Carpet common?
July 20, 2012 5:48 PM   Subscribe

So I'd like to know if homes built in the USA in 1958 commonly had wood floors and it is possible this owner added the carpet later. If true we'd have hope that the wood below has possibility for restoration.

We checked where we could lifting it up from around vents and in closet and can see wood below it but not enough to see if the real wood is any good. We'd like to remove the carpet ( too old ) and refinish the existing wood or put new wood down upon moving in next week.
posted by usermac to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
In Southern California, it seems to me that most of the 1950's & 1960's houses were built with wood floors. Those who had the means added carpet later.
I'm talking about single family rental and owned homes-- those boring houses with stucco exteriors and popcorn ceilings.
posted by calgirl at 5:52 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can also refinish the wood sub-floor. It's not the greatest wood floor - fir, not hardwood, but we've gotten 15+ years out of it so far.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:07 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anecdata: Near me, homes built around then (like mine) have concrete floors, but redwood ceilings. I think it's going to depend a lot on availability of materials locally, along with the type of substrate they built on.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:32 PM on July 20, 2012

The 1946 upgrade to my house in Oakland, CA, used 1x5 planking subfloors, and seems to have covered those with some vinyl-looking tile (without asbestos; we tested). That tile could've been added later, though.

Also, you say this reflooring will happen "upon moving in next week." Maybe that's just a figure of speech, but I'd refloor before you unload all your furniture, if possible.
posted by slidell at 6:38 PM on July 20, 2012

It depends on which part of the US and the original value of the house. Florida homes often had tile. Wall to wall carpeting didn't really become prevalent until the 1960s, I think. One friend pulled her carpeting up and painted the plywood subfloor to look like oriental rugs. When she sold the house the new owners loved them.
posted by mareli at 6:40 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would say would floors underneath would be likely in a house of that period in California. You sound like you think the carpet is too old anyway, why not yank a big piece up? It's easy to tack back down.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:06 PM on July 20, 2012

Yeah, this totally depends on where you are and what type and quality of construction. If you've pulled up the carpet and can't tell if the wood is any good, you need to get someone to come take a look at it for you and tell you what you've got.

And I'll second slidell: don't move in and THEN try to refinish the floors!
posted by Specklet at 7:07 PM on July 20, 2012

Guys, the OP is in Kentucky, not California.
posted by Specklet at 7:12 PM on July 20, 2012

It depends on which part of the US and the original value of the house.

Yep, it's hugely regional, and a lot of post-war housing was shaped by legislative frameworks that aimed to increase entry-level ownership (GI Bill, Section 502, etc.). If the house falls into that category, there's probably a lot of similar local houses to compare against. Perhaps talk to the agent or inspector? Both should have a good sense of the area's housing stock.
posted by holgate at 7:18 PM on July 20, 2012

We just bought a house in Middle TN, and looked at a bunch of houses built in the 50's. Nearly all of them had the original hardwood floors. The one we bought had carpeting that was pulled out just before going to market, so the floors were in generally good shape (although we had them sanded and stained a darker color).
posted by kimdog at 7:20 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's likely that your particular house has wood floors throughout. However, you will not know for sure if the floors are in decent condition until you pull up all the carpeting. It could all be awesome until you get right to the middle of the floor and then you'll find a burn mark or a pet stain. It might be fixable, it might not.

Just pull it all up and see what you've got! Having lived in a house during a hardwood floor refinishing, don't. If it's at all possible, refinish the floors before you move in.
posted by cooker girl at 7:25 PM on July 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the feedback. Helpful.
posted by usermac at 7:46 PM on July 20, 2012

Yeah, it's very common in houses of that age in our area, although by about the mid to late 60s it may have started to change. That doesn't tell you anything about what kind of shape the wood is actually in under the carpet, though.
posted by dilettante at 8:22 PM on July 20, 2012

More anecdata: my house was built in 1954. Partner & I moved in in 2009 and the first thing we did was rip out the carpeting in the main living area, based on (similar to what you described) being able to see wooden flooring in the front closet. The floor underneath turned out to be red oak which I was thrilled about -- but there was no way to determine condition until I'd cleaned it VERY thoroughly. At first I thought the wood was actually damaged and would need refinishing, but as it turned out, it was just filthy and utterly disgusting (bottom image shows what it looked like just after carpet removal). Even though the carpet itself had looked clean (upper image in prior link).

