For some people decorating is a natural expression of who they are.  I’m an accountant, rule follower, black-and-white person by day, but there’s another part of me that loves beauty, creating, and designing (that’s this blog that we’re doing for fun in case you didn’t figure that out yet. :-) ).  Everything about buying a home has been a wonderful adventure and learning process for us.  The following post is about how I’m learning to decorate our first home.  It’s a combination of research, gut instinct, and even a budget that are teaching me how to pull it all together.  The Handyman puts in his two sense every once in awhile on decor decisions but pretty much let’s me take the reigns on this.

The kitchen and the living room are the rooms that we spend most of our time in, so naturally they are the first ones that I want to decorate. Decorating starts with the big stuff – the furniture, so having our house’s floor plan online has been so much help when picking out furniture.  My husband was the one who put our downstairs floor plan online at  Originally we did it just to show our layout on the blog but I have found it helpful as I plan out furniture arrangement.  It’s a free website and really easy to use!  Here’s the layout of our downstairs.

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You can add furniture, rugs, and even some accessories to the floor plan right on the website.  This back breaking saving method of furniture placement on the computer also benefits the marriage.  No more requests for the Handyman’s strength (and patience) as I ask him to help me move things over and over again until I get it just right. For example, here’s how I added furniture and arranged our living room:


Living Room Layout

I was able to change the dimensions of the couches and end tables above to fit the size of ours.  I used this to help me figure out what size rug to buy and what type of coffee table I should get.  I would have never considered a round table until I saw how it looked with the rest of the furniture in the room.

Another thing that helps me sort through what I like is using Pinterest.  I have a Home Inspiration board where I pin anything that I see that I love.   This is the gut instinct part that I mentioned earlier.  I don’t ask any questions.  I-Look-I-Love-I-Pin is pretty much how it goes.  When I look at all of my “inspiration” together I start to  see my design trends.  This is helping me figure out that I don’t have to be stuck with one style or one color when decorating.  If I’m working on a specific project, like the living room, I’ll create a board for that of the specific things that I’m looking for.  This helps me to hone in on what I have and where I want to go with something.

Home Decor Inspiration Board

Living Room

Here are some other helpful sources for decorating that I’ve found on this  journey:

One blogger’s candid review of “Good Reads for Home Lovers”.

An interview slap happy chat  with Jonathan Adler from the great Young House Love and his take on using three words to describe your home instead of sticking with one style.  

Not sure what you’re style is?  Here’s a quick guide on different interior design styles.

Still confused?  Here’s a couple quizzes you can take:

My results were: “Polished Casual”, “Farmhouse Glam”, and “Cottage Chic”.  I’m actually kind of surprised all quizzes yielded pretty much the same results.  I wasn’t surprised about “casual”, “farmhouse”, or “cottage” but I was suprised about “polished”, “chic”, and “glamorous”.  I guess this rustic girl still loves her some glitter!

I’d love to hear any decorating tips that you have for me!  Feel free to share in the comments section.



Do you have anyone you know that’s buying a house?  Our good friends just bought a home that they are planning on doing some work on.  We thought it would be fun to put together a house warming gift bucket with some of our favorite renovation tools and products.Mood Board - Gift Bucket

You can’t go wrong with one of those big orange buckets from Home Depot.  I love that it says “Let’s do this” on it.  Talk about instant motivation!  We got everything from Home Depot except the cleaning wipes which came from Target and a few other household items.  I also added, some trash bags, paper towels, and toilet paper that we had on stock in our home to help fill up the bucket.

Housewarming Gift-1

From home depot we got the following items, all of which we thought would be helpful to get a new homeowner started on some projects.  We got 2 of these aprons which we personalized for the couple.  This Goo Gone, is great at removing those annoying stickers that come on everything you buy.  We bought them some painting supplies including painters tape, this awesome paint bucket for cutting and edging, a drop cloth, a paint roller and my favorite paint brush for cutting and edging.   The Handyman picked out the work gloves, carpenter’s pencils, a utility knife, and the all in one tool that we’ve used for all kinds of things.

