Get on the floor. Seriously, wood, get out of those boxes and do your thing.
Oh how I wish it were that easy. Turns out laying oak flooring takes some serious time. But man oh man is it gorgeous when it’s down. So it turns out wood-floor-laying, my friends, is time well spent (picture me saying that as confidently as Ron Swanson says “turkey can never beat cow”).
Don’t mind the dusty little path emerging from Clara’s room. We still have a few more spots to sweep…
As we mentioned here, we decided to go with solid oak hardwoods for the four bedrooms and the hallway upstairs since many rooms downstairs (plus the stairs) have nice medium toned oak hardwoods already (pretty similar to the hardwoods in our first house that ended up being super dog/kid friendly). But there was a pretty sizable speed bump when it came to getting them in. The issue? Our subfloor:
Particle board subfloors aren’t always great under hardwoods – especially when you buy nail-in flooring like we did. Some folks install right over it without any issues while other folks have big problems down the line. Because it’s so unpredictable, hardwood manufacturers void the warranty if you install them that way – which was definitely not a risk we were willing to take. According to our initial research, we were left with three not-so-hot options.
- Return the meant-to-be-nailed flooring and buy a meant-to-be-floated floor instead. But after falling hard for the one we picked and our adventure getting it home, we weren’t eager to take it back. Especially since none of the floating options were as close of a match to our existing wood stairs and hardwoods downstairs.
- Remove the particle board subfloor to (hopefully) reveal plywood underneath. This would’ve been time-intensive (the particle board was laid under all of the door jambs and everything) and it would’ve lowered the level of the floor (making door heights and transitions into the bathrooms weird). It would also cause us to lose the sound deadening effect that this particle board was installed to create in the first place. And we definitely didn’t want a loud and echo-ey floor upstairs.
- Install plywood right over the particle board. This was most the promising option, except that it too would’ve been time intensive, would’ve raised the floors (requiring us to cut down all of the doors and live with a noticeably high top step of the stairs). It would also carry an extra material cost.
But as we talked everything through with the Lumber Liquidators guy, he suggested a fourth option: an underlayment called Elastilon.
We were nervous about it at first, but after learning more about it, it felt like a great solution. Apparently it’s technology that was designed over a decade ago in Europe, primarily to help people install hardwoods over un-nailable surfaces like concrete or even tile. It’s like typical underlayment, but it’s also adhesive so your wood sticks to it like a giant glue mat instead of being nailed down. We were iffy about it at first, but after finding some very positive reviews of the stuff and watching an installation video or two that showed it to be a pretty easy process, we were pretty much sold. Here were some of the things we loved about it (in addition to solving our little particle board issue):
- It has a lifetime warranty, and is guaranteed to last as long as the hardwoods
- It’s elastic, so it stretches along with your boards during seasonal changes in temperature (this helps to prevent cracking, gapping, or warping)
- We only needed an exacto knife to install it, which saved us the expense of buying or repeatedly renting a nailer (although we were a little sad not to get to try one)
- It’s non-toxic, has no-VOCs, and no odor – which is great considering it’s an adhesive product
The main downside to it is the price, since it was about $100 more per roll than the good sound deadening underlayment that we’d planned to use. But given our other options, we just had to suck it up and shell out some extra dough. In the end we spent about $500 more than we expected, but we saved money by not needing a nailer, got 10% off our entire order, and dodged a hefty 4K installation charge by laying the flooring ourselves, so it wasn’t too bad.
As we had heard, getting started with the Elastilon took some getting used to – but once we found our groove it was a pretty swift and easy process. With our floors clean and dry, we rolled out the Elastilon, leaving a little extra flap along the wall on one side of the room per the instructions.
Then you peel the protective plastic off that excess tab and cut off the remaining sticky underlayment (the black part) with a utility knife.
The extra rectangle of sticky stuff can be set aside, and the little flap of plastic becomes very important as you start to lay your first row…
Laying the first row is a tricky step, since it sets the tone for how straight your entire floor will be. And you can’t always trust your drywall to be straight. So we started building our floor using some of the longest, straightest boards we could find to help overcome any curves in the wall. Oh, and those are scrap wood spacers against the wall that help leave an expansion gap around the edge (for when changes in temperature may make the floor expand).
Another thing that helped us feel more confident about our first row being straight was laying it across as long of a wall as possible. For us, this meant taking our first row all the way out into the hallway. Which also meant rough-setting a lot of boards before anything was actually ever stuck down – just to make sure they didn’t look wonky.
Once we felt good about our first few rows being straight, it was time to permanently secure them in place. Here’s where that extra flap of plastic comes in handy. You pull on it slowly so that it exposes the sticky Elastilon beneath the floor boards, so the bottom of the boards can be joined to the underlayment, permanently holding them in place.
