Refinishing the Hardwood Floors

Hey, folks. There’s a lot happening around the house this week. We decided it was time to have the hardwood floors refinished. As I mentioned before, we thought about doing them ourselves, but it just didn’t seem like a good idea.

I know, I know. We’re the worst DIY’ers ever. This is turning into less of a DIY blog, and more of a “look at the people we’ve hired” blog.

But we wanted the floors to look nice, and we were certain it would take us at least a month to do on our own. And when we started thinking about timing, and our 10-month-olds nap times, and equipment rental costs… well, it just made sense to hire it out. Especially since Mel has been out of town visiting family for the past week, so she’s missing out on most of the general disarray.

We hired Don Christie from Christie’s Floor Sanding to do the job for us. He was fast, professional, and affordable, and I think the floors look great.

Living Room

The living room and dining room floors had some stains didn’t have much finish on them anymore when we started. In a lot of places, it looked like bare wood already. There were a handful of stains, but the floors here were mostly in pretty good shape already.

Before - Living Room.
Before - Living Room.
During - Lining Room.
After - Living Room.
After - Living Room.

Dining Room

The dining room was in very similar shape. You see the light-colored rectangle in this first pic? That’s from the rug under our dining room table, which means that we (not 80 years of previous owners) are responsible for much of the discoloration in this room. My theory is that since the floors didn’t have hardly any polyurethane on them at all, the floor was quickly soaking up all the  oils from our grubby little bare feet. The dark area around the back side of the room is probably pet urine, but it sanded out pretty well.

Before - Dining Room.
During - Dining Room.
After - Dining Room.


In my last post, I asked you guys for some advice on what to do about the entryway area. It had been tiled over in the past, and we sort of wanted tile in the future. Based on the discussion in the comments from that post, we decided just to have the entryway finished like the rest of the floor, and we’ll tear it out later for tile if we feel like it. Turns out, this area is so small, that it only cost about $50 to refinish the floor in this area anyway, so if we end up tearing it out later for tile, no big deal. We think it turned out really well, with only a very slight discoloration.

Before - Entryway
After - Entryway.


The hallway was clearly the most damaged area in the house, and the floors had been pretty ravaged by pet urine. The staining pattern was strange, though, because it created an area with a dark ring around the edge, but mostly bare wood in the middle. We discussed with our floor guy the possibility of replacing some of the boards, and we decided to wait to make that decision after they had sanded it down. We ultimately decided to leave it in place, and we’ll just live with the stain. Looks like a great place for a rug, right?

Before - Hallway.
During - Hallway.
After - Hallway.

Master Bedroom

The floors in the master bedroom were in tough shape – there were a number of stains throughout, and quite a few gouges from negligent carpet-layers in the past. All but one small stain was sanded out, and that small stain is barely noticeable.

Before - Master Bedroom.
During - Master Bedroom.
After - Master Bedroom.

KP’s Bedroom

The floors in KP’s room had some of the worst staining in the house – particularly that dark circle in the bottom left side of the first photo. That spot is still visible, but it’s not bad.

Before - KP's Bedroom.
During - KP's Bedroom.
After - KP's Bedroom.

So that’s it, readers. Now we have to move all our furniture in again. Didn’t we just do this 4 months ago?

Kitchen Threshold Project

Mel and I have been working on another special project lately.  It’s another one of the final details left over from refinishing our hardwood floors.  This is one of the tasks that we had paid The Floor Guy to do, but he never got around to doing it before he disappeared on us.

So here’s the situation:  After The Floor Guy “finished,” we still had to figure out some sort of threshold to match the kitchen tile into the hardwood floors.

As you can see in this next photo, the kitchen tile is a good 1-1.5 inches higher than the hardwoods.  This is a little bit taller than most off-the-shelf thresholds are designed to handle.

In addition, the edge of the kitchen flooring isn’t exactly straight, either.  In this next photo, you can see that the tile edge is pretty straight, but the kitchen subfloors stick out past the edge of the tile in totally uneven ways:

The Floor Guy had made a half-hearted effort.  He had purchased and stained a threshold for us, but he never  got around to installing it.  Several weeks and many attempts to get in touch with him later, I came home to find that he had left this threshold on our front doorstep, and he’d left me a voice mail message saying, “Hey, I’m really busy.  Why don’t you just cut and install this yourself?”  As a side note, anytime I would try to contact The Floor Guy to get him to come finish the job we paid him to do, his excuse was always that he was too busy working on other floors to finish ours.  It’s still not clear to me whether he actually believes this is a good excuse or not.

