Monday, March 18, 2013

From Blonde to Brunette

    On our floors that is.  There is something to be said for light colored floors.  They certainly hide dirt better and keep things light and bright, but around here we prefer dark wood.  When we closed on our house, we were in a mad dash to get these floors refinished quickly before we moved our stuff in.

{Floors sanded down and ready for staining}

     We dove into our search for a "floor guy" with little to go on except a three year old post from Young House Love and a general idea of how much we wanted to spend.  Remember, we're beginners here and just learning as we go.  We used both Yelp and ServiceMagic to conduct our local search.  We live by reviews, so it was really important that we found someone both inexpensive and highly rated. We decided on a place that had good reviews and charged about $1.50 per square foot--it wasn't the cheapest around, but certainly wasn't the most expensive.

    Almost more importantly, they were able to fit into our tight time constraints.  We needed to have them start on a Saturday and finish with plenty of time for the floor to cure before we moved in the following Saturday.  A few days later, they got started.  In a nutshell the process went something like this:
  • Preparation: Sweeping, moving the few things that were in the all but empty condo into the bathrooms and shutting the doors
  • Day 1: Tarping kitchen appliances and cabinetry, sanding, applying floor conditioner to prep for stain
  • Day 2: Staining
  • Day 3: Poly coat 1
  • Day 4: Poly coat 2
  • After: We waited about 48 hours after the second poly coat until we started moving furniture in and put felt pads on everything that might come in contact with the floor!  We were told to wait at least 30 days before putting any area rugs down.


    We weren't allowed in the condo for the duration of the process for obvious reasons, but I got nosy and took a progress picture everyday from the threshold of our front door, so as to not disturb the fresh finish.  I pretty much jumped up and down everytime I opened the door to see that a new coat had been put down, and I couldn't have been happier with the color!  Speaking of color, that is one area where we disagreed.  I gravitated more towards rich chocolate tones while Kevin found that it was the reddish tones that resonated with him more.  We must have looked at the Minwax chart for hours on end.  I have seen other DIYers coming up with their own formulas, but having no idea how this might turn out, I didn't want to custom blend a color only to be disappointed in the end.  It came down to Dark Walnut (my choice) and Red Mahogany (Kevin's choice) as shown below.  I realize now that they look almost exactly the same, but it's funny how when you're in the midst of planning, the smallest differences look so much bigger.  Luckily, fate played a hand at helping us choose.  

{Left: Dark Walnut; Right: Red Mahogany}

    While looking at the Minwax demo chips at the local Home Depot, we stopped by the "Oops" cart where staffers stick incorrectly blended paint colors and random returned products to sell at a reduced rate.  It happens to be my favorite part of the store.  As luck would have it, a Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Kit in a lovely shade of chocolate brown was just sitting there, staring at us with its $35 price tag.  Now let me back up for a moment.  The two of us, the crazy DIY newbies that we are, had been contemplating refinishing our yellow toned cabinets ourselves to go with our "darker wood" vibe.  Rustoleum sells kits that contain everything that you need to get it done, and they usually retail for about $70.  At half price, we snatched it right up.  We asked about it at the counter, and apparently someone had it mixed at another store and returned it later, so they had to mark it down, but unlike other "oops" items, the color was guaranteed to match that which was on the box.  Once the kit was in our possession, I realized that the Red Mahogany just went better with it than did the Dark Walnut.  Yes that's right, I made $1000 decision based on a $35 decision.  Probably should have been the other way around, but it definitely worked out!

{Left: Stained; Right: First poly coat}

      See how shiny and rich it turned out?  Even the professional made a comment about the color choice.  He said that it's definitely not the most popular color that they do, but he thought it was the perfect choice for our place.  Of course he had to say good things about his work, but I was really proud that Kevin had chosen a color that was a little less common but turned out so beautifully!  It makes our place kind of unique.  It's brown in the right light and reddish in the right light and we love it.  The process was easy considering we were essentially having strangers all but destroy our place just a couple of days after we signed the papers.  It is definitely one of those "there's no going back" types of projects.  In the end, the company came in under the original estimate and turned out a great final result.

    However, if we were to go through the whole experience again, there are some things we would change.  I thought I'd share them here for your benefit.  Now, we were definitely warned about the amount of dust that would be created whether or not we went with a dustless system (by the way, our professional did not use a dustless sander), but I will also mention here that tarping off is invaluable.  Luckily we could just shut the doors to the bathrooms, but our kitchen is open to our living room, so they whole thing had to be tarped in plastic.  If you are considering having floors refinished in a space that is already being lived in, then I think a dustless system is a must-have.  It is probably worth the extra investment.

    In addition, we went in knowing that some of the stain would end up on the trim, but had we planned ahead, we would have taped up the baseboards before they got started.  It's taken quite a few coats of glossy white to cover, and some of the corners still look dingy due to uninvited dark stain.  But that's a project for later.  For now, I will just stare and admire.

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