Terrific Broth

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

Category: DIY Built Page 1 of 8

3 Doors Down

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Long time no see! I am finally getting around to show you what’s going on in the ranch. And I am excited to tell you about our progress.

Since moving into the bedroom we have been just tackling small projects – caulking, paint touch-ups, hanging art, and just settling into our new basement living routine. We like the master suite as much as the day we moved in. The closets function perfectly. The NuCore flooring is holding up to the “dog nail test”. And the glass shower door has survived the first two months of usage (did time fly!). I used to worry that one of us will slip and break the glass panels, but it turns out to be very solid and can take some impact. Let me tell you, living through January without making drywall dust was an absolutely joy.

After the holidays I started feeling like decorating. Hanging a couple pictures here and there, adding art to the bathroom, and bring in a much-needed clock to better get ready in the mornings. You know, the little things. One of the fun projects I did was dressing up the egress window well.

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The window well update

was a perfect Sunday morning project. Slav had been complaining how bare the window well looked, so I grabbed a bunch of faux plants from IKEA without telling him what they were for. Let me tell you, these plants are not cheap! What I got barely covered the front side of the window well, which we see everyday. But the hope is that they last a few years being out of the strong Colorado sun.

One Sunday Slav went skiing, I took the opportunity to setting up all the faux plants as a surprise:

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Much better from this, right?

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I documented the process with Instagram stories, hence the lack of pictures. Still debating if I should add a layer of white rocks to the bottom of the well. But for now, it is a killer upgrade that makes us smile every morning opening the curtains.

 

Installing prehung doors for the media room

The biggest progress we made lately was installing basement doors – 3 out of 4 to be exact. You might have noticed some of them in our last post:

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These two doors are the basement entry door and the bedroom door, we chose solid core doors for their soundproofing properties. We are happy with the JELD-WEN window in the main floor living room, so choosing their doors was a no-brainer. The style is “the Craftsman” in Espresso color.

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The bedroom door was discarded during the renovation, so there was just one opening left.

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We ordered pre-hung door for the opening and it was pretty straight forward to put on. We chose left-hand opening so it opens into the bedroom.

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The doors did not come with knobs or lock. We picked some satin nickel lock from Lowe’s to match the finishes of the hinges:

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We also ordered a pre-hung door for the basement entry. The old jamb was in bad shape and the hinge side had started to separate from the foundation.

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We took the door and the door jamb off, and Slav secured the framing to the concrete wall properly.

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And the new door was on!

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We added the same lock on this door and it looked amazing:

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Much better than the old one. 🙂

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Even Roxie was amazed. 🙂

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Customizing a door for the bath

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While the DIY momentum continued, we installed a bathroom door. Our bathroom has two door opening, one being a pocket door to our bedroom, and one to the media room. These bathroom doors brought bigger challenges. Both of the openings are only 77″ tall, which requires customization. The task is so intimidating that we had been procrastinating as long as we could.

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Until I found this door from a local resale store – it is 76 1/2″ tall, so it fits perfectly under the short doorway. It also sports a big panel of glass which lets in the morning sun from the bathroom into the media room. This door is made with real wood and very steady.

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As you can see, the top of the door opening is already at the height of the ceiling. The space is tight! The doorway was actually a few more inches too wide for the door, so we started by adding a 2″ x 4″ on one side of the doorway framing:

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We decided to narrow the doorway from the toilet side, so we would see less of the toilet from the media room.

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To further narrow the doorway we installed another piece of 1″ board on top of the 2″ x 4″. Then we proceeded to making new door jambs for the glass panel door:

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Besides getting the height right (you want to leave 1/8″ gap on all sides between the door and the jamb), it is important to get the hinges installed at the right spot. Slav used a router to carve into the jamb so hinges could sit flush with the wood.

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We also cut a notch at the bottom of the door jamb to accommodate the height of the tile.

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With all the pieces cut to size, we assembled the door jambs on the floor, then attached the whole assembly and the door to the opening:

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The last step was to add door stops at the proper location. Then…Ta-dah!

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We used matching hardware as those on the pre-hung doors. A narrow strip of drywall will be added to cover the 2″ x 4″ and the  1″ board, then the gap between the new drywall and the door jamb will be covered by trim.

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This is the view from the media room looking into the bath. We may obscure the glass in the future somehow. But for now, we are just happy to finally have a door on the bathroom!

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And finally be able to keep the dogs out of the bedroom – or in.