Once those boards touch the Elastilon, boy are they stuck. It takes a good yank (and sometimes even a pry) to get them loose. So that makes us feel good about the long term hold of this stuff!
From there, it was pretty much the same process – lay a couple rows, bang them in tightly, peel back the plastic so they’re secured, and move on. Laying the boards was just like any floor – the boards have a tongue and groove that slide together, and we used a rubber mallet to tap them snugly into place.
We also used a bit of wood glue on the groove at the end of each plank as suggested, just to further secure everything.
Oh and we periodically taped the boards together, which was also recommended – just to discourage slipping or shifting during the install. If there are two of you working on this project, one person might grab boards, run a bead of glue along the end grove (seen above), and hand them to the other person who’s clicking them in and hammering them into place. The person on glue duty can also pull the Elastilon every few rows and toss down some tape as you go. That’s the grove that Sherry and I got into (and every few hours we switched jobs to keep from getting too sore/tired).
The result? A super tight gap-less floor that will still flex with fluctuations in temperature without cracking or warping – and it should outlast us. Huzzah!
Except… as simple as the process was, it still was not a quick process. I think our bedroom took us 10 hours to tackle together (across two days) while my parents watched Clara. Granted it was the largest room and it was our first one, but boy did it not inspire much confidence in how quickly this could get done.
As is the DIY way, there are always little curve balls. For example, we originally had hoped to not have to remove our baseboards. But when we looked at things more closely, losing 3/4″ of the baseboard behind the floor made them look dorky-short. And we learned that neither quarter round alone (nor baseboards alone) would cover the expansion gap that our hardwoods required in order to keep the warranty in tact. So we pried all of our baseboards up and resigned ourselves to later having to reinstall them with quarter round. Le sigh. At least they’re already painted so we’ll just have a few small touch ups to take care of.
The good news is that we made lots of progress over the long weekend and yesterday evening we finally finished. We even got around to adding the baseboards back and placing the quarter round in most of the rooms already. The floors are looking awesome and feeling super solid.
So much better than the carpet.
One of my favorite things about the new floor is that it runs seamlessly through all four bedrooms and down the long hall, so there are no transitions where it meets any doorways (except for the two tiled bathrooms of course). It’s definitely a nice clean look not to start and stop it in each bedroom or have a seam or threshold where it meets the hallway.
As for our timeline, we’re moving in this Saturday and Sunday, so we eked these floors out just in time. All that’s left on the agenda is to finish packing and get all moved in this weekend. Now if only we could stop seeing planks of wood floating in front of our eyes when we close them at night. Seriously, we’re both having dreams about laying rows and rows and rows…
PS- Here’s a follow up post about how we dealt with tricky installation issues like transitions, angled walls, door jambs, how the wood met the top of the stairs, etc.
It looks gorgeous guys!! That hard work REALLY paid off!!
Kelly Bartlett says
Use a Norwex mop to dust and wash those floors! They are beautiful so use water only with the mop. No cleaning products and you’ll keep them shiney and fabulous! :-)
When we put hard wood in were told never to use any water on the floors.
Camilla @ Something Is Done says
Wow, what a huge difference it has made already! With the freshly painted trim and new floors, the house looks livable, definitely livable! Much better than before =).
Wow. It looks A-MAZ-ING! You must be so excited :)
Jennifer I says
WOW! I cannot believe you pulled that off. What a massive job. That underlaying product is really neat, never heard of that. Looks beautiful.
Krista S. says
Looks beautiful! How tricky was it to deal with all those angles in the hallway?
We just did our best to make cuts at the same angle (we used a miter saw) and then when the baseboard and quarter round went on it made it all look like a nice finished edge, even with the expansion gap hiding under them.
The floor looks really beautiful you guys! What a difference wood floor and paint makes?! That upstairs has already done a 180. Can’t wait to see what else you’ve got cookin’ :)
where’s the like button? :)
Wow! Looks great! You guys are such an inspiration!
Those floors are sexy!! Awesome job :)
Wow, what a difference that makes! Great job!
Wendy @ New Moms Talk says
The floors look beautiful!
Just think of how much fun a little dance party will be on them once the move is settled. Perhaps new “we finished the floors” socks are in order for everyone for the dance party!
I was going to comment that the hallway BEGS for some sock skating and knee sliding :) specially with those longitudinally positioned boards!
Anne @ Planting Sequoias says
This looks seriously amazing. GREAT WORK–and you will appreciate all the effort and time you put into it for YEARS to come! You make me want to pull out all of our carpet and go to town…but I think the landlord would be less than pleased. :)
Sew View says
Excellent work, guys. Just excellent.
