How to Remove Hardwood Flooring

Posted by John on January 13th, 2014

So last weekend we ripped out some of the hardwood flooring in our vestibule and got started with adding in the new boards.  Since we were super busy with work and our Free Built-In Plans, we haven’t had much opportunity to continue work on it.  Even though the office floor is roughly half done, it’s probably still going to take me another 6-8 hours.  Installing hardwood flooring takes hours and hours and hours.  It’s some back breaking work.  Doesn’t hurt to take a brake from it to recuperate.

While I was ripping out the old flooring, I took the opportunity to take some video of the process.  Removing hardwood flooring without damaging any other boards than the ones you want to take out isn’t quite as hard as it looks.  It can be done with a circular saw, a crow bar and a chisel.

Check out the video and let me know if you have any questions.

How to Remove Hardwood Flooring

Even if you don’t need to use this trick now, it’s a good one to keep in your back pocket.

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Hardwood Floor Installation

Posted by John on January 5th, 2014

Happy 2014!!  We’re back.  Cue the theme music.

A few weeks ago, I finished up my last grad school course and headed into the holidays ready to take some much needed time off.  Consequently, we decided to take a blog vacation until the holidays were over.  Hope you missed us.

This past week, we kicked-off our Home Office improvement project.  We already discussed some of the layouts we’re considering in a previous post, but after New Years we put our plans in motion and started the job.

The first order of business was to remove everything from the room, rip out the carpet and install hardwood flooring.  We considered building the furniture first and then doing the flooring, but some of our readers chimed in and suggested that getting the floors in first would be the smarter move.  We concurred.

Here’s how the room looked before we started:


With all the stuff removed:

office before

As far as the hardwood flooring goes, we had the option of just starting the install at the threshold where the carpet meets the vestibule OR we could rip out some of the vestibule flooring and tie it into the existing flooring.  Going into the vestibule makes the floor look like it was always there.  It’s significantly harder and much more time consuming.  Guess what option we picked??


vestibule flooring

To be honest, the existing vestibule floor had some fading from sun damage and it never really matched the floor we added in the living room.  What can I say, we’re picky.  It wasn’t much more money to pop for the wood for the vestibule since we already bought a bunch for the office.   BTW, you can stop sun damage on flooring by installing UV window film.

You might expect us to write a long, detailed how-to post on hardwood floor installation, but we already did that a couple of years ago, so we’re skipping it this time.  If you’re interested in that content, check out our posts on carpet removal and flooring installation, integrating new hardwood into old hardwood and our collection of lessons learned.

We are going to release a quick video on removing hardwood floor.  Expect that in our next post.

Ripping out flooring is a dirty, dirty process.  To ensure we didn’t have everything in the house covered with sawdust, we encapsulated the entire vestibule in plastic tarp.

Here’s before shot…


and here’s the same room with plastic tarp… looks like something out of ET.

plastic tarps

So after a couple days of work, we finished the hardwood in the vestibule. We still have several more hours to go to wrap up the flooring in the office.

vestibule new flooring

We’re getting there.

In an upcoming post, I’m going to breakdown the entire process we have planned for the office improvement.  Resetting a room from scratch can be intimidating and I want to show our readers how to get from A to Z.  As always, we want this room series to be a learning experience if you’re looking for it.

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Grand Plans Update and Our Icemaker-Paradigm Shift

Posted by John on January 30th, 2012

How about that for a post title!

Well folks, it’s been seven weeks since we started on our Grand Plans!  I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone.  We still have a few small projects left on our list, but here’s what we’ve accomplished to date…

1.  Add chair rail molding to vestibule (how-to post here and odd angles post here)
2.  Enhancing our crown molding
3.  Caulking and filling nail holes
4.  Painting, painting, painting (Vestibule, Family Room, Morning Room and Kitchen)
5.  Adding hardwood floors to our living room (post 1 and post 2) and family room

we’ve since added to the list…

6. Paint the Dining Room 


We realize that we should probably add some sort of home tour and maybe a layout so you can see where these rooms are with respect to the house.  We promise to post one soon.  As far as the dining room goes, we’ve decided to do some exciting work in here…  that’s all I’m saying for now.  You’ll see next month!  We’re not starting any new projects until after our daughter’s birthday party.  We added this room to the paint list because it looked too bare compared to the adjacent rooms.

