Tag Archives: floors

Little Things and Big Changes

Now that things are official, I thought it would be a good time to announce some big news. There’s a reason there has been a crunch to get projects wrapped up this spring and make our house look presentable – we’re moving to Connecticut! I know I’ve mentioned Nik has been applying for faculty positions at universities, and he’s officially accepted a position at the University of New Haven. We’re planning to list the house in mid May and move in early July, so I’ve made an industrious list of all the little things that needed to be finished up before scheduling home pictures and preparing to show the house, and we’re plowing right through it.

One of the things on our list was updating some things in the guest bathroom: IMG_0344

We started with just replacing the tub faucets (which of course required some additional purchases because of mismatches with the valve styles and trying to match brushed nickel from different manufacturers) and the sink faucets. The new sink faucet looked nice…


…but Nik realized the vanity top had a chunk missing out of the area around the drain, so the new drain was dripping, and caulk did not fix the issue. So, one thing led to another and we ended up replacing the entire vanity top with a pretty basic one from Home Depot.


It was only $135, but made such a huge difference in brightening up that room. We then painted the bathroom walls with a mixture of old paints from other rooms in the house (free!), and I love the light grey color it ended up as.


That was supposed to be the end of the updates for that room….but with how nice it was starting to look with just those few changes, we decided that we couldn’t neglect the other things in this room. So we decided the old white linoleum floor had to go!


We wanted to replace it with something simple that could be done in a day, so we decided on floating vinyl planks. My research suggested that we could put it directly over the linoleum we have since it is flat, in good condition, and not very cushioned. We also considered the peel-and-stick vinyl planks, which can be grouted or just butted up edge to edge, but it actually seems like these perform more poorly on linoleum since any amount of cushion-y ‘give’ in the subfloor can cause the seams to part, thus damaging the grout used over time, and potentially allowing dust to get under the floor and weaken the adhesive. Also, any flooring that is directly adhered to a substrate vs. floating will have potential to cause buckling with temperature/humidity fluctuations since there is no flexibility for expansion and contraction. The cost difference between the peel-and-stick and the floating click lock planks wasn’t substantial, so we went with the click lock floating version.

We liked the wood-look options at Home Depot, and brought home some samples:


We decided on the bottom right one, since it had a good combo of greys and warm colors to match the vanity, which we are not going to have time to update. Last weekend Nik removed all the quarter round trim surrounding the floor while I was away at a conference in Chicago. And then this weekend, we headed over to Home Depot to purchase the planks. And then it all went downhill…apparently that style is not stocked at the store, and we probably wouldn’t get it until the second week in May. No good. We (well, mainly I…Nik was ready to put just about anything on the floor at the end of this torturous Home Depot visit) didn’t like any other options that Home Depot had in stock at the store, so I convinced Nik to go over to Lowe’s to see if they had any better color options. Luckily, they did! We finally selected this product:Product Image 2

It’s a luxury vinyl plank, click lock sides, and even a bit cheaper than the one we were considering. We had to buy 40 square feet of it (2 boxes) despite only having to cover about 30 square feet, but the total cost including a new piece of trim for the wall was $100.72.

Nik did most of the install, of which the hardest part was using the Dremel to cut some of the baseboard trim and around-the-door trim to allow this to slip under – since of course our room isn’t square and plumb, and it’s easier to cut the wood. The rest was just laying planks and trying to get the plank colors nice and varied. Here’s some progress pictures – and notice, once again, we have a toilet in a tub for this install. This seems to be a theme around our house…



To cut the planks, you basically just use a razor, and snap them:

And for cutting around the toilet flange, Nik used a hairdryer to heat up the vinyl to soften it and then just used a cereal bowl curve for guidance. Here’s the finished floor, as of last night, with the second picture probably closer to the actual color:



We still have to install the trim and obviously get the toilet back in place, but as of now I love it! It feels awesome underfoot – super solid, and a very high quality feel. I’m not sure how it would hold up against pet nails since it is technically in the linoleum family of materials – and it can sort of scuff/tear – but overall it is more resilient and sturdy feeling than traditional linoleum. Fortunately Gunnar doesn’t go in this bathroom too frequently, although this room was of much interest to him while we were trying to work in there this weekend since we just gave him a bath in it Saturday morning. This might sound like a negative experience for this room, but I’m not entirely sure Gunnar realizes he’s ever gotten a bath in our house because bath time always comes with a thick smear of peanut butter on the wall of the tub. When ample peanut butter is involved, you could probably amputate one of his legs and he might not notice, so I think bath time is really just peanut butter time in Gunnar’s head. So Gunnar has been in and out of this room all weekend to check that more peanut butter hasn’t appeared in the tub – but so far, so good for the floor.

