Family Room Before and After

This is another “older” story – this one occurred this last spring, but I’m only just now getting around to sharing.

In the spring, Mary’s family called up and asked if we would be willing to host Easter for the family. Of course, we said yes – we have a house built for entertaining. By this time a lot of the biggest projects in the house were set, but only one more remained: replacing the flooring in the lower level family room. Around 2000, my grandparents decided they wanted to replace the carpeting that was in this room. They replaced it with a berber carpet and a spongy pad underneath. A little bit more history here first, though: Originally this room had a gray and pink tile floor, and around 1980 they laid glue-down office carpet, which remained until the berber came along. Here is where this room started from when my Grandmother was living here:




Mary and I are huge fans of hard surface flooring. Our philosophy is to start with a hard surface and use area rugs for the soft areas desired, or to define a space. When built, this house was all hardwood and tile. There was not a shred of carpeting to be found, but over the years my grandparents slowly put carpet over the various floors – fortunately for the wood floors, they just ended up protecting them.

Back to the story at hand though. There are a few issues going on in this room. Chief among them? The concrete slab floor happens to no longer be level…by a lot. Shortly after construction, this floor sank in the middle, creating a bowl like depression. Over the spread of the room, it’s about 2 inches. I have to put little blocks under the feet of the desk to make it level. BUT, the floor has radiant heat built into it – and earlier in the winter, I tested and brought this heating source back online (this is a separate story, but in 2010 my grandmother thought it was broken and some plumbers came in and slapped in baseboard. Very uncool.)

Ultimately, Mary and I want to put tile back on this floor. Since the radiant is working, and the floor is sloping, I have been researching the best way to level this floor. I have some ideas, but they are not on my radar for 1-2 years right now because I want to tackle other projects first and I don’t feel like eating that expense at the moment (it would probably be about $8K.) Because of this, I decided I wanted to go with glue-down low-pile office carpeting as well. It is as close as you get to a hard surface while still having carpet, and because it doesn’t have a pad underneath it is very easy to keep clean. Once the floor is leveled, however, I will be taking the time and money to put in the tile floor that we want.

Preparing this floor was a lot of steps. Not quite as much work as prepping the kitchen floor, but close. First, I had to remove the existing berber and the carpet pad beneath it. Not too bad. After that, the original flooring was exposed – still there, but covered in carpet tack strips and old carpet glue, it was not salvageable. So up this tile came. Fortunately because it had been down so long, it did not take a lot of work to get these tiles up. Generally, they would just pop up when the tile scraper would get underneath one end. So I scraped up the tiles either whole or in a handful of pieces each and got them out of the room. The adhesive for these was clearly petroleum based – the whole room smelled like a fresh asphalt driveway. I cleaned the floor as best I could and patched the major cracks (there weren’t too many.) Finally, prepped for the carpet! I’ve discussed before about asbestos tile as well – taking it up in this fashion (just removing it from the floor and disposing of it) is not dangerous because the asbestos in the tile is not “friable,” though you should take reasonable precautions (wear a dust mask, etc.) It is still dusty.



Mary and I decided we would put gray carpeting down on the floor, instead of brown. So off I went to Lowe’s and picked up their inexpensive (yet surprisingly nice quality) gray carpeting and the tools needed to do the installation. (I’m ambitious.) After getting the carpet home, I began to unroll it and lay it out. With Mary’s help, I began cutting the carpet to fit the room. I will assure you it is a pain in the butt to get the corners right without a fair bit of practice and patience. So, 14 hours later (as with all big projects for me) I have new carpet installed in the family room. Yay! But…once on the floor, the carpet is clearly a bluish gray tone, not the dark gray like it was in my hands or in the sample swatches I brought home and put on the ground.

At first I was determined to re-do the carpeting in brown instead. But, over time I realize that the bluish tone actually goes with the bluestone fireplace and since I’m planning on going to tile in 1-2 years it really isn’t worth the hassle to change it. Regardless, it is a significant improvement over what was there and the room looks like a finished, thought-out room instead of a mid-century house with an odd carpet in it. As I like to say, it’s now mid-century compatible.

Along with finished the flooring, we also replaced the window treatments in this room. My grandparents were fans of huge, wall-covering treatments. Mary and I prefer streamlined (or nonexistent, depending on the privacy needed) in order to maximize outside light. The downstairs windows are right at ground level, so they really needed shades for privacy. We ended up getting American Blinds “Top Down Bottom Up” Cellular Shades in a gray color. They mount inside the window frame and can, as the name implies, be adjusted from the top or the bottom to cover any portion of the window you would like. They also provide insulating properties due to their cellular fabric construction. We’re really pleased with them.

