Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

From Floor to Finish
Part 8 of the
FoodWine's Kitchen Remodel

by Kate Heyhoe


You know those home-improvement shows about homeowners who, during a remodel, discover a hidden layer of antique hardwood flooring, which they lovingly refinish to a golden, gorgeous sheen? We weren't so lucky.

Instead of aged hardwood, we unearthed layers of crumbling non-vintage vinyl from the '60's, 70's and 80's. Truly ghastly stuff, but we had a solution: get rid of it.

The question was: what to put in its place? Truth be told, hardwood floors require too much maintenance for our lifestyles. Throughout the house, we needed durable flooring—something that could withstand the mud, dust, and dirt of the rural countryside, the paw-prints and debris tracked in by our lively indoor/outdoor pets, and the above-average wear and tear caused by a constantly churning kitchen. Not to mention the heavily trafficked paths from the kitchen to the many dining areas, including the porch room, the living room, and the two patios.


Getting Tough with ToughGuard

So we covered our floors in materials built tough enough to withstand even commercial use. Don't think that by going with super-durable flooring you have to sacrifice aesthetics. Quite the contrary.

I discovered a near damage-proof material called ToughGuard, made by Armstrong. ToughGuard is actually a heavy duty backing on vinyl that was initially launched as part of Armstrong's product line for builders. It resisted rips, tears, gouges and dents so well, Armstrong brought it into the consumer market—including a 15 year warranty. with ToughGuard, I'm not afraid to clean under my ClimateZone refrigerator or my Accellis 2X range—because this floor won't suffer the same damage when moving these appliances across it as other floor materials do. and it costs the same as regular vinyl.

The vinyl choices using ToughGuard come in a wide range of patterns and colors to choose from—another design decision but one that was easy to make. If you're shopping for a vinyl floor, Armstrong's Starstep, Memories and Rhythm lines now offer it as the backing. We picked a Solarian Starstep product in Textelle, a subtle and elegant marbleized pattern with a no-wax, low gloss finish—it's durable enough to withstand kitchen abuse yet classy enough to complement our Victorian-style porch room. The material costs (not including installation) less than $350 for a standard 10x12 foot room. In fact, we liked it so much we also covered all three bathroom floors and our central hallway with it. and cleaning is a cinch: just damp mop and you're done.

We took the durability mantra through the other parts of the house as well. The living room and bedrooms are covered in a rich taupe-colored commercial carpet, one that's solution dyed through every fiber to withstand stains. It will be a long time (if ever!) before any of our floors show signs of wear and tear.


The Vinyl Installation Process

Never having bought sheet vinyl before, I was a bit unsure of what to expect of the installation. Here's what I learned:

Level the underlayment. Our contractor pulled up the old vinyl, then laid down a layer of 3/4-inch plywood and screwed it down every few inches until absolutely level—screwing in the boards rather than nailing them in avoids creaking and movement later.

Bringing in the vinyl...

Bringing in the vinyl....

Make sure the underlayment is smooth. Vinyl shows everything—every bump, rise, and hiccup. The smallest piece of gravel may be barely visible by itself, but when the vinyl is installed, you'll notice it. A good installer will prepare the floor to prevent any mountains or mole hills from showing.

Don't bend the vinyl. When uninstalled vinyl bends too much, it cracks. You'll likely not have to worry about this, but it's good to know as you watch the installers. To carry the cut lengths of vinyl into the house, the vinyl team rolled the sections up and then the three men supported each roll in the front, middle and rear. Because the longest piece measured a whopping 40 feet (from living room through butler's pantry to far kitchen wall), it was the most difficult to move without bending the roll—it took three vinyl guys plus the volunteer help of two electricians, a plumber, and a homeowner. (See photos 8A, 8B and 8B-Long.) It was like trying to park an SUV in a supermarket without airlifting it down. The piece had to be brought in by way of the neighboring field, through the kitchen door, lifted over the peninsula, carried down the hallway, straightened out and eventually lowered down onto the floor. By the way, vinyl, especially one with Armstrong's ToughGuard backing, is heavy—the roll for our house weighed in at about a ton.

Check the pattern match. Sheet vinyls with obvious geometric designs, like squares, are easy to match up. Our selection had a more subtle pattern, which the installers didn't even notice at first until I pointed it out to them. (Another reason to stay on top of every detail.) The pattern match is critical when placing seamed edges together, and you should make sure to order enough vinyl to ensure a smooth and natural pattern match. Ours came in a 27" x 36"repeating pattern, in a 12 foot wide roll.

Some shops will cut the vinyl at their location using a template, but in our case, the installers unloaded the whole roll and cut the pieces outdoors on our long patio. (See photo 8C.) After the vinyl had been cut and brought in, the installers spread out their glue, unrolled and set the vinyl, then smoothed it out. (See photo 8D.) If we had been doing only the kitchen, the entire process would have taken less than a day.