Once that room is wrapped up, the list of things to do will be pretty small. I don’t think I ever showed pictures of the finished shelves in our master bathroom, so here’s how that turned out:



For other jobs, this weekend I got some painting done on the mailbox and some other exterior things, and we have to give our front door one more coat of stain, I have one more coat of caulk to put in the crown molding downstairs, and Nik has 2 more light fixtures to update in the kitchen. Our lawn and gardens look fantastic this spring, and we’re feeling very confident going into this house-selling process – not that it’s been an easy road to get to this point!

Lots of friends and coworkers know that we’ve done all these renovations on our home, and they keep asking us if we’re sad to leave all our work behind. I’m not sure how to answer this. Of course I love the things we’ve done to our house, and I’m finally starting to feel at home in it and not like I’m coming home to a construction site every night. But I think I still went into this house knowing we wouldn’t be there forever. And now that we’ve learned from all the mistakes we’ve made on various projects, I think we’re more equipped to put the same love into our next home. We both want a place with a better yard and more land, a house with more character (not a ‘development’ home), and a house that has good bones but needs the updates that will make it our own. Hopefully we’ll find what we’re looking for in Connecticut – but we’re planning to take a year off from home ownership and rent, so we’ll have time to find the best location to look for a home in, and less pressure for the home-selling process. Part of me is super depressed that I’ll have to go from our totally renovated, beautiful home to a rental that will surely be less…nice, but part of me is relieved that we’ll have no lengthy weekend renovation to-do lists for a while, and we can spend our weekends getting to know the new area.

So that’s our update! A few more weeks till it’s on the market!

Floors Underway

As proposed, we did start working on our floors last weekend – mainly ripping out the old floors. Over the week we did a few rows at a time, which is still where we are now. This past weekend we were up in Connecticut celebrating my cousin Emily’s engagement, and most of my mom’s side of the family was there. It was a lovely luncheon reception which was so much fun! We got a great picture of all the cousins and significant others that were there, including the beautiful bride (front center) and her husband-to-be Keith (front left). I haven’t gotten the chance to see my mom’s family much since college since I’ve been all the way down in NC, so it is always such a treat to be with them!


I never posted about the demo of the old floor, but I have some pictures of the process. Like the bathroom, it was linoleum with an underlayment (thin piece of wood), and then the plywood subfloor underneath. The underlayment was staple-nailed into the subfloor every 3-4 inches which made it super fun to remove.


After wrenching off the underlayment with the prybar, we had to go back and painstakingly pull the hundreds and hundreds of nail staples out of the subfloor. We filled at least 3 of these containers!


Next, we went around the whole room with the level and identified any high spots and sanded them down with the belt sander. I think if we’d done this step more thoroughly with the floors in the other rooms, we’d have ended up with fewer spots that seem to bounce a little when walked on, but you learn from your mistakes and I think the kitchen will turn out great. Next we started cutting the foam that we used to cushion the floor everywhere else on our first floor, and then it was time to start laying the pieces:

We started in the pantry, and will move our way across the room to the deck door. So far we’re only about a third of the way across the room, but we’ve gotten the pantry nook and the refrigerator nooks done, which were (hopefully) the trickiest nooks to do. If we do a few rows each night, we should have no problem getting this done by the end of the weekend, and maybe even get some quarter round trim installed by then.



Once the floors and quarter round trim are done, the next project will be installing the backsplash. And then finishing up painting all the cabinet doors (we’re clearly avoiding this part of the project, as most of them still only have primer on them!), sealing all the cabinets with water-based poly, and putting them all back together. We’ll be adding cabinet hardware as well as top cabinet molding…but with the number of available weekends until our wedding dwindling very fast we’ll see how many of these final “cosmetic” touches we get around to before then!


House Update

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted, but I promise we’ve been hard at work on the house! I’ll run through some of the things we’re up to:

Our floors are holding up nicely, and the past couple of weeks we’ve finally gotten around to installing the quarter round trim around the edges. First, we had to buy it and load it into the car:IMG_2011

We also picked up some pine boards for covering our column with, and the stair casing. We sanded these pieces down and then painted them with 2 coats of our semi-gloss trim paint:




We thought we had enough (13 pieces) but ended up having to go back to get 3 more…which then had to be sanded and painted. Not efficient, but they’re done!





