The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Floor

Refinishing the Hardwood Floor

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Hi everyone! I am coming with a big update on our ranch house – we refinished the hardwood flooring on the main story!

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The old oak flooring and the decision of hiring out

We have hardwood flooring on most of the main story of the house, including the living room, Slav’s office, and my office/guest room. Fun fact, we only discovered the red oak flooring on the day we closed on house. I am not even sure if the previous owner knew about the hardwood under the carpet…But since we discovered it, you bet the first thing we did was to rip off the carpet and reveal the wood floor.

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Unfortunately, the wood flooring we inherited were not in good condition. The carpet tack strip left many nail holes:

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Tiles were laid at the front entry, and the thinset left ugly marks on the wood floor underneath.

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The hallway among bedrooms and the main floor bath were badly worn, and there were paint splashes everywhere.

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Right before the closing day, the previous owner burned the wood floor in the living room, likely with an iron.

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We also patched the flooring with new oak boards when renovating Slav’s office and the closet area of my office. The new boards have a different finish and appear pinker.

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With all the flaws and imperfection, it makes sense to refinish the floor all at once. We decided to hire professionals for this job, because they can complete the task much quicker and cleaner (more on that later). The goal is to save our time and energy for the finishing work AFTER the floor refinish, such as installing trims and baseboard. Luckily, we found a highly-praised floor contractor who could pencil us before winter weather. So the game is on!

To prepare for the floor refinish…

We spent a whole week to prepare for the floor work, including moving all the furniture out of the house and into the garage, and taping the built-in bookshelves for dust control. Of course the floor crew could have moved the furniture, but it was a great time for us to organize and to purge.

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I removed the built-in drawers to expose the floor underneath the bookshelves. And Slav steam-cleaned the rugs before rolling them up for storage.

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We also packed away all the curtains and blinds on the main floor. The floor crew will use the dust-free method for sanding, but we knew that dust was inevitable and it is better to just wash the curtains now instead of after the floor work.

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While most of the baseboards were removed during carpet removal, there was still some left in closets. Slav pried all baseboards off and cleaned the wall skirt. We would be installing new baseboards throughout the main story after the floor refinish.

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The front door threshold were also removed to prevent potential damage by the sander. So many little details!

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Lastly, the wood planks next the kitchen tiled floor was badly worn. We decided on a whim to replace them with the floor boards left from the office doorway floor patch.

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Floor sanding and testing the stain color (the 1st day)

Preparing for the floor refinish took us a whole weekend, but all was worth it. The following Tuesday, while Slav and I were at work, the floor crews came in to sand the floors.

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Y.U.M.M.Y! Even the hidden corners under the bookshelves were sanded pretty well. We were very happy with the result.

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Here are some before and afters. The sander took off the scratch marks, and the floor crew filled the nail holes and gaps. The whole flooring became very smooth and uniform.

Patched spot next to the kitchen:

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The same spot before:

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Inside the pantry closet:

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The same closet before:

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The hallway:

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The hallway before:

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My office:

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And the murphy bed/winter gear closet area:

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The floor crew also left a few stain and sealer sample. It was a hard decision to make. I want the main story to be light and airy with lots of green plants, so lighter color was a natural choice. But I also did not want anything too trendy such as grey or white wash…So eventually we decided on the lightest color with any grey tone – the natural sealer from BONA (the lower right panel).

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Staining and sealing the floor (the 2nd day)

We confirmed the color choice with the floor contractor in the morning of the second day, then left for work. Around 2pm, Slav texted me and said the floor was done!!! I could not get home fast enough to  see it.

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O.M.G!

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I was so glad to have chosen the natural sealer (without any stain), since three coats of sealer still made the floor slightly darker than just bare wood. I think this is due to the darkening of the wood grain though. The picture above were taken with afternoon light. Without direct sun, the floor looked a bit darker, as shown in the picture below.

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I think the new floor color complements the white wall and dark bookshelves pretty well.

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The crew did a good job refinishing the small corners underneath the bookshelves.

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And the floor boards we patched in became a lot less noticeable.

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In person, it was actually hard to tell where the floor patch is.

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Here is the living room! I could not tell where the burn spot was anymore.

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Here is more or less the prints of the hot iron was. can you spot it?

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And of course, getting all these white paint marks off the floor made it look ten times better.

