I hate laminate fooring. It reminds me of all the rented flats I’ve lived in. It’s hard, fairly cold, and looks totally fake -just a photograph of wood printed onto MDF or whatever, no texture at all. It’s also throughout the ground floor of my house. I’ve been desperate to start improving the flooring, and the hall is a good place to start since it creates the best impression!
I was fortunate to have spent a lot of my childhood in my grandparents’ Victorian mansion in Shropshire, which had a fantastic tiled hall floor (below). Consequently I think of this as the quintessential hall floor, so when I lifted my laminate I was rather hoping to find something similar:
No such luck, just floorboards. Now, it’s become super fashionable to strip old floorboards. I read a lot of DIY blogs and I think every single one of them has spent a fortune on stripping back floorboards. I dont buy into this. Pine floorboards are like decking; a modern affectation that seems like a good idea and looks great for six months, until the high-traffic areas wear through and turn into rough, dirty grey patches (or in the case of decking into one big, green, slimy slip hazard). At this point people discover why our forebares went out of their way to cover up floorboards with rugs: pine just isn’t hard-wearing enough for bare flooring.
Back on topic. I considered real tiles but after weighing up the pros and cons they fell heavily on cons. They’re cold; hard; expensive (for nice ones); hard work to lay; hard work to change in the future; and the subfloor must be super stiff. Vinyl wins on all these things. The only disadvantage to vinyl is the lack of decent tile designs -nearly all vinyl seems to be wood effect (which admittedly is VERY convincing) or big, pastel-colour tiles. I searched for hours all over the net hoping to find something like the tile pattern of my youth. I tried every search term I could think of, but couldn’t find what I was looking for.
I was about to give up and settle for a black-and-white chequer pattern when I tried searching for ‘geometric tile vinyl’ on eBay and stumbled upon something interesting. A reverse-image-search then led me to something I really liked -the closest thing I’ve found to a Victorian tile pattern. It’s called Lisbon 761 by Lifestyle Floors. I found it for sale at Burts.co.uk for just £7.99 per square metre, which I think is amazing value. I like that it has grout lines and a slightly rough texture embossed onto it. I ordered some Sticktak spray adhesive and two rolls of double-sided tape at the same time. Before that arrived I bought four sheets of 5.5mm standard plywood from the local timber yard for about £14.50 each (cut to size too) and somehow managed to get it into the KA, and a roll of 2mm ‘acousic’ underlay from eBay (£8.99). I’m not sure what is acoustic about it, as far as I can tell it’s packing foam! It’s good though -feels super warm. I layed the underlay over the floorboards to even out the bumps, and nailed the plywood over the top with 25mm ringshank nails every 8 inches, except in the doorways where I used individual rectangles of ply screwed down since these will suffer the most traffic. The plywood is so thin that it is very easy to handle and can be cut with a Stanley knife, unlike the subfloor that would be needed for real tiles. Its thin-ness also means there was no need to shave any off the bottoms of the doors. Although there is plenty of expansion room around the edges of the floor (which will be hidden by skirting) I didn’t leave any gap between the ply sheets themselves. I hope this doesn’t matter since they’re thoroughly nailed down (I did dampen them before I nailed them down). I guess I’ll have to wait until summer to see…
For laying the vinyl I basically followed a B&Q video. Cutting it was very tricky in a space like this, especially as I had to cut out a big piece where the staircase was, before I could even get it into the hall. I think I measured it about ten times before daring to cut. I did end up with some small tears around the newel post, but you can’t easily see them (and they just look like cracks in the ’tiles’). The job was made a lot easier by the fact that I removed all the skirting board first, so most of the egdes didn’t need to be precise. The few visible edges between the vinyl and staircase I filled with acrylic bathroom sealant. Top tip: Use a stanley knife to cut the basic outline, then use big dressmakers’ scissors to do a fine ‘shave’ and get a really smooth edge.
I’m pleased with the result. I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to bold colours and patterns (which is why the whole house is still magnolia), but I like where this is going. I think it passes for suitably Victorian, and the whole lot cost only about £200 which is less than half what it would have cost to do in real tiles. Plus I can easily change it if I get bored!
I just stumbled upon this online: note the floor!