We also finally got around to running a hose from our water supply to our fridge’s icemaker.  Can’t believe we waited this long.  Already. love. it.


This little water outlet thing was behind our fridge.  We never actually ordered this, but our builder put it in anyway.  We think they goofed.  If they hadn’t put it in, we would’ve probably never added one ourselves.  It’s not difficult to do, it’s just that… Lisa and I aren’t icemaker people.  This is our second side by side fridge with the water and ice dispenser and up until now, we’ve never even thought about adding it.  Frankly, we’re bottled water people.  Not just plain bottled water, but bottled, purified water.  We don’t go with that hippie, crunchy, spring water stuff.  We prefer the taste.  Consequently, we have about ten empty plastic bottles throughout the house at any given time.  The water line changes everything.  Now, that it’s there, we use it constantly.  Major paradigm shift.

We actually hooked up the hose because we thought it would be convenient when we have company.  We didn’t realize we’d use it for the tea kettle, the dog bowl, washing my hands, filling up water balloons…  Ok, so I don’t wash my hands with it… but I could.

Making the connection was as simple as pulling out the fridge and attaching the line to the fridge and the wall valve.  It’s also a great opportunity to clean the floor under the fridge.  It’s pretty much a lost city of gold/dog treats for Finnie.



Once the hose was in, Finnie checked for leaks.


The only annoying thing about hooking up this line is the cleansing. We had to flush the system, by running about 4-5 gallons of water and then dumping it out. I also threw out the first two trays of ice. Still beats Brita.

Have you added something minor to your routine that changes everything?

Posted in Finnie,Flooring,Home Decor,Plumbing,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, ,

Our Quasi Free Area Rug

Posted by John on January 25th, 2012

Remember this old thing? That’s our old wall to wall carpet in our family room. We ripped it out when we installed our hardwood floors. This carpet has a seam in the middle that made removing it into two movable section fairly simple. Lisa and I initially thought about just scrapping these pieces, but we weren’t thrilled with the idea of throwing out two barely used sections of quality berber. That’s when a little light bulb went off above Lisa’s beautiful head. (I don’t actually remember whose idea it was, but I’m getting major husband points by assuming it was her idea.) Way to go Lisa! 😉


We decided to take the sections over to a local carpet store to have them cut down to a smaller size and edge bound, essentially turning them into two large area rugs! Despite the fact that we are in love with the look of our new floor, we knew we needed to have something down on a day to day basis for the baby.

Here’s how we’ve been coping with her play area setup since the new floors went in…

That play area is necessary for a few reasons. First, it allows us to put her down when we’re in the middle of something to keep her from getting hurt. Second, we often hang out with her in there when we don’t feel up to chasing her around the house. Lastly, it gives us a place to hide from the dog!

Currently, the play-yard is resting on a comforter so as not to scuff the floors and make it more comfortable for the baby.

The very same day we started on the floors, Lisa and I ran them over to the carpet store. The two sections were so long I had to bend them in half and to fit in my Jeep and they still stuck out the tailgate. It looked like a giant enchilada folded in half.

Picking them up when they were completed was much easier. They had been cut down to size.


Before I heaved this massive carpet upon my shoulder like Atlas (haha), we threw down an area rug pad. The pad is a foam like net that has a rubbery feel to it. Totally grips the floors. One concern we had with this rug was the underside. Most area rugs have a soft backing. However, wall to wall carpet, which OUR area rugs started out as, has a stiff nylon grid on the back that may not play nice with our floors. Thus, the pad should eliminate any scuffing by keeping it still.



Another issue we had to deal with was impressions left by the end tables and couches. We googled methods for dealing with these and most responses mentioned applying steam from a hot iron and using a stiff bristle brush to work the compressed fabric free.

Lisa used the next best thing, her Haan. She made a few passes with this steaming vacuum and held it over the spot for a few seconds. After she moved it, I just worked the spot with my fingers being careful not to burn my hands. It worked pretty good, although the carpet now looks a little disturbed in that area. I’m sure it will settle down over the next few weeks or so.



Overall, we like it. Kind of weird to spend all the time putting in the hardwood only to throw back down the same carpet, I will admit. We’re planning on removing it for company, so it’ll be in and out quite often.