To install these, we used the borrowed nail gun/air compressor, and the miter saw to cut the 45 degree angles properly. When we needed a seam in a long wall, we also angled the cut to hide the seam better:


One of the first things we noticed with the first piece is it was sticking to the floor so when you walked across the floor, it made sticking/creaking sounds. Not good. We tried lathering the trim and floor with baby powder to make it less tacky, but Nik finally started using a thin piece of paperboard to give a small gap between the floor and the trim which greatly improved the sound and still looked great.

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So most of our downstairs is done, except the pieces that will join with the kitchen pieces, since the flooring isn’t down in the kitchen yet. Next step is filling all the holes with wood filler or Spackle, sanding that, caulking any larger gaps, and painting over those spots. It never ends…

I’ve slowly been thinking about window treatments, and I’ve got some sheers hung in the dining room, most likely with some more colorful curtains to follow that we obtained from a friend who was getting rid of curtains:

IMG_2023 IMG_2047We have a bunch of curtain rods for the living room but they’re awful brass. But they’re still perfectly good otherwise (and curtain rods aren’t cheap!), so I’m spray painting 4 sets for about $14 of paint in a dark grayish color for when we put curtains in there:


My mom and dad visited this past weekend, and also helped wash our windows which look so much better now:


A while back, Nik installed some new doorknobs in satin nickel (much better than brass!) and we got the KwikSet smart key locks, so we could rekey them ourselves. The doorknobs cost probably about $125 for 4 doors, which is cheaper than rekeying them anyway.

And one more BIG improvement to tell you about…the jungle gym is no more! Last weekend we cleaned up and mowed our backyard and finally all the brush was gone:



And then this weekend, when my mom and I were out wedding dress shopping Nik and my dad ripped out the playset!



There’s so much room back there now, and we actually have a yard. There are some new patches of dirt that we’re trying to reseed. We bought some seed and started a test patch to see if it will grow in the clay, and if this is successful we’ll probably put more down on our whole backyard since it’s all a bit rough looking currently.


My dad also helped sand down the drywall around the stair opening and that’s looking a lot better. I think its about ready for primer and paint, whenever we get around to that. And there is one more fun project we’re working on (I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it) in the master closet. One side collapsed about a week after we moved in:



It was a disaster. But then we realized our closet is so much more functional without shelving on both sides since it’s not quite big enough for that. We got creative with some of the pallet wood our flooring arrived on, and we’re building a wall of hooks…but it’s almost done so I’ll save that for next post!



Ok, I think I’m done. I’ll leave you with a picture of this cool little salamander we found in the backyard while raking leaves:


DIY Hardwood Floors

Well, we/re officially moved in to the new house as of a couple weeks ago, and our main goal before moving in was to have the floors done in the living room and dining room (kitchen reno will come later). We are about 90% there…all the boards are down, but we haven’t put in border quarter round or transition pieces to really hold it all in place. There are still a few areas we might want to pull up the floor and work on evening out the subfloor a little more so this will be much easier to do without those last pieces in place. We wanted to “live” on the floor for a little bit with furniture all in place and figure out if there are still problem areas.

The floors are Home Legend Kinsey Hickory (Home Depot) in engineered click lock hardwood. This means that they have a real wood top veneer, and the core is high density fiberboard (HDF) that has a click-and-lock tongue and groove system, so they click into place rather than having to be nailed or glued in place. They work best in a floating floor application, which is what we did. Our flooring was about $2.98/sq foot, but I used a 10% off coupon so we got a deal on it! I showed you what the floors looked like out of the box, stacked in the living room acclimating:

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We started in the dining room against the back wall. First we put down 2 mil foam underlayment, which functions partially as a moisture barrier (although this is not entirely necessary on a wood subfloor like we had), but also also as a sound barrier (so it doesn’t sound like a ping pong table when you walk on the floors) and a cushion so the floors are comfortable to stand and walk on. We bought our product from Amazon based on good reviews, and the price which was about half the price of this quality foam underlayment from Home Depot. It cost about $0.32/sq foot. We laid this down in strips, and it had edge adhesive that allowed us to connect rows to eachother.

