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Reviewing Flooring Options

By House*Tweaking on Jan 11, 2012

…Oh, the flooring. This is the post where you’re probably expecting some great ‘after’ shots of our new engineered hardwoods. Sorry to disappoint, but we’re nowhere near done with the flooring install. This is real life people. So, I’m not going to sugar coat anything. Not even for the sake of keeping a chipper attitude on a blog.

First, let’s start with the underlayment and flooring we’re using. We purchased both the underlayment and engineered hardwood flooring from Build Direct. Everything arrived on time and undamaged. We’re actually quite happy with that part of the whole flooring thing.

The underlayment is 3 in 1 Sound Choice Acoustical Underlayment. As the name suggests, it provides acoustical insulation along with a moisture barrier. Both of these characteristics are necessary for our Underdog as we’re installing the flooring in a room with vaulted ceilings {echoes, hello…hello…hello} and onto a concrete slab. It has a lifetime warranty and is made from recycled materials. We paid $0.49/sq ft for the underlayment.

The engineered hardwood flooring is Jasper Handscraped Birch in Texas Brown. It’s recommended for residential use above or below grade and has a 25-year warranty. It can be glued, floated, nailed and/or stapled during installation. We chose it for its ability to be placed on a concrete slab, its aesthetic {5″ width, handscraped, color and grain} and the price. We scored it for $2.04/ sq ft.

Once the underlayment and flooring were delivered, we stored them both in the Underdog’s garage – against the manufacturer’s suggestion and our better judgment – but we really had no other choice as the Underdog’s interior was a disaster zone. If you ever choose to purchase hardwoods, you shouldn’t store the flooring in a garage or basement due to high levels of moisture that can cause the wood to warp. We did keep the stack of boxes up off the floor with a skid and brought the flooring inside the house to acclimate once the house was in working order…about a week before we started installing the floors.

Handy Hubby laid the underlayment which was a piece of cake. Basically, you just cut it to size and tape all seams. The big thing here to remember is that your subfloor {in our case, the concrete slab} is clean, dry and free of debris. We scraped, vacuumed and mopped the slab in preparation for the underlayment.

Once the underlayment was down, it reminded me of turf and I couldn’t wait to cover it up. It’s like a giant green screen on the floor and it messes with your eyes and brain after a while. All the paint we had just put on the walls and ceilings started looking quirky but it was just because of the very green underlayment.

The next step was where stuff got a little hairy. You may have previously read that HH is an engineer. So he likes things {particularly measurements} to be exact. Which is all well and good – except when things aren’t exact.

We decided we wanted the flooring to run the length of the house {parallel with the hall} as opposed to running from the front of the house to the back. HH wanted the boards to run perfectly down the hallway so we made a chalk line straight down the center of it into the great room. We used the chalk line to line up our first row of floor boards under the big picture window in the family room. To square things up, we used spacers along the wall. We were very promiscuous with our spacers along this first row. Everything was measuring up, so we set to work placing, cutting and gluing our tongue and groove engineered hardwoods. We used Roberts Tongue & Groove Adhesive #1406. It’s no VOC, non-toxic and non-flammable.

Now, when I say ‘gluing’ I don’t mean gluing the boards to the underlayment. We’re gluing each and every board’s tongue and groove to the adjacent board which will essentially create one floating floor in the end. Typically, tongue and groove flooring can be nailed down but with a concrete slab and no subfloor, that’s not an option for us. {We weren’t willing to put down a floating subfloor and lose height/mess with all the door openings.} Quick-click flooring would have been a great time-saving option for us but, when we were shopping around for flooring, prices for quick-click floors were at least $2 more per sq ft than the $2.04/sq ft we paid for the Jasper Texas Brown. That would have doubled the cost…although it probably would have knocked off our installation time by more than half. Next time we install hardwoods ourselves {which I don’t foresee happening for a long time}, we might think twice about paying more $$$ for a floor that can be installed in a timely manner. But for now, we’re on a tight budget and sticking with what we’ve got.