Anyway, it’s just as well that The Floor Guy didn’t come back to install it – I’m sure I wouldn’t have been happy with his work.  The piece he had bought was clearly insufficient.  It was never designed to be a threshold piece in the first place, and it wasn’t even close to being tall enough:

I also wasn’t impressed with the stain The Floor Guy had chosen.  It didn’t really match the rest of the floors.

So I bought a maple 1×4 and created a second threshold piece designed to raise the first piece up.  Here’s a photo of the 1×4 after I’ve tested some of the stain colors.  I ended up sanding all the stain off the piece The Floor Guy left for us and re-stained it so that it would be a better match.

Here’s the first piece of the threshold:

And here’s the final product after both pieces are in place:

Installing Base Shoe Moulding

Get ready, folks!  This post will knock your socks off!

Mel and I finally got around to putting the finishing touches on our new hardwood floors this weekend.  After The Floor Guy had “finished” the new floors, we were left with a bunch of gaps to fill around the edges of the room.  All the baseboards were scuffed up and needed a new coat of paint.  Also, the house has settled so much that there are some pretty significant gaps between the baseboards and the floor in some places.  Notice that you can see all the way down into the basement in this photo:

Luckily, my in-laws gave us a great new toy to try out.  It’s an air compressor and a few air nailers (thanks, in-laws!!).  I’ve never used any air tools before.  It always seemed like a tool for pros – something out of my league only the big kids get to play with.  I always thought I’d have a hard time keeping control of one of these things because of my little girl arms.  But it’s actually pretty dang accessible.  Using an air nailer, I spent about 20 minutes doing what would have easily taken me several hours using the old fashioned hammer – AND I ended up with a much cleaner final product.  Pssh.  Hammers are for suckers!

Here’s a couple action shots for you:

And here’s a shot of the finished base shoe:

Pretty neat, huh?

How about you?  Any suckers out their still using hammers?

Plugging the Radiator Holes in the Floor

NOTE: This post was written primarily as a form of therapy to help me cope with what turned out to be an unfortunate business relationship that caused me to flip my lid.  Read with caution.I apologize for the passive anger fueling this post.

Regular readers will recall that we hired The Floor Guy to refinish our floors a while back.  For the most part, we were happy with him and the final product, but there were also several things that we were disappointed with.  In particular, there was one thing The Floor Guy did that was completely asinine (to quote The Roof Guy).

Back when we were still trying to figure out if the floor was worthy of restoration, one thing I was particularly worried about was all of the holes in the floor from the old radiator pipes.  In total, there were six holes, each about 1.5 inches in diameter that would need to be repaired.

When The Floor Guy came over, I asked him about the holes and how he planned to fix them.

“I’ll stick a tree branch in them.”

Say what?  A tree branch?

The Floor Guy was proposing to fix them by sticking a tree branch in them, apparently.

In hindsight, this should have been a huge red flag.  And it was, I guess.  I was skeptical from the beginning about “sticking a tree branch in it.”  But I knew from googling around that it’s common to use tapered plugs that you jam into the hole and then sand until they’re flush with the floor.  And so when The Floor Guy proposed doing virtually the same thing but with a tree branch, well, I just assumed he knew what he was talking about.  He said it with such confidence.

I knew something was wrong, however, when he had finished sanding and hadn’t filled the holes, yet.  I was curious how he was planning on making sure that the plugs would end up flush with the finished floor.  Still, I was pretty darn impressed with the sanding he’d done, and he hadn’t yet given me reason to doubt that he knew what he was doing.

The problem became more apparent as work progressed, however. I came home one day to find that he had plugged the holes, but half of them looked like this:

In case it’s hard to tell from the photo, the plug has sunk about a half inch below the level of the finished floor.  None of the plugs he used fit tightly in the holes.  The Floor Guy had attempted to glue them in place, but it didn’t work because the gaps around the edges of the plugs were too big.  With hardly any effort, it was simple to push the plugs straight down through the floor into the basement.

I pointed that out to the floor guy and indicated that I thought the plugs needed to be supported from underneath, and he assured me he’d fix it. Later, he told me he’d fixed it (“I used tons of Gorilla Glue this time!”), but again, when placing hardly any pressure on the plugs, they fell right through.  And he hadn’t even tried to fix several of the other plugs.

So then we had to have an uncomfortable conversation, which I’ll quickly paraphrase:

“Gluing them in place isn’t working.  I think the plugs need to be supported from underneath.”
“No, they’re fine.  They won’t fall out.”
“Yes they will. One of them already has and the rest will fall out as soon as someone sets a chair leg down on them.”
“Well don’t put a chair leg on it.”
“The plugs are too small. They don’t fit tightly in the holes.”
“They were tight when I put them in, they shrunk because I used a branch from a live tree.”
“You told me you’d done this before. Shouldn’t you have anticipated that?”
“Well I’m only charging you $10 to fix the holes… What else do you want?  We spent a long time trying to get the Gorilla Glue in there.  I’ll fix it when I come back to install the kitchen threshold in a couple days.”
You’re an asshat.  Get out of my house and don’t come back.”