After the Floor Goes In...

The floor is typically the last major item for installation—you want to avoid unnecessary and messy construction traffic on it as much as possible. I'm especially glad we installed such a durable vinyl, because in our case, the floor went in before the countertop was finished and some of the cabinetry molding and roll-out trays still needed final installation.

No matter how accurately you try to schedule your remodeling tasks, plan on things getting out of whack. Materials may not arrive or be back-ordered. Wet weather can cause the drywall mudding to take longer to dry. Workers or subcontractors may not show up...and delays in one area usually cause a domino effect in others.

But after all the final details were completed, we actually moved in—three days before Christmas and a month later than scheduled. Then the unpacking began, but not without a major clean-up.

Drywall Dust— If you're dealing with drywall be prepared for dust. Lots of it. Even after painting the walls, I found a fine layer of white dust clinging to everything—the cabinets, the walls, the floor. Sanding of countertops, baseboards and crown molding pieces added to this residual dust—it's like vacuuming up errant Christmas tree needles in August.

Tip: The new electrostatically charged dust cloths, like Pledge Grab-It, work wonders at picking up fine dust. On the white walls, the dust didn't show, but sweeping the walls and ceilings with one of these cloths picked up a surprisingly abundant amount of fine powder not previously visible.


Storage Tips

If you've planned your kitchen well, you already know where most items will fit when you move in. For the butler's pantry tall cabinets, I measured the heights of my appliances, canned foods and jars, and pots so I'd know how far apart to install the roll-out trays.

Special Equipment: Store frequently used items within easy reach. In the drawer below the butler's pantry countertop, I store my Foodsaver food vacuum machine, which I use every 2 or 3 days. It goes from drawer to countertop and electrical outlet instantly, then stores away again in a jiff. In the same area, another drawer is devoted exclusively to parts, like food processor blades and stand mixer attachments, that go with the appliances plugged inside the tall cabinets.

Potatoes and Onions: Don't store potatoes and onions together. They both like cool, dark places, but onions emit gases that hasten potatoes' ripening. I store my onions in the bottom shelf of one tall cabinet, and my potatoes in a cabinet on the opposite wall.

Spices: As the Global Gourmet, I buy all sorts of odd, exotic spices. Most are packaged in small plastic or cellophane bags, rarely in bottles or cans. To keep them organized, I bought one of those hardware gizmos for screws and nails—it's a plastic box with lots of little drawers. I keep the spices sealed in their bags for freshness, then place them in a drawer with a label in front showing the name of the spice and the date purchased. I used to store the spice box on the counter in my old kitchen, but now it's out of the way yet still accessible in my corner wall cabinet, the one with the bi-fold door.


Planning for Pets (and Kids)

Nothing makes a kitchen more messy than kitty crunchies. Or canine kibble. Our pets aren't just sloppy—they gleefully enjoy knocking food out of their dish. They play "pockey" (paw hockey) with their dried food bits (the round nuggets roll especially well), and they unanimously approve of the Armstrong vinyl flooring: it makes an ideal playing field for batting their crunchies about.

Because of the pets' dining habits, I designed a separate pet feeding area: Next to the wall of tall pantries is a six-foot deep walk-in utility closet. Instead of setting the closet door flush with the entry, I recessed it back 32 inches; I installed a single bi-fold door with two panels which fold flat into the recessed area in front (much more compact than a solid door). (See photo 8E.)

The floor of the recessed area has plenty of space for pet food and water bowls. Sure, an occasional crunchy flies out of control and into the main kitchen, but for the most part the pets have their dining room separate from the human eating and cooking areas. and quite conveniently, the brooms and dustpan are housed a few inches away from the pet dishes, behind the bi-fold door in the utility closet. I even installed a recessed ceiling light on dimmer over the pet area to help us all see better, and to add a soft night light when dimmed.

Not to equate kids and pets, but if you do have children, consider some design aspects for their benefit. A lower drawer for youngsters to store their own kitchen tools, plastic dishes, and small aprons can be handy. Find an easily accessible place to store a kid's stepstool or small table, perhaps recessing the doorway of a closet as I describe above. Also, with a slide-out cutting board, kids can stand on a step stool and get close to their very own workspace. A prep sink may be just the perfect size and in the ideal location for kids, keeping them away from a more cluttered, larger sink area and with a faucet that's easier to reach. For more tips like these, check out my book Cooking with Kids For Dummies.


The Final Photos and The Cook's Final Tips

Kate Heyhoe


FoodWine's Kitchen Remodel Series
(with Survival Recipes)


Copyright © 2001, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.


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This page created March 2001