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Although all the nail holes were filled, you can still see where they were because the damage they have caused. But the flooring there is actually very smooth. We will be installing baseboard trims soon and many of these nail holes will be covered.

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There was two places we saw the biggest improvement, and one of them is the front entry. The thinset marks were completely sanded off and it looked like that there were never tiles here.

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The only give-away are the nail holes from the carpet next to the tile. But they will be easily covered by an entryway rug.

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The second area of big improvement is the hallway. Look at the new hallway!

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The floor in my office was the best of the entire house. And now it looked even better. The floor in the closet and murphy bed area was nicely refinished too.

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You can no longer see the floor patch here anymore.

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Like these boards were always together…

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The floor patch at the door of the closet was well blended in too:

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We loved it!

Overall we were very happy with the “new” floor! The choice of hiring professionals was a great call – it would have taken us days if not weeks to complete this task. Plus, as DIYers we could not rent the dust-free machine they used that vacuums majorities of the dust away while sanding. We hardly experienced any dust or odor during the two work days or afterwards, and the cleanup was minimal before moving the furniture back. We were also impressed by how much the sanding improved the look of the flooring – almost all the scratches and dark spots were taken care of. Although there are still visible nail marks, they are a lot less noticeable. In general, the floor is no longer an eyesore of the house!

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Now looking back, we really could have gotten this done when we first moved in, right after all the carpet was removed. Lessons learned! But hey, late is better than never, right?

So, what is next? We will be moving onto baseboard installation right away and hope to have the furniture back in a couple weeks. At the mean time, I am contemplating a new layout for the living room that should bring more identity and style to the space. So stay tuned, friends! I will be back with an update soon!

Home Stay + The Utility Room is Finished!

Four weeks ago we shared about the progress in the basement utility room. Since then, I was busy at Spring planting.

With all the warm days and cool nights, our yards have greened up nicely. The trees bloomed and all the perennials came back stronger than ever. The lawn remains nice and green, while all the seedlings came up nicely despite of using old seeds.

Gardening really made the home quarantine a lot easier. I am blessed to have a big space to roam around safely. 10 weeks into the pandemic, neither of us feels anxious or claustrophobic. I still look forward to visiting the mountains and public parks though. But to date, gardening kept me calm.

I did go back to the utility room though. During the rainy days I painted the utility room in our go-to wall color – Sherwin-Williams Extra White (SW 7006):

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The closet was painted in “Pale bud”, the same color we used in our upstairs bedroom closets:

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The ceiling and laundry nook were also painted in white:

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The utility closet will be covered by doors so I did not paint the inside. In fact, we did not even mud the drywall inside the closet:

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Building the utility closet is truly a good decision! Not only it enables us to soundproof around the furnace, but also we now have a designated spot for all the unsightly cleaning tools and products.

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As soon as the paint dried, we moved onto preparing the slab for floor installation. It was an easy decision to extend the vinyl flooring throughout the basement into the utility room. What we used was a cork-backing vinyl flooring called NuCore, in the color of “Driftwood”.

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Installing LVP flooring requires a leveled floor. Moving the floor drain left us a low spot in the utility room. So we used self-leveling concrete to level everything and patch small holes.

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After the self-leveling concrete dried overnight, we went around the utility room slab with a scraper to clean up any small bumps, followed by a good vacuum around the room.

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Then we put the washer and washer back. Not able to do laundry for a whole month, it felt so good to have the laundry set back and connected!

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It was also a nice bonus that they were finally out of the media room now. For weeks, our media room looked like this:

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Now the washer and dryer were out, I could not wait to clean up the dust:

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I stripped away the floor protector and swept away any debris and dust in the media room. Gotta love a mid-project clean-up!

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Based on our experience, a clean floor installation requires a dust-free environment during the installation. Cleaning the neighboring media room prevented the underlayment to attract dust and hair due to static electricity. Using the same method, we expanded the flooring into the utility room:

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and all the way inside the closet:

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with a smooth transition:

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With previous experience it only took us 6 hours for the installation. We worked like a well-oiled machine and had a good time.

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Shortly after the flooring was installed, the doors were up! We ordered custom doors to match the profile of the solid basement doors. They came in pre-primed and with trims! After a few cuts on the trims, everything got installed in a day:

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A pair of french doors are used for the utility closet to ensure full access to the furnace and water heater.

