Hardwood Floors + Knowing Your DIY Limits

By Thursday, April 28, 2016 6 No tags Permalink 0

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.

kitchen floor

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.

wood 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.

kitchen empty

Perfect match.

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?

Let’s Start the Dining Room!

By Monday, April 25, 2016 11 No tags Permalink 0

This post is sponsored by Floor&Decor. All opinions are my own.

The walls in the dining room are only half-painted and look insane, and there hasn’t been any furniture in here for 10 days, but we have hardwood floors!!!

hardwood flooring

Aaaaaaah! LOVE IT. As I always say after major projects like this, I only wish we’d done it sooner. I’ve never shown you a close-up of the ramen noodle carpet that used to be in here, have I? You’ve only seen it from afar when I show you the whole room, but I want you to understand the nightmare I’m escaping:

dining room before



You can see that it not only gets tangled up in itself, but it’s ALSO long enough to hide spiders and bits of food. We’ll vacuum and think we got everything, only to make another pass and hear more crumbs clicking around. I don’t understand why this was ever used for wall-to-wall carpeting. Maybe people in 1970 LIKED having spiders creep around underfoot?

Regardless, it’s gone! We replaced it with 2 1/4″ unfinished red oak that was stained to match the existing hardwoods:

unfinished wood

We went back to Floor&Decor for it since we had such an awesome experience buying the vinyl planks from them. I talked to one of the employees while I browsed and he told me that each store has its own inventory to help them cater to local trends–very little of what they have is assigned by corporate. Brilliant, no? Flooring needs in Chicago are way different than, say, Miami and I’m glad they take that into account.

There was a ton of said inventory to ponder, too, because stores are HUGE. The location I went to was about 55,000 square feet and it’s one of the smallest. Whaaaaat.



I got a little sidetracked in the marble department, which is also very large:



The employee also told me that putting everything into a warehouse instead of a showroom helps them keep prices low. I’m down with that because the solid oak hardwoods we bought were only $2.59/square foot. Yep, we bought some even though it’s a sponsored project. I did receive a partial store credit, but we still had to shell out some of our own money. Which I gladly did, because HELLO:

flooring transition

Feet again!

So. The floors are installed and lookin’ all cute, but the rest of the room still needs some attention. I’ll have more info about the installation later this week, and then next Monday I’ll show you major progress toward this:

dining room design plan

The rug arrived the other day and we’re currently in the middle of painting. It’s coming together! Only four years after we moved! #timemanagement

What are you working on right now? Who else is scrambling to get house things done before summer? I kind of feel like we waited too long because now the weather is GLORIOUS and all I want to do is be outside. Do you have a Floor&Decor near you?

2016 Goals: An Update

By Wednesday, April 20, 2016 11 No tags Permalink 0

Too bad one of my goals for the year wasn’t “create a makeshift fingernail file out of something at the hardware store” because I was ON IT. One of my nails hit something in my purse and broke in a jagged-y knife sort of way, so I used a shingle to smooth it out. Boom! It worked pretty well, too, so now we have that new brain wrinkle.

Anyway, my ACTUAL goals haven’t been tackled as thoroughly yet. I’m running about 50-50:

1. Expand my reach. This one is multi-faceted, like a diamond. I went to a blog conference in February, so I’ve been networking, and I’m on the Laurel & Wolf e-design team, which takes care of the freelancing. There’s still no passive income plan and I haven’t figured out a good posting schedule here, but it’s only April. I don’t want to be an overachiever and do it all at one. Ha.

blue pillow and mod lamp

Remember our epic hotel room?

2. Increase productivity. Yes and no. Yes, because I’ve been busier with clients than I expected to be (high-five!) and I’m plugging along just fine, but not in the sense that I’ve had a chance to actually implement any time-management tricks. I learned about some at the conference, but they’re just sitting in my notebook. Soon!

3. Read for work. I’ve been making a point to like more design magazines on Facebook and then heart a bunch of their posts so they continue show up in my feed. (Sidebar: I wish “most recent” was the default setting, but of course it’s not.) Architectural Digest is my new fave, and when Amazon had a special offer I got myself a paper subscription, too.

magazine and coffee

4. Keep simplifying. Sure? I’ve been relatively distracted with work and haven’t specifically thought about simplifying, but I also haven’t been buying much. Unless you count things for the dining room, which I don’t, because there’s a difference between shopping when it’s rainy and you’re bored, and shopping because you’re about to free yourself from the chains of shag carpet. My rug searches are legit.

5. Tailor my clothes. Nope! I’ve thought about it a couple of times, mainly when I want to wear something that needs said tailoring, but I haven’t actually DONE it yet. My bad. I’ll have to hop on it soon because several of my summer blouses are in that pile…

How are your goals coming along? Anybody else ever use a shingle as a nail file? I felt like MacGyver.