The Treehouse: Whitewashed Floors

December 30, 2013

finished floors 2

By Gabrielle. Images by Ben Blair and Gabrielle.

I’m still giddy as can be about our finished floors! I’m definitely in the honeymoon phase where I tenderly sweep and sponge-clean them each day, and passionately apply felt protectors to any furniture that is even thinking about moving on to those floors.

finished floors 1

The whitewash finish is exactly what I hoped it would look like. But my-oh-my it took some work to get them to this lovely state.

rolling carpet

Here’s the story (sorry in advance for the Instagram shots, but I hardly pulled out my big camera at all for this ongoing project). When we moved in, we found exposed wood in the kitchen, carpet in the living room and hallway, and ceramic tile in the entry. We pulled up the carpet and found beautiful wood under one portion of the carpet, plywood subfloor under the dining nook portion of the carpet, and old linoleum tiles under the hallway carpet.

We spent quite a bit of time deciding what to do, and ended up choosing to add to the existing wood. Keeping wood in the kitchen and living room. Adding wood in the dining nook. Replacing ceramic tile and linoleum tile with wood in the entry and hallway. Basically, the whole main floor is now wood (except the bedrooms).

We were told that the old wood and the new wood could be matched and that the finished floors would look seamless. Hooray!

breaking up tile

The first step was demolition. We took out the rest of the carpet, and the ceramic tiles (way harder than it looks!). We pulled off the baseboards too. Then our woodworker, Merick, installed the wood. This was estimated to take a week, but ended up taking longer because there were some surprises. For example, under the ceramic tile in the entry, there wasn’t much between the inside and the outside:

through the floor

So that took some work. But during the installation, we could still walk on the floors and use the house pretty normally. We would have to clear certain areas for the day or maybe even just the morning, but it wasn’t too disruptive.

installation begins new wood

When Merick was done, the floors looked like this, a mix of new, unstained wood, and old wood:

mismatched floors 1 mismatched floors 2

The new wood then needed to cure for at least 2 weeks. Because of the timing of Thanksgiving, our wood ended up curing for about a month.

cleared floors

Then it was time for Merick to come back. This time, everything had to be off the floors completely. All the furniture. And all the people. This included the kitchen appliances. Lots of work! Ben Blair happened to be in France for this clearing part, but happily, I’m stronger than I look. : )

final sanding

Merick prepped with putty, and set nails for about a day and half, then there were a few days of sanding and buffing. At this point, the old and new wood were starting to blend more, and it was time to discuss the stain color. I showed Merick some of my Pinterest images of “white-washed floors”. I even showed him this tutorial in case it helped.

Technically, the floors aren’t really whitewashed. They’re bleached, then stained with a white stain. But when I say “whitewashed floors” I’m meaning wood that looks white-ish, but not painted white — wood that still shows the grain.

Once the floors were sanded, it was time to bleach them (not with Clorox, but with a wood bleach), and 24 hours later, the white wash (white stain) went on. 24 hours after that two coats of sealant were scheduled to go on.

The extra challenge here is that the whole job was originally scheduled to take 7 days, but ended up taking 11 days instead — plus another two days of letting the floors rest before we moved furniture back on. And we were all camping out upstairs without at kitchen that whole time. We were getting on each others nerves for sure. We made a make shift kitchen in the office (toaster, cooler with milk & jam, supplies for making lunches, etc.). We ate out a lot during that time. And we couldn’t wait for the floors to be done!

At this point, the floors were bleached and stained and ready for sealant. They weren’t quite what I had pictured, but I trusted Merick. He had seen the inspiration photos and was the expert, so I figured the sealant would finish things off and give just the look I was going for. (Obviously, I’m a newbie as far as floors go!)

So the 2 coats of sealant went on while I was busy with my day. Eventually, I came downstairs to look at the basically finished floors. And that’s when I started to freak out.

awful floors

The floors looked awful! Something about the sealant gave the whole floor a golden slant that I didn’t want at all. And the difference between the old and new floors was striking — it was suddenly super pronounced. It’s like you couldn’t tell they had been white washed at all! Merick was coming back the next morning to do a final buffing and put on a final coat of sealant. And I didn’t know what to do.