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Getting one of the bathroom door installed really lifted a lot of weight off our shoulders. I do not know if you are the same, but when I face too grand of a to-do list, I have a hard time taking the first step. Now with only one pocket door to install, it started feeling fun again.

On a separate note – I knew what I’ve been posting lots of in-progress photos. Any successful blogger will wait until they can get the perfect “after” shots, which means  after the drywall and finished trims are all in. But this pretty “after” may take weeks to come in our hands. I figured it is better to update you what we’ve been up to now. Gotta keep it real! After all, this blog is more of a diary of this house to me, even during the slow days. More and more so, I found myself relying on the in-progress pictures I posted before to remember how we did certain steps, or what product we used. In a way, the blog will remember for us what went behind the walls, and the sweat and tears we shed along the way. So, no shame on posting in-progress photos for me!

Now most of the doors are in, we can finally consider door trims. (Pocket doors are trimmed differently so we are not gonna worry about it now.) All of our basement doors are located really close to a neighboring wall, which means we can only install the most narrow trims. Narrow trims = ugly looking. So I would have to figure out something creative. Another thing I would like to do is refinishing the glass panel door with stains matching the color of other basement doors. The color of the prehung doors is labeled as “Espresso”, but it reads lighter and reddish compared to most of the Espresso stains you can find on the market. So there will be some mixing and trials to get the color right.

Here you have it, our slow, but steady progress in the basement. I will work on the stains and trims next. What are you up to?

Create a Walk-through Closet Space with IKEA PAX

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Growing up, Slav and I both stored clothes and linens in wardrobes and armoires. We like that they give more structure elements to a room, and prefer their furniture-like look to bi-fold or sliding doors commonly used on built-in closets. Not surprisingly, when the time came to design our master bedroom storage, the only request from Slav was using free-standing wardrobes.

Aside from this request, the rest of the decision was left completely to me – what kind of wardrobe system to use, the style/color, where to put them in the room, the overall dimension, and the interior design. Having to make all these decisions were stressful to say the least – although Slav does not like to make decisions, he does have preferences and high standard. After a few weeks of research and price comparison, I decided to give IKEA PAX a try.

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Why PAX

The reason of choosing PAX is three-fold. First, the ceiling in our basement is only 90″ tall and hard to accommodate pre-assembled wardrobes. Second, we have two windows and one doorway in the closet room. Their location greatly limits the layout of wardrobe. Only IKEA PAX, whose frames come in different width and depth can enable maximum storage around these obstacles.

The first picture below shows the two basement windows, which we have to get around. I planned one of the closets be at the corner in between the windows, and another on the right side of the window on the right.

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This picture shows the same corner from another angle. The second closet would locate between the right window and the soffit, which can be seen at the right upper corner of the picture.

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The third closet would be on this short wall, on the other side of the bedroom. It needs to fit between the vertical column/soffit and the light switch.

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The last and the most important reason of choosing PAX is its highly customizable interior. Slav and I have very different needs regarding clothes storage. He has a lot more clothes and much more hanging items, whereas most of my stuff are folded. Therefore, the same pre-assembled closets will not meet our separate needs as well as the PAX.

Purchasing and getting the PAX home

was part of my responsibility too. Usually Slav is very helpful with anything requiring heavy lifting, but this time he was really out of commission due to the busy work schedule. I ended up making three separate trips to our local IKEA, which is 45 minutes away from my house to get the materials home with my mini-SUV.

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One note for myself if I were ever doing this again, will be to have the PAX delivered. These flat boxes are heavy and frankly speaking, hard to drive with. Our whole order contained 43 flat boxes: 7 frames, 9 doors (including three mirrored glass doors), 19 drawers, and 8 dividers. In addition there were bags of metal hinges, clothes rails, pulls, etc. Consider the driving time spent on three trips, as well as the manpower consumed to move the heavy boxes through the warehouse, load them onto and unload them from the car, the delivery fee is simply worth it.

Look at these boxes on the floor, which are just for my side of the closet – about 1/4 of the entire order…

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The assembly

Assembling individual elements of the PAX, such as drawers and frames, was surprisingly simple. Basic tools including a power drill, a handheld screwdriver and a hammer were all I’ve used. It does take time though: the material handling, including unpacking, transporting parts, and taking the packaging out took surprisingly long time compared to the actually assembly.