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We also used spacers to make sure the floors had some expansion room next to the baseboards. We decided not to take off all our baseboards because this would’ve been a pain, so we left our 3/8″ expansion gap in front of the baseboards. The 1/2″ quarter round will cover this gap and be attached to the baseboards eventually.

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So we started the floors, being sure to leave at least 6″ gaps between plank ends in adjoining rows, and trying to make sure our planks weren’t forming step patterns or ending/starting rows with pieces <6″, while at the same time trying to minimize waste pieces. Basically, we became floor tetris experts!

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As we built across the dining room, we built into the laundry room hallway which was a little tricky, and was the first time we had to rip pieces lengthwise with the table saw, as opposed to just chopping the pieces with the miter saw for the end of rows. We also used our jigsaw for some complex cuts such as fitting pieces into the bathroom/laundry room doorway and around air vents.

We learned our lesson about saw blades, and after trying to use a cheap blade that was cutting poorly and was really hard to work with, Nik went back to Lowe’s and purchased some carbide tipped blades that were amazing and so easy to work with despite their $40-50 price tags.

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Once we had made it almost to the last row of the dining room, we realized our last row only had about an inch of space before the wall. Oops. Nik got the multitool out and trimmed up the baseboard on this wall so the floor could extend under the baseboard, leaving an expansion gap against the wall instead of against the baseboard in this spot. This bought us a little extra width that he could rip on the table saw.

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So the dining room was done, now onto the living room, which we started on the opposite wall since we were putting a transition piece inbetween these two rooms.

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This room went pretty smoothly until we got within a foot or two of the final wall. Then Nik noticed the floor was depressing and popping up when walked on, and we instantly knew the culprit of this problem – we’d noticed a portion of the subfloor was not level in this area, in particular a high spot where two pieces of the subfloor plywood came together in a small peak. We initially tried adding an extra layer of foam underlayment in the resulting low spots to see if this solved the problem. We pulled up the floor and did this, and it improved those spots, but then created more problem spots in the new low areas that were created from the foam additions. Hmm. My dad suggested if we go this route of adding extra “filler” in the low spots, to use a more solid substrate, like the thin gray chicken wire, or something like that. Nik’s dad suggested going into the crawlspace, adding an extra perpendicular floor joist and screwing the high spot down into this to pull it down more and reduce the high spot. Nik ventured into the crawlspace Saturday morning to assess the situation, and of course there’s a pillar surrounded by ventilation right where the high spot is, so that option was out. One other option we had to try before going back to adding some sort of filler was actually sanding the subfloor down with a belt sander, one of which we had just acquired from Nik’s family. We begrudgingly got this out, not thrilled about the mess we anticipated it would make inside. But, it worked like a charm and easily cut down probably about an eighth of an inch in the problem areas which totally improved the problem! And the mess wasn’t even that bad – we just left the shop vac running behind the belt sander to catch saw dust. Afterwards, it was much more level which was cause for celebration.

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We replaced the planks and finished up the last few rows against that wall, then did the entry way up to the dining room border. Then Nik had to test it out for dancing, and it passed =)

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So, it’s mostly done except for adding transition pieces – this is an example of what these pieces look like and how they leave room for a hidden expansion gap underneath them.

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We’ll have matching ones that blend with the floor color, and these (or some form of transition piece – there’s multiple shape options) will go around the fireplace hearth, in the doorways to the kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, and in the opening between the entryway and the dining room. I’m noticing some floor movement around the front door still, so that’s the one area we might go back and tackle with the belt sander before calling this job done.

Here’s me putting in the last piece, and a picture of our living room with some haphazard furniture in it after the move – it feels even better and solid with some stuff on the floor!

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Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality and look of the floors. They’re beautiful and they feel nice walking on them (other than the couple of low spots near the front door now). The hardest parts were cutting detail cuts or doing the lengthwise rips when we got to a long wall, and cutting lengths appropriately so we wouldn’t end up with steps between rows, or plank ends that lined up weird with neighboring rows. All in all, this hardwood floor (including the kitchen that will be done in the future) cost us about $2200 for materials for about 600 square feet downstairs, which I think is a great deal. Of course we needed the saws and blades to cut it which was about another $500 but we wanted some more woodworking tools for our furniture stuff anyway so we’re not counting this in the expense. To get this floor professionally installed, I’m guessing the cost would’ve been closer to $4000-5000, and I’m curious how much attention they would’ve paid to details, such as low or high areas in the subfloor, leaving well-measured expansion gaps, etc.

