Wood Flooring: Engineered, Solid, or Laminate

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When we purchased our first and current home in 2011, we had big, big plans to give it a facelift. One of the projects that topped our list was to redo the flooring throughout the house. Our home is on the smaller end spanning 1,142 sqft with two bedrooms and two baths. We wanted to create a visually spacious home, considering its small size, by eliminating the separation of spaces as much as we could. This didn’t necessarily mean tearing down walls. For us, it meant installing one type of flooring throughout the house except for the bathrooms and laundry room. We didn’t like that our living spaces were divided up with various types of flooring—laminate in the kitchen, tile in the entryway, and carpet everywhere else. We wanted all of these spaces to seamlessly flow together.

We spent several weeks contemplating the type of flooring we wanted, window-shopped at local flooring stores, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and researched online. The winning vendor was BuildDirect based on the ease of ordering free samples, their affordable prices, and excellent reviews. We decided to go with pre-finished engineered hardwood instead of solid hardwood flooring. Engineered hardwood is similar to plywood in that it is made up of several layers of wood glued together and topped with a layer of the particular type of wood that you chose, such as, oak, maple, walnut, etc. The layering provides the benefit of less expansion and contraction of the overall floor, and this is especially important for a floating floor that is not attached to the foundation whatsoever.

Since we have a concrete foundation where we cannot nail down wood flooring, we felt that engineered hardwood was the best option. The disadvantage of engineered hardwood flooring is that it cannot be refinished because the top layer is only a few millimeters thick. Though solid hardwood will expand and contract more than engineered wood, both types of wood flooring work great if you have plywood subfloors because you can nail them down to limit some of its movement. The greatest advantage of solid hardwood is the ability to refinish the floor many times over its life time.

You may have seen a type of flooring called laminate flooring. It is composed of high-density fiberboard and topped with a synthetic film with a picture of wood grain printed on it to give it the appearance of wood flooring. Personally, I’m not fond of laminate flooring because it doesn’t allow easy fixes for nicks and dings (which are bound to happen!), but it’s a good alternative to keep costs down if you’re considering an affordable remodel.

The flooring we chose to install is called hand-scraped Indian Yellow Maple. We decided on a flooring that was pre-conditioned with “character” instead of having perfectly smooth flooring. I knew it would drive me mad to see a gash or deep scratch staring back at me among the vast smooth flooring. New scratch? No problem. Dab a little wood stain on it, and it’s just another flaw in the sea of imperfections!

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One of the details I enjoy most about the installation of the floor is how we changed the direction of the flooring by 90° as you turn into the kitchen.

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As for the rest of the house, we kept it in one direction along the longest length of the house.

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Here’s a spiffy gif I generated showing the process of demolishing the old carpet flooring and installing the new floor. This is the basic process:

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  1. Move out furniture
  2. Rip carpet out
  3. Rip carpet padding out
  4. Scrape carpet glue off concrete
  5. Pry carpet nails out of concrete
  6. Vacuum/Sweep
  7. Lay down underlayment
  8. Apply glue in groove of each wood plank and install [REPEAT 1 MILLION TIMES!] 

I may be exaggerating a bit on step 8, but it certainly felt that way. The worst type of flooring to demolish is tile—tile adhered to concrete, that is. This little entryway of tile felt like an eternity to demo! ↓

IMG_0706Lo and behold, there was light at the end of the tunnel, and now it looks like this from the other end of the entryway. ↓

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I love the little hooks we installed on the half wall. They’re so useful and pretty—a perfect combination. ↓

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It took us about 3 months to complete the demolition and installation working weekends only. We suffered, we learned, and we were greatly rewarded. So goes the recurring theme of the avid DIY-er.

I hope this helps you in making the right decision on choosing your wood flooring. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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Rosie’s South Bay Market Update

With the month of May having come to a close, I’d like to give you an update on our current housing market conditions using data I’ve collected and summarized from MLSListings. Unless you’ve been out of the loop or live under a rock, you are well aware that we are in a strong seller’s market with too few homes available for the masses of buyers out there. Year to date, median prices across the board are well above $700,000 with the median sale price in Saratoga at a whopping $2.4 million! ↓

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The lengths that buyers will go to realize their American Bay Area dream is extraordinary. A Willow Glen home sold for 32% over list price…with a catch—a death occurred on the property. It sold after just one day on MLS. The upfront disclosure regarding a death on the property may have bolstered a bidding frenzy causing the sale price to skyrocket. Among these 9 select areas in the charts above and below, one home in Sunnyvale took the gold in achieving the highest sale/list price ratio at an incredible 156% or in other words, 56% over asking! ↓

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Time and again, we hear that inventory is low. In fact, it has been on the low end as far back as 2012. The problem that we face now is the lack of inventory for countless residents looking to buy in addition to the growing influx of young professionals moving into the Silicon Valley from elsewhere. Most homes remain on the market for a mere 8 to 9 days limiting buyers to a single weekend to visit the open house. Back in 2011, most homes remained on the market for a full month before selling.