The whole surface of the wood was caked with ground-in fine black dust...basically the accumulation of 40 years' worth of crud that had filtered down through the carpet that no amount of vacuuming could touch. Initially I was literally rinsing out the mop every 10 seconds because it would turn pitch black. It took several days to get everything clean and waxed but it was SO worth it. The flooring turned out beautiful.

Incidentally, that experience has pretty much cemented in my brain that carpeting is one of the vilest and most horrible things one can possibly put on one's floor long-term. It was NASTY under there. Ugh. Wood can seem to get dustier faster but at least it's actually possible to clean!
posted by aecorwin at 9:34 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

My parents house is exactly like this. They bought it in 1996, tore out what carpeting that must have been installed in the 70s or early 80s, and had the very nice wood floors underneath sanded and refinished. I can't remember the exact date the house was built, but it was right around 1960 in central California. The floors still look nice, 15 years later.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:55 PM on July 20, 2012

Don't mistake plank sub-flooring for actual wood floors.

Post a pic. We'll tell you what you have there!
posted by jbenben at 1:45 AM on July 21, 2012

I don't believe wall-to-wall carpeting was common in the '50s, so if you've got some it would've been added later.
posted by easily confused at 3:35 AM on July 21, 2012

If you can get into the basement you may be able to look up and see rows of cut nails penetrating the sub floor at right angles to the joists. That would indicate strip wood flooring. In the 1950-6- and even today hardwood strips (Oak, Maple) were about 2.5" wide, while softer woods like pine were about 4" to 5" wide.

Anecdote: My kitchen had a carpet, under the carpet was linoleum, under that was maple.
posted by Gungho at 6:36 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Guys, the OP is in Kentucky, not California.

I know that- hence the reason for putting in my locale, because the question is: So I'd like to know if homes built in the USA in 1958 commonly had wood floors and it is possible this owner added the carpet later. The question is not region specific by itself, but pointing out the geographic specificity of anyone's knowledge is going to give a more useful answer in the aggregate. If you have people all over the country saying that finished wood floors under wall-to-wall were common in houses of this period, the odds are good that they might be common in Kentucky as well. Knowing the extent, limited or otherwise, of where an answer is coming from is more helpful than no answers at all in this case, considering the question asked.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:28 PM on July 21, 2012

Another data point - in the subdivision in Alexandria, Virginia that I now live in, the 500+ detached homes that were built in 1957 to 1958 all were built with fairly nice, solid wood floors. These are fairly large homes - 1200 to 1700 square feet on the main (and, most models, upper) floor(s), and full (but unfinished) basements from 800 to 1200 square feet, on lots from 6000 to 8000 square feet, with smallish kitchens, bathrooms, and (often) bedrooms. (I doubt these were luxury homes when built.)

I also suspect (no data, though) that wood floors in 1958 were less expensive relative to carpet floors than is the case today, making it more likely that you have wood.

On the other hand, the house I grew up in, in a suburb of Cleveland, was built in 1958, and it had no wood floors at all, nor do I recall any of the other homes in the subdivision with that. So YMMV.
posted by WestCoaster at 2:51 PM on July 21, 2012

You had the answer before. Look under the carpet. If there's a floor vent (like a return for a furnace) then pull out its grate and look at the edge.

Otherwise, find a remote corner and carefully tear up at the corner. I would use a matte knife (box cutter) and follow the corner, cutting the carpet for just a few inches. Lift and look. Tack it back down.

Our house is a 1950's in Ottawa, Canada. Living and dining rooms were ugly carpeted. Checked the wood at the edge of the furnace return vent and found it to be nice.

Nice indeed...all beautiful oak. Simple refinishing (the floor finishers had to fill lots of nail holes --now invisible) and it's great.

Have a look... YMMV and be careful with sharp objects. Also, as someone said: you'll never know the state of the entire floor until you see it. The "check it" advice only determines if there is nice wood, or just plywood covered by the carpet.
posted by mbarryf at 10:17 AM on July 22, 2012

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