Anele @ Success Along the Weigh says
I knew you guys would get it done in time. It looks beautiful and if I lived close, I’d offer a hand in moving so know I will be there in spirit helping you with the heavy lifting! :)
Laura C says
Wow! Awesome job and the info about Elastilon is so interesting – the super-stickiness makes it seem less forgiving than traditional installation methods, but faster. I’ve put in hardwood flooring using nails and it took forever…especially since we used a manual nailer. Seriously – soooo painful to have to drive in all of those little nails.
Woah! That sounds intense!
Amelia R. says
Manual nailer = hammer?
Sew View says
Excellent work, guys. Just excellent. And so inspirational.
GOOD JOB! It looks great! I think that dark flooring is a very american choise, in Denmark/scandinavia you hardly ever see dark wooden floors, but it looks so fine.
The floors look amazing. Had to laugh at your recurring dreams, though. It has been my experience that any long-running, repetitive task results in dreaming about it for at least one night. Kind of a DIY Groundhog day.
This sounds so over the top, but you guys really are visionaries. It’s so hard for me to imagine how good a previously awful house can look with just some paint and new floors. PROPS. :-)
Emma (Broke Ass Home) says
Wow! What an amazing difference already! You guys for sure got your money back on those already. The upstairs looks like a totally different house!
The floors look great! I was just wondering (I’ve probably missed it in a previous post), but do they match the other hardwoods throughout the first floor or will you replace those as well? Sorry if it has already been asked!
Oh yes, they’re really close to the color of the stairs and the hardwoods downstairs. We did a post about bringing home swatches and picking the closest one here.
Looks great! Love it!! I’m very inspired by the new house with its 2 stories and you all laying the wood floor. Congrats! on the new house and happy moving!
Wendy Scheel says
Brit [House Updated] says
Fantastic improvement! It is so helpful to hear about the process and how to overcome problems that lots of people may face (ugh, particleboard). With a new floor, are you a little bit scared to walk on it in shoes? When we redid our floors in our last house, it took me months to stop walking on my tip toes, even in bare feet!
Oh yeah, I’m definitely really protective of it. We’re moving small loads over to the new house and even putting boxes down I’m really gentle!
that hallway is already looking about a billion times better -it’s amazing how much brighter and crisper it looks!
Celia Rodriguez says
The floors look great! We are thinking about adding hardwoods on the second level (and stairs) instead of replacing the carpet but are nervous about cost. Can you share how much you spent in total?
I’ll have to get out the receipt for the final number (packing chaos! can’t find my underwear!) but it was $3.29 per square foot for the flooring – so just multiply that by your square footage for a good idea of the cost for your space (it depends on room size, etc). Then I’d add $500-1K for underlayment and other expenses (like a nailer if you’re going that route, nails, thresholds for where it meets bathrooms, etc). Hope it helps!
Wow……you must be running up and down the street shouting look what we just did. Looks fantastic
Ha ha, I would so want to do that!
Wow, the floors look amazing! Good luck with the moving process this weekend. I moved from an apt to a house this past weekend and it was such a pain! I’m still sore from lifting boxes and walking up and down 3 flights of stairs!
Karen L. says
Super job, Petersiks! Boy, y’all are brave to tackle such a big job but it’s clearly so worth all the work. They do look great! What an improvement and just in time—woot!
Wow, it looks lovely!
You two really amaze me. Moving, taking care of a toddler and installing your hardwood floors. My husband and I give high-fives if we make it to work with our bed made and a packed-lunch! haha!
You must be very excited for the move – good luck!
Lisa E says
“All that’s left on the agenda is to finish packing and get all moved in this weekend.” You mention that so calmly like it’s no big deal and it’s just two days away, although I know you can’t convey tone in writing. Excuse me for freaking for you! :D The floors look gorgeous! Best wishes on the next several days and try and get some sleep!!!
Haha! Last night we caravaned a few big loads over in SUVs with John’s parents so we’re feeling pretty good!
liz @ btb says
Ok, I know I’ll probably sound like I’m on drugs right now, but am I the only one who just saw a BEAR walk out of those boxes of flooring, across to the side bar and into the ad? The top ad on your side bar was for something National Geographic-esque and the pop-up of the bear came right out of the stack of boxes. Of course, now I keep refreshing your page in another window hoping to get a screenshot of the bear but ads for Pennington grass seed keep loading.