New Home Owner Gift Bucket Side by Side 2

I decorated two Home Depot aprons just for fun for our friends.  Drew likes to hunt so he got a deer drawn on his, and Steph has a ring to represent both her fabulous sense of style and awesome engagement ring that her hubby bought for her.   I’m not an artist so I found outlines online doing a Google image search and just traced them onto the aprons using a pencil.  Then I colored in with a sharpie markers.

New Home Owner Gift Bucket Side by Side

I put the toilet paper and towels in the bottom of the bucket as filler.

Housewarming Gift-6  And here’s the final product.

Housewarming Gift-14


If you want to do a gift for new home owners that have a more move in ready home (do those even exist?), a cleaning bucket would be another great idea.  You could fill it with your favorite cleaning products or buy one of these from Mrs. Meyers that is all set to go.  Congratulations on your new home Drew and Steph!  I can’t wait to see the transformation!


phase 1 of our home renovation includes three major projects: the kitchen, installing hardwood floors downstairs, and replacing trim downstairs.  Every once in awhile a little project will pop up that needs our attention (like mice in the attic), is a deal we can’t pass up (barnwood for a new dining room table we found on Craig’s list), or something that suddenly is deemed important by the unskilled laborer (like curtains for our living room).  I’m constantly on Pinterest looking for ideas for my home. I’m not even sure where I first saw these galvanized pipe curtain rods, but plenty of people have done them already and were probably originally inspired by West Elm’s $89 version.  Check out these blogs here, here, and here for more inspiration and installation tips.

We got almost everything that we needed at Home Depot.  I’m going to list out what you need for silver piping and black piping.  The black piping is cheaper and I’ve seen people spray paint it with oil rubbed bronze spray paint which looks really great too.  I wanted to at least show you the price difference, because it added up to be a little more costly than originally expected.

Silver Pipe Curtain Rod Costs: 
  • $11: 1/2 inch wide and 10 foot long pipe (They sell these at Home Depot and they will cut it down for free to the size that you need.  I couldn’t find anything on the website with further details on this.)
  • $9: 2, 1/2 inch floor flanges.  You can get these at Home Depot but they were almost $10 a pop.
  • $3:  2,  1/2 inch  by 2 1/2 inch  nipples
  • $4: 2 ,  1/2 inch 90 degree elbow
  • $3: 8 drywall anchors
  • Total Cost: $30 ($40 if you buy everything from Home Depot)
Black Pipe Curtain Rod Costs: 
  • $11: 1/2 inch wide and 10 foot long pipe
  • $8: 2 1/2 inch floor flanges.  You can get these at Home Depot but they were almost $10 a pop.
  • $3:  2  1/2 inch  by 2 1/2 inch  nipples (I know they had these in the store but the closest I could find online was 2 inches or 3 inches.
  • $3: 2   1/2 inch 90 degree elbow
  • $3: 8 drywall anchors
  • Total Cost: $28

I still think these curtain rods are a good value compared to those at West Elm, but to do a large window with the silver galvanized pipe, it’s not necessarily the cheapest option either.  Since they are going in our family room, and we needed long curtain rods to cover a double window and a sliding door,   we were ok with paying around $30 each and still fell like it was a good deal.

Pipe Curtain Rod-8

I bought these gold clips from JoAnn Fabrics, and scored four Ikea Aina white curtain panels marked down in the Ikea clearance bins from $25 to $15 a panel.  These were a steal especially since they were 98 inches long.  You normally have to pay extra for that!

When you get to Home Depot, go for the the 10 foot pieces (don’t try and do the math, trust me it’s a better deal), and then you can have the Home Depot guys cut them for you.  Depending on the size of your windows you might even be able to use one 10 foot pipe for two windows.

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Here’s what the threading machine looks like.  Disclaimer: Don’t forget to have them “thread” (put the screwy stuff) on each end of the pipe or this will result in a return trip to Home Depot.  (That may or may not have happened to us.)


We measured multiple times and marked the walls to make sure that we were placing the rods at the right place.

