June 6, 2011

#6, #13, #33, #48 Part 2- We're Floored!

Finally- FINALLY it's time to install our wood floors.  As a reminder of our process so far, first we had to paint the Living Room, Foyer, Kitchen and 2 hallways, then we had to remove the old tile and carpet, then lay new sub floors, and then had a couple of small projects like removing the dining room mirror and patching the ceiling in the foyer before we could get started.  We also had to do A TON of research on wood floors, and after weeks of studying and comparing, here's what we ended up with:

The Type:
We spent a lot of time comparing solid wood vs. engineered, and decided that in Minnesota with our humidity and extreme temperature shifts that engineered was the way to go as it is less likely to warp and create gaps over time.  Its still solid wood on the top, that can be sanded down and refinished 3-4 times, but the center of the piece is made of an engineered product that won't warp or twist, which makes me happy considering the huge gaps that we had between the floor joints in our wood floors in The Bungalow.  The other bonus is that engineered floors come in a floating version that are laid on top of a foam underlayment and click together without nails or glue.  We must have asked a thousand annoying questions about whether this easy to install type was as good as it sounded, or if it was worth it to do more work on a type that nailed or glued.  We heard from more than a half dozen different wood floor sales people that the floating floors are just as good as their nailed in counterparts, perhaps better since they float around and therefore do not get damaged from expansion.  Easier and better?  Sign us up!

The Style:
We took some inspiration from the 2011 HGTV Dream House in Stowe Vermont and chose a wide, 4 3/4 Maple plank. You can usually choose from 3 different finishes with maple; rustic, natural or select.  Rustic has lots of dramatic color variations and almost looks like hickory, while natural has more blending color variations and select is mostly one even color.  We went with natural so that we could have lighter, more modern floors, but the darker variations would tie into the darker colors oak molding and wood accents. 

The Price:
After a lot of research and price shopping, we purchased our wood floors at Lumber Liquidators for an incredible price of $3.10 a square foot.

After all the work we did to get the floors prepped and ready, the install was actually a piece of cake.  The first step was to roll out the foam underlayment, and then you just place the flooring down on top, and click it into the pieces next to it.  We used wood shims to keep the flooring 3/8" from the walls, which is required with a floating floor to allow it a little of room to shift and adjust over time.  This gap is covered by the molding, and completely hidden when finished.

Within an hour we had half the Living Room done, with the only tricky parts being where we had to cut around the doorway from the Foyer to the Living Room in order to make those two rooms flow together seamlessly.  We were clicking right along, (pun intended) until we noticed this:

That shim isn't propping up the floor, instead it easily slips underneath it with some room to spare.  

Somehow, even though we had measured our sub-floors for level nearly a dozen times, we had looked over a small spot in the foyer that dipped down a bit in the middle, a problem which was accentuated greatly when the new wood floors spanned level above it.  Think the popping bubble from the board game trouble.  Remember that game? Yep- "Uh-Oh.  Trouble!"  Our sweet progress had to come to a halt for the rest of the evening while we considered our options.  I went to the experts (in this case, my Dad), who suggested a little self leveler.  It sounded a lot worse then it actually was, as we found out that self leveler is a pretty easy, butt kicking product.  You just pour the stuff onto your area, and it spreads out fills in the hole level, all by itself. 

Pretty crazy huh?  We let this stuff dry for 24 hours while we moved on to the Kitchen and Dining Room.  The next day all we had to do was lay the foam underlayment on top of our new level surface and get back to work.  Party dance!

All in it took us from Friday evening until late on Sunday night.  It wasn't difficult really, but it was certainly tricky at some points cutting around the stairs, cupboards, walls, etc...

Areas like this were especially tough because we needed to get the wood right up against the existing stair molding. With no baseboard molding to cover up our cuts here, they had to be exact to the 1/16th.

Once we popped back in our baseboard molding, we had this:

By the way, looking at these photos now, I realize it was a bad idea to lay down our nail gun on the new wood floors, and not the piece of cardboard we brought in to protect them.  Oops. 

I absolutely LOVE how the color turned out.  I think the floor complements, but does not match the existing trim, which for us is ideal.  The wide planks and lighter color give it the modern look we were hoping for, and the variations in the color give it that natural vibe.  Even though it was super late on Sunday by the time we got the last piece of molding in, The Hubs was out in the garage hauling in furniture faster than you can say, "Obsessive Compulsive." That was just fine with me, as we've both been longing for the day when we could sit on our sofa without the faint smell of gasoline.  We opted for peacefully drinking a glass of wine on our couch in celebration rather than more photo taking of the room set up with furniture in it.  You'll have to forgive me some day.  We'll post photos soon of the space, as it's our goal to make it feel comfortable and livable as soon as possible.

What about you all?  Anyone else install wood floors lately?  Did you choose the solid wood or engineered?  Nail them in, glue or click?  HGTV says it's one of the top 5 improvements you can make to your home to raise property values.  Bathrooms and kitchens are on that list too... but let's just celebrate one victory at a time.


  1. Erin, you guys are amazing!! My husband Zach and I just purchased some engineered wood (bamboo) for our basement, and have been thinking about installing ourselves.. this post was incredibly helpful! Thanks!

  2. 4 words Emily- "You can do it!" Seriously, it was so easy. Just send me an email (Contact Us) if you have any questions along the way!

  3. Congratulations on your new floors. They look fantastic! You have a point about installing floors as a major home improvement. Carry on sharing your fabulous projects in the future. :)