White wood floors tutorial

Posted by & filed under Our Home, tutorials.

Since it’s officially been two months since we installed the new floors in the kids’ room, I figured it was finally time to make good on my promise to show y’all exactly what we did and how we did it.

It all started with lovely, perfectly good berber carpet. Then a midnight bloody nose (which looked very much like a crime scene) made it not so perfectly good. That, combined with a nearly-ready-to-crawl baby, motivated us to pursue a cleaner, less allergenic (is that a word?) option for their nursery floor.
So, this is where we started:
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I let Hazel play on Oliver’s comforter while I cleared out the room.
She fell asleep. I love her.

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Ew. See the yucky carpet? (Post crime-scene clean up, though there’s still eveidence.) Understand why I didn’t want my little treasure to be crawling around on carpet if we could help it?
So, I went for it. It took some cahones, but I just grabbed at one corner and pulled.
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I felt a little guilty pulling up perfectly good padding underneath, but I was focused on my goal. After the carpet and the padding came the tedious job of pulling up all the nail strips and staples. I recommend having a buddy or music or something for this part or it can get pretty long and annoying.
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Okay, so I forgot to photograph the room after I had it totally swept and prepped, so just imagine that picture here. We swept then vacuumed, just fyi.
Next came the fun part: actually laying the wood and seeing things come together.
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We used 6″ wide southern yellow pine purchased at Lowe’s or Home Depot, I can’t remember which. Ryan spent the better part of an hour in the lumber aisle hand picking each plank for straightness and uniformity. (My job was to cart the kids around the store, gathering our other supplies and finding a quiet part of the gardening section to nurse a very insistent baby. Yes, that happened. Not my favorite moment, but we pulled it off.)
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I wish I could tell you lots of useful details about the laying of the wood, but that really was Ryan’s job. He used a pretty hardcore nail gun per the suggestion of the Lowe’s employee who was concerned that the boards might creak if you didn’t tell them who’s boss. He started at the back of the room and made his way to the front, using a chop saw to cut the boards to size.
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We decided that we definitely wanted the wood to continue into the closet and that was a little tricky but we figured it out. There’s actually a tool you can purchase for about $12 that helps you cut your door frame trim higher to fit flooring under it. Nifty.

Also, at the end a few boards needed to be ripped. We didn’t have a table saw at the time (bought one at a yard sale the following weekend for $15. Blerg.), so the cuts were a little choppy – nothing a little quarter round couldn’t hide.

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Ryan was tempted to leave it unfinished. It really was pretty, but I was focused.
Besides, I’ve always wanted to get to roll paint onto a floor. Kinda hard to mess up.
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I used porch and floor paint and a really low-pile roller cover. It took about 3 coats and it was honestly so much fun. At one point I lost all ability to restrain myself and just sloshed a big glop on the floor to push around. I’ve always wanted to do that.
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(Note: if you want more cracks and pits to show in the end, don’t slosh your paint on the floor. It fills the pits, which is just fine and maybe even desired if you want things to look nice and solid. But if you want things to have a more rustic look, no sloshing.)
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(I think the above picture was taken after the first coat.)
Next, protect your hard work with polyurethane.
This is the part where you get to learn from our mistakes though. We naively purchased CLEAR satin polyurethane thinking it would dry, well, clear. But, when the final coat dried, there was a bit of a yellow cast in some areas. It wasn’t bad – in fact, we thought maybe our eyes were playing tricks on us – but a quick Google search told us that oil based polyurethanes will have an amber cast that will get darker with time. Dang it.
So, let it be writ: buy WATER-BASED polyurethane to finish your floors. You’re welcome.
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So in conclusion, here are some of the supplies we used and what we learned about using them:
  • Latex satin porch and floor paint – rolled on with a low-pile roller
  • Satin polyurethane – use water-based!
  • We rolled the first coat of the varnish on with a foam roller and quickly learned that it wasn’t the right tool. It left bubbles.
  • We sanded the first coat of varnish really thoroughly per the can’s instructions and cleaned the floor well before applying a second coat – this time with a natural bristle brush.
After we got the wood laid, the rest of the steps were pretty simple. The curing time in between coats and the odor from the varnish were the hardest parts. Fortunately, we managed to keep everyone out of the house most of the time.
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So, 1 weekend, 40 planks of southern yellow pine and a couple of good sloshes of paint on the floor later, we upgraded the kids’ room from this:
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to this:
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I’m sure I didn’t cover everything, so if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll be answering questions right here in the post. Hopefully that will be helpful.
And, there you have it. I can’t tell you how happy we are with our new floors. It’s unbelievable to me how much more I want to be in that room. We play in there so much more now! Upgrade.

Answering questions from the comments:

Cost: Each 1x6x8 board ran between $9-$10 for us. You do the math with your own square footage. Other than that, you will need a gallon of paint, a gallon of varnish (both of which can be used to do SEVERAL rooms), brushes, quarter round (if you choose to use it) and a new register cover in our case. All said, for the kids’ room (I think it’s about 11′x12′ or so) we spent $400 give or take. (It will be more if you need to buy or rent a nail gun and air compressor.) We plan to tackle the bonus room next which is well more than double the size so we’re saving up. Definitely worth it if you can swing it!