Pipe Curtain Rod-13Pipe Curtain Rod-16

At this point in the process Simon decided he didn’t need to supervise any longer.

Pipe Curtain Rod-11

We installed the drywall anchors.
Pipe Curtain Rod-18 Pipe Curtain Rod-21

Then you can put the parts together for the curtain rod.Pipe Curtain Rod-10

Don’t forget to string on the curtain clips, before installing the rod.  This is also why it’s important to get curtain rings that have clips on them.  That way you can take your curtains down easily for some easy cleaning.

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Pipe Curtain Rod-27-2 Pipe Curtain Rod-26 Pipe Curtain Rod-27 Pipe Curtain Rod-33


We are so excited to spend our first Christmas in our new home!  The home projects are still ongoing, but have definitely slowed down with the busyness of the holidays.   I made some time to do a little decorating around the house.  We’ll get back to sharing our projects in the New Year, but for now we’ll take you on a quick Christmas home tour.  We spent very little on Christmas decorations this year and I really tried to be creative with what we had already.

We The handyman hung some lights outside in the snow.

Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas
Home for Christmas Home for Christmas
The dining room:

Home for Christmas

My mom made the table runner out of an old burlap coffee bag.  She just cut it to size and let the edges stay fringed.

And lastly, our Christmas tree.  We purchased a Fraser Fur from Produce junction along with some other garland to decorate around the house with.  I just love live trees and garland!  They make the house smell sooo good. The lights on the tree are a few a of my outdoor patio lights.  We used our smaller white lights from last year to decorate outside, and decided to try the big ones on the tree this year so that we didn’t have to buy anymore.  The tree was a lot bigger than I was hoping for, but it fit perfectly in our little breezeway/entryway area.  I love seeing it lit up at night from the outside.

Home for Christmas

Thanks for stopping by!  Merry Christmas!



Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Dave and I have so much to be thankful for this year.  We have been blessed with so much this year that it’s great to take a day and reflect on what we’re thankful for.  We are also enjoying the start of this holiday season in our new home.

I’m not sure how many of you are planning on hitting the stores tomorrow but I wanted to share with you a great Black Friday deal that is going on at Rugs USA right now.

As you know we’ve installed hardwood in our downstairs and I knew with that I would be shopping for area rugs.  One of the first places I want to add is rug is in my living room.  My “decor style” is pretty neutral right now.  I’m more interested in decorating with different layers, textures, and patterns rather than a lot of bold colors.  I decided I really wanted a jute rug for my living room, and the Heathered Chenille Jute Rug from Pottery Barn has been on my wish list.  Unfortunately the price, doesn’t allow for me to get anything else that’s on the home decor wish list.    Even though the 8 by 10 is on sale for $450 (down from $500), it’s still a lot to spend on a Rug! I did my homework and found people out there that loved this rug from Pottery Barn:

Emily A. Clark wrote here about her rug search and ultimately decided on the “Heathered Chenille Jute Rug” from Pottery barn.  She has 5 kids with there share of spills and messes and said that this rug was easy to clean and also soft.  A lot of jute rugs are rough so I was a little concerned about that.

I of course cannot just take one person’s word for it so I continued my research.  Mary at Lemon Grove Blog wrote about how much she loved this pottery barn rug too and is hoping to use in her home. You can see it on the first mood board in this post.  She also reccomended this rug from Home Decorators that have a little bit better price point at around $299 for an 8 by 11.  Read more about her search and see how great they look in her rooms here.  I was concerned about how soft a jute rug would be but she assured me that the Home Decorators rugs were very soft.

At this point I was still digging the Pottery Barn one but was just not loving the price.  I decided to call my local (one-and-a-half-hour-away) Pottery Barn Outlet to see if they had any in stock.  They didn’t but told me I could keep calling and checking back.  I asked if they knew how much an 8 by 10 rug would be if they got one in.  Apparently it all depends on the condition of the item but I could expect about 30% off.  At 30% off that would make the rug about $350.  That’s better than $500 but still a lot to spend and not to mention the road trip I would have to take to go get it.