Again…. no drugs were taken prior to posting this comment. :)
Hahahahha! Someone else told us that! Ads are never supposed to interfere with content like that, so we’re trying to get to the bottom of it and block it. I think it’s for British Columbia?
liz @ btb says
It was so weird because it burst (I mean BURST!) right out of the boxes! So I thought y’all had designed the pop up. But then it mosey-ed on over to the side bar and walked right into the ad. I thought I was losing it for a minute there! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who’s seen it!
That bear be crazy! So funny. I wish we could see him (and then block him, sorry bear).
In my area, there’s often a pest control ad in which a cockroach runs across the screen and into the sidebar ad. I have literally screamed every time and even tossed by computer down the first time it happened. When you’re focused on something else further up the page, it’s easy to think that cockroach in the peripheral is real. Eww!
That’s crazy! We would love to block that one too! If you see it again if you let us know the company (and url when you roll over it) we can try to block it for ya!
I’m sure you want to deal with this so ads aren’t affecting your content but… I would love love LOVE to see this (the bear, I’ll pass on the cockroach!). :)
And the floors look absolutely fantastic, great job! We have birch floors in our house also installed seamlessly through rooms, which I love too. They looked great when we first moved in (installed by previous owner), but will never be my first – or last! – choice for flooring as they are on the soft end of the hardwood spectrum so pick up lots of dings etc. I try to focus on the fact that they’re well-loved. :-P
Haha, I agree! I want to see the bear. Just once. And then I want to send him packing…
Oh wow! You guys must be feeling a little stiff! That looks like it was seriously hard work. Congratulations, its fabulous looking. Already the upper floor is transformed. I think if I achieved that much with a new house in a year I would feel super proud. Hope the move goes seamlessly this weekend.
They look amazing! I noticed the blue trim is gone as well. What color and finish do you use for your trim?
Here’s the post about that for ya: https://www.younghouselove.com/buh-bye-blue-trim/ (it’s Simply White by Benjamin Moore).
My husband and put hardwood floor throughout our entire first floor… 3 bedrooms, long hall, kitchen, living room, dining room, sunroom, and two flights of stairs. It was our first time laying hardwood and I am sure it won’t be the last. The biggest thing I remember is it being SO tedious. It seemed to take forever to make progress and picking boards so you don’t have any seams close by added to the overall time. Good call on using oak though, we picked ash and we have to be really careful not to scratch it. I would definitely pick oak next time.
Have you found that the hardwood floors scratch at all with your dog? I think they’re beautiful but I’ve always been afraid of scratches because we have a large dog (chocolate lab) in the house. Can’t wait to see all of the projects to come at the new house!
We haven’t had any issues with scratching unless you drag a heavy piece of furniture across them – so Burger hasn’t made any marks and our current and first house also had dogs in them and the hardwoods we had there didn’t have any dog scratches either. Hope it helps!
We have two labs and I can tell you yes there are marks but it completely depends on what kind of wood you lay. Also, just my perspective, but I totally got over it as I expected some level of scratching. Softwood floors (like pine) will get beat up more. Hardwood floors (like oak) won’t be as bad. We have both in our house. Our pine floors are already rustic though, and I like the looks, so it doesn’t get me bent out of shape to see the marks on the floor. That said, we didn’t pay for our reclaimed pine floors, we recovered them from somewhere else for free. If we had paid their list price I might be upset. Then again, we never would have paid for them otherwise haha. With our oak floors there aren’t any marks that are sticking out in my head as specifically dog related. It’s pretty hard to scratch unless you drag furniture across it. I’m sure there are light scratches from them, but I just don’t notice them. Hope that helps! It hasn’t stopped us from putting down more hardwood throughout our addition, put it that way. :)
Becky, we have two dogs and did some research before installing our wood floors. Generally, the harder the wood, the better (so avoid things like bamboo and cork products) and it’s also best to get a wood that is not stained but that just has a clear protective coat. That way, if a dog does scratch the wood, you don’t see it as much. (If the wood is stained, and it’s scratched, the layer that’s exposed by the scratch is unstained, and the contrast is what draws the eye to it.)
We went with Brazilian walnut floors from LL and have been completely satisfied. Our floors show no signs of scratches or dents despite a 50-pound dog that loves to run indoors!
Our Brazilian cherry floors in the kitchen have lots of scratches from our Golden/lab mix. :-( They are just in the protective coat and could be fixed with a refinishing but that still doesn’t keep me from seeing them everyday and being a little sad. Our light bamboo in the bedroom have scratches too but the wood is so light you only notice them at certain angles. If I did it over I would seriously consider high-quality laminate floors for the dark color.