Here’s the process, start to finish:

20 thoughts on “Family Room Before and After

    1. Douglas Camin Post author

      Thanks! Those lights were popular, but were often seen in non-residential settings: I once worked for a public school district and the cafeteria lights (it was an older building) were basically the same ones. I have them on a dimmer, and I put in lower wattage Halogen bulbs. Originally they each took a 100 watt bulb, but now I get the same amount of light with a 72 watt Halogen. The ones I use are Phillips EcoVantage ( ) I would put in LED bulbs, but getting ones that produce a lot of light and are dimmable is very, very expensive.

      The windows are all the original Anderson FlexiVent windows throughout the house. The dining room has a 2×3 arrangement as well. With piggyback storm windows, they are almost as efficient as insulated glass so there isn’t any reason to replace them.

      1. modernT

        Thanks for the tip on the light bulbs. We have those lights in our kitchen and it doesn’t light it up very well at night. I need to install some under cabinet lighting.

        All of our windows are Andersens as well and we have the FlexiVents in many of our rooms. They all work great. All our windows are double paned, wood frames and pretty efficient. We re-glazed a few of them and we don’t have drafts at all. No reason to replace ours either.

        How do you install your storm windows? Are they in the inside?

        1. Douglas Camin Post author

          In a piggyback storm window, the storm rests inside of a channel on the outside on the window and rides on the sash “piggyback” – you never have to remove or open the storm window portion because it’s attached and moves with the main window. Since our windows all tilt in\out (casement), you never notice the storm window portion – functionally (and thermally) it is almost exactly like having two panes of glass, except that I can remove the storm and clean both sides of both panes.

          I didn’t think Flexivent windows had glazing – I’d be interested to see a picture. I have the Anderson Flexivent catalog in PDF format showing all the types of windows (including the sizing) and the various parts. I’d be happy to share it.

          1. modernT

            I looked up Flexivent and the pictures of the windows looked like mine, but I could be wrong. Our Andersens definitely have wood and glazing. Of the ones that are designed to open, they are all casements and the ones that look like yours have a sliding mechanism across the bottom that open the window instead of a crank.

        2. Douglas Camin Post author

          Later on in the run they started making them with insulated glass instead of single pane with storm, and eventually you could only get insulated glass. I bet yours were just at the right age (when was your house built? Later 60s?) that it was more common. In our house the windows would have been installed at the end of 1958, or more likely mid-1959.

          I should probably correct my statements about our windows – the way they are installed, they are “awning” windows – it’s a casement if the hinge is on the side, awning if from the top, and hopper if from the bottom. All of our windows are either in the awning or hopper position.

          If you look at this PDF document from Andersen and go to the section on Flexivents, you will notice they indicate that eventually you can only purchase replacement sashes with insulated glass. (check out page 25-26):


          Additionally, if you look at this document, you can see a picture of a Flexivent window (Page 3) and this window is exactly the window we have – and you can see the piggyback storm. It’s the gray metal surrounding the glass. The top has a groove, and the three sides have little clips (pictured) holding the storm in place. The window operates with the storm riding right on it, piggyback style.


          Sorry for the long URLs there. 🙂

        3. Douglas Camin Post author

          Also – since I keep thinking of things – what you are describing as the sliding mechanism is the “bar lock” hardware – the crank is called a “roto lock.” We have both, roto lock in kitchen windows, bar lock everywhere else.

  1. Michelle

    That was a huge project, but great results! I love the more streamlined look – and sectioning off the sitting area with a rug is brilliant! Great job!

    1. Douglas Camin Post author

      Thanks – I had to hunt for that rug. It was a great find as a remnant, we just had it bound. I think it cost us about $225 and it’s pretty big – 12 x 14!

  2. Pingback: One Year | The House on Rynkus Hill

  3. ModernT

    Thanks Doug. We have both bar lock and root lock as well. Your flexivent windows look very cool. These documents are so helpful. We need to replace a few of the roto lock mechanisms in ours.

  4. Douglas Camin Post author

    Glad I could help! The replacement mechanisms run about $150 each, just an FYI. If yours are after 1959, they should be a pretty close match.

  5. Pingback: A Little Masonry | The House on Rynkus Hill

  6. Leslie

    I’m curious about your statement that removing tile/linoleum in this way is ok becsuse it doesnt become friable. Today my husband removed what we thought was only asbestos free porcelain tile but it had a layer of linoleum underneath. It was a small bathroom and only one half of the linoleum came up. He promptly covered remaining with new floor and showered/ washed his clothes. I have spent the entire day trying to figure out how terrible the exposure was for our three young children playing in a room down the hall. Thoughts? He used a pry bar to get the tile/backer board up and the pieces of linoleum that peeled away at the same time.