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Remember those days when buyers could get away with offers below list price, contingencies, and still get the house? Well, those days have been long gone since 2012 in the majority of buyer experiences. See the steep increase in median sale prices and sale to list price ratios below. ↓

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A couple lessons to learn:  1) Sellers, price your homes at a competitive price—meaning: do not price it ridiculously high. Buyers will be turned off and the property will sit and go stale. At a competitive price, you attract a wider range of buyers vying for your home which will naturally increase your sales price to a healthy number on par with the current market and may even result in a higher return than you expected. 2) Buyers, know how much homes are selling over asking price in the areas you are interested in and be prepared to bid within that range or take a step back and consider looking into a lower price range and less competitive areas.

Good luck, happy selling and buying, and contact me if you plan to do either one!

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Laundry Room Reveal

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The long awaited laundry room reveal has finally arrived! [cue chirping crickets] Our laundry room was small, dysfunctional, and at one time, plain grody. Now, it’s functional, clean, and still small, but we’re so much happier with it now. The contents of the laundry room include a water heater, furnace, washer, and dryer. When we purchased the house, it had linoleum partially covering the floor that was peeling at the edges and a large patch of sheet rock in the ceiling. We suspect the sellers cut the ceiling open to install their satellite dish which we eventually removed. What an eyesore that thing was! ↓

laundryThen, we wanted to make the room more hideous so we tore out the lower portion of the walls. ↓

laundry1Not really. We actually had to remove part of the walls due to damage from the Great Flood of 2012. It was a traumatic experience, but we got through it without curling up in fetal position sobbing granted we had just finished installing hardwood floors (ourselves!) throughout the house just two months before it happened. Let’s save that story for another day, shall we? 😉

We lived with the laundry room in this state for at least two years. We kept the door closed 99% of the time. Out of sight. Out of mind. I squirmed each time a piece of clean laundry fell on the floor. I guess my thinking was that the room is already incurably gross. Why bother? “You can’t polish a turd,” said somebody. So, I reluctantly nodded in agreement and never made the effort to cleanup except for the occasional vacuuming. We forgot to snap a true before photo. So, this is after we removed the washer which sat next to the dryer you see here. ↓

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laundry3Once all appliances except furnace were temporarily relocated, we began the back-breaking work of removing the linoleum. The worst part of linoleum removal is scraping the adhesive off the concrete floor. And the worst parts of removing our appliances were ice-cold showers/gym showers and washing our clothes elsewhere or not at all. Home-remodeling can truly make you appreciate the finer things in life. ↓

laundry5We (meaning my husband) finally closed the walls up, taped, and textured the new sheet rock to match the existing walls. FYI, it all blends in after painting. ↓

laundry7Then came the most daunting part of the remodel: tiling, something we never attempted before. After countless hours of research on tutorials and the how-to’s of thin-setting, grouting, and meticulously measuring and cutting the tile, Sean was ready to take on the challenge. We installed black hexagonal tile, which were sold in 12×12 inch sheets by Amazon. Each hexagonal tile was 2×2 inches. Apparently, they are sold for a lower price at a different website. ↓

laundryLadies and gentlemen, may I present to you our new laundry room! First, from a distance. ↓

laundry8Previously, the washer and dryer were side by side. We decided to stack them to create a more functional space to make room for the shelves on the left side for air-drying various articles of clothing. Lifting the dryer up top the washer was no small feat, which reminds me that I seriously need to work on my upper body strength. The detergent typically sits on the shelf, but I removed it for photo aesthetics. ↓

laundry9We tried to think up ways to hide the water lines but decided it would make the space feel and look smaller. I guess we’ll go for the industrial look for this room. Mr. Leak Frog sits in the lower left corner ready to alert us of any risks of floods. It has served us well and saved us once so far.

laundry10This corner of the laundry room is a massive improvement! We framed the openings in the wall behind the water heater, covered gaping holes around the water and gas lines with escutcheons, added extra aluminum mesh to keep bugs out, and braced the water heater to studs through the drywall. ↓

laundry11Just to jog your memory of how far we’ve come. This is what it looked like. ↓

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The day has finally come when we can leave the laundry door open.
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