in other homes, I really like the look. (Coincidentally, we were in San Rafael for the Eichler homes tour this weekend and saw quite a few polished concrete floors there too!) For us, the main issue with the concrete option was that we have some really big patches in our kitchen where the radiant continues to be an issue– I’ve noticed some raising of the SVT tile there recently. I suppose it’s tricky either way, whether you cover over the slab or not.
I love the look of the white Vinyl in your home. I have to say I much prefer light vinyl to dark floors simply because of the heat! With all this glass, the floors in my Eichler would just bake in the sun since dark colors really absorb the heat. I think having hot floors would be tough on bare feet. I think you absolutely made the right choice in product and finish! Love the look.
Great post – really informative. I never really considered white floors and I think they look AMAZING. I was at the Marin Eichler your in May (I would have been the one walking around with a perma-smile because, really, 12 Eichlers interiors in one day?!?) and loved all the concrete floors but these SVT are a groovy option. It seems to me that, if you want concrete floors AND radiant heating , you’d have to pull out the original, old heating system and install a new one in order to avoid the leaking problem you mention – is that your take on it? Thanks for the Eichler posts – I’m obsessed!
Hi Kim! Thanks so much! And the Marin tour was so good! I was similar. I feel like it would be less of an issue if you’re exposing the original slab, since concrete patching should be doable, especially if you’re willing to work with variation in your slab (which would be there to begin with). I had thought about pouring something new and terrazzo-esque over top of ours. I was looking at Concrete Collaborative but ultimately decided against it due to the maintenance, cost, and risk of having to repair it.
Did you select a glossy or matte finish for your tile flooring? It Looks amazing!
Hi Kristen! Good question. For the vinyl floor, I’m quite certain we used a glossy finish. For our cork floors (which I have yet to post about– oops), we finished them in a satin polyurethane.
Beautiful! And so right for MCM compared to all the popular flooring geared to the traditional and tract housing market. But commercial VCT and SVT is pretty high maintenance – they’re designed for spaces where worker bees mop, clean, polish, strip, and rewax on a regular basis. Seems like a lot for “most” people- moving the furniture around, clearing the room out, etc. Year after year could get old. I reckon that’s why LVT is getting so popular – if only they offered that in more MCM looks!.
Here’s a beautiful terrazzo LVT from Pergo – even down to the brass edging – it’s the only one I’ve found: https://na.pergo.com/rigid-vinyl/detail/32262-300594/staple?tab=overview
Any regrets or buyer’s remorse on the upkeep?
Thanks so much and I hear you – it surprised our flooring guys when we told them what we were installing. But so far so good! Overall, it’s gotten a bit scratched up by our dog and isn’t quite as shiny in places where it gets a lot of traffic. We haven’t tried anything extreme in terms of stripping and polishing, and have been cleaning it by mopping.
Hi Karolina! Thanks for walking through your whole process. I was looking up the tile you used. Did you order it from Tarkett’s commercial side or residential? Love how it turned out.
Hi Aryel, glad it’s helpful! The tile was ordered by the local flooring company who deals with Tarkett. They also handled the installation.