ANN BAILEY: Treasure beneath the carpet

My family and I are blessed to live in a house that has withstood the test of time. We're blessed, too, that its owners, my great-grandparents and grandparents, were good stewards of their home.

Ann Bailey
We are part of The Trust Project.

My family and I are blessed to live in a house that has withstood the test of time. We're blessed, too, that its owners, my great-grandparents and grandparents, were good stewards of their home.

The two generations who lived in the house before us not only were conscientious about taking care of it, making repairs and remodeling it when it needed upgrades, they also ignored many of the questionable fashion trends of the 1950s, such as painting the woodwork. The original oak woodwork remains one of my favorite features of our home.

The maple hardwood floors are another. However, until I became an adult, I didn't know they existed. My grandparents had covered the floors with linoleum and carpet. The coverings were good quality and tasteful, and I grew up in a home with carpet and vinyl floor coverings, so I never gave it a second thought.

But in 1994, when Brian and I moved from Grand Forks to the house near Larimore, N.D., after the death of my grandmother, I learned from my mom about what lies underneath the floor coverings.

Bringing it to light


When we found out about the hardwood floors, Brian and I decided to uncover as many of the floors as we could afford to have refinished.

First, we pulled up the carpet in the den which was the room my grandparents used for card parties, and in the front hall. The floors in both rooms were in good condition. We hired someone to refinish them, but did the prep work ourselves. Most of the work consisted of pulling out the staples that had held the carpet pad in place.

That project taught us that, until you've crawled on a hardwood floor on your hands and knees and plucked staples out of it with needle-nosed pliers, you don't know what hard, tedious work remodeling projects are.

We also learned that prepping floors that were covered with vinyl is even more difficult. We found that out when we decided to also uncover the wood floors upstairs. The linoleum on those floors, which are fir, was glued down and pieces of it remained stuck to the floors when we pulled it off.

At the suggestion of experts we had consulted about the best way to tackle removing the pieces that were stuck, we rented a manure scraper from a rental store. The scraper did the job, but was a beast to carry up the stairs and to use. The hard work, though, was worth it because the floors, both upstairs and on the main floor, which were refinished by professionals, are beautiful.

On to the future

After we had the den, hall and upstairs floors refinished, we called it good. We knew that there also were hardwood floors under the wool carpet in the living and dining rooms, but it was in perfect condition and was a timeless pattern. My grandparents had purchased it in 1963; I found the sales slip in a box of receipts in the attic.

We figured we would leave the carpet in place until it started to show wear.


Last fall, we started noticing that the carpet seemed a little squishy in a few places, and wondered if the floor had started to warp because of moisture from water in the basement. Because it was late in the year and we wanted to be able to air out the house if we needed to hire someone to refinish the floor, we decided to wait until spring to investigate what lies underneath the carpet.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I told Brian that when I was walking bare foot on the carpet that morning, I had noticed a couple of other soft spots. He was heading out for an 18-mile training run for an upcoming marathon and jokingly said before he left that our children, Ellen, Brendan and Thomas, and I could pull up the carpet while he was gone.

I knew he was kidding, but the idea intrigued me, and after Brian left, I asked our trio if they wanted to help me pull up the carpet. They were eager to help, so we got to work. First we moved out all of the furniture and then started on the carpet removal. We alternately pulled up the carpet, rolled up the pad and pulled out the staples that held the pad. Meanwhile, we also had to remove nailed-down strips of wood along the edges of the living room and dining room that were holding down the carpet.

After we removed the carpet and pad, we rolled them up and dragged them out to the kitchen. We just completed the project, which took about two hours, when Brian got back from his run. He helped us load the carpet, pads and wood strips into the back of the pickup and haul them out to one of our sheds where we will store them until we can take them to the dump.

We were happy to learn that the hardwood floor under the carpet is in good condition, and the squishy areas were the result of the carpet pad rolling up and not of the floor buckling. Although, it turned out that nothing was wrong with the carpet, we won't put it back but, instead, will have the floor refinished. We figure that, considering the carpet was on the floor for 50 years, my grandparents got more than what they paid for.

Reach Bailey at or (218) 779-8093.

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