Q: The kitchen floor in our 1930 bungalow has two layers of vinyl sheeting over the original oak strips. How can I remove the vinyl without damaging the oak?
—Jim West, Dayton, OHio

A: Pat Hunt replies: I doubt you'll have much to work with when you get down to the original floors. The bottom layer of vinyl was most likely installed over ¼-inch plywood nailed to the oak, so those old floors will probably look like somebody blasted them with buckshot.

You should consider leaving all the old vinyl in place and adding a new solid-wood floor over it. Sheet vinyl makes a great vapor barrier against moisture coming from below, and you won’t have to mess with materials that might contain asbestos.

First, check around the perimeter of your floor to see whether adding another layer of flooring will cause problems at doorways or at stairs. You'll probably have to trim door bottoms or add transition strips to cover the change in floor height. Don't forget appliances like the dishwasher, either. The new flooring will have to go under it, or it might be impossible to take it out later on.

There's one more factor to consider. To nail a wood floor into place, the nails need to be long enough to penetrate at least ½-inch into the old flooring; that ¼-inch-thick sheet of plywood is too thin.

Pat Hunt is a flooring contractor who has worked on many This Old House TV projects.

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