I couldn’t sleep that night. It had been 9 days up till this point (when we had mentally prepped for 7), and we were so ready to be done. Plus, this was an expensive job. But I hated how the floors looked! I felt so hopeless. And was simultaneously trying not to care — because it’s just floors after all. But I DID care. Oh man. I didn’t know how to proceed.

Merick came bright and early the next morning (he would typically arrive around 7:00 AM). I was in the middle of getting the kids ready for school and told him to wait a second before he got started so I could talk to him. After the kids were ready, we had a talk. I told him I didn’t like what the sealant had done and asked what my options were. He basically told me there weren’t any options, and spent a good hour trying to convince me that the floors were great and that I would get used to them. I assured him there was no chance of that happening and by the end of the hour told him it was best if he didn’t put on the final coat, because I was going to have to hire someone to come in and sand off the earlier two coats of sealant so I could change the color of the floors and try again.

It took him awhile to realize I was serious.

At that point he said. Okay. Let’s just try something. Basically, since I was willing to go back to sanding, he felt experimenting was worth a try. If it didn’t work, then it would still be back to sanding. He went out to his truck and mixed up some whitewash and added a coat of it over the existing sealed wood. He covered a few boards and had me come check it out.

It was SO MUCH BETTER! It looked great.

white washing begins again

The only catch, is that the new method required board-by-board application of the white wash. There was no coating the whole floor with one fell swoop. Some boards required two coats, others more. While the new boards required a thin coat that was then wiped mostly off with a rag.

white washing in the morning

Ben Blair and I jumped in and started painting. With 3 of us working, we finished up before lunch and Merick headed home for the day.

late night final coats

As the new coat of whitewash dried. I would examine the floors and add another coat on particular boards wherever it was still feeling too golden. I did this throughout the day and into the night. But by bedtime, I felt really good about the color.

Merick came the next morning. He had a new sealant that had been sold to him with the promise that it would not yellow the floors. He didn’t buff the floor first (which he would normally do before a final coat) because he was afraid it would take off the new coats of whitewash. So he vacuumed, then went straight for the sealant. He applied this liberally over all the floors, spreading it with some type of roller brush. I watched it like a hawk all that day as it dried, willing it not to change the floor color.

And it didn’t! The floors stayed beautifully white-washed. And I truly love how they turned out.

But.

I also feel like it ended up being a bit of a hack job. With only one coat of sealant over the final whitewash. And the final whitewash resting not directly on the wood, but on the previous coats of sealant. So I’m very curious about how these floors will wear, and if they’ll hold up. That said, for now, we’re pleased as punch. And really, the way the white stain sat on the sealant (instead of sinking into the wood) very likely helped me achieve the look I wanted more quickly.

If I were doing this again, I would have gotten more involved in the bleaching and white-washing stages (pre-sealant). I know it would have added extra days, but we probably should have bleached 2 or 3 times before we started white-washing. I’m confident we could have achieved the color I wanted, and gotten the old and new wood to look more similar before we sealed it, but we would have had to go board-by-board from the beginning, white-washing more in some areas and less in others, and it could have added another week of experimenting. Finally, I would have checked and double-checked that the sealant used would not yellow the floors (ultimately, the second type used on our floors didn’t yellow them).

baseboards

And that is the tale of our whitewashed floors. Baseboards have been installed (we went with 8-inch straight-edged pine boards), the walls have a fresh coat of paint, and now I get to start doing the decorating! Hallelujah!!

Any one else out there have a flooring gone wrong story? I’m sure I’m not alone! And I’d love to hear what you would have done if you found yourself like me — with almost done floors that you hated?

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kelly December 30, 2013 at 8:27 am

These floors are spectacular! What a beautiful and fresh space to start the New Year. May 2014 be a great year for the Blair Family:)

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2 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

Thank you, Kelly!