After a lot of searching around on the internet I found that Rugs USA had some awesome prices.   I did a lot of research specifically from other bloggers hereherehere, and here that had good experiences with Rugs USA so I figured it was worth a shot.  I could not be happier!

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-7

This is the Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug.  Here are the things that really sold me on this:

  • Price: 8 by 10 was originally  $517 but at 70% off I got it for $155.  (FYI I ordered the rug a couple weeks ago when it was 50% percent off, but I called when I saw it get marked down to 70% off and they gave me a price adjustment.  The customer service representative that I spoke to said that as long as it didn’t ship I was eligible for a price adjustment.  Based on my research 75% off is the highest that Rugs USA will mark down items, so the Black Friday Deal that they have right now is fantastic!
  • Reviews: 4.5 stars out of 5.  I wasn’t going to buy anything unless it came with good reviews.  Rugs USA does accept returns but it would have cost me $80 to return it.  Check out their return policy and shipping costs for more information.
  • Softness:  I didn’t want a scratchy and rough rug.  Jute is naturally rougher than other types of rugs.  It is definitely soft and has some give to it, but it’s not plush like a shag rug.  It’s not scratchy and feels smooth to the touch.  It doesn’t bother me walking around on it with my bare feet.
  • Shipping: It took 9 days to get here from my order date.   I didn’t think that was too bad, especially since the shipping was free!

I love how chunky the rug is.  Here are some pictures with a penny for scale so you can see the size of the weave.

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-5

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-8

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-9

In the spirit of full disclosure, the rug does have some imperfections but that is to be expected with natural fiber rug.  See how the one end here is not completely straight?

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-6

It doesn’t really bother me that much but might both other people.  I ended up flipping the rug around because the other end was straighter… so maybe it bothers me a little bit.  :-)

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-10

I’m interested to see how the rug wears because some of the fibers stick out a little bit like in this picture above and below.

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-11

We also tested it with our Dyson vacuum cleaner which didn’t seam to damage it or pull up any of the fibers.

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-2

Our living room is still in progress with the decorating but I love how this rug is helping it to all start coming together!

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-16

Rugs USA Natura Handspun Jute Natural Rug-15

So if you’re searching for that perfect rug right now go check out Rugs USA before the Black Friday sale ends!

After finally learning about hardwood and making our decision we were ready for install!  When I say we, I mean the Handyman.  We took a week off of work in July and this is what the Handyman spent most of his time working on.  I did a lot of painting, bringing breakfast, lunch and dinner to the Handyman and helping him find missing tools and provide encouragement during this process.

As you might remember in this post, we picked out two different types of hardwood for our entire downstairs.  We’re going to share with you the tips and tricks we learned to install this nail down hardwood in the kitchen, dining room, and office.

Step 1: Prep the floors.  Everything needs to be removed and you need a clean sub floor underneath.  I got to spend a lot of time pulling out staples from the previous carpeting that was in our dining room and office, because that is an unskilled task.

Here’s what the rooms looked like prior to install:


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Step 2: Determine the direction of your flooring. A general rule of thumb is to have your flooring run perpendicular to floor joists, preventing your hardwood from sagging between joists that may result in opening gaps. However, running perpendicular with the joists may not be the most visually appealing (such as in our case). If yo wish to run parallel with your subfloor, you will need to ensure that your sub-floor is sturdy and rigid enough (you may need to add additional sub-flooring material over top) and that your flooring is thick enough to handing any possible sagging of your subfloor between joists. In our case, we felt comfortable enough with our sub-floor and hardwood to run parallel with the floor joists. This is the direction of flow when walking from the front of the house to the back, and is the longest direction in our main rooms.

Step 3: Determine which room you are starting in, and which wall is the longest.  In our case, our dining room was the more rectangular room with the longest wall, so we used it as our starting point.

