That Time We Pretended to Be Bob Villa.

October 28, 2012 · 10 comments

I was sitting down the other morning to write a post that addresses where we stand so far on our Before Baby List, and was contemplating all the recent and undergoing home projects we’ve got on our plate, when it dawned on me it has been almost a year since we decided to tackle our biggest DIY project ever: replacing our flooring downstairs.

And then it dawned on me that I never posted any of the photos of the process! In a year.

Whose winning at blogging? This girl. ­čśë

So, a good eleven months later, here is the photo-heavy tutorial on how we replaced our carpeting, installed a chair rail, and replaced a whole buttload of baseboard on quite the lazy person’s budget and skill level. I wish I would have taken these with the DSLR, but once we moved around the entire house, I could not for the life of me find it – so iPhone photo quality it is!

Step One: Prep Work

Prep work is probably the step that took, believe it or not, the most time and effort. First things first, since we were leaving the tile in our entryway and nook/kitchen, we decided to move as much of the entire downstairs into those very small areas. Literally. And because we tended to work mostly in the evenings after work when we weren’t tired, the process took a touch longer than one might normally take.

Then came the start of demo. Oh, demo. I hated you. Like they say – it wasn’t difficult work, just time-consuming. For someone easily distracted by anything shiny, this was Tough Tough Work. ­čśë We started in the study, which closes off, just in case we completely ruined the house. You know, thinkin’ ahead and all. Even though replacing the floors was my idea, the very “no turning back”-ness of ripping the first piece of carpet? Gave me a small heart attack.

To avoid spending cash on a large dumpster for a week or longer, we actually went the completely cheap person’s route. Don’t laugh – but we cut the carpet and padding into┬ámanageable┬ásizes that we could actually toss in our regular trash can over the course of a few pick-ups. If there is a penny to be saved, I will save it. Holla!

The best part of ripping up the carpet and seeing the padding? We were suddenly able to see every previously unknown stain and spill from the previous homeowners. Exciting (or not).

Then we really lucked out – and our neighbors came by to lend tools and man power! They are our neighbors and our friends, and I couldn’t decide how to address that a year ago when I actually labeled all these photos, so I kept calling them “neighbor friends.” I realize now it sounds borderline retarded, but let it go.

We eventually rolled up the carpet/padding to tear down later just to get a move on, and our friends came over nightly (this neighborhood, it slays me) to help pry up baseboard. They lent us more tools than you could imagine – a miter saw, pry bars, a nail gun, a giant level. It became very apparent how few tools we actually owned and that our genius plan of a handsaw and hammer was not going to cut it. ­čśë

You really do need to seriously clean your floor. I spent a few hours hand-scraping up padding glue while the men used brute strength to tackle trim. Then we swept, vacuumed, swept, vacuumed. You need a smoooooth floor. That’s our shop-vac by the way. One of the few manly things we owned.

Because we couldn’t quite fit everything into the nook, we shuffled items around as we worked. Some folks have asked me where the dogs where during this – they were at home. They are really good at keeping out of the way, for the most part, and happily found their beloved loveseat no matter where it was continuously relocated. ­čÖé

One part of the prep work is making sure you have a level floor. I wanted to use a giant level for this, but a “pro” at a store told us to just take a string and check the floor in six foot spaces. If the string leveled out, you’d be fine. WRONG. We learned this the hard way mid-floor-laying in our dining room when two boards just wouldn’t fit right. First off, if you have to force a board, you’re not connecting it correctly. Outside of that, if they seem to “pop” apart, your floor isn’t level. After a mini mental crisis, we called my dad (who does this stuff for a living), who sent us to Home Depot at 2am for some quick-set┬áconcrete┬áspread. Two hours later, I’d leveled the wonky patch. Easy peasy. Too bad I forgot to take a photo of it.

Step Two: The Process

Opt for the best moisture barrier/under-layment layer you can. Especially if you live in Texas, as it’s far more forgiving on our awful foundations. I believe our “splurge” was a $0.20 difference per square foot, nothing too crazy, and worth it.

Follow your box directions, but we actually chose pieces from six boxes as we went. Laminate flooring only has so many patterns to mimic real wood, so randomly selecting from several boxes at once helps you avoid getting a repeated look that screams I HAVE FAKE FLOORS once installed. Also, vary your cut lengths. We also opted for a wider board – and I love that it doesn’t look too dark or too “orange” like many laminates do. I went to tons of stores, nabbed all the samples, then came home and did my best to destroy them. Once I’d found my favorite colors, I hacked at them with scissors and a screwdriver (thinking of doggy nails) and then soaked them overnight in water. The color I liked best actually tested best – WOOT!

Be sure to run the longest length of your room to keep from truncating your house’s look. We have a very open floor plan, and running the longest points meant we began in the entry and ended in the living room – then worked outwards to finish the formal dining and living room as we went.

Why do I think my husband is so handsome in ┬ásafety goggles and knee pads? I’m an odd bird.

I’m posting these small details because when I went digging for as many visual tutorials on installing your own laminate flooring, I couldn’t find many on how to do things like undercut door jams, cut around fireplaces, and so forth.