On another note, a large portion of our brush pile was removed by a big truck (this is me spying on it from the bathroom window).

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And we’ve had even more wildlife, and some very happy flowers, as well as some God-awful monsters (guess which one I’m referring to!) make appearances.

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Next on our list is finishing up the floor molding and transition pieces and finishing the drywall on the new wall and encasing the column. So that’ll be the next update – we should be more motivated to get work done this coming weekend since the weather won’t be rain, rain, and more rain!


Demolition and Painting!

Initially, our priorities for projects before moving (which will happen in about 2 and a half weeks!!) were painting and new floors. We bought all our paint, got our floors ordered, and obtained a bunch of extra stuff that would be needed for projects from Lowes:


Then Nik’s curiosity got the better of him and he HAD to find out what was inside this little shelf that sits right in our front door entryway, butted up against the stairwell wall:

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Was it empty space? Were there pipes under it? He used the dremel tool to cut a small hole in the top so we could peer in, figuring we could just patch it if something important was under there.

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But it was empty (this pic is inside the hole)!

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Thus began the whole “When you give a mouse a cookie, he asks for milk…” process. Now that we knew it was useless space, and we had dreamed about opening up the stairwell wall behind it, a simple trip over to the house to begin painting resulted in a wall being ripped down to the studs:

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We didn’t just do this project unadvised, we did get an engineer consultation in which he explained how to safely construct a load bearing header since this is a support wall, even though we were just opening up a few feet. Nik and I graduated last week with our Ph.D.s (finally living up to our blog name, which is spelled rePHurbisheD for a reason =)  ), so both of our parents were in town ready to help on the house. Nik finished ripping out the frame for the shelf, and Nik and his dad, Mike, spent most of Saturday building the temporary support to hold up the ceiling while the studs were removed.

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They also built the header beam out of 2 2×8’s.

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Then most of Sunday they worked on installing the header and support column. My dad, Greg, also chipped in for the header installation, but for the most part just offered sage advice from his lawn chair stationed in the living room sipping a beer. They finally got it in and it looks great!

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My mom and dad worked on many other projects around the house that I’ll write about once we get to the yard post (hint: we gained about 15 feet of usable yard after all the work they did on some unruly shrubbery!). On Monday and Tuesday, Nik and his dad worked on building a stud frame for the new drywall that will be hung:

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I can’t believe how much more open the space feels – before it was crowded, especially with that space-consuming built in shelf, and now you can see through to the dining room from all parts of the living room. It looks amazing! And it will look even better once we figure out how we want to design our small section of stairs, and how to decorate the column at the end of the stairs. But that will be for a later post!


So you’ve probably gotten a glimpse at the colors we chose for downstairs walls. The living room is a light gray-blue color called Rising Tide and we’re thinking this color will extend up the stairs and be used in the upstairs hallway eventually.

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For the dining room we selected a dark blue-green color called Prussian Cadet. The bottom half of the dining room will be painted in our white trim color (Ultra White), and we’ll be adding a chair rail and decorative wainscoting panels (design to be decided). The kitchen will be a later project for this house, so we haven’t selected a color for in there yet.

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We also repainted ALL the ceilings in both floors of this house (except for the upstairs hallway since parts of that are unreachable, and we might need to hire help to get to all parts of that). What a difference a fresh coat of white ceiling paint looks…I thought we’d have trouble seeing where we’d painted, but it was always very obvious! We went through 5 gallons of ceiling paint, and I have to say my back and I are very glad that project is behind us.


As for upstairs, we picked a muted yellow color for our master bedroom, and a second bedroom if we have enough left over. It’s called Lemon Sorbet. And then we picked a blue-lavender color for 2 other bedrooms called Cool Mist or something like that. It’s a little bluer than I had wanted but it works for bedrooms. Besides the ceilings, only 1 bedroom upstairs has gotten paint so far which Nik’s mom Karen worked on tirelessly…so this is still in progress!

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The rest of the weekend Nik’s parents helped with other projects around the house, and we got the carpets ripped up downstairs in preparation for our floors which finally came in.

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The floors are sitting in the living room acclimating to the air as we speak, so once we get all our baseboards painted with a fresh coat we can get started on those. I love the wood, and I can’t wait to walk on the new floors! I’ll write about them in a later post.

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Ok…I’ve written about enough for today! Next time I’ll write about all the yard/garage/deck work that our parents did while they were in town. I don’t think any hired contractor would work as hard as the 4 of them did while they were here!