Published at Saturday, 19 January 2019. Kitchen Floors. By Gerda Andersen.
Homeowners were at first content to varnish their beadboard or other wooden walls, but as concerns with sanitation grew at the turn of the century they covered kitchen walls with glazed white tiles, usually 3" x 6" subway tiles. White tile was frequently used behind coal-burning ranges, where it made the wall easier to clean, so it was logical to extend the tile to the sink area. Painted or sculpted tiles played an important decorative role early in the 20th century, primarily around the fireplace, but weren't common in the kitchen until the late 1920s.
Alternatives to wood floors in the kitchen are not only diverse but historically innovative, ranging from some of the oldest materials (stone, brick, and cork) to classics perfected more than a century ago (linoleum)to the ever-evolving wonder material of the first half of the 20th century, vinyl composition tile. Whether you choose a floor that could have been in the house when it was built, or something further along in its history, you'll be in good company.
Installing new vinyl, cork, or linoleum flooring in an old house usually means laying it over an existing floor. If that is the case, do not rip out the old floor if there is any chance that it contains asbestos. Instead, lay down new 3⁄8" smooth-face plywood before tackling the tiles or sheet goods (remove the kickboards from lower cabinets and scribe shallow cuts as necessary around door frames).
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