I’m still all googly-eyed about the dining room. The walls aren’t fully painted (I need to edge around the ceiling) but the floor looks so good it makes everything else sparkle. Putting hardwoods in there wasn’t our first rodeo with flooring, but it WAS our first time working with an expensive material. It can be a little stressful planning a pricier project, so I thought I’d share some tips we picked up during ours.
A note before we dive in: this is not a tutorial. We ended up hiring a crew to install in the dining room, then refinish all of the floors on the main level so they matched. Our kitchen floors have needed some attention since we moved in, so this was the obvious time to do it.
Scratches, ahoy! There were two other areas just like this.
We knew our limits and these two rooms were WAY beyond us. So we hired people who knew what they were doing and it was awesome. No shame at all. If you want to take a stab at it yourself, this tutorial is pretty thorough, and this one is for you brave souls who want to do the stain. May the Force be with you.
Now, onto the general info that will apply to any hardwood project, whether you DIY it or not.
1. Check the depth of the product. Since we were butting the new floors up against existing hardwoods, everything needed to be the same depth. In our case, we had 3/4″ red oak in the kitchen and entryway, so we decided to get exactly the same thing for the dining room. We briefly looked at another oak product, but it was only 3/16″ thick and would’ve looked silly. I guess we COULD HAVE put down an additional layer of subfloor to even it out, but ugh. Just get the correct depth.
2. Buy an underlayment. Hardwood floors can only be installed above grade (no basements!) and therefore don’t really need a vapor barrier, but they do need a layer on top of the subfloor to prevent squeaks. Our crew had us buy 15 lb. roofing felt, but red rosin paper will also work. Both are pretty cheap, about $15.
3. Measure the bundles. We have a small-ish car, so we rented a pickup truck the day we took the flooring home. (Side note: Floor&Decor lets you keep your purchased items in their warehouse for up to 14 days if you can’t take them home immediately. YES.) The truck was big, but so were the bundles of wood and we got everything into the back with only inches to spare. It was CLOSE. So err on the side of huge when you decide what to drive that day.
4. Don’t forget about shoe molding. If you’re going from carpet to hardwoods like we were, you’ll need to add that little piece of trim at the bottom of your baseboards. Solid wood expands and contracts as the seasons change, depending on humidity and temperature, so there’s usually a 3/4″ gap left between the floors and the walls. To cover that up, you’ll need a baseboard AND shoe molding.
5. Let the wood acclimate. Resist the urge to run right home and install your floors the same day. Remember the expanding and the contracting and the humidity? All of that has to do with the moisture content of the wood, and it needs a few days to normalize in a new place. Wood will always change throughout the year, but it’s important to get this big adjustment out of the way first or you’ll be left with weird gaps between your boards. Put the flooring bundles into the room where they’ll be installed and let them hang out for a week.
BONUS: Know your limits. This isn’t discussed very often on DIY blogs, but I think it needs to be. There’s no law that says if you do one DIY project, you’re forced to tackle them for all eternity. There are a lot of valid reasons why you might not want to DIY something. Maybe you’re busy at work and don’t have time, but the project still needs to be done. Maybe you’re lacking this particular skill and don’t want to make an expensive mistake. Maybe you’ve been doing major DIY projects for years and just want someone else to do the work. All of those went into our decision to hire the crew, but our BIGGEST fear was ruining the new floors with a splotchy stain job. I have a bad track record with stain and I’m pretty sure Hubsey has never used it, so it seemed like a bad plan to try it again on 500 square feet of oak.
I got home the first day and saw that they had not only installed the new floors, they had also sanded EVERYTHING and applied the first coat of stain. That would’ve taken us a week, and honestly, it was so nice to have a break.
Now that I’ve written this novel, I need to go finish the paint! Real pictures of the room are coming on Monday, and I’ll be sure to include a budget breakdown to you can gauge this kind of thing for yourself. Who else has been doing floors lately? What kinds of projects make you hire somebody?