UnDesigning our family room’s concrete floor

This weekend I heard the words from Rita that I’d been waiting to hear.

“Why don’t we start ripping out the carpet downstairs?”

This (sorta) Old Life: Family room September

In this messy shot from last fall, you can see our rather lame attempt to deal with our icky carpet.

Or something like that.

We have a kid-friendly family room downstairs with a big, old L-shaped sofa, lots of pillows, blankets and a TV with Netflix. I tend to not venture down there because the room is often messy and the carpet is horrible.

The carpet doesn't look so bad from a distance. Up close though you can see how horrible it is.

Yeah, this is more what the pillows on the couch really look like most of the time.

When we moved in the carpet down there was in rough shape. It’s a white Berber carpet. (I don’t know who thought that white carpet was ever a good idea in a house? It’s sure not in any house our tribe lives in.)

Before we put any furniture down there I rented a commercial carpet cleaning machine and gave it a good cleaning. I think the cleaning made it worse. The carpet is glued down because the floor is cement. I think the glue is water soluble.

The carpet looked pretty good when I first cleaned it, but brownish stuff started to rise to the surface almost immediately.  I came really close to tearing it up right then. We let it dry and decided to save that fight for another day.


Here you can see the glue residue coming up from when I attempted to clean the carpet.

Well, another day has arrived.

We’ve been thinking a lot about what to do in here (for the last year-and-a-half), but we haven’t made any decisions. We really are at the point where we needed to tear some stuff up in order to proceed. I know this is not the ordinary way of doing things, but it fits with our the UnDesign way.

Sometimes you have to start first and plan later. We knew we couldn’t make any really concrete plans about flooring down there until we pulled some carpet up.

So that’s what I did.

This (sorta) Old Life:  tearing out family room carpet

I cut and removed it in strips.

Tearing up some carpet before having a fully-developed plan has some advantages for us.

1. We want to have bare floor down there to see how cold the cement feels without any covering on it. This is going to help us to decide if we want to paint/stain the cement or put some other kind of flooring (probably cork) down.

2. We can see what kind of condition the sub floor is in. I managed to tear out the carpet on about a third of the room. (We have the kids trained so much now that they hardly bat an eye to our renovation shenanigans. :)) We know now that the floor is in good condition.

3. We can see how difficult it would be to scrape all the glue off the floor. There’s two layers of glue. A black glue that probably held in place some old carpet and a tan colored glue which is for the current carpet.


The top layer came off pretty easy. I used the scraper tool you see on the floor to scrape up the foam backing left behind.

With a small hand scraper tool I scraped a small section using nothing but elbow grease. It was hard work but I can see that if I get a big heavy scraper tool I can get the job done. (The large heavy tool is about 30ish bucks at the Depot.)

I also tested some Orange Citrus paint stripper to see if it had an effect. (We used this stripper a few months back on our stair project and really like it because it’s non-toxic and it works pretty well.) It did soften up the glue enough that it made scraping a bit easier. I think the way to go is to put down a layer of the orange stuff and let it sit for a couple of hours and then scrape off with the heavy scraper thing.

This (sorta) Old Life: citrus paint stripper

I think this will help soften the carpet glue to make it easier to scrape.

None of this we could have known had we not torn out some carpet. Seeing that cleaning up the floor is possible (without an inhumane amount of work) opens up the possibility of paint or stain on the floor. We like this because it’s a low cost alternative to putting down a floating floor or gluing down cork. We may still float a floor or glue down cork, but now we know much more about our options.

Options are good. Of course this means that we have to be able to live for a bit with the floor half (or one third) torn up down there. That’s part of the deal when you decide to unDesign instead of taking the traditional design route.

This (sorta) Old Life: family room concrete floor

This is what it’s going to look like in front of the fireplace for a while.

The big benefit though is that we’ll get to experiment with some different finishes at leisure. Instead of planning everything on paper and hoping it turns out right, we’ll be able to see it first hand. This is really important when we don’t have a ton of experience with flooring.

This (sorta) Old Life:  concrete floor in family room

This gives you a good idea of what we’re looking at under the carpet.

One of our unDesign tenets is to keep our options open as long as we can. This will allow us to do that. Our plan is to strip off the glue on the portion of floor that I’ve uncovered and try some finish options. I’ll try a polyurethane right on top of the bare concrete. I’ll also try some different stain options. If we don’t like it, I can remove it easily enough. If we don’t like any of the finish options we can always spring for floating or glue down floors.

Our lower level is partly below grade so glue down may be a no go. I’d have to test the slab for moisture content before deciding that glue down is OK. Another learning possibility. I don’t quite know how to moisture test the slab but I’m certain I can find out.

That’s about it for now. We’ll post again when we have some progress made. Could be next week or next month. Who knows huh? That’s part of the beauty of the unDesign process. It happens on life’s terms.

In process. Nothing like barefoot demolition!

In process. Nothing like barefoot demolition! (Rita wants me to let you know that we now have a disclaimer statement in our sidebar. She just couldn’t let us post any more barefoot demo shots without one.)

Have you ever had a project you had to start before you could make any kind of real plan? We’d love to hear how it went for you. We’re also really grateful for any product or process tips you’ve got to share on staining or painting a concrete floor. Hope you’ll share what you got in the comments.

(Rita here:  As we like to do just about every Thursday, we’re hooking up with the William Morris Project at Pancakes and French Fries. Getting rid of this carpet is definitely a move towards  a floor that is both more useful and more beautiful.)