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Concrete floor: from slab to fab

The cold, hard facts: It takes a lot of scraping, mopping and sweeping to bring out the beauty beneath the surface.

July 24, 2003|Michael Hoinski | Special to The Times

Emily Sutton and Aaron Latham decided not to accept their landlord's offer to lay new carpet in their $1,200-a-month, two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood. They had a better idea: Instead, they sweet-talked him into letting them rip up the old carpet to expose the concrete underneath.

For less than $300 (plus elbow grease), the engaged couple transformed about 400 square feet of living room and hallway floor into a sleek, industrial-looking space, like a downtown loft -- and in the process avoided the rent increase the landlord had attached to his renovation plan.

Over the course of two weekends, Sutton and Latham worked by trial and error to make their frumpy, dated floor hipper and younger. They spent all of Day One on their hands and knees removing the carpet with a matte knife. (Although they took their chances with what they would discover underneath, it's wise to cut a discreet patch first and preview the condition of the concrete to make sure it isn't discolored or riddled with cracks.)

Next they uprooted the carpet pad, leaving behind a mess of dried glue and other detritus.

"There was years of dust mixed with the unthinkable," Latham warns. "It was gross."

Finally, they used a crowbar to pry strips of wood anchored to the perimeter of the room by carpet tacks.

Day Two was relegated to removing the remains of the glue. The floor needed to be clean and level before applying adhesive remover, so Sutton and Latham swept and mopped three or four times before they attacked the residue with putty knives and scrapers, then swept and mopped again. Wearing gas masks and rubber gloves, they spread the jelly-like adhesive remover over the floor with paint brushes; the resultant layer of toxic sludge was cleared away with a fresh batch of putty knives and scrapers and, yes, more sweeping and mopping.

Wire brushes and Goof Off, an all-purpose mark/stain remover, were employed on Day Three to clean remaining blemishes, including construction plans written in marker and dried paint. The couple could have spackled the holes left by the carpet tacks but decided to forge ahead, with another round of sweeping and mopping. Next they laid down concrete cleaner with scrub brushes, let it dry, then swept and mopped yet again -- about five cycles' worth.

On Day Four, they used paint rollers to cake the floor with sealant. The more coats of sealant, the greater the shine.

Remember, this is a stop-and-go process. Thorough sweeping and mopping should occur between each chemical application. Big oscillating fans quicken the drying and repel lingering fumes. For safety's sake, always adhere to the instructions for proper handling of the aforementioned compounds.

Today, Sutton and Latham's floor shimmers with reflected light, and -- despite the warmth emanating from the freshly painted orange walls -- their place is suddenly a whole lot cooler.

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