Finishing Floors: Cinderella Never Worked This Hard

Three inches at a time is a real fun way to cover four hundred square feet of floor space. It makes me understand the appeal for some people of buying a big role of carpet and having some burly dudes from the carpet store install it.

The installation of the floor occurred over some vacation days I took from the day job in April. It used to look kind of like this:


It had a few things going for it, like walls. And a ceiling. And… well, beyond that the future master bedroom needed some help. I painted the walls and created some rustic trim for the window:


The floor installation wasn’t a difficult job so much as it was more time than I’ve spent crawling around on the floor since I was two.

The flooring I used was 3/8″ walnut from Launstein Hardwood Floors. The nailer I had access to only worked for 5/8″ or thicker hardwood, so the installation went something like this.

1.) Lay out pieces. I have an issue if the seams end up too much like a pattern or if the color of boards isn’t consistently mixed across the floor, so this meant opening several packages of wood and mixing up lengths and colors.


2.) Glue. Because this is only 3/8″ a construction adhesive needed to be applied to the back of each board.


3.) Nail. Nails went every 6 inches or so with the small finish nailer. (Those are not my hands by the way, I had help with this project.)


4.) Repeat. FOR.EV.ER


It seemed like a good idea to leave the floor in its unfinished state (with a strip of cardboard to protect the path from bedroom door to bathroom door) while buckets full of concrete were being hauled in for the bathroom counters. Since the floors needed a light sanding anyway, any accidental scratches could be buffed out.

When work picked back up on the floors, it started with a cleaning.

5.) Shopvac. I would guess this is self explanatory.


6.) Sand. This wood comes pre-sanded so it just needs a quick hit with 100 grit sandpaper to get rid of any minor scratches or fingerprints. It would have been easier with a large orbital, but in this case a small one did the trick. At some point you forget what its like to walk upright anyway.


7.) Tack cloth. It doesn’t matter how good you shopvac, there is always more dust to be found with a sticky cloth. I found I trusted the actual sticky cloths better than the washable static kind for this endeavor.


8.) Poly. This might be my most favorite job ever. The transformation in this walnut with just a coat of clear satin poly is absolutely stunning.


Here’s a closer look. I feel like a magician.


9.) More repetition. The floor looks good when the first coat dries, but you can see some places where the wood absorbed the poly better than others. This has to be sanded one more time and then hit with the tack cloth. Again.


10.) Finally, a finished floor.



Its amazing what a little paint and some hardwood will do for a room.



Almost looks livable, doesn’t it? Of course, I’ll be spending a little quality time with a coping saw putting in baseboard before that happy day comes, but it’s close.

26 Responses

  1. Oh my, this takes me back…my husband and I spent four months doing this type of work. We had many pee soaked areas that we needed to remove and replace (thanks to the previous owners) and three rooms of boards that we needed to remove and re-install. Then of course was the re-finishing of 2000 sq. ft. – I don’t think I walked normally for weeks. Hopefully your knees don’t hurt as bad!

  2. Walnut floors look like they were an excellent choice and I bet they will wear beautifully. What are the outlets on the walls for?

    1. Those are actually switches on either side of the bed. The idea was that we could turn the overhead lights on/off from them without getting up, but we had this strange brain-lapse when we put them in, and they’re at standard switch height instead of lower next to the bed. So. We’ll see how it actually works out when there’s a bed in there.

    1. I look a little like Elaine from Seinfeld when I do my happy dance, but that sure doesn’t stop me!

  3. Oh my gosh, that is AMAZING! My most favorite thing in your house so far. Wow. Wow. Wow. I’m sure those walnut floors set you back a pretty penny but whatever you spent it was well worth it!

    1. The country-grade walunt we purchased was $3.45/sq ft, which definitely wasn’t a bad price for that floor!

  4. Beautiful!! I’m not even a good decorator, but I can totally visualize a little reading nook over by the fireplace. Can’t wait to watch the progress!

  5. As someone who has spent a few hours laboring over hardwood floors herself (tack cloths are NOT my favorite), I can truly appreciate all the work you put into this and the result is spectacular. Go ahead and do the happy dance again.

  6. Wow. Love! From the closet pictures I knew they would be beautiful but seeing them in a big room they look even better. Yes Cinderella never worked that hard but she also just had crappy tile floors.

    To follow up on our HW floor search I’ve finally found some 4″ wide hickory, solid 3/4″ for $3.93. Whoot! Sorry no road trip right now. Maybe after you get more than one bedroom done. : )

  7. What a transformation – the floor is gorgeous! You are a wizard-ette and deserve a wand or ten!

  8. Wow, what a stunning difference this floor has made to your home. I can tell you, though, that it is very much a young person’s job. There is absolutely no way I could do that work now with my kness what they are. Age… It ain’t pretty!

  9. Beautiful floor and walnut is such a deluxe choice of wood.

    I refinished the floors of our first home, a 1940’s era tiny thing. I used a hand sander so I can relate. Tough work, but I did not trust myself to operate a proper floor sander.

    Nice work

  10. In a word – AWESOME! I can readily identify and CURRENTLY at that! I started with w/opening up the doorway between my living room and my dining room, (yes, got help w/that as that was a load bearing wall and didn’t want the attic in the living room and the rest is a 2 year saga!!! I’m an almost 70 year old widow and never content without making something better, bigger, (you get the idea). Anyway , ripped up all the carpet, padding, carpet strip’s, etc. etc.. (I did rent a sander.) Next thing I knew I was redoing this little old 52 yr. house and going from one thing to the next while something or other is drying, curing, et al ad naseum – YIKES! Now I’m not putting down new wood;( as much as I’d like to have), just not in budget. Anyway, am going to bleach mine out to get them as light as possible then put umpteen coats of poly on them. (Maybe I ought to try to still invent that 30 hour day I’ve been working on forever now, ya think)?
    Anyway, absolutely GORGEOUS girlfriend!

    1. Ree- you are totally my hero. What you’re doing with your floors sounds like it’s going to be fabulous! I’d love to see pictures when you get it done… I think refinishing existing work is harder than putting in new, for sure.

      1. Kit
        Thank you so very much for the compliment! Don’t think I’ve ever been called anyone’s ‘hero’ before.(Nuts – maybe….LOL) I literally stumbled across your blog and I’m so glad I did – When I do find the time to stop and check my mail on here, occasionally I will take a minute or two to ‘browse’ anything to do w/DIY, since I’ve always loved to refinish, refurbish, etc., etc. anything that could be, (including furniture), hand painted deco, stenciling, you get the idea.
        Think the only thing I haven’t done is build a house from ground up and that isn’t likely given my age and things yet to be done here. My daughter asked me about this time last summer about when I’d be done. Told her I thought about Christmas. Boy I’m glad I didn’t say what year! Taking care of inside, outside, car, and health issues have consumed a lot of my time this year darn it! Then there is the weather – don’t wanna go there except to say HOT, HOT, and more HOT! Not going to complain though winter will be here before we know it, AND with it the Holidays. Your donkey’s (or was it burro’s?) are precious! I’m a real animal lover as well and had to give back to GOD my best friend last Sept.(2010) and oh, how I do miss her!! HE ‘sent’ her to me loooong before I ever could have even guessed how much I would need her (long, long, story that). Will follow your blog as time permits. Blessings in all you put your hands too.
        PS Will send pics when done. (Whenever that may be)!

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