Ok, I didn’t actually say the last one, but I wanted to.  The truth is that I had already paid the guy, so he had little reason to care about whether he’d done a good job.  And he did still have to come back one last time to do one more thing.

After this conversation, it became clear than he and I had very different ideas about quality.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a total hack.  I do a half-assed job at a lot of our home improvement projects, but this guy is making me look like Bob Vila!  If this was representative of The Floor Guy’s hole-fixing skills, I wasn’t sure I wanted him to try again, especially since all he was talking about was “more Gorilla Glue.”  It became clear to me that even if I fought with the guy to make him try to fix it a third time, I wasn’t going to be happy with whatever he came up with.

I didn’t actually mind that the plugs weren’t tight in the holes.  The old floor is full of gaps and cracks, so it’s really not a big deal if the plugs aren’t totally snug.  I just didn’t want them falling through the floor into the basement the first time somebody looked at them wrong.  Is that too much to ask?  If the plugs aren’t going to be snug in the holes, I felt pretty strongly that they needed to be supported from underneath somehow. So I had to fix it myself, which was annoying since I had already paid him to do it.

The first step was to remove all the old plugs, which wasn’t hard at all since they were falling out on their own anyway. Here’s a couple photos of one of the plugs, which The Floor Guy had attempted to support from underneath with a crumpled up piece of paper and duct tape:


Here’s a photo of one of the other plugs looking up from the basement:

Yes, that’s an 8 inch tree branch sticking through the subfloor into the basement.  Am I the only one that thinks this is asinine?

Providing modest support from beneath was easy.  I just screwed a piece of plywood onto the underside of the subfloor across the holes. Nothing complicated here.  It just has to be strong enough that the plugs don’t have to defy gravity to stay in place.

Once all the holes had a bottom on them (i.e. they weren’t just gaping holes straight into the basement), it was easy to cut the 8 inch tree branch plugs down to the right height and glue them into place again.  Here’s what one of them looked like when I was done:

The worst part is that this has left me with a sour taste in my mouth about the whole experience. The Floor Guy was recommended by a friend, who has hired him several times in the past and had good experiences each time.  The Floor Guy was nice enough, and responded quickly to most of my requests.  In addition I was quite satisfied with the rest of the work performed by The Floor Guy. Overall, I think the floors look great. Still, it is unlikely that I would recommend The Floor Guy to a friend in the future.

What do you think, readers?  Am I an unreasonable customer, or am I getting exactly what I paid for from a guy who proposed to “stick a tree branch in it” for $10?

Hardwood Floors: Update

Ever since we bought our home back in 2006, I’ve dreamed about restoring the original hardwood floors.  We knew there were some hardwood floors hidden underneath all the carpets, but we had no idea what condition they were in, or if restoring them was possible.  The only way to find out was to rip the carpet out. On tuesday, The Carpet Guy came over and pulled all the carpets off the entire downstairs.  Here’s what we found:



Yikes, huh?  Are these restorable?  Hell if I know, right?  So I called The Floor Guy, and he didn’t seem to think they were bad at all.  I kept pointing out cracks, gaps, holes, and other flaws, and he seemed entirely unconcerned (which, of course, is exactly how a person would act if they wanted to get hired even if he had major concerns…).  So we hired the guy, and after about 6 hours of work, this is what it looked like:



Looks pretty good to me! However, hardwood floor experts will quickly recognize that the floor is actually significantly discolored in a number of places, or at least that’s what The Floor Guy tells me. He also tells me the offending substance is likely dog urine. Yuck. Yet another reason why Mel and I are not interested in pet ownership, even if it knows how to pee outside.

So while Mel and I are fans of the bare wood look, The Floor Guy strongly recommends that we apply a stain to the floor, a service he has kindly offered to provide for us (for a small fee, of course).

Ok, that’s it for now.  The stain should be down by tomorrow, and the urethane done by the end of the weekend.  Stay tuned for more updates.

Big Changes Today – New Carpet

So if you’re wondering why I’ve cranked out like 4+ posts today, it’s because I took the day off to be home while The Carpet Guy puts some new carpet down in the bedroom and disposes of the carpet downstairs.  So while they’re slaving away, I’m just sitting here writing blog posts.  Anyway, I thought I’d post some photos of what it looked like before they started – not because anyone cares, but just because I’m bored and don’t have a lot to do right now.  After they leave I’ll post some photos of the final product.


Guest Bedroom:

Master Bedroom:

Dining Room:

Living Room:


After photos to come later!