...because home doesn't happen overnight.
01.11.12 / The Flooring

…Oh, the flooring. This is the post where you’re probably expecting some great ‘after’ shots of our new engineered hardwoods. Sorry to disappoint, but we’re nowhere near done with the flooring install. This is real life people. So, I’m not going to sugar coat anything. Not even for the sake of keeping a chipper attitude on a blog.

First, let’s start with the underlayment and flooring we’re using. We purchased both the underlayment and engineered hardwood flooring from Build Direct. Everything arrived on time and undamaged. We’re actually quite happy with that part of the whole flooring thing.

The underlayment is 3 in 1 Sound Choice Acoustical Underlayment. As the name suggests, it provides acoustical insulation along with a moisture barrier. Both of these characteristics are necessary for our Underdog as we’re installing the flooring in a room with vaulted ceilings {echoes, hello…hello…hello} and onto a concrete slab. It has a lifetime warranty and is made from recycled materials. We paid $0.49/sq ft for the underlayment.

The engineered hardwood flooring is Jasper Handscraped Birch in Texas Brown. It’s recommended for residential use above or below grade and has a 25-year warranty. It can be glued, floated, nailed and/or stapled during installation. We chose it for its ability to be placed on a concrete slab, its aesthetic {5″ width, handscraped, color and grain} and the price. We scored it for $2.04/ sq ft.

Once the underlayment and flooring were delivered, we stored them both in the Underdog’s garage – against the manufacturer’s suggestion and our better judgment – but we really had no other choice as the Underdog’s interior was a disaster zone. If you ever choose to purchase hardwoods, you shouldn’t store the flooring in a garage or basement due to high levels of moisture that can cause the wood to warp. We did keep the stack of boxes up off the floor with a skid and brought the flooring inside the house to acclimate once the house was in working order…about a week before we started installing the floors.

Handy Hubby laid the underlayment which was a piece of cake. Basically, you just cut it to size and tape all seams. The big thing here to remember is that your subfloor {in our case, the concrete slab} is clean, dry and free of debris. We scraped, vacuumed and mopped the slab in preparation for the underlayment.

Once the underlayment was down, it reminded me of turf and I couldn’t wait to cover it up. It’s like a giant green screen on the floor and it messes with your eyes and brain after a while. All the paint we had just put on the walls and ceilings started looking quirky but it was just because of the very green underlayment.

The next step was where stuff got a little hairy. You may have previously read that HH is an engineer. So he likes things {particularly measurements} to be exact. Which is all well and good – except when things aren’t exact.

We decided we wanted the flooring to run the length of the house {parallel with the hall} as opposed to running from the front of the house to the back. HH wanted the boards to run perfectly down the hallway so we made a chalk line straight down the center of it into the great room. We used the chalk line to line up our first row of floor boards under the big picture window in the family room. To square things up, we used spacers along the wall. We were very promiscuous with our spacers along this first row. Everything was measuring up, so we set to work placing, cutting and gluing our tongue and groove engineered hardwoods. We used Roberts Tongue & Groove Adhesive #1406. It’s no VOC, non-toxic and non-flammable.

Now, when I say ‘gluing’ I don’t mean gluing the boards to the underlayment. We’re gluing each and every board’s tongue and groove to the adjacent board which will essentially create one floating floor in the end. Typically, tongue and groove flooring can be nailed down but with a concrete slab and no subfloor, that’s not an option for us. {We weren’t willing to put down a floating subfloor and lose height/mess with all the door openings.} Quick-click flooring would have been a great time-saving option for us but, when we were shopping around for flooring, prices for quick-click floors were at least $2 more per sq ft than the $2.04/sq ft we paid for the Jasper Texas Brown. That would have doubled the cost…although it probably would have knocked off our installation time by more than half. Next time we install hardwoods ourselves {which I don’t foresee happening for a long time}, we might think twice about paying more $$$ for a floor that can be installed in a timely manner. But for now, we’re on a tight budget and sticking with what we’ve got.

