Ah, home sweet home! There’s nothing quite like pulling up to the driveway of your brand new home after traveling for two days across the country… except for when all of your earthly possessions are stuck on a truck (that will catch on fire if driven any farther) in the middle of nowhere Texas… and there’s no hot water… and it’s freezing cold. But still, sitting on the floor of a new-to-you house is exhilarating.
When J and I bought our house, we knew that there was a lot to be done to it. We closed about a month before we would even be in the state of Arkansas, but I wasn’t too concerned about leaving it vacant because it had been empty for about a year and a half before we found it. The owners had rented it out previously and boy, did it show. I don’t even know how you can destroy baseboards, but apparently you can. There were so many changes and updates we wanted to make, but they were all cosmetic, so I knew that we could do it. I convinced J of my vision and we got the house for a steal.
The first thing that we wanted to do was change the floors. They were so bad. We had this beautiful, open concept living space with 5 (!!!) different sections of floors. The kitchen was tile – not hideous, but a little boring. The dining room was hardwood floor that ran horizontally while the space I envisioned as a playroom had hardwood floors that ran vertically. The hallway was carpet, which was separated from the carpet in the living room. This carpet was brand new (a last ditch effort by the sellers to make the place a little more appealing, we assume), so we felt kind of bad about ripping it out, but not too bad. I definitely didn’t want patchwork floors!
J and I assumed that it would be about 10x easier to get all the floors done before we moved our stuff in. I think we were right, but what I didn’t account for was the fact that change is hard! Don’t get me wrong, change is also good. I was so excited to move into this house and so excited to make it a reflection of us, fill it with things we love, and start a family here. Even good change, though, is shocking. After about a week, I was annoyed that the only space I had to sit down was on a borrowed air mattress in the master bedroom and work boots were required throughout our entire home. I also did not account for the fact that we could not get our refrigerator delivered until our floors were in, so our choices were either eat out or cook using only the microwave (some of our sweet friends who we just met had us over for dinner on Sunday and it was like manna from heaven).
If I were to do it again, I would set up the bedroom first, before diving into any intense projects. I would get a bed frame and mattress all set up, hang some art on the wall, and make a little sitting area (the little sitting area that still is on my to-do list…). Homes are all about places of retreat – fortresses from the outside world – so having a spot in your home where you can feel, well, at home, is important.
Ok, back to the floors! If you know anything about me, you know it takes me approximately 1.6 million years to make a decision. I don’t like to pick anything out until I’m sure that it is exactly what I want. Shopping for hardwood floors was no different. I knew we wanted a floating floor because it would be easy to install and this was, quite literally, my first renovation project. J and I looked for months and months and then finally, we found the one. A hand scraped, warm gray, medium tone bamboo flooring. It is so beautiful!
So beautiful, in fact, that I enlisted J to move 2,000 pounds of flooring all the way from Utah to Arkansas. By the end, J had moved that massive stack 4 times – bless him!! I love how the color is so dynamic and changes based on the lighting.
Once we (and our floors) were in Arkansas, it was demolition time! We removed the trim and the carpet first, which were both easy tasks. We were planning to replace the trim, so we just ripped it out and chucked it. The carpet was also going and it was just a matter of ripping out the tack strips and getting the bits of left behind glue and padding scraped off of the concrete below.
I knew the tile removal would be a dusty affair and I wanted to leave it for last, so we started on the hardwood. We rented a big machine to help us rip it up and… nothing. It chipped the edges a bit, but it was not going to get the job done. J had cut lines using our circular saw down the length of the floor to help break up the planks, but it didn’t seem to be helping. Since the big machine wasn’t doing the trick, we decided to try it by hand. Off to Home Depot we went where we got a couple of mallets and chisels.
I am no quitter. If I decide that I want to do something, then I’m going to do it, but this glued down engineered hardwood gave me a run for my money. After a solid day of working, we did some quick math and figured it would take us about 3 weeks to get everything pulled up by hand even though it was proving more effective than the useless machine. While I was still stubbornly hammering away at the floor, J did some research and found a company that could come out and do the floor removal. If you are in the Northwest Arkansas area, I highly recommend them (Dusthogs) if you are wanting any floors removed because they work really quickly and don’t leave a speck of dust behind. It was awesome.
The Dusthogs people came and removed the rest of the hardwood floor as well as the tile for us, and I had them take out the tile in the laundry room and hall bath while they were at it since I knew those would be a couple of my next projects. When they saw the work that
we I had done on the floors, they were super impressed. It’s nice to hear someone tell you that you ripped out about three times as much as what strong, burly, farm working men usually get done before they call it quits and that the glue the builders used on the flooring was way stronger than most floors are glued down with.
I was glad that they told me that because I don’t like to admit defeat. It is a quality that I pride myself on and that enables me to accomplish a lot of things. This was our first project in our home and for us to already be encountering something that we really couldn’t handle was kind of killing my groove. But in the end, I knew I had given it my all. J and I went shopping for 3 hours and we came back to a beautiful, concrete-floored home! I could not have been more thrilled.
Floating floors require a layer of underlayment below them. This helps to absorb some of the sound and it helps to make it a little more insulated. We rolled out the underlayment as we went and used the Ryobi circular saw and jigsaw that my parents had gotten us for Christmas to make our cuts.
J did not start up at his new job until 2 weeks after we moved, so we used that as our deadline of when we wanted to be finished. After demo, we had about a week left and we worked every day to get the floor laid (we covered just about 1,100 square feet).
There are two main things you need to be aware of when laying hardwood – the first is the dreaded stair step pattern. I read about a couple of methods to avoid this (like lay the excess cut from the first row as the starter for the fourth row, or something like that), but when I mentioned it to the Dusthogs guys, they told me that if I just made it random, it’d be okay. One of the nice things about floating floors is that if you mess anything up, it’s easy to go back and reposition your boards in a different pattern.
The second thing that you want is structural integrity. You know the four corners area of the United States where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico meet? You don’t want that happening in your floors. The joint that results from this type meeting will not be stable and has a high likelihood of wearing out. To avoid this, you just need to make sure that you don’t have any joints closer together than the width of your planks. So if you are using 5 inch planks, make sure that the ends of your planks are always at least 5 inches apart.
All in all, would I do it again? Totally! Though J might disagree – we were cleaning sawdust out of our ears for weeks. But I love our floors and after a year and a half, they still look incredible.