How much did this cost us? The carpet was free… well, we paid for it during the build, so I guess it isn’t really free. The edge banding cost $2 a linear foot (total perimeter) for a total of about $80 per rug. The floor pad cost about $45 per rug. So, that’s $125 for a huge, quality Berber area rug. Best part is, we know where it came from! No weird surprises or mystery stains!

Have you ever re-purposed anything you initially thought about throwing away?

Posted in Flooring,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Lessons Learned #2: Hardwood Floor Installation

Posted by John on January 16th, 2012

Forgive me if it seems like I’m milking the hell out of this hardwood floor installation. This is probably my fourth post on the subject and I’m trying to write as much info as possible to make the job go smoothly for any readers that are considering trying it themselves. This post will serve as a must read before attempting a similar project.

Here’s a list of things you need to have before you install hardwood floors.

1. Tools
– A pneumatic floor nailer (or stapler).  Usually set to nail on an angle, these nail guns are an absolute essential item and you can’t install a floor without them.  Consider buying one or borrowing one from someone you know if the project will take you longer than one weekend.

– Rubber Hammer for the floor nailer.  They are usually given to you when you rent a floor nailer.  Make sure you get one.

– A pneumatic finish nailer. For your first row AND your last couple rows, you can’t use the angle nailer.  You can’t use it on the first row because the angle nailer will move the board too much.  You also can’t use the angle nailer on the last three or four rows because it simply won’t fit.  However, you CAN use a smaller finish nailer to angle nail the board.  Can you just use a hammer?  Of course you can. However, you’re going to be slower and you’ll have a harder time doing an angle nail on the last few boards.  Consider renting one of these as an investment in time savings.

– An air compressor.   Necessary for operating the above nail guns.

– A miter saw (aka a chop saw).  Also a necessity.

– A table saw.  Yep.  You need one of these for cuts around objects.  The last row is almost always a little more narrow than the rest, so you’ll need a table saw to rip it to a thinner dimension.

– A sharp miter saw blade with 40+ teeth.  The higher the number of teeth and the sharper the blade, the cleaner the cut.  If you use a dull blade, you’re liable to have a harder time cutting the boards.

– A circular saw.  You’ll only need this if you’re removing older boards.  If you find out that a board needs to be removed and it’s five rows deep, you’re going to need one of these.

– A pry bar.  I use this a lot when I’m putting a floor in.  It can help remove boards that get messed up and it helps tighten the last couple rows by squeezing and turning it between the last row and the baseboard.

– A good pair of wire cutters.  If you mishit the angle nailer, it can under-sink the nail.  You won’t be able to remove the nail by prying it out and you won’t be able to sink it deeper without messing up the board.  A good way to deal with these occassional hiccups is to just snip off the staple or nail with a pair of wire cutters.

– Shop Vac. A shop vacuum is always helpful after a floor install to help get up all the construction debris.

– A sharp pencil or a fine pen.  For marking the length of the last boards.

– Wood glue and scotch tape

– Wood putty. All the boards with face nails, need the nail holes filled. (See below)

– Stain pen. Any small shards of floor missing can be colored in with a stain pen to hide the mistakes. (See below)

2. A Game Plan

Before you put down that first board, you need to know how the work is going to proceed.  Have a realistic expectation of how long it will take you so you can plan tool or equipment rental properly.  It look Lisa and I about a full weekend to finish our 400 square foot family room and this isn’t the first time I’ve done this job.  Also worth considering is what floors you’re removing or replacing. Ripping out carpets is quick, but linoleum or older hardwood is slower and more laborious.

Make sure you check with a reference manual as well to get a proper perspective and instruction on how to run your floors (left to right or front to back) and how to get your first board down.  Our posts are just an example of what Lisa and I did and isn’t meant to be purely instructional.  We’re not going over every single detail.  You need to do your homework

It’s also important to consider how you’ll deal with obstacles like vent holes or bump outs in the wall.  We had to interface with our fireplace so we decided to frame it out in flooring first.IMG_2727-1024x682


3. Proper Workplace Setup

A properly setup work space will help reduce the amount of work time and provide for a more efficient installation. If someone is helping you, make sure you have assigned roles and you’re not tripping over one another. Good teamwork will go a long way with this job. For our family room, Lisa picked out and laid down the boards, while I hammered them into place and nailed them down.  We were able to get into a groove and really move through the job.

