Today we are busy moving in. It feels unbelievably good to type that. I’m sure many of you can identify with the feeling. But I digress. We are back, as promised, to talk about our floor installation/refinishing process. Because we had so many other projects going on at the same time, our process was a little different than most. Plus, not everybody gets to move out completely while they renovate. However, we hope we can shed some light on the experience for anyone who is planning on tackling their floors.

TIME TO GO SHOPPING. First off, we needed flooring materials, so we went to our local Lumber Liquidators. We had no idea what we actually needed to make everything happen, but the guys at Lumber Liquidators took care of us and walked us through everything. We purchased shoe molding, a roll of felt lining and, of course, flooring. We chose red oak to match what was already in the house. Choosing a different species would have made blending the new and old floors nearly impossible. We were told to let the flooring hang out in the house for a few days prior to installation. This helps the wood to acclimate to the normal temperature and humidity of your house. If you don’t do this, bad things (otherwise known as warping) can happen.

INSTALLATION. As it turns out, our awesome tile guy also installs wood floors. He agreed to rip out the existing carpet and kitchen tile as well as install the new hardwood floors for a total of $1,400. We were planing on ripping out the carpet ourselves to save some money, but when he gave us such as good price as compared to other estimates, we couldn’t pass it up. He and a couple of his crew members came early in the morning around 7:00am. By the end of the day, we had new hardwood floors installed in the bedrooms and kitchen.

THE WAITING GAME. We decided to hold off on the floor refinishing until all (and we mean all) of the messy work was done. Drywall, painting, tiling… we wanted it all finished before we even thought about refinishing the floors. We didn’t want to risk damaging them in any way. Though this made us hold off on moving any furniture in, it was well worth it in the long run.

REFINISHING & STAINING. In order to get the best blending between the old and new boards, everything needed to be sanded, stained and refinished. We knew this would be a pretty big job, so we asked our friends and family for referrals. We started out with a good ‘ole Google search, but personal referrals really are the best way to go. A) You can’t always believe what you read online. B) Advice from people you know and trust is always more valuable than a stranger’s opinion. Lucky for us, one of our new neighbors is a floor guy and actually refinished Ashley’s parents’ floors a few years back. We’ve been living in their guest room while our renovations have been going on, so we’ve actually lived on his work, and it’s really good. That’s a pretty good referral, don’t you think?

When all was said and done, we had roughly 1,800 square feet of flooring sanded, stained and finished for $2,600. This was $500 to $700 under what we were originally quoted by other floor guys. Talk about a great deal! This price included sanding, water-popping (more on that process here), staining, three coats of polyurethane and putting down the shoe molding. Because we had seen (and literally lived on) his previous work, we knew we knew the job would be done well.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS. Once we found our floor guy, we had to pick out a stain color. He applied three sample swatches of our favorite stains (which we chose from a sample deck). Before he did this, we were pretty sure we liked the Jacobean stain (far right). Once we saw them on the floor, though, we were certain Dark Walnut (left) was the one for us. We learned a very valuable lesson here: It is very important to actually see a sample of the stain on your floor before you pick out a color. Do not depend on the sample book. Read more about our decision making process here and here.

PREPARATION. Our house started out empty, so there wasn’t that much preparation to be done. However, we moved all of the tools, ladders, toilets that have yet to be installed and such to the laundry room.

We also vacuumed the entire house with a shop vacuum. I know it sounds kinda crazy, seeing as how the first thing the floor guy was going to do was sand the floors, but we wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any dust and grime that might mess up his process. Did we go a little overboard? Maybe, but this is our first house, and we’re planning on being here for a while. We also replaced the filter in the return vent for the air conditioning several times to keep it from getting clogged. Looking back, we should have taped up the doors to the bathrooms and utility room (the only rooms not being done).

LEAVING IT TO THE PROS. When work began on the floors, the first step was sanding them. Out of all of the steps, this seemed to be the longest. Once our floor guy was finished, he throughly cleaned and vacuumed the floors to remove the excess dust. Then, he did a finer finishing sand. Once that was done, he throughly cleaned and vacuumed the floors again to get them ready for water popping.

Once both sanding steps were done, it was time to water pop the floor to make the wood more receptive to the stain. This is an optional step, but we wanted the stain to be darker than the sample. You can read my geeky scientific reasoning as to why that works here.