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3 Kathryn Carmona December 30, 2013 at 8:33 am

Dear Gabby,
Way to not settle for golden floors! I once had a floor guy try to convince me that my floors were all the same color, when clearly, they were not! I made him do that room over! Home owners really do have to stay involved in the process at every step, even when you have a good contractor….The floors look awesome! Have fun with the decorating-the best part! xoxoKathryn

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4 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 10:35 am

“Home owners really do have to stay involved in the process at every step, even when you have a good contractor”

So true! I like to assume that if I’m paying for the work instead of DIYing it, that I don’t have to be as involved, but alas, that’s not the case. This project was a good reminder of that for me.

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5 Tasneem December 30, 2013 at 8:39 am

Your floors look beautiful; I really enjoyed watching the progress via Instagram. I hope they wear well for you. It sucks when things don’t work out the way you hope. We remodeled our home last year, before moving in, and the floors are something I have grown to hate. They were perfect when we moved in but as time has gone on they have begun to chip and there are a few cracks between panels. But, since we don’t have the means to refinish at the moment we are just doing are best to live with it.

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6 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 10:36 am

Oh man. I hear you! I love the floors now, but I too am fearful they won’t age well. We’ll see. As much as not being able to come up with a budget to redo them, I also would go absolutely nuts if we needed another week off those floors. Remodeling is a challenge!

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7 Laura @ Rather Square December 30, 2013 at 8:48 am

This is such a unique look, I’m glad you stuck to your instincts and worked to get what you wanted in the end. It’s hard to know when to draw the line and when to insist on taking risks, especially for something as big (and visible) as a floor color. Our floors are original to our 91-year-old house, and they’ve been finished in a nice dark color which I love – I’m glad they weren’t orangey. The wall paint colors we’ve been using are light-colored neutrals, so it’s a nice contrast with the darker floors. But I love seeing what you did with your floors – thanks for sharing this process!

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8 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

I do love dark floors. And I love the warm honey look that our wood had when we first uncovered it. Basically, I really like wood floors in all their forms. Hah!

But for many reasons, I was really craving light floors in this house. In another house, I’m sure I would have gone another direction!

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9 Stephanie Smirnov December 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

Congratulations on your beautiful floors (and your tenacity)! We lived through a top-to-toe renovation two summers ago that almost broke us (emotionally, if not financially) including a shady flooring dealer who disappeared for a month with our very expensive shipment of zebra wood that was to replace the flooring throughout the house. Kind of held things up :P We ended up suing him in small claims court, but the wood finally arrived. Best of luck with the rest of your project, can’t wait to see the results!

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10 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 10:40 am

Hi-jacked zebra wood?! Now that’s a flooring adventure.

So glad everything worked out, Stephanie. And huge congrats on your new job! I can’t wait to catch up. You should come to Alt Summit! : )

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11 Charity December 30, 2013 at 9:39 am

Your floors look amazing! Our floors have given me heartache since we had them installed but the story is sad and long and the floors never got fixed so we have gaps you can fit a quarter in! So sad to me. Good job sticking to your guns and not trying to live with it.

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12 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 10:42 am

As time goes on, we may be right there with you on the heartache front, Charity. Installations gone wrong are the worst!

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13 Kimber December 30, 2013 at 10:38 am

The floor look gorgeous! Do you have any advice on how to handle face-to-face confrontations with grace, while still holding your ground? Whenever I have to have difficult conversations with people I don’t know well, especially about expectations and service, I usually end up flustered and crying, which is so embarrassing and doesn’t lend me any credibility.

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14 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

I’m for sure not the best person to ask about this, because I am horrible at it. I get very emotional, or very angry — and both of those responses make things worse.

In this case, part of not being able to sleep that night was me practicing what I would say over and over again, so that I would be as calm as possible the next morning.

It went sort of like this: First I saw the yellowed floors and totally freaked out. Pacing the room, feeling sad, then angry, then sad. Wanting to blame someone (but there was no one to blame!). Then, I got in problem solving mode. I started researching online to see if I had any options. I concluded that I didn’t have much. That we could either A) experiment, then sand it down if it didn’t work, or B) forget the experimenting and sand it down.

Once I came to terms with the fact that the worst case scenario was having to sand it down, and that we would probably have to sand it down, I didn’t feel any more anger, I just wanted to get it done.