I wouldn’t say installing this flooring is difficult but it’s definitely time consuming. Gluing every last seam is tedious. And because we stored the flooring in the garage, some of the longest boards {the floor comes in random lengths} are warped. Boo. Totally our fault. The good news is they aren’t completely unusable. We’re finding that if we use them at the end of a row and cut them to fit, the cut is releasing the board so that it no longer bows. So all is not lost. Plus, not all of the longest boards seem to be affected…only the ones that were in boxes at the bottom of the stack in the garage.

After 6 hours of nothing but installation on that first day, HH and I didn’t even get half of the great room done. :( We knew then and there that we were in for a looooooong project. The next day, I worked at my real job while HH spent his last vacation day over at the Underdog working on the floor. I got a call from HH just a few hours in and he was distraught. He had busted out his trusty laser level and found that at the rate he was going, it was going to put that elusive center board down the hallway ‘off.’ Here, I’m thinking the hallway is going to be all crooked, diagonal. I asked him how ‘off’ it was. He said 1/4″. I thought he was maybe going to cry.

I immediately told HH that it might not be perfect and I would be okay with that. No big deal. I advised him to put his laser level away. All I could hear on the other end of the phone was heavy sighing. That’s when I all but forced him to take a day off. Up until that day, HH had spent 3 straight vacation weeks working on the Underdog. During that time he only took one day off…Christmas Day. He needed a break. He was sore. He was exhausted. And if you ask me, he was a little delirious – and rightfully so! Who wouldn’t be after all that hard labor and little rest?

HH’s response? “But I have to get us in here.” Meaning, he wanted to get his family into a true home instead of a temporary apartment. I could have cried myself. That’s all he wanted. I assured him I was fine with our temporary living arrangement. Even if it was turning out to be longer than what we had anticipated. Even if it meant bringing home a newborn to a teeny apartment.

No house is worth HH’s physical or mental well-being. So after some coercion, HH did it. He took a break. A much needed break. After 4 full months of putting in an extra 20-30 hours of labor per week {on top of his regular 40+ hour work week} at the Underdog, HH got out of there and traded sawdust for fresh air instead.

This is where I want to tell HH in front of a lot of people how much I love and appreciate him. Do you think that’s too sappy? Well, too bad because this man completely deserves it. He is working his a$$ off and not complaining one bit. He misses dinner with his family regularly to squeeze in a little project at the Underdog. He comes home exhausted yet manages to bathe and dress the kids for bedtime because I’m the one who’s complaining of being tired. Sometimes he misses the kids’ bedtime altogether to stay late and renovate then comes home and plans what he needs to DIY the next day. He’s nonstop. I don’t know how he does it. But I love him for it. He’s doing it for us, for our family and I feel very lucky that he picked me to be his wife. He’s amazing. ‘Nuf said.

So after coming to the realization that this flooring install isn’t going to happen overnight {but if the Flooring Fairy wants to pay us visit we won’t turn her away!}, we’re taking it one day, one board at a time. “Patience is the key to joy.” That was HH’s fortune in his fortune cookie this past weekend. How fitting, right?

The *very dirrrrty* install looks like this currently…

HH has been randomly placing painter’s tape onto the flooring once glued to keep the seams nice and tight. We’re still holding out on painting the brick fireplace surround. Since removing primer and paint from brick is nearly impossible, we just want to be 100% positive it’s what we want before we take the irreversible painting plunge.

If you ask me, the hallway looks fabulous! Just don’t ask HH’s laser level. ;)

The best news? HH and I both love the way the floor is looking – minus the dirt and dust. Here’s a better shot of the wood tone and grain…

I can’t wait to give it a good cleaning. After we finish the bedrooms and other half of the great room, that is.

Thanks to all of you who have shared your own tongue and groove glue installs with me! It really helps to know that others have done it and found the results to be well worth their while. Such an inspiration!