Make sure you setup as much equipment in the space as safely possible. I ALWAYS setup my miter saw in the room I’m working. If I left it in my basement or my garage, I’d have to stop and go down stairs every 5-10 minutes for cuts. That will wear you out very quickly.  Having it right there in the room adds sawdust, but it saves a ton of time.

Keep all your hand tools in one spot. If you use your pen once a row, keeping it in one spot throughout the job will prevent you from having to scour the room looking for it every ten minutes. Same goes for your hammer and pry bar.

4.  Dealing with Mistakes

No matter how careful you are, mistakes will happen.  Boards will get slight surface cracks on corners and splits that reveal unstained wood.  Those mistakes will be visible and can mar an otherwise perfect floor job.  Add to that visible nail holes on your first and last board rows.  The important thing about dealing with mistakes is knowing which boards can be saved with small repairs and which ones need to be removed.  Some boards will get damaged well after they’ve been installed and removing them isn’t even a practical choice.  If you think you can fix it and the damage is minor, leave the board in and keep moving with your install.  Don’t make cosmetic repairs until your done the whole floor if you can help it.

For small corner tear outs or minor cracks, there is an easy way to fix them permanently.  You can apply some wood glue into the crack, wipe off the excess glue and keep it secure with a piece of scotch tape if it’s hanging on for dear life.  You can even wrap the edge of the board in the scotch tape and bury it with the next board row.  Once the glue dries, you can use an exacto knife to score and remove the tape. You’ll never be able to tell.

For hiding the visible scratches and tear outs, I used a stain pen on our floor.  You can see this in action in the photos below.  I used a Red Mahogany stain pen even though my floors are stained Red Oak.  Why?  Because it seemed like it matches the color of my floor the best.IMG_2727-1024x682



For nail holes, I just used a Walnut colored wood putty.  The putty I bought is stain-able and will require a touch-up pen in order to be invisible.IMG_2734-1024x682


With Putty:

After Stain Pen:

From a few feet away:  They become completely invisible.  Obviously, the holes on the bottom right haven’t been done yet, so ignore those!

So that’s all I got on hardwood floors.  At least until we redo our home office!  Now onto finish some painting and trim.  Anyone else have off today?!

Posted in DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Replacing Carpet with Hardwood Floors

Posted by John on January 3rd, 2012

Ahhhhh.  Feels good to finally write that title.  This project has been on my wish list for this house since we moved in.  It’s been apart of our Grand Plans for several weeks now and I can put a check in the box.  As I write this though, I still have to add the quarter rounds on the perimeter of the room and do a couple stain pen touch ups before I can REALLY call it done, but otherwise I’m happy as a clam.  Oh and Lisa and I will be replacing our family room carpet with hardwood this coming weekend, so I still have to get my hands dirty again with hardwood floors very soon.  I’m already excited!

*** I’m going to break this flooring install up into a couple posts, because there’s a lot to write about, so check back later for more info and tips.****

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I’ll give you the why’s and what’s.  The reason we’re pulling up the carpet is really due to the fact that we both love the look of it over carpet and it adds a lot of value.  Moreover, we have a small dog that does shed a wee little bit and occasionally barfs, so keeping hardwood clean is a little bit easier.  It may help with some of our allergies as well, although they’ve been minor to begin with.

The floor is a Bruce hardwood called Manchester and it is a 3 1/4″ wide oak floor stained cherry in color.  It’s the very same floor that we have in the rest of our house.  We bought it from an online distributor called QualityFlooring4Less and picked it up at a local receiving warehouse in PA.  Here’s the kicker… the challenge to this project begins before you even lay down one board.  The boxes weigh around 70 lbs a piece.  I needed 600 square feet plus 5-10% extra, which totaled 28 boxed.  That’s nearly 1 ton!  This isn’t going to fit in the back of my grand cherokee!!  We had to rent a Uhaul to get all that wood home.  Plus try carrying that all in.  Not. fun.  I was exhausted before I even began this project!!  We threw the boxes in our first floor office to get them out of the way.