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The door on the under-the-stair closet is a pocket door, which slides inside the wall to save room:

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After the sliding doors was installed, I was able to finish painting the boundary between the closet and the utility room:

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We did not install trim on the side wall. So the two spaces were separated by a crisp paint line between white and pink:

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We also took this opportunity to order and install the pocket door for the master bathroom:

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It will be painted white on the bedroom side. And the bathroom side will be painted in a darker color to match the tiles.

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The installations of the flooring and the doors happened back to back (crazy, I know), and together they made such a dramatic change to the whole basement! I had imagined many times how this space would feel at this stage. But in reality, uniting the rooms with seamless flooring created a look even better than I anticipated:

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It helps the whole space to feel so spacious:

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I cannot help but feeling that the utility room – maybe we should give it another name now – deserves to have its own purpose, rather than being merely an extension of the media room.

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I have come up a few ideas for the space and as you can see, and I put up some makeshift floating shelves made from scrap materials to try them out.

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The taller floating shelf is set at 32″ from the floor. At such height, it can be used to display books and collectibles. It also can be used for laptop or tablet if needed.

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I kept it narrow (12″) so it does not protrude from the partial wall next to the opening.

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I also made a makeshift low table with two simple storage cubes. It is elevated 18″ from the floor, a perfect height for an adult person when sitting on floor pillows. It can be a spot for chess games, tea time, or serving drinks and food when we have movie nights in the future media room.

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Being also 12″ deep, the low table can be tucked underneath the floating shelf, if such unobstructed access between the two rooms is desired.

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There you go, our finished utility room, and our almost finished basement! Without unfinished surfaces, our basement feels spacious, clean, quiet, and cool – a perfect spot to chill during summer days. It has quickly become Charlie’s favorite space to stretch out and nap. We moved two dog beds down here already, one in the bedroom for Charlie to sleep after breakfast, and the other in the media room for him to nap in hot afternoons. Charlie is a lucky pup.

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The next step is finishing the trims and baseboards – we are getting so close!

Picking Out Flooring for the Basement

While it is still 90 degrees outside, we start to see signs of Fall. The backyard maple tree starts changing color, and our garden tomatoes are going stronger than ever. The nights are in the 50s which is such a blessing – I love sleeping with windows open and fresh breeze.

We have entered a busy September full of business meetings, work trips, Fall planting, and before-the-winter outdoor projects. Most excitingly, we started shopping for basement finishes. Paint, flooring, trim, baseboard, and even furniture. Yesterday I brought home 12 gallons of paint and primer. With 750 square feet of the walls and 500 square feet of ceilings, I will be surely spending some quality time with my paint sprayer.

On top of the paint we’ve decided on the basement flooring. Although we prefer wood flooring to any other type, being in the basement we decided to use something truly waterproof. Tiles have gone down in the bathroom and will be in the utility room where our washer and dryer are. For the rest of the area? Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring there will be.

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We did look into luxury vinyl tiles, which will making leveling the floors of living space with the tiled floor in the bathroom a breeze. But we also want something softer and warmer than tile. After some debates between wood look (Slav) v.s. marble look (me), dark tone (Slav) v.s. light tone (me), we settled on the Nucore Driftwood Oak, a medium-tone, wood-looking LVP. It has the most natural-looking wood grains and a rich color that is neither too yellow, too red, nor too grey.

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The picture above shows the Driftwood Oak LVP on top, our dark bathroom floor tile in the middle, the shower pebbles at the bottom, and the white subway bathroom wall tiles to the right. I like how well the Driftwood Oak pairs with all the tiles. It appears rich and dark next to white tiles, but somehow lighter and airy next to dark color. The latter also applies to the black bed we have:

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Nucore is a fairly new product and does not have many reviews on its durability. But on paper it does have one of the thickest wear layer (22 mil) compared to other LVPs (6~12 mil). With two dogs who like to race up and down the stairs we will be putting this LVP to test especially at the landing area.

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Oh, from the picture you can probably tell that Slav has already ripped off the paneling. Instead of this:

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We now have this:

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Slav will be putting up the drywall this weekend before I start painting. After a long summer of not being able to do anything in the basement, I have such an urge to get it finished. I started feeling my DIY blood boiling – so stay tuned for more updates!

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