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I'm beginning a kitchen renovation and the first thing I'm looking into is replacing the tile the previous owners had installed. My entire house is hardwood, possibly original (from 1954), aside from my kitchen which was redone as tile. The tile in the kitchen is a good 3/4" taller than hardwood in the adjoining room. I chipped off a small piece of tile to see what I was working with. There seems to be four layers, the subfloor, a layer of tar paper, a fiber backer board and then the tile.

Now the question I have is when I compared the portion of bare subfloor to my hardwood floors in the adjoining room, the hardwood part only seems to be ~1/8" thick!? What kind of Hardwood construction is this? If I wanted to put hardwood in my kitchen how would I go about matching the height with the room next to it?

Please see picture names for description of what they're showing.

Here you can see the height of the tile and hardwood

Another shot of the subfloor

Here you can see the height of the hardwood vs subfloor

Another shot of hardwood vs subfloor

Another shot of subfloor at a different location

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What you have appears to be a red oak 2 1/4" strip floor. It will be 3/4" thick. The plywood you see will perhaps be 5/8" thick, and hopefully on a subfloor as well as the red oak. You will need to confirm all this, and can be easily done if you have an unfinished basement. Looking up from the basement on a 1950's era home you should see diagonal subfloor with the nails holding the finished floor poking through. If you see the underside of the oak flooring, then there is no subfloor and the task of replacing the floor gets a lot more dicey since the joists will be the only thing to walk on after the tile and plywood is pulled up. The subfloor should be there, if this was on the second floor, there would certainly be a bigger chance of no subfloor.

  • +1. That plywood is not their subfloor (at least it'd better not be). You can't tile over subfloor boards, so it is four parts but tar paper doesn't count: subfloor, plywood, backer, tile. Take all of that out and start over and you'll be exactly where you should be. – Mazura Feb 7 '19 at 6:19
  • To clarify, I am expecting there to be subfloor, 1X6 or 1X8 laid diagonally, and the strip floor and the plywood laid upon that... That is why I stated hopefully, there are exceptions that I have seen, but usually in much older homes. The building code was just starting in those days, and the house may not have been under that control. – Jack Feb 7 '19 at 14:45
  • Yes this makes so much sense now! So unfortunately the previous owners put a drywall ceiling in the basement, so I will not be able to verify that way. There is some moulding along 3 steps I may be able to rip out to see the layers. Idk if the subfloor would show up there. Now the question I have is can I leave the plywood and simply place red oak on top of it? Or would I need to rip out the plywood and replace with 3/4" hardwood flooring. – C. Zach Martin Feb 7 '19 at 17:17
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    You could leave the plywood but your new floor will be higher than the original. About the subfloor location, it is everywhere under everything, if it is there at all. I am certain it will be, I just realized the only time I seen no subfloor was in much older homes framed in the "balloon style" framing. Back at the plywood, I would take it up in chunks, tile and all. Or at least I would try that first. It will leave you a cleaner floor with no thinset to contend with. Another note if you are planning on NOT using 3/4" T&G flooring, the plywood removal is not that critical. – Jack Feb 8 '19 at 1:33
  • No, I was planning on replacing it with 3/4" tongue and groove hardwood. I just wasn't 100% sure why they only removed the wear layer when tiling? Seems like they could have gotten the tile even if they removed the plywood too. Thanks for the help! I'm gonna take up that small bit of plywood just to be very sure there is a subfloor haha. Then it's flooring time. – C. Zach Martin Feb 8 '19 at 16:34

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