DIY – Installing Hardwood Floors

I mentioned in my previous post that my husband and I have been working on a project since September.  Back then, we decided to rip out the old carpet and replace it with hardwood floors.  Just the two of us.  With no prior experience with such things.

Now, my husband is the type of person who can really do anything he puts his mind to.  He spent months beforehand reading directions for installing hardwood floors and watching how-to videos.  So when it came time to do all of this, I just did what he told me to.

After finally agreeing on the type of hardwood we’d buy (I wanted thick, dark planks; he wanted thinner, lighter ones), we compromised and went with a 3 inch hickory plank by Bruce in the color Oxford Brown.  Honestly, at first I wasn’t thrilled with this selection because the samples we had didn’t show much character and that’s something I wanted.  But when we received our order and started looking through the boxes, I was happy with variation of color and the interesting marks on some of the planks.

After we pulled up the carpet and the carpet padding, we had to remove the baseboards and tack strips from the subfloor.  Then we had to remove any staples that held down the carpet padding.

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tack strip and staples

We started in the hallway that leads to the bedrooms and everything was going fine.  We then moved to the entry room and found out things were not fine. When we pulled up the carpet and padding at the front door, we found this underneath:

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The tiles came up pretty easily but we found concrete underneath.  We can’t staple wood floors to concrete so it had to come out.

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We bought the necessary tools, fashioned a plastic curtain, and got to work. Actually, all I did was fashion the plastic curtain. My husband did the rest while I worked on removing staples from the subfloor.

He worked on removing the concrete for 3 evenings in a row. Then we bought a sheet of plywood and used it to cover the hole.  Success!

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The subfloor was finally free of staples and tack strips and we went over it with the shop vac to make sure it was free of debris.  After that, we laid down a layer of rosin paper (which acts as a barrier between the subfloor and hardwood floor and minimizes squeaks that can sometimes occur with wood flooring) and we were ready to start laying our floors.

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We were thrilled with the first few rows we installed during the second week of the project.  My job was to pick out each wood plank to make sure we had variation with color and size.  There are also “rules” you have to follow when installing hardwood floors, for example, you should keep joints between two rows at least 6 inches apart and you should try to avoid creating patterns, like a stair-step pattern that can occur between several rows.  I also inspected each plank to make sure we weren’t installing something that was scratched or damaged in some way.  So I was in charge of the design part of the installation and my husband did the physical installation.  We made a good team.

Working mostly on the weekends, we finished the entry room, dining room, and hallway leading to the bedrooms in about a month.  I also painted the ceilings before the hardwood was installed in each room.

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The dining room being torn up was the biggest pain for me.  For some reason, the subfloor was really grimy despite vacuuming so we always had to put shoes on – even when getting up in the middle of the night for water.  After we pulled up the carpet, we didn’t install the hardwood for about a month because it took longer than expected to work on the entry room and hallway so we had to live with it for a few weeks.

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This is our sad attempt to have a normal dinner amidst the mess

When the dining room floors were finally installed, we couldn’t wait to get everything cleaned up and back to normal.

We moved on to the living room the following weekend.  We pulled up the carpet on a Tuesday so that we could have it out for trash pick-up by Thursday (yes, they will pick up old carpet as long as you follow their guidelines and give them a heads-up) and then we painted the ceiling on Saturday.  On Sunday, we started installing the floors and, because we wanted the planks to line up with what was installed in the entry room, we started with a runway sort of look.

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The “runway” which took forever to start laying because we had to make sure whatever we laid down was square with the walls and the rest of the house.

Here are before and after pictures of the living room

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Before (taken right before we pulled up the carpet)

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After

We are really close to being finished.  We are waiting for the weather to warm up because we need to be outside when cutting wood to the right length. We have about 2 rows left to install in the hallway leading to the back door and then we are going to install the hardwood floors in the stairway leading down to the basement.

But in the middle of all of this, we decided to give ourselves even more work by replacing all of our wood trim with white trim.  This was my husband’s idea which I was initially not on-board with but after looking at the state of both the baseboards and the trim around the doors, it’s clear it all needs replaced because they are scratched and dirty from almost 50 years of use.  We’ve barely started this but here is a picture I took today with the trim we are planning to install.

IMG_5432I think it’s going to make our house look cleaner and more modern.  I will post more before and after pictures after we are completely finished later this year.

In case you are wondering why we did this ourselves – we did it because it saved us about $5,000 in installation fees.  I am glad we did because now I have a new set of skills (want me to remove your baseboards or paint your ceilings? No problem, buddy!) and we are really appreciative of our new floors because we know how much work it took.

Thanks for reading!

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