Step 4: Lay down the underlayment.  We ordered this Fortifiber Aquabar B Flooring Underlayment from Amazon.  The Handyman spent a lot of time researching underlayments and found this to be a great product at a great price. Aquabar B is a much cleaner product and is easier to work with than other typical underlayments such as roofing felt and rosin paper. It is an excellent moisture vapor retarder but won’t trap moisture condensation between it and the subfloor. The Aquabar B underlayment also costs the same, if not less, than the other underlayment options. The underlayment goes down one row at a time. Once you install the flooring and cover the row of underlayment, you lay the next row, with a slight overlap. Another reason to love Aquabar B – it has lines that show you exactly how much of an overlap to have…. brilliant!

Step 5: Let’s get this process going already!  Can you see how much prep work is really involved?  With the information from the hardwood manufacturer, determine the proper expansion gap for your hardwood. Your hardwood will expand and contract with temperature changes and needs space to expand. Measure the expansion gap on both ends of the wall PLUS the width of your first row of hardwood, and snap a chalk line on your underlayment, This will give you a line to use to make sure your first row goes in square with the room. Otherwise you will get to the end of the room or the end of the house and find that your flooring is crooked compared to the walls!

The first few rows needs to be both face nailed and blind nailed with a hammer since the nail gun won’t bit tight up against the wall. Depending on the wide of your hardwood, this could be anywhere from 1 – 4 rows. Make sure to pre-drill holes otherwise you will split the wood. Use a punch to just slightly recess the nail into the hardwood. You will then come back and use wood putty to cover the nail holes for the face nailed areas. 


Step 6: We used an air compressor and this nailer from Lumber Liquidators to nail down the flooring.

Step 7: So once all the nailing is complete.  You’ll eventually get to the end of your room, and you’ll get close to a wall.  The Handyman used this pull bar tool to help him get the boards really tight together.  It literally changed his life.  (Thanks Uncle Andy for the recommendation and letting us borrow your tool!)

Here’s what it looks like completed!

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Final Flooring-3

Final Flooring-4

Final Flooring-5

Oh yeah, that whiteness in the top of the last picture are our shiny new kitchen cabinets.  We’re not done yet folks!  Stay tuned for the kitchen update!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links.  We will only recommend products that we truly love and have used in our home.  

There are more flooring posts to come, if you missed the first two check here and here.  We thought we’d take a quick break to share a post about one of the many joys of home ownership… leaf clean up!

The leaf situation is slowing us down from moving forward with our indoor projects but it has to be done!  The leaf clean up has been keeping the Handyman busy on the weekends.  While he wishes he was inside doing projects, he’s outside dealing with the crazy amount of leaves we have!  I’ve offered to help, but he always says no.

This leaf blower was a birthday present from my parents.  My father is a handyman too and knows a lot about equipment.  He reccomended this puppy for us to help with our leaf clean up:

Leaf Clean Up (8)

We don’t buy electric outdoor power tools in this house.  Everything is gas powered.  My Dad liked the STIHL products because you can buy replacement parts for them. Dave has been happy with the blower and thinks it works really well for our needs.  He blows all the leaves in the backyard onto a tarp and then carries them down to the front of our street.  In our community, the township comes and picks them up throughout the week during the Fall season.  I was snapping some pictures while Dave was leaf blowing to show you the progression and unfortunately Simon didn’t quite understand how the whole process works and ended up getting a little too close!






Disclaimer: No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.


Don’t you just wanna jump in that pile?!


So after all that research on flooring we ended up making our “final” decision 4 different times. We made a lot of trips to Lumber Liquidators, Lowes and Home Depot during the planning stage of the renovation.  In every decision we make for the house we ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Does it fit into the budget?
  • How will it affect the resale of our home?  Is this just something we like or would others like it too?
  • Is this timeless and traditional or trendy?
  • Do we like it?  (That question should be at the top of the list, and it typically is, but we want to make sure we weigh all these other options before making a decision just because we like something.)