We selected a floor and under-layment that would give us a height very close to our tile flooring. This way, we could just use a regular transition strip versus a reduction (change in flooring height). Don’t mind that dog hair.┬á┬áThat red chunk on one side is actually our surround sound wire.

Because once the flooring was all pulled up, our friends asked why we didn’t take the time to properly install our surround sound by punching holes into the walls to hang speakers and then run the wiring under the floor like a pro would. I’m glad we did this – but it did add about two days extra to our schedule as we found the right wiring, cut holes into the wall and fed things through, etc. So bear in mind your time frame when you decide to add on projects!

Just random photos of Emmie helping and Sean using a hand-saw to undercut the door jam.

 Step Three: Finishes

Once the floor was in, we were able to add all the trim. We were sheer┬ágenius┬áand decided to tackle this process when it was in the mid-40’s outside – and hadn’t taken into consideration the weather when we needed to suddenly paint 140+ feet of chair rail and baseboard trim. Why does it matter? Because trim usually does best with oil-based paint, which takes a much longer time to dry than a latex paint. And an even longer time when it is less than 60 degrees. So my one day trim paint project? Took a three day dry period. Sigh. Live and learn, no? ­čśë

To get the most uniform and flush look, trim needs to connect with 45 degree cuts. For a math geek like Sean, this was probably the most exciting part of the entire project – finding and perfecting his angles. For me? I twirled around to Christmas music, ate chips, and provided general “moral support.”

We also had troubles finding decent visuals on how to “end” chair rail when you weren’t meeting a corner or wanting to use a large, decorative cap. You’ll actually cut back at a 45 degree cut and then cut a matching triangle of the trim shape to fit, like a puzzle. This way you keep the trim detail on both edges.

┬áSo, what’s on our list for this Fall? Thank goodness nothing as extensive! ­čÖé Just oodles of painting projects, building two tables, and revamping a few pieces of furniture. Wish us luck!

**05/11/2014 UPDATE: I’ve had endless emails asking me what our exact flooring was – which is GREAT, it means you folks don’t find it hideous, LOL! So if you’re curious – This is Style Selection’s Weathered Hickory Laminate Flooring from Lowes (found right here). It was $1.99/square foot. We installed it in November 2011 – so it’s been a few years and I still LOVE it. We’ve had a couple of pet puke and dog pee accidents with zero issues – though one that went undiscovered for about 36-ish hours caused a tiny ripple that no one but us notices. We’ve drug furniture across them, worn high heels, had crazy pet nails – it’s holding up fantastically!**

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Lu October 29, 2012 at 7:50 am

Your floor looks amazing! Ours was a disaster. When we ripped up the upstairs carpet to lay limestone tiles in the bathroom and wood in the bedrooms (yes the previous owenrs had put carpet in the bathroom), we found that when they had extended the house, they had not levelled the floors and had stuffed newspaper under the carpet to disguise the difference! The flooring on the ‘new’ half of the house was a good 10cm lower than the original half! We ended up having to raise the floor ourselves as we had blown our entire budget on a new bathroom and flooring. But we did manage to save money but smashing/cutting everything into tiny sizes and hiding it in the dustbins! There was no way I was going to be paying for a skip!! :/


brittney November 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm

OMG. I can’t believe that. Well, sadly, I can – but shocking, you know? We found a really old, very gross, fast food drink in our attic left behind from the builders – and a friend had her tub replaced once only to find bags of empty chips and stuff underneath it.


Steven Andrew October 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm

That floor looks amazing. I love wood flooring. You guys have done a ton of work, but it’s looking pretty amazing!


brittney November 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

And thankfully holding up well! I was sure we’d install it and wake up the next day to it all popped up or something, lol.


Mandy October 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm

It looks amazing. Way to go on tackling and finishing such a big project yourselves.


Kate November 2, 2012 at 11:00 am

i love this, thank you for posting a tutorial! we want to put pergo floors in our whole downstairs (the previous owners recarpeted the entire house in light BEIGE carpet right before we bought it (except for the foyer which is a pergo color i hate), and it’s not going so well with a big puppy and beige carpets. i was thinking we’d have to hire someone for installation, but yours came out so good that maybe (just maybe) i will think about doing them ourselves! just found your blog from jenni’s blog, so cute! p.s. do you mind telling me what brand/color you picked? i really like it!


brittney November 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Just emailed ya!


Carolyn February 10, 2014 at 2:23 pm

hi, can you email the brand as well?? this looks beautiful, we are planning on doing this soon to our house


brittney May 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

Hi Miss! I think I emailed you — but in case anyone else needs it, I’ll update this post!


Lyjohn June 7, 2015 at 10:16 am

I am a kitchen deisgner. I have customers that have concrete Floors. The objection to a floating floor is the hollow sound that is created from the floating floor. Does this product eliminate that issue? Also, With floating floors in the past we have installed the floor after the kitchen installation to allow the floor to move,. With this Product is that type of installation recommended or could this be installed previous to cabinet installation. Mainly the island.ThanksMark MutzKitchen Concepts and Design.


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