I tried to imagine how he would respond in the conversation so I would be prepared. He would feel like I was blaming him — but I didn’t want to, so I tried to say things like, “I know you did everything right, but the sealant changed things unexpectedly.” And when he would try and convince me the floors weren’t golden, or that I would get used to them, I would try to respond calmly with words like, “I believe you when you say they don’t look golden to you, but to my eyes they are golden” and “I’m sure there are many people who would love the look of these floors, but I am not one of them.”

It was not a perfect conversation. He was not happy about this. And either was I. And neither one wanted to back down. But eventually (after a loooong discussion), I started to wrap things up and said, “I think it’s best if you head out for the day, I don’t want you to add another layer that we’ll need to redo. I know you have other jobs you need to start, so I can call another floor team and have them take over.” I think that flipped a switch for him and he knew I was serious. That’s when he became willing to experiment.

And honestly, an hour after that, we were all working side-by-side and chatting away happily as if this had been the plan all along.

But I had a pit in my stomach for hours leading up to that conversation. I am not very good at confrontation.

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15 Tanya December 30, 2013 at 11:28 am

Way to hold your ground and stay calm! It could not have been easy. And the floors look great! I’m high-fiving from San Diego! : )

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16 Kimber December 31, 2013 at 9:48 am

Thanks for your thoughts! I should try to practice difficult conversations in my head beforehand. And I love that you were able to work happily together afterward!

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17 Heidi January 1, 2014 at 4:51 pm

There is a great book called “Difficult Conversations” I highly recommend it. My husband describes his way of having those conversations as polite but insistent. You’d be amazed at where that can get you, even with corporations or government agents.

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18 Rea December 30, 2013 at 11:12 am

Awww, as I was reading the entire story, I can only imagine how much hard work you all have to put to it, not to mention all the expenses! But I’m glad you knew exactly what you wanted and you got it. The floors are great. I’m planning of changing our floors too but thinking of it now, I’m betting it’s gonna cost me more. Ahh!.

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19 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:50 am

Wood floors break the bank. Hah! I’d love to put wood throughout the whole house but it’s not in the budget at the moment.

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20 Beth December 30, 2013 at 11:18 am

You were so smart to stick to your guns when Merick tried to talk you into liking something that was not what you wanted. When we bought our hundred year old house, we pulled up the stinky carpet to find old growth red fir floors. The entry had been finished before we bought the house and it was beautiful. Unfortunately, the finish that we paid for was much less durable, which was obvious from the beginning, but I wasn’t as good as you at standing up for myself and it resulted in super scratched up old growth fir floors.

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21 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:52 am

It is SO HARD to stand up for yourself. Especially when you’re speaking with an expert.

Obviously Merick had worked on hundreds if not thousands of floors so he knew what he was doing. But what I had to remind myself of is that he hadn’t worked on MY floors before. He didn’t know what was in my head, and while I had pondered what I wanted for these floors for months, he hadn’t thought about them at all, and was just doing his job.

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22 Sandi January 2, 2014 at 8:57 pm

I don’t enjoy confrontation either, and it is especially hard when dealing with someone who is an expert in an area where I’m a novice, but I’ve found it helps me if I remember I’m the one paying the expert. :)

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23 Tricia December 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

They look so lovely. Glad you stuck to your guns!
I hate it when a contractor tries to convince you that the end results are good when it isn’t what you asked or paid for.

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24 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:53 am

Happily, Merick was really pleased with how the floors turned out too. Mostly, I think he was happy to have a very happy customer (which I was by the end).

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25 Lauren Ashley December 30, 2013 at 11:46 am

They turned out beautifully – now I’M dreaming of whitewashed floors. :-)

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26 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:55 am

Thank you, Ashley!

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27 Catherine Hoskin December 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

What an enormous transformation! and the back breaking work it took to get such a beautiful finish. So Does this change any of your decorating plans? It reminds me of the many Scandinavian style homes I’ve seen on my favorite blogs. This is such a bright, fresh way to start the new year.

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28 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:54 am

As far as changing my decorating plans, the only thing that comes to mind is that I’m tempted to not include any area rugs because I’m so in love with the floors. : )

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29 sarah December 30, 2013 at 11:57 am

so sad….but glad in the end. hope they last for you!
we wound up walking away from a new build house just a year ago because things weren’t as promised. it hurts my heart that we could be living in that new house!