We contemplated finishing just certain rooms in the downstairs, but since we ultimately wanted to have the same flooring throughout the entire downstairs we figured to bite the bullet and do it all in one shot.  We set our budget to be $3-$4 per square foot, which quickly narrowed down our choices.  You  probably already guessed what we decided to go with in the preceding opinions from this post, but we decided that traditional hardwood was the way to go.  The Handyman loves wood, and I love traditional old homes so a medium toned solid hardwood felt like a natural choice.  I previously mentioned that we made 4 different final decisions about our hardwood.  Here they are:

Final Decision 1: We found this beautiful teak hardwood flooring from Lumber Liquidators that they no longer stock.  It was very similar to this one.  We were ready to order the flooring but decided to wait and think about it more (it wasn’t as thick as we wanted).  When we called later in the week to order it, Lumber Liquidators was out of stock and had discontinued this particular flooring.  They had other sizes and thicknesses available but they were out of our price range.

IMG_0903Final Decision 2: After the Lumber Liquidators Fail we decided to go and look at Lowes and Home Depot to see what they had there.  With a 10% moving coupons, we found that the pricing was similar to or better than that of Lumber Liquidators, however the selection was fairly limited.    We did find one flooring that we really liked from Lowes.   It’s similar, but not exactly the same, to this one from the manufacturers website.    We went to order it when we were at Lowes and even though it was on display in the store, it was out of stock and they weren’t going to get it anymore.  Sadness…


Final Decision 3: At home depot we found a Bruce Hickory Hardwood that we liked.  It was a little bit lighter toned than what we were looking for but felt it was traditional and classic and would work well in our home.


I’m guessing you already know what happens next…  Flooring decision number 3 isn’t going to work out and are probably sick of this story by now.  Don’t worry we’re almost done!  The flooring decision making process started around January when we signed the paperwork for our house.  At this point in the floor decision journey it’s the beginning of April right before we get ready to close on our house.  Things get busy leading up to that and we don’t actually pick up the hardwood right away.  On April 12 we closed on the house and were checking out the place that evening.  We were sitting in the family room when when a light bulb went off.  My Dad asked us what type of flooring was underneath the carpet in the family room.  We assumed it was normal plywood that we could nail hardwood down too.  A quick look under the carpet and after 3+ months of planning we received our first home reno surprise.  There was a concrete foundation underneath the carpeting in the family room.  You can’t nail down normal hardwood to concrete.  I consider it a God thing that we never bought final decision 1, 2 or 3.  If we bought from Lumber Liquidators we would have paid a restocking fee to return, not to mention what a pain it would be haul all the hardwood back and return it.  

We wanted all the downstairs flooring to be the same to help open up the floor plan.  The Handyman really wanted to do a nail down floor in the rest of the house, but we were now forced to go back and look at those with a click-lock system which meant engineered or laminate.  The engineered wood was almost as expensive or more expensive as the natural hardwood.  For reasons mentioned in our Flooring 101 post, we felt that laminate just wasn’t the right option for us.  One of the items that we didn’t spend a lot of time looking at was bamboo.  Initially, I (Lauren) didn’t care for the look of it but we found a version called “Strand Carbonized Woven Bamboo.”  It has more of  a grainy  look to it, whereas non-carbonized is more plain with the weird bamboo “polka dots”. The bamboo had a click lock option, that could be used for the family room and regular nail down for the rest of the house.  So, drum roll please, final decision number four was made.


We ended up spending $3.99 per square foot for this for the family room.  (I’m jealous that it’s on sale for $3.59 at the time of this post!)  We spent $2.59 per square foot for nail down version used in the rest of the downstairs.  It looks like they don’t have what we bought on their website for the rest of the downstairs but this one is very similar except that our boards were 5 1/8 inch wide.  So it wasn’t our 1st, 2nd or even 3rd, choice but we are very happy with the decision that we made and hope it will hold up for a long time.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about buying flooring!  This was a tough process for us and we’d be happy to share any insight or try to answer any questions that you might have.

XO, Handyman and Unskilled Laborer




Welcome to Flooring 101!


Once we signed all the paperwork to buy the house we had about a month and a half to do some research and shop around for flooring, a new kitchen, paint, trim, etc.  The hardest decision to make in all of this was picking out the flooring. There are so many options out there!  The handyman and the unskilled laborer decided to collaborate on this post to share what we learned from our different perspectives.   We’ll also share with you how we came to make our final decision on what to go with… 4 different times, but that gets a whole post of its own!