How smooth is it to walk on? It really is just like any other wood floor. I would say that there are probably places where it’s a little higher or lower than others, but we never notice it.
Does it scratch easily? So far, so good! That was part of why we put down two good coats of polyurethane. That way, if something scratches, it’s the finish and not the paint. We did have one yellow wooden toy that Oliver stepped then slid on that left a little yellow mark. It didn’t scratch the finish, just left a scuff mark of it’s own.
How about showing dirt? How are you cleaning it? I just broom sweep it regularly and I’ve been using diluted lysol liquid floor cleaner less regularly than I should be. :) I’m hoping to find room in the budget soon for one of those Shark steam mops. I hear they actually sanitize your floors!

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22 Responses

  1. amanda 21 October 2010 at 6:47 am

    >Wonderful! After my last comment about the floors, I was afraid I'd jumped the gun, maybe you laid white pine laminate or something, and maybe I might have been offensive.
    But you did it! You used real honest to goodness wholesome wood! Love it.
    AND.. as a general contractor & carpenter's wife (& sometimes assistant).. I love that all your tool talk is rock solid! I know it's bad, but it's a secret pet peave of mine when people do tutorials & butcher the names of all tools & material. Like Wayne's Coating. Oh dear. I shouldn't be that way, I know, but I'm just sayin'. Great job!

    Minwax Polycrylic is where it's at. Water based is way easier to work with in my opinion, too.
    We learn something like AFTER the fact with every home project, too. We had a huge learning experience with slate, and grout on slate. Sigh.
    Oh well, live & learn. It looks awesome!

    Reply
  2. Vanessa 21 October 2010 at 6:07 pm

    >You may have already mentioned this, but what color did you choose for the walls? That is the exact color I want for my kids room!

    Reply
  3. keight dukes 21 October 2010 at 7:23 pm

    >ok, you said blerg. that means you are a fan of the greatest TV show of alltimes ever in the world. as if i needed to like you any more.

    also, you made this seem totally doable. that is frightening because we have HORRIBLE carpet everywhere in my house that i hate to look at and think about being such germ-velcro.

    Reply
  4. Erin 21 October 2010 at 7:24 pm

    >love it . . how much did it cost?! I would love to do something like this in my master bedroom!! My Birthday is in January so maybe then I could get some money!!

    Reply
  5. Anonymous 22 October 2010 at 1:10 am

    >this looks absolutely beautiful! way to go! I have a few questions…how smooth is it to walk on? And does it scratch easily? How about showing dirt? And how are you cleaning it? Much appreciated! Seriously a lovely room; I can see how you want to spend so much time in it :)

    C

    Reply
  6. Alyssa 22 October 2010 at 2:53 am

    >The floor looks amazing! Great job! Another tip for anyone using poly is to never use it with high humidity. When we did our floor in July, it was horrible and took 3 WEEKS before we could move furniture back! We still have wet bubbles come up between the boards, 3 months later! We used Minwax High Build poly and will never recommend it to anyone! Here is the step-by-step from our project, and for weeks after that post, you can find every bit of drama that came with those floors! ;)

    http://leangreenmomma.blogspot.com/2010/07/delays.html

    Reply
  7. Molly @ Me and Madeline 22 October 2010 at 3:40 pm

    >Amazing job!! I totally had no idea you guys actually laid and painted the floor – that's what you call DIY!! And just think, when you get bored with the white – you can paint it any.color.you.want. Ahhhhh

    Reply
  8. Cheslee 17 December 2010 at 5:19 am

    >I am just curious as to what the $12 tool was that you used to adjust your door frame. We are abot to lay wood floor and we have a few door frames that have to be cut int.

    Reply
  9. Sarah 25 September 2011 at 8:18 am

    I was wondering what fabric you used for the quilt? I love it! Also, I’m not sure if I missed, but I too love the wall color, do you remember what it is?

    Reply
    • Raechel Myers 26 September 2011 at 10:56 am

      Sarah, the blue duvet of Oliver’s is actually made from a Lacoste bedsheet I bought at Marshalls for a couple of bucks. I added strips on the front and back of Anna Maria Horner’s Good Folks line plus a little Wonderland by Momo (the brown/blue dots).

      The wall color is Teal Zeal by Behr.

      Reply
  10. Amy 2 February 2013 at 11:00 pm

    How did you transition the floor from the hallway to the bedroom at the bedroom door? Is the hall outside the bedroom carpet or wood?

    Reply
    • Raechel Myers 3 February 2013 at 11:30 am

      Yes, the hallway is carpet. The boards in the bedroom run across the doorway, so the final piece was cut to butt up against the carpet.

      Incidentally, we had new carpet installed shortly thereafter, so ultimately it was the job of the installers to make that seam look perfect.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  11. Jessica 9 May 2014 at 4:39 pm

    I know its been awhile since this post but I was wondering how well these floors held up? I’m curious about trying this in my children’s bedrooms as well.

    Reply
    • raechelm 11 May 2014 at 8:04 pm

      They’re great!!! We have since done our son’s room as well, and did clear water-based poly to keep the natural look.

      Reply

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