A Question about Entryway Tile

Sometime in the next couple weeks, we’re going to have all of the hardwood floors refinished. We considered doing this project ourselves, but after getting a couple of quotes, and considering the amount of time it would take us to 1) figure out how to do it ourselves and 2) actually do it ourselves, it just makes sense right now for us to hire someone to do it for us. Mel is heading out of town for a week in a bit, and she’s taking 10-month-old KP with her, so it seems like a perfect time for us all to clear out of the house for a few days and let the professionals tackle this one.

But now I have a question that I need help from the great & wise internet to answer:

What should we do with our entryway?

Our entryway is about 4’x6′, and this is what it has looked like since we bought the place:

Dated Tile

This really dated tile is typical ceramic tile laid down directly on top of the original hardwood floors. They are in rough shape. Many of the tiles have been loose and falling off. Also, it’s kind of awkward that the coat closet just off the entryway is still the original wood, resulting in an awkward island of hardwood:


Yesterday, we took a couple hours yesterday and removed the old tile. It came right up since it was falling off anyway. Some of the old mortar was still stuck to the floor, but it was in pretty poor shape, too. We took a belt sander to it and it pretty much came right off. We had no trouble sanding right through it to the original hardwood. We didn’t put much effort into the sanding it since we figured we’d just let the professionals do it when they sand the rest of the floors anyway. Here’s what it looks like right now:

Original Hardwood Entryway

So here’s my question for all of you DIY’ers out there: What should we do now?

Here are the options I’ve come up with:

1) Refinish the entryway to match the rest of the hardwoods everywhere else on the main floor. The wood looks like it’s in surprisingly good shape for being directly in front of a door in Minnesota where it was undoubtedly soaked by snowy boots hundreds of times. We won’t know for sure if the pros will be able to get all the mortar off until they try it, but I think this is a realistic option. However, we kind of want tile here, since this is where we will put all of our snowy boots.

2) Place new tile directly over the existing hardwoods. Any pro tiler will advise against this, arguing that the the hardwoods expanding and contracting will cause the tile to break up. The good part about this option is that it doesn’t raise the finished height of the floor too much…

3) Place new tile on new backerboard over the existing hardwoods. This would provide a solid bet for tile, but would raise the finished floor a full inch (or more) above the hardwoods. We might have to cut off the bottoms of the two doors there to provide clearance (and since one of the doors is an exterior door, we’d have to compensate for a shorter door by doing something to the threshold.

4) Remove the hardwoods in the entryway. This would allow us to provide a proper base for the tile. The drawback is just that we’d have to remove some of the original hardwoods. I can hear the sound of tears falling from thousands of old-house-lovers already!

A related question: regardless of which option we choose, what should we do about the connected coat closet? Tile? or leave it hardwood?

What do you recommend, internet?