Here’s a quick summary of some of the major types of flooring out there.  We included pricing from Lumber Liquidators to give you an approximate price range for each type and also some mood boards to give you an idea of the different looks.  Please keep in mind that Lumber Liquidators is constantly having sales and changing prices so what I have below could literally be different by tomorrow.

Laminate or Vinyl:  Laminate flooring is not real wood.  It is made up of multiple layers of artificial flooring material fused together using a lamination process.  It is made up of a fiber core board that has a laminate or vinyl “picture” on top that makes it look like hardwood.  This is a very scratch resistant floor which is especially good if you have kids or pets.  They are even beginning to make laminate that is handscraped which gives it a texture to make it look even more like real hardwood.

  • Pros: Very durable and long lasting, scratch resistant, easy to install, inexpensive, no defects
  • Cons: Not quite the “real thing,” cannot be refinished, difficult to repair, hollow sounding, only offered as floating
  • Cost: Typically ranges from $0.50 – $2.50 per square foot depending on quality. See the wide selection of laminate flooring at Lumber Liquidators.
  • Best Environments: High traffic areas, if you have kids and pets.
  • Installation Methods: Floating click-lock
  • Our Opinion:  We felt that laminate was not the right choice for our home, but it can be a great option in many other situations. We’ve had a couple of our friends install laminate in their condos and it looks awesome.  I (Lauren) didn’t even realize their flooring was laminate until they told me!  They felt that laminate was an appropriate price point for what many would consider their starter home.  This is a great option and definitely worth looking into if you’re on a budget or want something that’s easy to install.  The handyman wasn’t real crazy about the hollow, “tappy” sound when you walk on it. We also decided against laminate because we wanted the new  flooring to have the same level of quality as the other improvements that we were making on the home. 
Laminate Mood Board

Engineered Hardwood: A newer product on the market, engineered hardwood is similar to conventional hardwood flooring but contains 2 or more layers of wood. The first layer is a wood veneer (typically 2-4mm thick). The remaining layers consist of several layers of solid wood, plywood or high density fiberboard (HDF). These layers are bonded together using extreme pressure. The typical profiles are either conventional tongue and groove or a click-lock system.

  • Pros: Reduced moisture problems compare to regular hardwood, can be less expensive than regular hardwood, environmentally friendly
  • Cons: Typically more expensive than laminate, cannot be sanded down or refinished,
  • Cost: Typically ranges from $1.50 – $8.50 per square foot depending on quality. See the wide selection of engineered flooring at Lumber Liquidators.
  • Best Environments: High traffic areas, if you have kids and pets.
  • Installation Methods: Floating click-lock, nail down or glue
  • Our Opinion:  We felt that engineered hardwood was a good option but found that what we liked was still just as expensive as nail down hardwood.  We’d rather get the “real deal” for what we were willing to spend our money on.  
Engineered Hardwood Mood Board

Solid Hardwood: Solid hardwood is your conventional hardwood flooring, consisting of one thing…. solid, beautiful natural wood. Sold hardwood flooring comes in a variety of thickness…typically 3/8” to 3/4″. The standard profile is tongue and groove.  Depending on what type of wood you get will depend how easy it scratches.  One of the benefits of solid hardwood is that it could potentially be sanded and refinished one day if you wanted to change the color or clean up some of the scratches.  You just have to make sure that you get something that is thick enough to allow for some sanding.

  • Pros: An investment in your home, high quality look, very durable, able to be refinished – extending the life, better acoustics, easy to repair, added character over time
  • Cons: Can be expensive, expands and contracts with humidity, sensitive to moisture, some imperfections, harder installation,
  • Cost: Typically ranges from $2.00- $10.00 per square foot depending on quality. See the wide selection of solid hardwood flooring at Lumber Liquidators.
  • Best Environments: Can generally be installed in any area of the house but must be installed above grade.  It is not reccomended to install this in your basement.  Good for high traffic, and with kids and pets.
  • Installation Methods: Nail down, glue down, floating click-lock
  • Our Opinion: We thought right off the bat that solid hardwood would be the way to go to.  The Handyman loves wood and I love traditional homes so this just seemed like a natural choice.  We also thought real hardwood would be better for resale on a single family home and would better match the high quality look we were shooting for.
Solid Hardwood Floor Mood Board

Bamboo: Bamboo is a relatively new material used in flooring today.  Bamboo is a very eco-friendly resource that is a type of grass that is glued together and made into into flooring.  It is an unbelievably hard material.  It is much harder than oak and many other types of wood.

