Tuesday, November 6, 2012

0 Get On The Floor

Now that the main floor is livable, the time has come to start the 1200+ sq ft of hardwood flooring upstairs.  In one week, we have been able to complete the office & master bedroom with little issue.  This has been by far the easiest and most rewarding project we've done so far.

We started by (finally) committing to colors in the office & master bedroom, since it would be easier to paint without having to worry about drops and spills (which we ended up with plenty of).  You'll see the colors in the following pictures, though they look a little more vibrant in person.

The first row of hardwood flooring is the most stressful part of the job.  It must be straight and square, and while the studs may be straight, the drywall isn't always.  We did some measuring, more measuring and more measuring, and then threw a chalk line down and got to it.  We left a 3/4" gap from the drywall (in sections where the drywall is up off the floor enough for the boards to expand under it, this gap can be smaller) to account for wood expansion in more humid conditions.  I then drilled pilot holes into the boards and dropped nails in to face nail the first row in.  The pilot hole had to be the width of the nail, but not into the subfloor.  The planks are of such a hard wood (Acacia) that the nails were not strong enough to drive down, which is fine - having them grab the subfloor (and floor joists in some sections) was strong enough to hold in place.

There was enough room between the board and the wall to fit the flooring nailer in.  We bought a pneumatic flooring nailer on Craigslist for $140 - about $60 off retail - that was only used on a one-room job.  There were several listed for sale, and we'd resigned to buying one instead of renting, since it's about $30 a day to rent, and we surely weren't going to complete the whole upstairs inside a week.  It worked perfectly.  There were times when it misfired, but it was strictly user error - if the striker doesn't hit hard enough with the mallet, it won't drive the nail down far enough.  A pair of needlenose pliers to twist the end off resolves this error very effectively.

From there it was a breeze.  The internet is a wonderful place of information on how to do everything, and I eventually found my way to Hardwood Flooring Guide, a website dedicated to explaining everything you ever wanted to know about how to install flooring.  Because the dude that owned the house before took all the door framing right down to the subfloor, I had to hand saw all the door frames to account for the planks going under them to hide the expansion gap.  I assume he had planned on doing carpet (gross) throughout, and was just going to cut around them.  We also have a couple doorways on angles, so I had to use the miter saw on those.

On the more technical end of things, this is tongue-and-groove solid hardwood flooring, so when ending a row, we had to make sure that whatever we cut off was at least 6", and that we cut from the correct side (in this case, the groove side) - that chopped piece was used to start the next row.  The reason for not going smaller than 6" is so that we could minimize waste as much as possible.  At almost $5 a square foot, those little scraps can add up, and worst case scenario we'd run out of wood before the project was completed.

We (myself and my parents) got through the first part of the office on Monday, and then on Tuesday, good friends Josh & Krystal came over to help.  Krystal got it down to a science and we were only cutting boards every few rows.  In 3 hours, we had most of the office completed.

Now, when doing one room, there's a definite start and end point. When doing an entire floor of a house, that flows from room to room, it's much more difficult to get to the next room, especially when considering that the nailer has to be placed on the tongue side of the row before the next board can be banged into place.  So the next night, we had to take the row out into the hallway through the door in order to reach the threshold between the office and master bedroom and continue on through that space.

There was a bit of a height difference between two subfloor boards, which was an easy fix with some shims. And in no time, we were through the office and ready for the master.  We took a couple days off and picked back up on Saturday, working for most of the day, probably 6 hours, and getting almost to the master bathroom.

Then we ended up with a similar problem.  Until we completed the hallway, we couldn't get to the bathroom, or to that back closet.  The reason being, once again, to get the bathroom and closet, we had to lay boards staggered up to that point, and to get there, we'd have to be in the hallway.  However, if we laid boards in the hallway, we'd have to have the boards from the stairway all the way to the other doorway in order to fit them in tongue-and-groove. Hopefully I have some photos that can better explain what I'm saying, in case it's not making sense the way I explain it.

Anyway, last night we set out to get the hallway completed, and hoped to get the rest of the master set.  And boy did we.

Alright here's a shot of what I was talking about having to stagger the boards:

So you see, in order to get to a corner and then around it, since the boards fit snugly together, we had to create a stair pattern up to the corner, which required getting out to the hallway.  If we'd laid this row before the hallway was completed, we wouldn't have been able to get a board in between the previous board and the row that was already laid.  Make sense?  

So now we're into the hallway, which is nice, but it also means I've gotta tear out carpet and laminate from the other three rooms before we go any further.  SO, the next step will be baseboards and quarter-round around the master bedroom and office so we can finally set up our bed and no longer sleep on mattresses on the floor.


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