Gluing carpet to a hardwood floor is a crime. An appropriate punishment would be forcing the perpetrator to pull up the carpet, then sand the floor by hand, with a two-inch sanding block, in 100-degree weather, with rap music playing at a volume just low enough not to violate the Geneva Conventions.
I reached this conclusion as a result of my latest home-improvement project, redoing the guest room. It was too dark, with its blue walls and its 30-year-old variegated dark brown carpet. Under that was a 35-year-old variegated light brown carpet. Under both layers of carpet was a hardwood floor.
I’ve been wanting to uncover that floor for a long time. Last week, I decided the time had come.
The first step, of course, was to clear everything out of the room, including the solid oak antique dresser, the seven shelves crammed with books, and the surprising hodgepodge of stuff that always manages to accumulate in a guest room. Umpty-eleven trips and a lot of shoving later, the room was empty.
It was time to start pulling up carpet. The first layer was easy. It was at the second layer that we made the Awful Discovery. Any home-improvement project has to have at least one Awful Discovery. It’s required by section Q, subsection H, sub-subsection W, of the Do-It-Yourself Regulation Manual. In this case, the Awful Discovery was finding out that the carpet had been glued down.
Snarling and muttering about the taste, ancestry, and criminal intent of anyone who would glue carpet over a hardwood floor was beside the point. It was too late to back out. We pulled up the carpet, leaving about half of the original backing stuck to the floor. We scraped that up with wide plastic scrapers, which wasn’t actually as dreadful a process as it sounds.
The next step was scrubbing off the remaining bits of tattered gray gunk with a wire brush. This provided great exercise for the triceps and abs, but resulted in considerable wear and tear on the hands and the knees. Being that close to the floor also gave me a chance to see that it was covered with two layers of glue. Someone had glued carpet over hardwood, not once, but twice.
Okay, I had to admit there were extenuating circumstances that reduced the second offense from a felony to a misdemeanor. This house had an inch or so of water in it during the 1972 Rapid City flood. The first water-ruined carpet must have been replaced when the house was moved to its current location after the flood.
We learned two things through hands-on experimentation. A: the adhesive remover we bought at the home-improvement store didn’t work on either type of glue. B: sanding through the glue with our small sanders would be possible but would probably take a month of 10-hour days.
It was time to start calling professionals. The two or three who even bothered to return my phone calls wouldn’t even be able to give me an estimate for at least six weeks. Finally, one wonderfully agreeable man said he could take a look at the floor that same afternoon.
His verdict? Damage from the flood had left gaps between the boards, plus black bacterial stains that probably went too deep to be sanded out. Refinishing the floor would mean a higher-than-average cost and a lower-than-average result. He didn’t recommend it.
Three days later, the room is bright and fresh with its new coat (three coats, actually) of paint and its new carpet. But I’d still like to get my hands on the home-decorating felon who first glued carpet to the hardwood floor.