Amanda B says
My husband and I laid hand scraped laminate wood flooring for that exact reason! It looks just like hardwoods since it is hand scraped and textured, but has all of the wearability of a laminate wood. Also, the flooring guy told us that you cannot have a rolling computer chair (or any rolling furniture) on hardwoods as it will damage them and since we put the flooring in the office as well as the living room, that was out for us.
Megan @ Rappsody in Rooms says
Wow! How amazing do those floors looks. I am SO impressed that you were not only able to lay an entire upstairs of flooring, but also get all that painting done. I can’t even imagine all the hours that took! Good luck on the move!
Is it weird that I keep looking the before and after pictures over and over?
Man, if this was one of those extreme makeover TV shows, you would have turned a 70 years old lady into a 22 youngster! When you paint the walls she will be TOO HOT! :)
You guys are the.bomb.com!!
Wow, it looks amazing!! It amazes me how you both have the courage to tackle everything!
You guys deserve a serious massage. My goodnes, your muscles have got. to. be. sore.
My sweet hubby did get me a spa gift card for mother’s day…
Kate S. says
This looks INCREDIBLE. I can’t believe the massive difference from musty/stuffy feeling to open, clean, and light in that hallway. You guys are such hard workers. Amazing job.
I hope I’m not the only one who started singing a little Macklemore after reading this comment. “I wear some hard oak floors, I look in-cred-ible”
The floors do look incredible, and they were done by the power of your own four hands. I would pet them sometimes.
And…. now that’s in my head. And I love it. And John might kill you because I’m singing it out loud on repeat. Clara is thoroughly entertained though.
And… now she’s singing with me.
Can I ask what underlayment you were planning on using for nail down installation? My wife and I bought the same hardwood for our new house! I, of course, have been doing weeks of underlayment research and would love to know what you guys were thinking.
I wish I could remember the name. Basically Lumber Liquidators offers a few types and we wanted the thickest one with the most sound deadening power. So it was the most expensive option they offered for hardwoods I think (but still cheaper than Elastilon). The reason we cared about sound was because it was the second floor, but if you’re doing the first floor I wouldn’t necessarily go for the most expensive stuff in that case.
The underlayment display where we are getting our wood floors from had a little golf ball you could bounce on the wood with different underlayments and I have to say even on a first floor I’d want some significant sound deadening – it makes for a more quality feel. Feel is not the right word since I’m talking about noise…
Really smart! I think they have that at Lumber Liquidators too!
Rebecca | the lil house that could says
Looks great guys! Though I’m a little biased, we have similar flooring and baseboards throughout our upstairs as well :)
It looks beautiful. So glad you were able to work out the nailing problem. When we replaced our yucky carpet with bamboo flooring upstairs, it was like our cramped, dark house was suddenly full of light and fresh air. It’s a wonderful feeling!
Julia @ Chris Loves Julia says
Seriously gorgeous. Slow clap for the Petersiks.
Heidi P. says
Yep, slow clap.
Wow. Crazy. Crazy crazy crazy.
That definitely settle it – I will NOT be ripping up my carpet. Bummer. Or at least, I won’t be installing flooring the diy way :).
amazeballs! what a difference a week makes! happy packing!
Gorgeous! It’s amazing what a difference just the new flooring has made already. What an exciting move this will be for you guys. I can’t wait to see what surprises you guys have in store for us this time around!
So I might just have missed it, but why on earth did you not go with the floating option in the beginnng?
We did our whole kitchen in less than an evening, and it was so simple and so easy. Plus, if we ever want to change it for some reason it will take no time to remove it again.
We have hardwoods on the stairs so we worried that a floating floor would feel/sound different (we wanted it to be thick and solid like the stairs so it felt seamless, like it had always been there). We also couldn’t find any floating options that matched the adjoining stairs (and the hardwoods downstairs) as well as ours. :)
Once again I am so very impressed with your skill at tackling something you haven’t done before! It looks amazing, such a transformation, kuddos to you guys. You guys should definitely take a few days off from the blog to get yourselves packed, moved, settled in etc. (just like folks with “regular” jobs tend to be able to do!) We would all just happily await your return, stoked to see what you’ll do next :-) Happy, smooth, safe moving wishes to you!
Lisa E says
I agree! I can’t believe they are even taking the time right now to respond to our comments. They amaze me! I wish I had a ounce of that energy.
That looks AMAZING! Thank God for great grandparents!
The floors look great! The walls aren’t even painted and it looks a million times better. And I will admit to looking out the window to see if it looked like fall. You did say you bought it last fall right?… Thought there is now way you’re getting all this done just before your move. Seriously, you are DIY rock stars.
That’s so funny! This is freshly done, baby! Seriously, we just finished laying the last room and baseboards yesterday evening :)
And that’s why you’re my favorite blog. :)