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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Spring Cleaning

SpringCleaning

Today I have been catching up on some much-needed cleaning.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I let things go longer than I should (cleaning out the refrigerator, for example) because other things like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning out the cat’s litter box, etc. take priority.

Usually when I clean on the weekends, I try to cover the entire house in one day.  I do the obvious things like dusting and cleaning the floors.  But I have decided I need to make the time to really focus on one room at a time and clean each one from top to bottom.

Today was the kitchen.  I worked on it for about 3 hours which included:

  • cleaning out the oven as much as I could.  I think I need something stronger for the rest
  • cleaning out the pantry, which included wiping the shelves and throwing out expired food
  • wiping down the cabinet doors and drawers
  • cleaning out the freezer and wiping it down
  • wiping the trash can clean
  • cleaning the inside of the microwave
  • wiping down all appliances
  • cleaning the stainless steel appliances to make them shine
  • wiping the countertops
  • dusting the baseboards
  • sweeping and mopping the floor
  • wiping the toaster down and cleaning out all the crumbs
  • cleaning the sink

Here are some of the after pictures:

I am glad it is done.  Honestly, cleaning out the freezer has been on my to-do list for an embarrassingly long time.

This is my first post in a few months. My husband and I have been working on a big house project so I have been busy with that. I had intended to post about it here once we were far enough along but it’s taking much longer than both of us had expected (when we first started working on it in September we joked about it possibly not being done by Christmas and we thought the idea of it not being done then was hilarious. Now it’s March…)

I will post about that project and what we have so far in a few days.

If you are planning some spring cleaning, what are your goals?  Where do you start?

Black Bean & Corn Quesadillas

A posted a recipe for fajita quesadillas a few months ago.  I really enjoy making (and eating) those but I wanted to try something different today.  Instead of onions and peppers, I decided to make the quesadillas with black beans and corn.  They turned out really good!
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Here’s how you make them!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of chicken
  • flour tortillas (I use 10 inch tortillas)
  • shredded cheese (I used colby cheddar)
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1-2 tablespoons of taco seasoning
  • butter for frying pan

Directions

  • Poach chicken for ~10 minutes or until fully cooked.  Remove chicken from pot and shred using two forks.  Set aside.
  • Drain and rinse black beans.  Then drain corn.  Add corn, chicken, taco seasoning, and black beans to a frying pan.  Cook on medium high until all ingredients are hot and a bit more cooked through like shown below.  This also helps burn off some of the water left over from rinsing. img_3041
  • In a separate frying pan, melt a bit of butter.  Add 1 tortilla over the butter then add cheese and as much of the bean/corn/chicken mixture as you’d like.  Then add second tortilla over top.
  • Once the bottom of the first tortilla starts to brown, flip the quesadilla over to cook the bottom (I put a plate over the pan and then quickly flip the quesadilla on to the plate.  Then I push the quesadilla back on the pan.  This helps avoid spillage which happens to me if I try to flip using a spatula).
  • Once the bottom of the second tortilla starts to brown, remove from heat, transfer to plate, and cut it in to 4 even piece.
  • Add toppings (salsa, green onions, guacamole, sour cream, etc.) to your liking.

Enjoy!

2017 Calendar

I’ve finally decided on the pictures I want to use for my 2017 calendar.

All pictures were taken by me in 2016 and here’s a description of each:

  • January – this picture was taken outside of our house after a snowstorm last winter
  • February -this was taken in February when I was out for a walk
  • March – this was at a local garden on a warmer winter day last winter
  • April – This is a neighbors tree.  I sat down under the tree and pointed my camera upward toward the sky
  • May – This was taken at the local garden one weekend morning
  • June – Also taken at the local garden (I guess I go there a lot!)
  • July & August – Also taken at the local garden (yikes!)
  • September – At a local university
  • October – My front porch after it was decorated for fall
  • November – this is a bush we have in our yard that turns red when the leaves start to fall.
  •  December – I took this when I was out for a walk on a warmer day last winter.

I used a fixed 50mm f/1.4 lens for all of the pictures except for January.  For January, I used a 18-55mm f/5.6 lens.  My camera is a Canon Rebel T3i.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Decorating for Autumn

I usually don’t put up autumn decorations (because I didn’t really have any), but this year I decided to change that.  I had a hard time figuring out how to decorate my mantel without going out and buying more things, but I think it turned out cute in the end.  How do you decorate for Halloween, Thanksgiving, or autumn in general?

 

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The pumpkin picture I took in 2012. The banner I bought at Target for a few dollars. Everything else was purchased at various places like Jo-Ann Fabrics and HomeGoods.

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Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

Hello everyone!  I want to share with you the recipe for a quick and easy dinner I’ve made a lot recently.

Chicken Fajita Quesadillas!

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound of chicken (I use chicken tenders cause they’re cheaper and cook quickly, but you can use chicken breasts instead.  Or you can use seasoned ground beef. Or you can go vegetarian which is awesome too.)
  • Bell peppers and onions.  I use the pre-packaged “fajita vegetable mix” in the produce section.  Super easy.
  • Flour tortillas. I use the 10 inch shells but you can go smaller with the 8 inch if you’d prefer.
  • Taco seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Shredded cheese
  • Your choice of toppings (sour cream, guacamole, green onions, cilantro, salsa, etc.)
  • Butter for cooking the tortillas

Directions

1. Poach the chicken until done. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred in to small pieces using two forks. Mix 1-2 tablespoons (depending on your preference) of taco seasoning with the chicken.

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2. In a skillet, mix olive oil with the bell peppers and onion. Stirring frequently, cook over medium-high heat until peppers and onions are soft.

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3. Heat a separate skillet on medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter and allow it to melt.  Place a tortilla in the skillet and move it around a bit so the butter evenly coats the bottom. Then add cheese, the onion/pepper mix, and the chicken. Top with a second tortilla shell.

 

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4. Check the bottom of the tortilla fairly often because it burns quickly.  Once the tortilla starts to brown, place a dinner plate on top of the quesadilla.  Pick the skillet up and flip the quesadilla on to the plate.  I usually wear an oven mitt on the hand holding the plate in place so I don’t burn myself.

5. Melt a bit more butter in the skillet.  Using a large spatula, transfer the quesadilla from the plate back to the skillet to cook the other side.

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6. Once the bottom is browned, remove the quesadilla from the skillet using a spatula.  Cut it in to four even pieces (so it’s easier to eat)

Enjoy!

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I Opened an Etsy Shop!

Hi Everyone!  I wanted to share with you that I just opened an Etsy shop.  Currently the items I have for sale are hand-made (by me) banners and cupcake toppers.  I plan to add items that feature my photography such as calendars and post cards.  I named the shop Sophe’s Selections after my late grandmother Sophe (pronounced like Sophie).  Here’s a preview of my listings:

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If you like what you see, please visit my shop at www.etsy.com/shop/SophesSelections

Thank you!