I had heard a lot of things about Armstrong Vinyl tiles before we installed them. Most everyone I spoke to who knew anything about them warned me that, while they are a pretty easy type of flooring to install (true) they are easily screwed up if your not careful. Specifically one must be very sure that you've got the tiles in the right side up before you put the glue down. If you don't look carefully I can see how you can mistake the top from the bottom of the tile and in the chaos of renos it would indeed be very easy to get a few in upside down. "But don't worry," folks told me, "they're pretty easy to pull up." With this bit of advice we were pretty sure we'd avoid any need to pull up tiles by simply paying very close attention. I say we, but really here I mean Martin as the floors were resolutely on his task list during this reno. And he did a great job. A fantastic job. He got all covered in glue and his back hurt each night when he was done, but really he did a fantastic job and didn't screw up anywhere. Sure there a few less than perfect joins back there behind the stove, but with a one tonne stove who is ever going to know but the cat, and really he doesn't mind.
I'll admit, we were pretty smug with the floor installation. No tiles in upside down and exactly two spare red tiles thanks to our ingenious idea to put in black/neutral ones under where the cupboards would be installed. Could things get any better? Turns out yes.
Sunday evening we were all set to go pick Miss P up from a friends place, where she had wisely been escaping the reno all afternoon. With 20 minutes left before we had to leave we decided to move in a few pieces of the Ikea cabinet boxes I had put together earlier in the day to see how things were shaping up. These were cabinet pieces to go over the black floor tiles against the one main wall. We popped on the legs and carefully moved them into the room, watching to make sure we didn't scratch the floor. And what do you know but the black showed out from under the cabinet. AWESOME!
You see, while the measurement of a 25" deep base cabinet is totally correct, meaning that the calculation of two 12" square floor tiles below would be adequately covered by the cabinets is totally correct, if you plan on only ever looking at your kitchen from an aerial view. If you plan on actually approaching your kitchen from a normal human perspective you will see a 2" line of black tiles poking out from under the recess where the toe kicks are below the cabinets. OF COURSE!
With roughly 2 minutes left until we had to go get Miss P and meet a dinner reservation for what was now our gabillionth meal out, I calmly told Martin that I was really "not ok and was probably going to start to cry." He tried courageously to convince me that really it looked fine, but I was having none of it. I knew deep down in my overly priviledged home owning soul that I could not live happily with a 2" strip of black poking out from under one of my walls of cupboards.
I should step back for a moment to try to explain to you just how nasty our old floors were. They were, as we discovered original flooring, dating them at roughly 65 years of age. For 65 years in a high traffic area of a pretty small house they looked awesome. For floors that you wanted to actually appear to look clean after you got down on your hands and knees to scrub them they looked like crap. And, while I may not be the cleaning whiz my mother is, I do like a clean floor. Especially in places like the kitchen, and these floors were just never coming clean. And so it was that one of the primary motivators in our kitchen reno (for me anyway) was really replacing the floor. Perhaps now you'll see why I wasn't so keen on the black line. Perhaps you don't, but trust me at 5:58pm on Sunday evening I felt deeply defeated.
It's amazing how someone you're so close to can sometimes surprise you. Martin often describes his handy skills as "a bit guerrilla" and he's right. He is an absolute visionary who gets determined to execute something and he will often sacrifice detail if it gets in the way of the speedy execution of his vision. Because he builds so many beautiful things for us and our home, I can't really complain about this. Lord knows I'm not going to teach myself to build a dresser or bedframe and if he cuts a few corners in the process, who am I to complain? However, knowing Martin's disposition I assumed he wasn't really going to work with me on my resolute rejection of the black floor peep show. I was wrong.
He asked me to go downstairs and get the blowdryer he uses for tool/handyman type things (for those of you who don't know Martin is a hairdresser so we have no shortage of awesome blowdryers in the house) and he set about heating and peeling up a tile. Fortunately, all the stories about mislaid tiles meant I had heard in fairly intimate detail what the best approach to removing tiles would be. We called Miss P's friend to say were were running a few minutes late and before dinner we pulled out one tile. I had hope.
Now, however, you will recall we had exactly 2 12"x12" tiles left. We needed to pull up and replace 9 tiles due to the 3" overlap problem. When we got home from dinner Martin decided to try scoring the remaining black tiles 3" from the edge and heating and removing only that portion. It worked. He then very carefully cut our two remaining tiles into 4 3" strips and with a bit of shaving and jigsaw puzzling we managed to re-lay all 8 of those pieces. The ninth piece ended up as a hodge podge of tile scraps but that will be almost totally covered by the cupboards. And, while I would love for it to be "more perfect" each time I get down on my hands and knees to really scrub that floor I will remember the way that Martin made absolutely no fuss about getting down there with his blow dryer and fixing that floor for me. For I know that he would indeed have been totally fine with it as it was.