I never had wood floors growing up. In Florida, wall to wall carpet, tile, and linoleum reigned supreme. Yet I always knew wood floors were “fancy” and “nice”. I’ll attribute that to being susceptible to advertising and a love of bowling alleys. The first home I rented with wood floors was an early 1900’s bungalow in Central Florida. Those floors had seen better days. They soaked up liquids and dirt which made them both impossible to clean and never dirty. It was kind of like walking on a dirty sponge. But still, wood floors. My priorities were questionable at best. Later I realized the place had no AC and the ceiling ending up caving in on me. But what can I say, love makes you do crazy things.
Since moving to New York it’s been a lot easier to satisfy my hardwood fetish. When looking for places to buy everything had wood in various states of condition and newness. We saw engineered cherry wood floor, bamboo, parquet floors, and lots of floors that had been suffocated by layers of amber polyurethane. Our place had two types of flooring, thin strips of oak and linoleum. Delicious. We didn’t know what was under the linoleum, but we were hopeful. As all first time home owners are.
We made quick work of ripping up the old linoleum (I saved a piece for some unknown reason, likely sentimentality) and found wood underneath. Sure it was coated in glue and cardboard like material but it was still wood. I think. More oak in the “gallery” and hallway and pine in the kitchen. I’m going to abandon the kitchen for the rest this post and focus on the oak. But don’t worry, I’ll come back to it next week.
We started bidding out floor refinishing companies to take on our project. Yeah, this isn’t a DIY blog. I am neither skilled at DIY nor do I enjoy it. I’ll forget these time honored truths but only after I’ve spent too much money and the project has already broken. Why on earth would I want to DIY a bunch of house stuff that I have no idea how to do? I have a day job, and it’s not in construction. So for this whole process Danny and I have set a budget and then sought out quotes to see if we can actually afford what we want. We didn’t just want to hire one contractor for the whole thing because we wanted to manage (or micromanage? maybe? just a bit?) things more closely and be able to get competitive quotes to ensure that we’re getting a good deal. Have I mentioned that I’m obsessed with getting a good deal? Have you seen The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching? Oh yeah. It’s not pretty.
So we ended up getting 4 quotes. Ranging from 5,500k to 2,300k. We ended up going with a mid range quote around 3k (that’s for about 700sq feet of refinishing) including water based poly and stain. We chose the company we worked with primarily based on recommendations, ease of communication, and the fact that the owners name was Zoltan. And with that we were off!
They sanded the place into oblivion in a full day. Who knew floors were SO WHITE? Originally I wanted to go with no stain cause I’m a birch queen and I own the IKEA products to prove it. But, I was worried about the house would look like a bunch of popsicle sticks and that it would match exactly nothing but all of my other birch veneer IKEA products (heart eyes emoji). Also Zoltan told me not too. Zoltan said that without the stain the wood would more likely show flaws and damage. So I decided to go with stain. My story of the road not taken will always be paved with unstained white oak.
Zoltan did a stain test for me to give me a better sense of what I had to choose between. Let me tell you these colors fade FAST in reality. After putting the stain down in a matter of moments the stain was more matte and as per Zoltan less representative of what the end result would look like. Initially I didn’t think I could make it for the test and suggested that I have the images texted to me. That was stupid. Take off work and check it out for yourself- trust me. I’m a pro.
Two colors stand out here, first on the bottom row is the Golden Oak aka everyone’s 90’s kitchen nightmare, also the lightest stain that Minwax (how is it not MINIwax?!) makes and Special Walnut (top row on 2nd color). The others are Provincial, Early American, and some others stains that I repressed from my memory. Staining is stressful! Zoltan recommended the Special Walnut to hide the flaws in the flooring. The Special Walnut is really nice. Special, even. It’s neutral but has nice warmth and doesn’t feel too heavy. My main concern was that I wanted lighter floors (I mean have you ever seen a chestnut bowling alley?) and wasn’t sure that with a whole room the it wouldn’t read too dark for my tastes (ala Game of Thrones and Walking Dead). I gravitated to the Golden Oak not so much because of the color but because it was the lightest shade that retained the grain. My main concern was that it was too yellow and too 90’s. After about 20 minutes of hemming and hawing I chose Golden Oak and Zoltan was a complete gentleman about my refusal of his advice. NO TURNING BACK NOW.
SO PRETTY. Not too shiny (satin in fact- at least one decision was easy) and such a lovely mid-tone (these photos are coming a bit dark and red, I blame the internet). It warms up the place so much that it’s got me reconsidering my paint choices. Life is funny like that. The color is really soft and feels very traditional and simple. The biggest reason I wanted a mid-toned floor was so that it had flexibility to work with a range of other wood tones and to minimize the contrast, because of my plans to emphasize the contrast in other areas (paint! accessories! furniture!). Any dislikes? Not really but I do think it’s hilarious that I wouldn’t have minded if it was MORE yellow when most of my pre-stain worries consisted of being concerned that the floors would be TOO YELLOW after staining. Another go figure. Here’s an old fashioned before and after, because I know what the people want.
I realized afterwards that there’s really no point in trying to figure out what anything will look like beforehand. Even if your’e just like me and you’re google searching countless blogs for “white oak”, “golden oak”, “too yellow”, “bad choice”- you’ll just find out what they’ll look like and what you think of them when they’re done. It sucks, but it’s definitely true.
That’s what’s so truly terrifying about this whole process. You just never know how you’re going to feel about something until it’s said and done with. Yes, it’s not life threatening (at all) but it is money, and it’s hard earned money at that. It’s also resale value, blind faith, and then having to live with your mistakes. The apartment was the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought 20% of- and then after that every single purchase has succeeded in being the next largest expenditure we’ve ever had. It’s all so. much. money and so, many. decisions. That kind of power is both exhilarating and absolutely terrifying. We’re hoping to stay in the 20-30k range to refinish floors, paint the apartment, skim coat the disaster areas, install a kitchen, upgrade the electric, and buy some furniture to sit on. I won’t know if that’s insane until this is all over and done with- and that’s the craziest part.
But for now we have floors and that’s something to stand on.
<meta name=”p:domain_verify” content=”42ddcbf429a11b7d212f79185a4442e1″/>