For frames, I laid the parts for each frame on the floor and followed the simple instructions. Roxie was around for emotional support and slowing down the process by kicking the hardware around:

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Below are a series of pictures I took while assembling one of the frames – I assembled 7 total! I usually lay everything out on a the cardboard first:

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Then put in the screws, dowels, and corner pieces in place according to the instruction:

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From this point the whole thing just came together like a Lego. Do not forget to tighten the connections:

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The last step of the assembly was to put on the back panel, which not only closed up the frame, but also kept the frame square.

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Standing the frames up was a real struggle. They got so heavy after assembly, which was unexpected. I definitely recommend two people for this part. You do have the option of assemble the frames standing up, but this also requires two people in order to keep the frame square.

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Compared to the frames, assembling drawers was easy and quick. All the PAX drawers are put together in the same way, regardless which width, depth, or what kind of front panel they employ.

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I assembled the first drawer by itself and then started to tackle multiple drawers at a time. The progress was quick and very satisfying.

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Secure and link the closets

All three of our closets are composed of multiple frames. To make sure that the frames were align with each other, we linked the neighboring framed as well as secured them onto the wall behind. If you wish to do the same, make sure you get to this step before installing interior organizers such as drawers or shelves.

Using my side of the closet as an example, it is made up by two frames and should go onto a short wall pictured below. We cleaned and vacuumed the spot before putting two frames here side by side:

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Notice that we did not install any baseboard prior. Unlike the BILLY bookcase, the back of the PAX frames is straight and does not have any cutout to allow existing baseboards.

As you can see, there are three vertical lines of holes on the sides of each frame. Putting bolts (included in the purchase) through the corresponding holes between the two neighboring frames could align and secure them to each other.

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Each frame also came with two adjustable feet, which help the frame to stay level. After the two neighboring frames were linked and leveled, we used designated hardware (also included in purchase) to attach them to the wall. Now this whole closet was solid and not going anywhere.

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Interior Organization

After securing the frames to the wall, it was time to install drawers and shelves. I used the IKEA design tool to plan our PAX closets. When printing out the design, it included very clear instruction on where exactly the interior organizers should go. Remember the vertical lines of holes on the sides of the frame? The drawer slides, shelf supports, and door hinges were instructed to go into specific holes (numbered on the instruction). This is to make sure that each part operate smoothly without interfering with the operation of others.

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With the help of instruction, the installation went pretty fast. For electrical outlets behind the closet, Slav exposed them by cutting open the back panel of the frames.

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For my side,I chose to have two hanging bars and two sets of drawers. It is a relative simple design, which allows for maximum storage.

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I also added a pull-out hanger for scarves, as well as a hanging clip for hanging bath robe and nightgown. Again, the customization feature is the No. 1 reason we chose PAX.

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Slav’s closets

After learning from my mistakes during assembling my side of the closets, I got a lot smarter putting together Slav’s side. His side includes two standing units: a corner unit, and a straight unit. The straight unit is basically a replica of mine; the only difference is that his is made of two narrower frames:

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Before securing the straight unit, I built the corner unit to ensure the same space was left on each side of the window:

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The corner unit is composed of three parts: one deep frame next to the window (pictured above and below), one add-on frame which sits 90 degree next to the deep frame, and one single-frame addition. The add-on frame and the single frame are shallower than all the other frames to save the floor space.

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The picture below was taken from the bedroom doorway. Using deeper frames on the left side would have blocked too much of the view while entering the bedroom. I prefer the lighter visual effect offered by shallower closet, to the storage we lost by not using deeper frames.

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After everything was positioned correctly, we linked all the neighboring frames and secured them onto the wall. Then the drawers went in:

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Slav’s straight closet contains 8 (!) deep and wide drawers and two hanging bars. This guy has lots of shirts!

The straight closets will get sliding doors eventually, and I chose mirrored doors for the corner closet. The mirrors certainly made the dark closets to feel lighter and the basement bedroom brighter.

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The (almost) final product!

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Here are a few shots I took in the morning after installation. All three closets were leveled, secured, and completed with all the interior organizers. The corner closet received its mirrored doors. The only work put on halt was the sliding doors, which will go in after we are 100% happy with the interior organization.

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The space under the window will be filled with a bench or some kind. We are also on look out for a new laundry basket. Slav’s college pop-up laundry hamper will finally retire from our master bedroom!

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We put the closets together around Thanksgiving. A week has passed since then, and we are generally happy with the quality, the layout, and the interior design. Lining the closets on both side of the room did not make the room feel narrow, and the storage they provide was more generous than we expected.

