Our New Linoleum Floor

Last week a very capable and talented crew spent two days replacing our kitchen floor. We chose the same material: linoleum tiles made by Forbo. We returned to this material for two reasons: it’s historically appropriate for our 98 year old house and we like the more muted and natural colors of Frobo’s linoleum line. And we also found out that the kitchen floor of the Gamble House was recently redone with Forbo linoleum.

“Linoleum” has become a generic term associated with all kinds of sheet flooring materials, but real linoleum refers to a product made with solidified linseed oil, wood flour. Forbo’s product is backed with jute.

What the old floor looked like.

Fifteen years ago I installed the linoleum in our kitchen myself. This was a big mistake. Installing a floor like this is a highly skilled job best left to professionals. The crew, certified by Forbo, did a much better job getting the tiles snug, while leaving room at the edges (covered by quarter-round molding) for expansion. They also sealed and buffed the floor.

While the installation I did looked good for a few years, the details I missed (using the wrong sealing products and poor maintenance) led to stains and peeled tiles. Some things I learned:

  • Forbo linoleum should be dry mopped with a special Forbo cleaner. We were wet mopping and this caused the floor to peel up prematurely.
  • The floor should be stripped, sealed and buffed every 1 to 3 years (every year if you have pets or heavy traffic).
  • The subfloor needs to be completely flat. The crew used a thin cementitious material to level the floor. Linoleum is not very flexible and will crack if the floor isn’t flat.

Properly maintained, linoleum should outlast vinyl flooring and, in my opinion, it looks a lot better.


Floor and Blog Update

The kitchen floor is done and looks spectacular. The floor installers were detail oriented and did a much better job than I did fifteen years ago. Kelly and I will be spending the next few days patching, plastering and painting the kitchen walls. I’ll post pictures as soon as I can which leads to the next programming note. The computer from which these blog missives concretize has passed this veil of tears. Burnt offerings will be put forward later today before the Apple store alter in an attempt to resurrect my ancient iMac and return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Linoleum Blownapart

A programming note: posting will be light this week due to some much delayed home repairs. A crew will descend on Wednesday to replace our worn out kitchen floor.

I installed the kitchen floor myself over fifteen years ago. It should have lasted longer but we did not apply the correct sealant and it’s looking worn, stained and tired. This time around we’re hiring out the job. For those keeping score we’re using the same material: Forbo tile. While all the appliances are out of the kitchen Kelly and I are going to take the opportunity to repair and repaint the walls.

I’ve found that not having a working kitchen gets tiresome quickly. You realize that the kitchen is the center of the household when you have to eat out all the time and/or do dishes in the bathroom sink. So it’s time to step away from the computer and get to work!

Saturday Tweets: Muting, RIP Hygge and an Owl

Cutting Dovetail Joints With a Router Jig

My woodworking skills are, to be charitable, dodgy. But working with wood is an unavoidable necessity in our old house. So towards the end of 2017 I began taking woodworking classes in an effort to raise the level of my craftsmanship and the first practical project I tackled was redoing some drawers in the kitchen. In order to do that I needed to cut some dovetails.

Dovetail joints are used most often for making drawers. The arrangement of the joint makes for a drawer that resists racking. Dovetail joints also prevent the front from coming off with repeated use. Even without glue the joint wants to stay together. It’s also, I think, very attractive.

The two most common dovetail joints are through dovetails:

Image: Wikipedia.

And half-blind dovetails:

Image: Wikipedia.

Since I’m working on faced drawers I used through dovetails. I hope to make some furniture soon that will make use of half blind dovetails.

To cut my dovetails I used a router and jig both made by Porter Cable. There are some other jigs on the market that work just as well but, judging from the reviews, I’d avoid the cheap models. Setting up a dovetail jig is a time intensive process and somewhat confusing in terms of orientation and adjustment. It took me the better part of a day and some repeated YouTube viewing before I made a functional joint. An inexpensive pair of digital calipers made fine tuning the jig a lot easier.

Once the jig is set you can crank out a lot of joints relatively quickly. You attach a guide to the bottom of your router and simply move in and out of the metal guides that are clamped on top of the wood. You cut the tails first and then flip the metal guides to cut the pins. My Porter Cable jig I have does through dovetails, half blind dovetails, rabbeted half-blind, sliding dovetails, box joints and miniature versions of all these joints.

Someday I will cut a dovetail joint by hand, but I’ve got a lot of drawers to fix and I appreciate the efficiency of using power tools for this task. While dovetails cut with a router have a machine-like uniformity, I think they still look a lot better than joints done with screws.

I give myself a mixed review for my first attempt. The drawers work fine but there’s room for improvement. I’m still learning and I gained a huge appreciation for drawer details such as dimensions, wood grain orientation, material choice and hardware options. I can also see using this attractive joint for other projects around the house such as boxes and cat furniture (!).

Now I wish I could unsee my dovetail apprenticeship. The modern world is full of shoddy drawers and once you see the world through the rubric of the square and solid dovetail joint, the sight of a screwed together drawer could tip you into a fit of zealotry. You might just burn down your local Ikea.

I’ll do a longer blog post about retrofitting old built-in drawers when I get around to redoing the bathroom cabinets. In the meantime let’s please #MakeAmericaDovetailAgain.