Another very important requirement when installing hardwood floors is to let the material adjust in your home for a few days before you start the job.  The wood must adjust to the temperature and humidity properly.  If you just install them right away, they’re liable to expand or contract after you’ve installed them, possibly ruining your work and the wood.  We let ours rest around 4-5 days.  Kinda annoying, but you deal.

So, let’s get to it.  How to replace your wall to wall carpet with hardwood. 

Part 1:  Carpet Removal

Here’s what our living room looked liked before we started.  This was taken even before we painted.


Once we removed the furniture and the pictures, we were ready to rip up the carpet.  Well, really I’ve been ready to rip it up since we moved in, but that’s another story.


Removing the carpet is pretty easy.  Just pull up on the corners and the carpet will come right out.  I used a box cutter to cut the backside of the carpet and I cut it into two large sections that can then be bound with duct tape and discarded.  We’re going to try to donate ours.


The carpet is adhered to the subfloor with a thin nail strips that runs the entire perimeter of the carpet area.  Also underneath the carpet is the carpet pad.  The pad can just be ripped right up from the floor.  It’s held down by staples.    We’ll remove those later.


The nail strips can be taken up with a small pry bar.  Be careful though, as the nail strips are sharp!


I put all the removed strips into the center of the floor and then threw them into a cardboard box for disposal. You don’t want to accidentally step on one of these!

Now for those pesky staples.  Little bits of the carpet pad get stuck under the staples that keep it tied down to the floor.  I removed as much of the pad from the staple as I could with my bare hands and then I turned to a pair of needle nose pliers to remove the rest.  Wear gloves if you’re going to remove the staples.  I didn’t and got a blister!!

Once the floor has been prepped by removing the carpet, the pad, the nail strips, staples and any other debris or garbage, it’s a good idea to sweep and vacuum the subfloor clean.  After it’s been cleaned, it’s time to lay down the rosin paper.  There are a couple different types of hardwood underlayment paper that you can use, but I like the regular red rosin paper because it’s cheap AND I had some left over from our first home.

Just roll it out and overlap the seams by a few inches.  It’s necessary to use because it acts a buffer between the hardwood floor and the plywood subfloor, which eliminates creeks and squeeks and makes for an easier floor installation.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be in place.




Part 2:  Installing the Floors

Now to start the flooring.  Since I’m directly tying my new floor into my old, I’m going to continue my planks in from the dining room.  Eventually, the floor will have to be integrated into the floor in the vestibule, but I’ll save that info for my next post.  You can see in the photo below, that the old floor had a small quarter round that will need to be removed.  I popped mine off with a pry bar.  Came right off.  Guess it wasn’t glued.  Thank God for short cuts.  Also, my last dining room floor board doesn’t have an obvious tongue or groove, so it won’t be able to intersect MY first board.  It has to go.  I also removed it with a pry bar.  Be careful when you remove boards.  If you don’t do it right, you can damage the board behind it!!  Then it never ends, so be careful!


Let’s throw down the first board. I pick my boards soley based on length. I don’t want any of my boards to have an end seam within 2″-3″ of an end seam on an adjacent board. You can see that my first board is well clear of that on the dining room floor board.  For the first board, it get’s butted up against the wall on the left and then pulled away about 3/8″.  Wood generally doesn’t expand in the lengthwise direction, but a little gap won’t hurt.


I’ll bang the board into place with a rubber mallet that came with my nail gun and nail it into place with my nail gun.




Like that action shot?  After the first board is in, you just lay down the next board and continue down the line.  If you weren’t installing hardwood against an existing hardwood floor, then the first row will need to be face nailed and not angle nailed.

When you get to the end of a row, you can either measure the gap to the wall with a tape measure to determine the length of your last board OR you can use this little trick.

Pick out your floor board and lay it next to your row.


Now flip it over lengthwise and pull it away from the wall by around 3/8″. Mark the backside of the board where the end of the previous board meets it and cut on that line.


Now you can install it. Quick and easy!


After several hours of continuing this I was able to get the floor to a good stopping point.


hardwood floors

Later this week, I’ll show you how to integrate the floor into boards that run the other way!!  Trust me, it’s much harder than it looks!!

Have you ever installed hardwood floors or are you planning it? 


Posted in Flooring,Home Decor. Tagged in ,,

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