Costwise, I think we spent ~$2600 on all three closets (not including our time and gas to transport them). Our order includes 7 frames, 19 drawers, 3 pull-out trays (they are more expensive then fixed shelves), and several additional shelves for the add-on frame.

Timewise, it took me four days in total, from the design to installation. Around 8 hours were spent in local IKEA store to research the internal organization, design the closets with the help of IKEA employee, and collect/purchase all the items. This 8-hour period does not include the driving time. At home, I spent three solid days on assembly and installation, including one 8-hour day for my side (with fair amount of mistakes made along the way), and ~12 hours for Slav’s side.

Thoughts on PAX

Looking back, I think the most time-saving approach to PAX purchasing, will be to design the PAX in store with an expert’s help, then have the parts delivered to the room in which you want them to be installed.

Another good service to consider is the Click and Collect service. With this service, instead of pulling the items off the shelves yourself, you pay for the whole shipping list either in the store or online, wait for the whole order to be collected (usually next day), and pick up the whole order at the main lobby. It only costs $5 per order, which will be given back to you in the form of a gift card to use in the store (so it is virtually free).

The advantage of the Click and Collect service is that you are guaranteed to get the entire order without missing pieces. Let me tell you, there is nothing more annoying than buying a whole closet but being told that the store was one drawer short for your dream closet, and have to come back again just for that drawer!

Okay! This concludes a long post for a looooong PAX journey. If you are still reading, I am impressed. You deserve a hug. Here is a hug. And if you are hugging me back, I could use some massages on my back too. As a return to your kindness, I will be uploading pictures of these PAX loaded with our stuff and the whole master bedroom really soon. See you in a few days, friends!

New Floor in the Basement! – NuCORE LVP Installation

Well, the deed is done!

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During the past two weekends, Slav and I installed the NuCORE LVP flooring in our basement master bedroom:

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and the living/media room!

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In the last update on our basement renovation, we painted the basement ceilings and walls snow white. We had picked out flooring for the basement weeks prior, and having finished surfaces finally allowed us to move forward on the installation!

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The flooring we chose for the basement is NuCORE LVP flooring in Driftwood. We like it because 1) it is LVP with cork backing and we want something waterproof on the basement slab; 2) it’s only 6.5 mm thick and saves head room in the already-low-ceiling basement; and 3) it offers the highest scratch resistant rating (22 mil wear layer) among similar products. This floor will stand the test of puppy paws!

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An additional perk about the NuCORE is the locking system – instead of tongue and groove, it has channels on both long and short ends. With this locking system, every plank is locked and tapped in place without the need of a pull bar or a tapping block. It ensures a seamless look and therefore DIY friendly to flooring newbies like us.

Slav and I never installed floors. We watched some videos and followed the principles: 1) the long side of the floor boards should run parallel to the long wall of a room; 2) staggering the seams. NuCORE requires neighboring seams to be at least 8 inches apart; and 3) leaving 1/4″ space around the perimeter of the room while avoiding skinny boards (narrower than 2″) on both sides or short boards (shorter than 8″) on either end. These requirement are pretty straight forward so we quickly geared up for the installation.

Preparing the concrete slab

Before the exciting work of actual installation, the first step is always the boring prep. LVP flooring has to be installed on very leveled surface without significant holes or slope. Although our slab was pretty even, near the bathroom doorways, there were quite some settling. Slav leveled the low spots with cement mix, and filled holes and control joints throughout the basement.

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After the cement dried Slav came back and smoothed everything out with spatula and sanders. He also did a thorough cleaning with vacuum and mop to make sure the slab is a debris-free and dust-free.

Underlayment over the slab

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The supplier of the NuCORE flooring, Floor and Decor, recommended the Sentinel Protect Plus underlayment to go under the NuCORE. Because NuCORE is a locking and floating type of floor, the underlayment needs to be fairly rigid with high crush-resistant. I do not know how other brands of underlayment would work with NuCORE, but with Sentinel this underlayment is the only suitable one.

From my understanding, underlayment under basement flooring usually serves three purposes: 1) moisture barrier – for which lots of people use 6mil plastic in addition to underlayment; 2) cold insulation – so the flooring stays warmer in winter; and 3) sound barrier – so the flooring feels softer and prevent it from making clicking sound against the concrete slab beneath. The cork backing on the NuCORE flooring resists to rot and provides sound and cold insulation, so technically we could skip the underlayment all together. On the other hand, adding underlayment does not hurt and should improve the sound and cold insulation, so we still decided to use it for the peace of mind.

