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

Category: Renovation Page 1 of 31

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!

The New Guest Bath is Here!

After a 6-month-long renovation, finally, the main floor bath is complete!

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Without looking at the before, the after would have easily been taken for granted:

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Above picture was the old bathroom when we moved in. With bigger fish to fry we continued using this bathroom for 3.5 years. Finally, after renovating the nearby office/guest bedroom, we decided that it was time to refresh the guest bath.

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The biggest change we made in this bathroom was to remove the bulky bathtub and install a walk-in shower.

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We opted for a clear glass shower door similar to what we installed in the master bath,. It is a lot more expensive than using a shower curtain, but it really brought an elevated look to this small guest bath. it made the bathroom look more spacious, and it allowed the textured window to be the focal point of the room. We picked a winter-themed, frost-like pattern for the window way before we picked out the shower door, and now the patterned window looks very intentional through the shower glass!

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The old window sill was slopped in the wrong direction, which led to rot and mold in the old shower. To keep the water at bay, we installed full-length marble sills around the fixed window panel. We also chose to install a shower pan instead of tiling the floor in the shower, so no water will ever get behind the walls.

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Just like in the master bath, we chose to extend the tiles beyond the shower area for a grand look. We picked light-colored marble-like tiles for the walls, which bounce off the light around the room.

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Instead of small subway tiles, which have dominated bathroom walls for decades, we chose rather large tiles for the walls. I think fewer grout lines make the room feel less enclosed, and the marble veins prevent the room from looking like a surgical unit.

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To echo the grey vein we installed a light grey colored vanity, which serves as a soft transition from the near-white walls to the dark floor.

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I always liked bathrooms with big color contrast (see bath inspiration here). In our master bathroom we used white subway tile in the shower and one wall, with big dark tiles on the floor and the other wall. In this bathroom, we used large tiles on the wall with small black tiles on the floor. The floor tile was laid in a geometric pattern, which draws attention to the floor and grounds the room.

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Unlike the master bath where we utilized mostly masculine colors and shapes, the fixtures in this hall bath is more decorative and feminine. We did keep the brushed nickel finish throughout – brushed nickel is a really versatile finish in my opinion. When it was paired with dark cabinet and tiles, as in our master bath, it looks modern and stylish. When used against white tiles in the hall bath, I think it looks more classic and sophisticated.

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The toilet also offers an elegant architectural look.

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Both of the tiling and plumbing contractors did a good job and paid lots of attention to details. I feel really good about the quality of the finish in this bathroom.

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You may notice that we do not have a mirror here yet. Honestly, the biggest struggle in the whole bathroom design process was the mirror. I originally wanted a round mirror, but it ended up looking too trendy for this bathroom. On the other hand, frameless mirrors with integrated LED lighting looked too modern, and rectangular mirror looked too plain…Slav suggested DIYing a mirror and we will give it a try at some point.

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Since the demo last December, Slav has worked many weekends in this small space. Professionals were brought in for window installation, plumbing, tiling, and shower door instllation. Slav took care of everything else, including replacing the rotten framing and subfloor, upgrading electricaladding new ceiling lights, finishing the drywall, and installing the pocket door and door trims. It has been a lots of DIY projects. But it is so worth it!

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage, replacing rotten framing, and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulate the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights from the attic;
5. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and wiring new switches;
6. Installing a new exhaust fan and recessed lights;
7. Drywall the bathroom ceiling and soundproofing the interior walls;
8. Purchasing a new toilet, a new bidet, a sink/vanity, and sink and shower fixtures;
9. New plumbing and waterlines for bathroom fixtures;
10. Upgrade master bath (basement) exhaust fan from above;
11. Replacing all the subflooring with added support;
12. Pocket door framing and installation;
13. Drywalling around the pocket door;
14. Installing and Waterproofing bathroom walls and floor;
15. Tiling the bathroom and installing a new window stool;
16. Finishing/priming/painting entry wall drywall and ceiling;
17. Installing/painting pocket door trims;
18. Installing vanity light fixture, ceiling can lights, and outlet wall plates/covers;
19. Installing new glass shower door;
20. Installing all plumbing fixtures including toilet/bidet, vanity/sink, and shower trims.