Then it was time for staining. Later that night, Ashley and I went over to the house and peeked through the windows, trying to get a glimpse of the newly stained floors. Here’s a quick iPhone photo of our covert operation:

The next step was polyurethane. Our floor guy did not two but three coats of polyurethane. Typically, builders use 2 coats, which is good enough to get the house sold and hold up for a few years of moderate use and consistent care.  According to our floor guy, 3 coats will protect the floors very, very well for 5-10 years, if we care for them properly.  Also, we wanted our floors to be protected against Bentley’s little claws. We keep them cut short, but we weren’t willing to take the risk.

CLEAN UP. Even though the floor guy did a really good job of getting up the excess dust, we wanted to go back and give everything a final wipe down before we started bringing in furniture.  This is where washable paint is really nice.  A damp cloth is all we needed to get the fine dust off the walls, moldings and windows.  Now, everything is perfectly clean and ready to be lived in!

So that’s how our floor installation/refinishing experience went! All in all, I don’t think it could have gone much better.

Cheesy referral demonstration images found here, here, here and here.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    April Moss
    November 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post. We’ve been thinking about refinishing our floors for a while now and I think we might get around to it the first of the year. I’ve been telling my husband we can do it ourselves, but now I’m having second thoughts! Hhaha.

  • Reply
    Linda b
    November 27, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Great post!! Very helpful!

  • Reply
    House #7 – Rochester Part 2 | New House On the Blog
    December 7, 2010 at 11:11 am

    […] wood looked in good shape, it just needed a good sanding and refinishing to give it the once-over (here’s looking at you, Greg and Ashley, from 7th House on the […]

  • Reply
    Jennifer Russell
    January 8, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Your floors are sooo gorgeous! Just found your blog today and it is fantastic! Such a cute dog, also!

  • Reply
    Underfoot Dilemma « Bunches of Joy
    July 19, 2011 at 10:12 am

    […] are countless images meandering around the Internet (can images meander?) . . . just check out this one of newly refinished hardwood floors in Dark Walnut stain (almost the same as the American Walnut […]

  • Reply
    August 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I’m making the decision now on what color to refinish my red oak hardwood floors (which look remarkably similar to yours) and I’m wondering how you’re feeling now that some time has passed–are you still happy that you chose to go dark? Many people are trying to warn me against going dark b/c they say I’ll end up being a slave to my floors (since they show so much dust/dirt/etc.). Have you found that to be the case? Or are you still happy with your decision?

    • Reply
      August 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

      Hi Kirin! Yes and yes… Yes, the floors show dust/dirt very easily. However, we’re so in love with the color that we don’t mind the extra work to keep them looking good. We have found that using our B&D Steam-Mop every few days really helps cut down on dust. So that’s been a big help and made it less stressful.

  • Reply
    January 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Hi Ashley,

    Beautiful house you have there! I was just wondering how many coats of the dark walnut stain did you use on the floor? I picked the same stain color for my new home but I’m not sure if one coat will make the floor dark enough…I’m trying to go for a darker floor look as well…TIA for your help!

    • Reply
      January 25, 2012 at 1:02 am

      We ended up doing two coats and we love how it turned out – not too dark, not too light. Hope that helps! : )

  • Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Your house and floors look beautiful. We chose dark walnut for our refinish too. Did you put on a satin or semi-gloss finish?

    • Reply
      March 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm

      Thanks! We did three coats of satin poly.

  • Reply
    Scott B
    September 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    These floors really look great. Thanks for documenting this whole process. It really is a big help.

  • Reply
    October 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Gorgeous floors! Thanks for posting-very useful in that I am having new floor put down in kitchen that is being blended in with older which is being refinished and my guy told me 2 coats is enough! I told him I had believed it was traditional to put down 3 and he said floor installers used to put down a sealing coat and 2 of polyurethane but the sealer is outlawed. I remember getting 3 coats on the old flooring and it has looked good after 18 years! Beginning to think I chose the wrong guy!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2014 at 7:07 am

    What is the color of the middle sample on the floor? Is it kind of a grey color. Love your floors by the way,

    • Reply
      February 22, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Thanks! It’s Ebony by Minwax – awesome color!

  • Reply
    Arturo Corzo
    December 28, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Great article! Your floors turned out absolutely gorgeous!

  • Leave a Reply