FYI – I was not compensated in any way for mentioning all those products. Just sharing what we’re using!

images: 1&2) Build Direct  3-12) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



I love that wood. Our main level is concrete flooring but it is painted. I can’t say I would want to install hardwoods down there, maybe eventually move to an acid stain. We installed teak flooring in our daughter’s bedroom and loft (200 sq. ft.) and our master bedroom (675 square feet). It was very different since we could nail down the boards because we were on a second story subfloor. Good job! And way to make him take a break!

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I love your floors, but must ask, why does Build Direct sell their flooring in “random lengths”?

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replied on January 14th, 2012

Kelsey – The boards come in random lengths so that you can avoid having a bunch of seams line up together. The layout looks more, well, random. Even though they are ‘random lengths’ there are 3-4 different lengths and that’s it. It’s not like each board has its own random length. Hope that makes sense!

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HH, the floor looks killer. From a couple who could only DREAM of doing what you’re doing, “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy.”

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I remember how difficult the flooring job is. I give you guys credit for taking on such a monumental job. You also get bonus points for so sweetly doing it for each other. Congrats on the reno, and the good attitude. It’s something so few people have during a big project like this!

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The floor looks beautiful. We did this in our great room but it wasn’t wide plank. I thought this project was going to mentally do me in. I don’t think I’ll ever take on a diy project like this again. Good job!

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I didn’t expect this post about flooring to be so touching! Your family surely deserves to move in as soon as possible. With your patience and hard work, of course you’ll all be coming home to a wonderful house. The floors look good even if it’s uncleaned. As one working for a flooring service provider (http://www.prepcoflooringllc.com), I can see that you have really nice floors there. Can’t wait to see the house when it’s done!

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Dana – my husband and I are about to undertake the same process with our new home. We go back and forth between the handscraped and the smooth prefinished look. What made you decide on the handscraped? And what was the turn around time for delivery? Your home is such an inspiration – your blog and YHL are my must reads!

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replied on January 25th, 2012

Erica – We have friends who have the handscraped and we liked it. Plus, with kids in the house, we thought it would take on wear and tear a little better than the smooth finish. I think it will have a nice patina to it in a few years. Who am I kidding? It may only take my kids a few months to make it look 5 years old!

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Sorry if this has been asked before but… Were you able to come up with a pattern when placing the random lengths down? We have 5 different sizes in each box. It would help to have a pattern so we don’t have to study the floor pattern every couple of boards. Any help would be appreciated.

Love your blog btw.

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replied on May 14th, 2012

We didn’t use any pattern. Just checked along the way to make sure that seams weren’t all lining up in the same place to give it a more random look.

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I noticed that you are using the Sound Choice underlayment from Builder Direct. I am also looking at using that for my click-and-lock bamboo flooring installed over concrete. Are you happy with your choice of underlayment? Is it as quiet as it claimed to be. Thank you. Also, it would be really nice if you post a picture of the finished and clean flooring that your husband worked so hard on. My Dear Hubby is also planning to install it himself. I would really appreciate your feedback. Thank you.

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replied on September 16th, 2012

The underlayment does provide some sound insulation. It’s still a bit ‘loud’ in our great room but we think the vaulted ceilings really contribute to that. Once I layer some sound-absorbing rugs around the living room {on top of the sisal} and in the kitchen + hang some fabric curtains, I think things will quiet down a bit. During installation though, we could definitely tell a difference after just the underlayment was in. It’s waaaaaaay better than concrete.

A post all about the finished flooring is in the works!

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replied on September 16th, 2012

I am considering the same Sound Choice underlayment from Builder Direct. I feel more comfortable ordering it now after reading this. Thanks for sharing.