Finally, we can erase the planning board clean, and move onto the next chapter for the ranch house!

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Main Floor Bath: Pocket Door Trims

Hi guys, long time no see! I hope y’all are having a great summer. We are consumed by work once again and our hope for a slow summer did not work out. Instead, someone else is enjoying the summer days for us, roaming around our garden:

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They are actually two different cottontail rabbits. One of them lives under our raspberry bushes, and we are pretty sure that the other one lives behind the shed in the firewood pile. We often see one eating grass on the backyard lawn. But occasionally, we catch them side by side chilling, eating, or even playing together.

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Despite us being very busy, we did manage to finish the main floor bathroom. After installing the tiles, we painted the ceiling and walls,  and Slav installed the lights and outlet in the bathroom. Then, the shower door was installed, and the plumber came and installed all the fixtures. The very last task to wrap up the bathroom renovation was trimming the pocket door.

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Door jamb installation

Prior to installing the pocket door, the door jambs and trims were completely taken down, leaving exposed drywall on the hallway side.

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Since this was our first attempt trimming a pocket door, we purchased a pocket door jamb kit to make the job easier:

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The kit includes a door jamb, a pair of split jamb, and a pair of top trim.

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As per instructions, the door jamb to which the pocket door would be closed against was installed first.

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Then, the split jambs were cut to length and nailed to either side of the pocket door.

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Lastly, the the top trim pieces were cut to length and nailed on to fill the gap between the two door jambs.

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This was the look from the bathroom. We had painted the walls around the doorway prior to the installation.

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Trimming the doorway

After the door jambs were installed, the trim pieces were cut and nailed around the doorway. For the bathroom side of the doorway, we picked a rather simple style of trim.

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Then a piece of baseboard was cut to fill the gap between the tiled wall and the door trim. This baseboard is identical to the ones we installed throughout the basement.

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For the hallway side, we used the same trim installed around the office opening, which is wider and more decorative.

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Patching, Sanding, and painting

Having finished installing the jamb and trim, the pocket door was adjusted to ensure that it was centered between the split door jambs, traveled smoothly, and closed tightly to the door jamb.

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Then, it was time to patch the nail holes with wood filler, caulk the gaps, and paint!

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By the end of a long weekend, we finished trimming the pocket door, which completed the bathroom renovation – what a moment!

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Upgrading the front door trim

However, the trim work did not stop there. Since we had the chop saw and nail gun out, we decided to replace the front door trim too.

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The old door trim around the front door was there when we bought the house. The same trim was installed around all the doors. Since then, we have replaced most of the door trims in the house, and the old trim was now only around the front door, and two small closets.

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Technically, the old door trim had nothing wrong with them, but it was fairly narrow considering the size of the door. Importantly, the front door is right next to the office doorway. The mismatching trims looked a bit odd.

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The old trim was cut away from the wall. It turned out to be the biggest part of this trim work because it was held down by layers of paint and caulking.

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Some caulking remained even after the old trim was peeled off the wall. It had to be scraped off with a razor.

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Since this is an exterior door, all the gaps were filled with the Great stuff.

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After the Great stuff was completely cured, we cut away the excess and touch-painted the wall around the doorway.

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And now, our old front door was ready for its new trim!

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And the new trim there came!

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Next, the gaps were caulked and the nail holes were filled with the wood filler. two coats of Behr Ultra Pure White in semi-gloss, the same paint we used on all of trims and baseboards finished the front door trim work.

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Finally, no more mismatching trims!

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And this is the view from the house now:

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Compared to the old trim (pictured below), the scale of the new trim is more appropriate for the size of the front door.

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Now the main floor bathroom is complete, I cannot wait to show you the pictures. We are so proud of all the finishes we picked for the bathroom, and I think it was stunning! Stay tuned!

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