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Laying underlayment is pretty simple. We followed the included instruction and laid them perpendicularly to the flooring direction. We cut the 4′ wide roll to size, pieced the seams together, and taped them down with this underlayment tape. The long seams actually comes with built-in adhesive to connect neighboring pieces. But the connection is fairly wimpy so I still recommend to use underpayment tape on top.

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If the subfloor (in our case, the basement slab) is even and debris-free, the underlayment should go in like a breeze. It is also easy to cut around the nooks and crannies too.

The underlayment provided a clean, soft and warm surface to work (and walk) on without shoes.

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Laying down the planks

Before putting down the first plank, we measured the width of the room to make sure that the last line of boards will not be too skinny. We were lucky that both of our rooms had more than 2″ space left when we started with a full-width board. Once we have the layout planned, we opened a few boxes to make sure that we have the full spectrum of wood patterns on hand. The Driftwood color of NuCORE has six basic patterns that are printed on the plank in both directions as well as shift longitudinally. So we have more than 10 patterns to work with.

I took the initiative to plan the layout, select boards, and set them in place. Slav cut them to size and tapped them in place. These boards are easy to cut on the short direction with a razor blade pocket knife. I tried to work a couple rows ahead of him, while taking mini breaks to clean up the empty boxes and vaccum the underlayment ahead of him. It is always pleasant to work together. We are both very methodical thanks to years of training in research laboratories. We also tend to focus on different aspects of the project and pay attention to different details. Our similarity in work ethics and differences in tactic makes working with Slav a really enjoyable experience.

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To floor around the framing Slav cut the boards using oscillating saw. It made very clean cut without ripping the cork backing.

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For longitudinal cuts such as some corners or the last row, table saw worked perfectly.

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Transitions between rooms

There are three transitions we need to install between the rooms. For perfect match we got NuCORE transition moulding in Driftwood color. It comes in a kit with a channel and concrete anchors. In the picture below, you can see the channel placed between the bathroom tiles and the bedroom flooring. Slav drilled into the slab and secured the channel against the tile, then laid flooring against it on the other side.

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After both side of the flooring complete, the moulding was snapped into the channel to complete the look. It can be popped off easily when it is time to replace it.

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Finishing the stair landing

We decided to continue the flooring all the way to meet the bottom of the stairs. There were quite some cutting to do in this narrow (37″ wide) space.

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Underlayment was down:

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And the flooring! We used long enough planks that span the entire width of the landing here to add strength.

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The cost and a supply list

For slightly over 500 sqft space we used 28 boxes of flooring ($53.4 per box/19 sqft) and 6 rolls of underlayment (~$50 per roll/100 sqft). Adding on the transition mouldings and one roll of underlayment tape, the total material cost is about $1900. It does not include the cement product we used to level the slab, so I’d say that on average NuCORE costs  ~$4/sqft to install.

Time-wise, it took Slav and I, both of whom without prior experience, two 9-hour days to complete the installation. Again, this time frame does not include the leveling of the slab, which takes time to dry and polish. During the first 8-hour day, we installed the flooring in the bedroom (22′ x 10′), while really taking our time to figure out the layout, get familiar with the process, and establish a cohesive work flow between us. The media room and all three floor transitions took another 10-hour day.

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Just a friendly reminder, the installation is on the hands and knees, so I will highly recommend knee pads and gloves. It also put quite some stress on lower back. We did not do the work in one weekend – the two work days were on two separate Sundays, and we felt exhausted after each day. So if you could find more help – even just with carrying boxes or cleaning up periodically – take it.

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Aside from knee pads and gloves, we used the following:

Measuring tape, marker, pencil

Pocket knife (to cut the planks and open packaging)

Speed square (to assist the cut of the planks). I used a plastic one to avoid scratching the planks.

Oscillating saw (to cut irregular shapes and angles)

Table saw (optional, to cut longitudinally. A shape pocket knife and a long ruler together should work too)

More Befores and Afters!

Before I check out, allow me to remind you (and ourselves) of where we started:

The bedroom before:

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The bedroom now:

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The media room before:

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And now:

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The landing before:

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The landing now!

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Isn’t it much better? We love love love the color of the flooring, which is perfect in every lighting situations. We have only lived with the new floor for TWO days and I already start forgetting the ugly befores! It feels that the basement has always been this way and it should. It is such a joyful DIY victory!

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