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

Category: Renovation Page 1 of 32

Trimming out the Main Story!

Last month we refinished all the hardwood floor on the main story. Let me tell you, it made such a difference. The old floor had a yellow/orange tone and made the whole living space felt dark and dated. The new color no longer has the same amber tone, but more of a light wood color. It made the white wall paint feel cooler and the whole space feel cleaner.

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We did plan to upgrade some furniture. But before bringing stuff inside, there is another big task to tackle first – installing baseboards.

The “before” look without baseboards

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As you could see from the pictures, We could really use some base trim to cover all the imperfections along the floor line. In addition, the baseboard vents and returns were all exposed.

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We also need to add baseboard trims in the closet and murphy bed area in my home office.

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The floor finishing crew we used was very professional and kept everything clean for the most part. However, there were still visible marks on the wall where the sander scraped the paint. These marks needed to be painted over.

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Painting and installation

We are fully aware how much baseboard and trims elevate a space – it is like the lipstick on a full makeup – without it, even the best finishes can feel sort of a blah. But once you put it on, you have gotten a master piece! The same week of our floor refinish, Slav picked up all the baseboards on Friday and painted them early Saturday morning, so he could jump on the installation over the weekend.

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While Slav was painting the baseboards, I washed all floor registers and touched painted all the walls.

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Slav has installed baseboards in our basement. He worked from the longest piece/biggest space down to those itty-bitty pieces. We have quite a few problematic areas where the floor heights are different, or where the wood trims meet the white MDF baseboards.

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The results are quite impressive indeed.

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The new baseboard trims butt against vertical door trims, and Slav cut returns around all the vents:

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The little hallway between my home office and main floor bathroom took a lot of time to complete. For one, it has three doorways, two closets, and a couple turns. Slav made as many cuts for the hallway alone as for the rest of main floor.

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The kitchen doorway was also a pain in the neck to finish. The tile floor on the kitchen side was almost 3/4″ higher than the finished wood floor. We also took out a couple boards right against the kitchen tile and left the subfloor exposed.

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We have decided to tile this portion in the future kitchen renovation. So for now, Slav patched this portion with two layers of plywood subfloor.

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Then he cut the baseboard trims to accommodate the floor differences.

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Installing bathroom door trims

Since the nail gun was out, Slav also finished the trims on the bathroom pocket door. I have trimmed out the bathroom door from the inside, but the outside trims were never installed:

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The main reason for not installing the outside trims was that the drywall here needed repair. We have resize the doorway during the pocket door installation, so on one side and the top, there was some drywall missing.

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On the left side of the pocket door, the drywall was uneven too.

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Slav scraped the drywall all around, and started smoothing it out using drywall compound.

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It took 4-5 rounds of sanding and mudding before the drywall was smooth and the corners were sharp.

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He actually did the drywall work over a week before the baseboard install, so we could put up the vertical trim first. The baseboard should be butting against the vertical trim.

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Now the hallway is finished!

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The finished baseboard

It took Slav two full days to install all the baseboards, plus a few days of drywall work in the hallway, an evening of buying the baseboards, and a morning of painting them. All the baseboards cost us $400, including the white pre-primed MDF and a couple pieces of wood ones. We had the paint, nails, and glue to begin with.

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The following weekend, Slav caulked the baseboard and filled all the nail holes. After a bit of paint touch-up (we use Behr Ultra Pure White in semi-gloss on all the trims), the living space was ready for furniture! I think the dogs are just happy that all the floor sanding and nail gun noise are finally coming to an end. As soon as we rolled out of the carpet, Roxie planted herself right on it.

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We are considering getting a couple new furniture pieces. But for now, even with the old furniture, the living space feels fresh and vibrant. As the weather gets cooler, we are forced to work on garden clean-ups, which are fairly labor-intensive. Having a clean and comfortable place to rest again at the end of the gardening days has been very therapeutic!

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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