A few years ago, I replaced the flooring in my sons room from Berber carpet to laminate flooring from Ikea. I documented all of this and posted it on a site that was hosted by Comcast, our internet provider. As a stroke of bad luck and a sign of their brilliant service, Comcast decided to change my user ID & password and at the same time deleted the entire directory of where this was posted. Sadly, also in a Cabernet induced haze, I had a typo in the file name and couldn’t find it on my computer. I thought that it was lost forever.
Until now. (Cue film noir music)
Today, while cleaning up another directory, I lucked upon all of these old files. They are from August 2004 and if you are a.) Planning the project of putting down laminate flooring or b.) just love old music references from almost 3 years ago, this is a must read post.
So, without further adieu, here is one of my first home renovation blog postings (prior to blogs becoming mainstream).
When we moved to our home 3 years ago, we had a very unattractive ‘sun room’ that came with it. While it was adequate for the old woman who lived here before us to use to look out at her yard and watch the plants grow, it wasn’t much of a room that we, as a family could spend time in. Originally, when we moved in, this room was pretty empty, but when my daughter was born, this room became my pinball room / office.
Once we moved stuff in here, we started using the back door as the main entrance to the house. The Berber carpet that was in the room, just couldn’t take the wear and tear. It became ugly, almost to the point of embarrassment. My wife and I discussed removing it a year or so ago, but thought that we would be doing a remodel sooner rather than later and couldn’t see putting the money into a project like this.
Not very pretty, huh? Notice the spots on the carpet? No amount of cleaning, amateur or professional would get them to permanently go away. It also seemed that each time we cleaned them, they would come back, just darker and there would be more of them. It was like a Hitchcock film, just less scary.
Now that my son has arrived, I have been tasked to do a minor remodel on this room in order to make it into his bedroom. We have decided to keep the armoire that houses the computer here, but that is it. My pinball machine got relocated into the garage, where it will stay until we do our remodel and I get my office back. A sad day for mankind.
We decided early on that the carpet had to go. We would rip up the carpet and put down laminate flooring such as Pergo or something similar, but less expensive. We would also paint the room. As a final touch to a kids room, we lucked into finding an antique dresser at a yard sale earlier in the summer. Coincidentally, the dresser is almost identical to the dresser / changing table that we got for our daughter; only it was $10 not $400 and needed to be refinished.
Oh, did I mention that I had about a weekend to do this project?
Step 1 – Painting
Like any smart man, I let my wife make all of the aesthetic decisions in our house. I always say ‘Happy wife, happy life.’ She wanted the room to be a mint green. Who am it to argue? Plus she painted it. The great part about painting a room that you are about to remodel is
that you don’t really care if paint gets on the floor.
The week before I was to get started on the floors, we were able to have a neighbor help move the pinball machine out of the house. We cleared everything else out of the room and put it into various other places in the house and she started to paint.
Already it looked a lot better. We should have done that a long time ago too.
Step 2 – The Carpet
Once we got that big desk out of the room, it was time to start tearing up the carpet. The family was gone and I was on my own to bask in the glow of my own masculinity. Then it dawned on me that I am not that strong of a guy. 125 square feet of carpet isn’t a whole lot, but I knew that, especially being odd shaped, it was going to fight me to get it out of the room. And it did. Actually getting the carpet out of the room wasn’t too bad, it was getting the carpet tacking up that was the problem. It was embedded into the concrete sub-floor and getting pieces out were extremely easy, or down right horrible. They some how got caught up in the cement and when I pulled the tacking, it splintered everywhere. Then I had to pull the nails out individually or smash them into the concrete. Either way, it wasn’t a good use of time.
Eventually, I was able to get it all and I was left with this beautiful honeycombed linoleum underneath. I tried to convince my wife to let us keep this, but she wasn’t going for it. I am actually pretty surprised that at some point in this so called advanced civilization that someone would actually go into a store and say ‘Honey, we just gotta have that. It will give our sun room that hornets nest look that I have always admired.’
Step 3 – The Floor
The challenge for this project regarding the flooring was to try to find flooring that would look good, match our existing flooring closely and last a minimum of 5 years. We figure by that point, we will either have remodeled the house or moved out and it will be someone else’s problem.
We decided to go with Ikea Hemse flooring. I know what you’re thinking, but I was sold by their in store advertising of the flooring. The one that says ‘This floor gets 350,000 people a year walking across it, do you think that your floor gets as much traffic?’ or something along those lines. For that program they are actually selling their Tundra line of flooring. What I found was the 6mm Hemse that looks the same and is $0.50 a foot less expensive. It came with a 15 year warranty so I was sold. This should cut it.
The best part of this flooring were the instructions. Like anything from Ikea, they really make it simple by putting in a couple of stick figure drawings and making little warning labels suggesting that you don’t cut off your hands or anything when sawing the planks. I swear, Ikea could show you how to completely gut your house and rebuild with 4 pages of instructions in every language known to mankind and a few extra dowel rods.
