Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What’s Up With The Tar Paper?

The plan for the Bungalow has always been to get it livable and then to restore it when the Horner House is done. Because by then we’ll be bored, right? Anyway, it is a 1910’s Bungalow that still has quite a bit of its original woodwork, if nothing else. So the decision was made to just clean and wax the hardwood floors and refinish them later. But first we needed to pull up the carpet. That’s when the inevitable complication came to light.

When we removed the carpet in the front bedroom we found the hardwood, but it was covered in glue. Not a happy finding, but it can be dealt with. The other two bedrooms and the hallway revealed much worse. Someone, many years ago, had tiled over the hardwood floor. What a crime! But worse was waiting. There was tar paper under the tile. Yes. Tar paper.

 Along the wall you can see where some of the tarpaper is gone, but also what it leaves behind.

Why!?! After some research it turns out that tar paper is an excellent vapor barrier. There are modern materials that work very well, so it is used less, but still used today. Our next question was, “How do we get rid of it?” The first suggestion is to use boiling water on it. Basically you pour the water on a very small area, let it sit for a few seconds, then scrape. Boiling water and a scraper. On your hands and knees. Not gonna happen anytime soon. The second answer is to sand down and refinish the floor. If the paper has been there for very long this is the only way to actually remove all of the tar. Over time it melts into the wood boards and leaves them permanently black. This too is a time consuming process and many sources say it takes a commercial floor sander and suggest hiring an expert. This is not in the current plan either, so what now?

Well, we discussed just laying down a floating laminate over the top for now. It turns out that this isn’t a very good idea either. If there is more than ¼ in total difference in the height of the floor this will put stress on the tongue and groove and the flooring will break. That won’t do either. So, we are now planning on carpet! I like carpet! And several places have their installation on sale. Carpet it is.

One last note on the tar paper: I think that anyone who proposes using it should have to remove it from an old floor to see what an enormous pain in the blankety blank it is, before they are allowed to continue this evil practice. :)


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