    1. Douglas Camin Post author

      Leslie –

      My thoughts based on what you describe – you should not be worried.

      I’m not an expert, so I can only speak to my research and understanding – in old linoleum (pre-1977) there is a possibility that it could contain asbestos fibers in the sheet goods itself. They are a part of what they call the “matrix” of the sheet goods – that is, they are baked into the rest of the product. That means it is difficult to separate the asbestos fibers from the rest of the product except under somewhat extreme circumstances. Extreme would be something like, say, taking a sander to the linoleum and generating a lot of dust as a result of grinding away at it. Your husband using a pry bar to pull up porcelain tile and having portions of the sheet goods underneath come up does not break apart the linoleum in a way that would be “freeing” large amounts (or really any) of asbestos from within the product.

      It would be a different story if we were talking about pipes wrapped in asbestos insulation. This insulation is extremely fragile – just pulling it off can generate a cloud of asbestos fibers. If you think about the difference in how the asbestos is contained in each product, it makes a lot of sense – the asbestos in the linoleum is a very small amount and is “stuck” to everything else in the product that makes separating the asbestos from the rest extremely difficult; whereas the asbestos in the pipe insulation is nearly pure and can be almost trivially disturbed and produce asbestos dust.

      That difference is what “friable” means – if you can pulverize it into an airborne dust cloud, it is friable. For your linoleum to be friable, you would have to be able to pick it up in your hand and have it crush into essentially a pile of dust. It’s important to use reasonable care while working (a dust mask, etc) but pulling up a linoleum floor product that may contain some asbestos, especially in a small space like a bathroom, has limited potentially to cause a problem or alarm. In the case of my flooring, I simply picked up the tiles (that likely contained asbestos), which were mostly whole, and sealed them into garbage bags and put them out with the rest of our garbage.

      I would say you would be well served to simply finish pulling up the linoleum so you know it’s gone. If you have a concern, do it on a day when the kids are out of the house and close the door to the bathroom while doing it, then wipe it down when completed.

      Of course, that is just my opinion from my experience and reading. If you still have concerns, I would reach out to an expert in the field. Thanks for reading the blog, by the way, hope this helps!

  7. barbara

    Doug, a friend of mine recently bought a 1950s ranch with what I believe are the flexivent windows. They look just like yours, 3 horizontal windows with the top one an awning, the middle doesn’t open and the bottom. There are 2 sets on one wall and 3 sets on the opposite wall. The bottom window opens in a way I didn’t expect as it is hinged at the top and opens INWARD at the bottom. I thought the bottom windows always opened outward, but we find this configuration actually works great without AC. When the top and bottom windows are open, the hot air in the top of the room can escape and the cool air can come in at the bottom! It cools off the house and provides a great breeze. And with the other set of windows directly across, it makes for wonderful cross ventilation. Is this how your bottomwindows work? Is this how they were marketed as in the pdf it wasn’t even mentioned. And I do prefer the bar lock rather than the rotolock…simpler, easier, and seems to mechanically superior as would last longer without the crank mechanisms.

    1. Douglas Camin Post author

      Barbara – Those definitely sound like Flexivent windows. Our hopper-style windows are configured with the hinge at the bottom of the sash, and the top of the sash swings inward towards you when you open it.

      From what I’ve gathered, these windows were built generically and it was determined onsite how it would be configured by attaching the appropriate hardware and hanging the window as you saw fit (casement, awning, or hopper.) Andersen’s assumption for hopper windows from their documentation was that it would be installed as ours are. So in your case it’s possible the installer or homeowner made a decision to just not install them the typical way. Or, maybe they did it wrong at the time and no one knew enough to have it changed. That knowledge is probably lost to time now, though!

      We have bar lock everywhere except the kitchen which have roto lock. I think I’m OK with either one, but bar-lock types basically glide metal-on-metal in some spots, so they can wear out as well.

      I’m not sure how they were marketed, I haven’t seen a lot of marketing materials for these windows. But ours work similarly for airflow and cooling – we’ll open all of them to ensure a good circulation of air happens. We don’t have A/C, but because of a lot of additional air sealing work I’ve done, the house really stays cool and only slowly warms through the day. We haven’t used the A/C we have (a window unit) in two years because of it.


Leave a Reply