What I learned (or if you try this at home, what you should do differently)
One of the first instructions is to cut away the pieces of trim around any door jams so that you can slide the flooring underneath. I recommend actually replacing the trim around the door. Don’t try to cut it with a hand saw. You will either wreck your knuckles or cut too high and have a big gap that you have to fill using putty, caulk and quarter round. I ended up doing the latter. If your room is so messed up that you need to replace the flooring, you can probably use replacing the trim around your doors too. It will save you hours of patch work in the long run.
The first step is to lay down Styrofoam under-flooring. I laid down a piece, taped it to another, laid that one down, across the floor. If I were to do something different, I would lay down my first piece, secure it to the floor using tape and put the floor boards over it until I reached the
end. Then I would lay down the second piece of Styrofoam. I tried to make a big sheet as you will see in the picture below and ended up walking all over it and it buckled. I ultimately pulled it up and laid it down as I went along. It would have saved me about 45 minutes had I down it my new way.
Once you have the under floor down, you start laying boards. Laying down laminate flooring is like doing a jigsaw puzzle where you can create the pieces. It is amazingly simple and came out looking really nice. The hardest part is laying down the first and last strips. I live in a 70 year old home, so there are no right angles. Everything in the middle is a breeze.
The only help that I had for this project was my dog who clearly has some deal with Floor Layers Local. She didn’t offer much value.
The really tricky part was the last wall. As I mentioned, nothing in this house is level or at a 90 degree angle, so I needed to meticulously cut each piece individually at a weird angle (another two words of advice on doing these cuts: 1.) Diamond carbide bit on a circular saw. The only way to go. 2.) Wear ear plugs. For some reason this stuff makes a very weird, loud, awkward pitched noise that really bothered my ears). However, another great part of this stuff is that it floats. Meaning that it needs to be a quarter of an inch away from all of the walls. Any screw-ups can be covered up by baseboards.
Step 3 – Baseboards
For Fathers day this year, I treated myself to a compound miter saw. It is awesome and the only way to do baseboards or any trim for that matter. I bought pre-primered baseboards at Home Depot, which I swore up and down I would never do because their lumber is crap, but hey, I was there and they were cheap. What are you gonna do?
Adding the baseboards was really simple. Just cut and nail up. I did have one section where I had to use Liquid Nails in order to get them to stick to a brick area in the room. It worked nicely.
Step 4 – Electrical
I swapped out old outlets with grounded new ones, big whup.
Step 5 – The Dresser
When our daughter was born, being our first, we wanted the best changing table / dresser that we could find. We searched high and low and came across a great one in an antique store in San Francisco for $400. We thought that we hit the jack pot.
Walking home from coffee with the dog and kids a few weeks ago, I found, almost, the exact same dresser at a yard sale for $10. So much for my original jack pot. But we bought it in pretty pathetic shape. The guy at the yard sale told me that I would have to refinish it.
Yeah, no kidding.
So I broke out the CitriStip and got to cracken with it. JASCO works a lot better than CitriStrip, but CitriStrip has a nice orange fragrance that gave me a migraine. Also, unlike JASCO, CitriStrip doesn’t burn (as much) if you get it on your skin. It did, but it just left a small mark, where as the last time I used JASCO, it ate through my rubber gloves and burnt my hands.
A little bit of elbow grease later and I had a pretty well stripped dresser for $10 and about 2 hours worth of letting chemicals sit and scrapping.
3 Cans of Rustoleum later, and I had a very nice dresser / changing table. A little bit of 100 grit sand paper and it now has a very nice, distressed look to it. Rather than spending a ton of dough on fancy knobs, I bought $0.59 knobs and painted them the same color as the room and took a white paint marker and put white polka-dots on them. They look like $12 knobs from any nice home store.
Step 6 – Moving In:
This was the easy part. Just pick everything up and move it back in. Wa La, a finished room.
Be it ever so humble.
- Square footage – Approx. 125
- Extra boards – Only about 16 square feet
- Wasted boards – Only about 3
- Injuries – 2 – 1 Carpet tack to the hand; 1 burn by paint stripper (which led to the purchase of elbow length chemical gloves)
- Amount of Paint – Less than a gallon
- Feet of baseboard – about 46
- Beers consumed – Many – Shout out to Gordon Biersch, New Castle, Anchor Steam & Modelo
- Total number of hours – About 25
- Crimes committed – What carpet?
- Trips to the hardware store – 6
- Total cost – about $450.00
Special thanks to Apple for inventing the iPod, the greatest thing to happen to music since the electric amplifier. This is just a partial list of artists that help to make this project more tolerable:
Busta Rhymes, Saves the Day, Johnny Cash, Helmet (whatever happened to them anyway?), Archers of Loaf, Jay Z, Kevin Seconds (when did he begin to suck?), Wu Tang Clan, Mr. T Experience, Sparta, Rocket From the Crypt, 12 Step Rebels, James Brown, Beastie Boys, Luda, Tribe,2PA, Atom & His Package, Warren Zevon, Kool Keith (Black Elvis, Dr. Octagon & Matthew), Dropkick Murphys, Bouncing Souls, Public Enemy, Manic Hispanic, Propaghandi, Lyle Lovett, Erik Sermon & EPMD, Uncle Tupelo, Nelly, The Vindictives, Jurassic 5, Old 97’s, Hank III, and many, many others. Thank God for shuffle.