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I ordered from build direct, Iam using laminate, they sent me a sample of their underlayment , which was very thick and dense with green barrier on the back and the other side with grey, so I made an order (2000) sq.ft. and what they sent was very thin about 1/16 thick, and purple on the back, so it must go back, I hate it when they switch and bate. So just saying keep your samples and compare. Just wondering did anyone order underlayment for laminate and what did you receive. Just wondering if I got a bad batch. the sample measured about .64 the sample about 0.125

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sorry type o, what I ordered measured about .64 and the sample they sent was 0.125

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UPDATE; The underlayment by soundchoice should have an average weight of 13.8 pounds – or + 2 pounds and no more, mine only weighed 9-10 each pounds, they said it may have been a bad batch and to send it back and will be replaced. Build direct has been very helpful.

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Hi, we are considering putting these same floors in our house…everywhere. Now that you have lived on them a while, are you still as happy with them? We have the same issues you faced, concrete floor, high ceilings, and a lot of space to cover. Thanks! I really appreciate you sharing your experience.

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Hi Dana, Just checking to see how the floor has held up over the past year. We are considering using Jasper wood floors (Standard Grade Canadian Maple) in our home, but I wanted to see how the product has worked out for you. Unfortunately there aren’t many reviews outside of Build Direct’s site, and I was looking for some outside feedback.

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Please google “BuildDirect reviews,” and you will find many negative reviews of BuildDirect’s products.
I had a horrible experience with BuildDirect, and learned a great deal about wood flooring and BuildDirect. Bottom line is that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU AVOID BUILDDIRECT for the following reasons;
1) They are based in Vancouver, British Columbia. If there is a problem with your order and or/flooring, they are difficult to legally pursue and they know this. In my case they refused to honor their 25 yr structural warranty after my floor delaminated within weeks of installation and after acclimation according to their instructions.
2) BuildDirect’s Terms of Service WAIVE your right to sue them in small claims court.
3) BuildDirects Terms of Service REQUIRES that you utilize an arbitrator from an arbitration firm which is chosen by BuildDirect; you decide if that places you the consumer at a disadvantage.
4) If you choose to participate in the medication process, this will REQUIRE that you travel to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Do yourself a favor and purchase from an American Company which at least will have to adhere to U.S. law, and can more easily be held accountable.

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Hello…can you please let me know how these are holding up? I see some negative reviews about these floors…but also some positive. Thx!!

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I am also curious about your flooring from BuildDirect…We are building our dream home and were wondering how you like your floors. Thanks!

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Timothy Tom, We’ve seen your grievances about Build Direct in different flooring websites. Your story with that company is heartbreaking. We are planning to renovate the flooring in our old home and would like to know if there are other complaints. In general, all we’ve heard of Build Direct is positive and we are tempted to take the chance because their prices are really competitive, right for our budget. We ordered some samples from them and they measure up to any fancy hardwoods. We have tested the samples from Build Direct and those of local suppliers, and the BD samples fared much better to the tests of water, ammonia, vinegar, hammering, scratches and even the broiler. We are loving the quality and looks of these Build Direct woods. HAS ANYONE HAD HORRIBLE EXPERIENCES WITH BUILD DIRECT? We are hesitant!! Thanks.

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Please be aware that if you purchase flooring from BuildDirect.com that your warranty is a sham. How can I state this? Please dont take my word for it, and google humidity levels in your city, both AM and PM levels, and levels throughout the seasons. OK next please obtain the written warranty from BuildDirect for your flooring product. You will find that that is a REQUIREMENT that you maintain your home at between 35% and 55% humidity levels AT ALL TIMES. There is virtually not a single home in the U.S. that can maintain humidity requirements year-round to maintain BuildDirects warranty. Virtually 100% of the flooring products that BuildDirect sells can (and will) have its warranty voided based on their sham warranty (as they voided my warranty despite the written findings of a certfied Nevada court expert on wood flooring documenting manfacturing responsibility for the delamination of my flooring.)

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We are contemplating using this same flooring. Do you have any comments to add after living with this flooring for a few years? Would you recommend it it?

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