Old houses have a lot of character and charm – things that make then unique and show their history – but the term “character” can also refer to flaws and quirks as well. One great character of an old home is the flooring, and there are a range of character types available.
Classic flooring never goes out of style, a like well-laid wood floor. The older the wood floor, the more likely it is to show signs of damage or wear. A good wood floor will need occasional resurfacing to show its best color and shine. There is also a great appeal to the patina of aged wood. Many homeowners are actively seeking out recycled or reclaimed wood flooring for its unique and intriguing look. To maintain that quality also requires proper sealing and maintenance. Clean neutral carpet is a more modern classic, providing a basic and inoffensive backdrop for any decorating preference.
Old houses settle, and few ever settle evenly. This means that old floors seldom run as straight or smooth as they were first laid. It is important to make sure that the unevenness of your floor is not a sign of structural damage, such as a foundation problem or the dreaded wood-destroying insects chewing though the beams, so have an expert check them for structural integrity. In many cases uneven floors are just a house quirk, but if they become too dangerous or disconcerting (like a dip, tilt, or rut in a high-traffic area), homeowners can have flooring experts straighten them out. Carpets, tiles, and even original old wood flooring can be re-laid on a new undersurface, or simply covered over with a newer (slightly raised) flooring.
There’s no accounting for taste or fashion, and old houses may be the beneficiary or victim of both. Old house floors can be a mismatched fusion of fads and eras, from old hardwoods to blue shag carpeting, to brightly colored and patterned tiles. Sometimes these strange flooring choices can be beautiful gems, while other times they are distracting eyesores. Just remember that flooring is fairly easy to replace, so pick the types you like and edit out the unacceptable variants.
Old floors can age poorly, showing damage, stains, and questionable histories best left behind. Carpets and wood are particularly vulnerable to unsightly damage. Some floors can be saved with a good resurfacing or cleaning, but some floors are just past saving. Other flooring, from carpet to linoleum to tile, might be ugly in a homeowner’s eyes no matter how well-preserved. Sometimes it is best to recognize a lost cause and devote resources to total replacement.
Old floors might not be safe. Dangers lurk in unevenness, damage and divots, rough or sharp patches, molds or insects, or unsafe materials. Some old vinyl-type floors contain asbestos, other flooring options might be highly flammable, emit fumes, of hold other hazards. Some flooring hazards are reparable with minimal effort and investment, such as banging down old nails, others, such as those asbestos tiles, can be covered with carpet or other flooring types, effectively sealing them away from possible harm (note, these tiles don’t powder or become airborne). However, some dangerous floors simply must be completely removed and replaced for health and safety.
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About Tom Davidson — Tom Davidson is Vice President of Colibri Real Estate, LLC. which operates online education providers Colibri Real Estate, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.