I wouldn’t say installing this flooring is difficult but it’s definitely time consuming. Gluing every last seam is tedious. And because we stored the flooring in the garage, some of the longest boards {the floor comes in random lengths} are warped. Boo. Totally our fault. The good news is they aren’t completely unusable. We’re finding that if we use them at the end of a row and cut them to fit, the cut is releasing the board so that it no longer bows. So all is not lost. Plus, not all of the longest boards seem to be affected…only the ones that were in boxes at the bottom of the stack in the garage.

After 6 hours of nothing but installation on that first day, HH and I didn’t even get half of the great room done. :( We knew then and there that we were in for a looooooong project. The next day, I worked at my real job while HH spent his last vacation day over at the Underdog working on the floor. I got a call from HH just a few hours in and he was distraught. He had busted out his trusty laser level and found that at the rate he was going, it was going to put that elusive center board down the hallway ‘off.’ Here, I’m thinking the hallway is going to be all crooked, diagonal. I asked him how ‘off’ it was. He said 1/4″. I thought he was maybe going to cry.

I immediately told HH that it might not be perfect and I would be okay with that. No big deal. I advised him to put his laser level away. All I could hear on the other end of the phone was heavy sighing. That’s when I all but forced him to take a day off. Up until that day, HH had spent 3 straight vacation weeks working on the Underdog. During that time he only took one day off…Christmas Day. He needed a break. He was sore. He was exhausted. And if you ask me, he was a little delirious – and rightfully so! Who wouldn’t be after all that hard labor and little rest?

HH’s response? “But I have to get us in here.” Meaning, he wanted to get his family into a true home instead of a temporary apartment. I could have cried myself. That’s all he wanted. I assured him I was fine with our temporary living arrangement. Even if it was turning out to be longer than what we had anticipated. Even if it meant bringing home a newborn to a teeny apartment.

No house is worth HH’s physical or mental well-being. So after some coercion, HH did it. He took a break. A much needed break. After 4 full months of putting in an extra 20-30 hours of labor per week {on top of his regular 40+ hour work week} at the Underdog, HH got out of there and traded sawdust for fresh air instead.

This is where I want to tell HH in front of a lot of people how much I love and appreciate him. Do you think that’s too sappy? Well, too bad because this man completely deserves it. He is working his a$$ off and not complaining one bit. He misses dinner with his family regularly to squeeze in a little project at the Underdog. He comes home exhausted yet manages to bathe and dress the kids for bedtime because I’m the one who’s complaining of being tired. Sometimes he misses the kids’ bedtime altogether to stay late and renovate then comes home and plans what he needs to DIY the next day. He’s nonstop. I don’t know how he does it. But I love him for it. He’s doing it for us, for our family and I feel very lucky that he picked me to be his wife. He’s amazing. ‘Nuf said.

So after coming to the realization that this flooring install isn’t going to happen overnight {but if the Flooring Fairy wants to pay us visit we won’t turn her away!}, we’re taking it one day, one board at a time. “Patience is the key to joy.” That was HH’s fortune in his fortune cookie this past weekend. How fitting, right?

The *very dirrrrty* install looks like this currently…

HH has been randomly placing painter’s tape onto the flooring once glued to keep the seams nice and tight. We’re still holding out on painting the brick fireplace surround. Since removing primer and paint from brick is nearly impossible, we just want to be 100% positive it’s what we want before we take the irreversible painting plunge.

If you ask me, the hallway looks fabulous! Just don’t ask HH’s laser level. ;)

The best news? HH and I both love the way the floor is looking – minus the dirt and dust. Here’s a better shot of the wood tone and grain…

I can’t wait to give it a good cleaning. After we finish the bedrooms and other half of the great room, that is.

Thanks to all of you who have shared your own tongue and groove glue installs with me! It really helps to know that others have done it and found the results to be well worth their while. Such an inspiration!

FYI – I was not compensated in any way for mentioning all those products. Just sharing what we’re using!

images: 1&2) Build Direct  3-12) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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