  • Pros: An investment in your home, high quality look, very durable, better acoustics, ecologically friendly in that it is a highly renewable resource, slightly more water resistant than regular hardwood, natural material
  • Cons: Not as many color options, can fade over time if exposed to UV light
  • Cost: Typically ranges from $1.50- $6.60 per square foot depending on quality. See the wide selection of bamboo flooring at Lumber Liquidators.
  • Best Environments: Can generally be installed in any area of the house but must be installed above grade. Good for high traffic, and with kids and pets.
  • Installation Methods: Nail down, glue down, floating click-lock
  • Our Opinion:  We like most things that we read about the quality of bamboo but we didn’t really care for the look of it.  We have a more traditional style and I felt like it had a more modern look to it that I wasn’t really into.
Bamboo Flooring Mood Board

Cork: Cork is a type of flooring that is made from the bark of the tree.  It’s a lot softer than regular wood, very comfortable to walk on and is also hypo-allergenic.  Some people are beginning to install this in kitchens because it is easier on your back if you do a lot of standing in the kitchen.

  • Pros: Comfortable, noise reduction, hypo-allergenic, resistant to insects
  • Cons: Not as many color options, sharp objects can puncture or damage flooring, heavy furniture can leave marks in it
  • Cost: Typically ranges from $1.30- $4.50 per square foot depending on quality. See the wide selection of cork flooring at Lumber Liquidators.
  • Best Environments: Can generally be installed in any area of the house but must be installed above grade. Good for high traffic, and with kids and pets.
  • Installation Methods: floating click-lock, glue down,
  • Our Opinion:  Although we liked the idea of cork, the high potential for scratching, and not wanting it everywhere in our home brought us to quickly rule out cork.
Cork Flooring Mood Board

Feel free to comment or shoot us an email if you have any questions about the floor choosing process! We’d be happy to share anything we’ve learned along the way. Check back on Wednesday to see what we picked!

XOXO, The Handyman and the Unskilled Laborer

Our first step in the whole renovation process is to start taking out all the old stuff.  On our to do list is:

  • Remove old flooring throughout the downstairs.  This includes linoleum in the kitchen, hardwood in hallway and breezeway, and carpeting in the rest of the rooms.
  • Remove wall separating kitchen and breakfast nook.
  • Remove kitchen cabinets and appliances.
  • Take down all trim and baseboards throughout the downstairs.

We have an incredible group of friends who offered to come over and help us during our first demolition weekend.  They came and ripped out carpet, used sledgehammers, crow bars, and helped in pretty much anyway we ask to get started on our renovation journey.  Dave and I both work full time so the whole demo process took about a month to complete with just doing it on evenings and weekends.

Check out these pictures of the demo process:

Kitchen Before:




After Removal of cabinets and appliances:



Time to bring in the big guns for the wall removal!


Here’s the kitchen/breakfast room wall before:





This is the view into the kitchen from the family room.  It really opens up the floor plan for the downstairs!


Here’s some more progress shots:



And here is the one time that the unskilled laborer got to use one of the big tools:


I spent most of the demo phase ripping out old carpet which I really enjoyed.  It’s a quick and easy project that anyone unskilled like myself can do.  But just because my husband is a handyman doesn’t mean he gets to get out of all of the grunt work.  Thank goodness he discovered this guy while cleaning, and not me…. there would have been a lot of hysterical shrieking and maybe, a tear or two shed from the shear terror of this discovery:


Luckily this guy wasn’t alive when we found him and we haven’t seen anymore friends since then!

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