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30 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm

It would hurt my heart too.

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31 Heather December 30, 2013 at 12:14 pm

What a process! Stress! So glad it turned out well. It’s gorgeous!

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32 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Thanks, Heather!

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33 Amanda December 30, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I love how they turned out! I have my heart set on painting our awfully horrendous, golden, brick- patterned, kitchen linoleum a beautiful, fresh, white. But my husband thinks I will hate it because of the dirt. We have almost black wood floors in the rest of the house, and yes, they show everything. Which brings me to my question – how much do your floors show dirt? Am I going to hate white kitchen floors? (I have four homeschooled kids – so I need to take their traffic into account – which is why I trust your opinion since you have a large family.)

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34 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Smart to think of the cleaning, Amanda. Sounds like my experience is the same as yours. When we’ve had really dark, or really light floors, they show everything. (When we’ve had centuries old stone, they’ve shown nothing at all!)

While my kids were in school, the floors definitely stayed cleaner. During the break, I’ve swept them an average of twice a day, and used a wet sponge (or wet swiffer) once a day. If your kids are home all day, white floors may not be the best option. : )

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35 Melissa December 30, 2013 at 6:17 pm

I think I sent you the number for my floor guy before, you and I have the exact same floors. I live in Pacific Heights (SF), if you need anything else done, I’d call him if you need some help, he’s very wise.

I feel your pain though when the project doesn’t go right!! Looks so pretty, I really like what you’ve done. I did a white pickling technique on the floors of my store on 2254 Union Street, if you are ever in the area stop by and look, maybe it will help you see what 5 clear coats on top will look like.

Best of luck with the rest of the house, see you in a few weeks at Alt Summit! Happy New Year!!!!

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36 Brimful December 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm

You amaze me…..AMAZE me! It looks fantastic…and hey, isn’t any epic interior design project end up with just a little bit of hacking included? I think so ;).

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37 Trish December 30, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Frustrating for you but the end result is truly stunning. Well done. We are doing up a mid century (1960s) house and decided to re carpet. It wasn’t till we pulled up the old carpet that we saw beautiful floorboards, wished we’d investigated first and now the new carpet is not laid as professionally as I’d have liked. For instance, two joins in a hallway !!! grrrr. Goes to show that we all make decisions that we think will be the right ones, sometimes it works out first time round but with perseverance, we’ll get the finish we want in the end. I just have to live with my carpet decision till we get more $$$ to try again. Good luck with the rest of your home. Love the tree outlook you have.

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38 Sally from Little Hiccups December 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Your floor boards look amazing! Fingers crossed they wear well and the white wash lasts.
When we bought our house in Australia it had horribly worn out 50 year old carpet. Ripping it out was the first project. We really wanted floorboards throughout so we decided to refinish the existing floorboards that had been hiding under the carpet. Unfortunately they were made of pine and were incredibly soft. Not the most durable material for high traffic areas. I guess they had been installed with the intention of always being covered with carpet. They were a horrible golden colour which I figured would lighten up with sanding. My husband and his parents spent about three days sanding back the floorboards and sealing them. I was about 7 months pregnant at the time so kept clear of the house throughout the process to avoid all of the dust and fumes. I’d imagined that I’d come home at the end of it to discover beautiful, pale Nordic looking floors. They didn’t look too bad after sanding however the two coats of sealant changed all of that and we ended up with ORANGE floors! Orange floor boards that scratched, scuffed and dented if you dared to move a dining chair or wear heels. I hated those floors so much but my husband and his parents had put in a lot of hard work so we were stuck with them. We had those horrible orange floors throughout our entire house for the next three years until we did a major renovation to replace the 50 year old green kitchen. That’s right – a green kitchen with orange floors! It even had a feature wall with wallpaper that looked like stone covered in ivy. It was pretty classy ;) Anyway, when we ripped out the kitchen and moved a few walls there were enough holes left in the floors that they needed to be replaced. Woo hoo! An excuse to cover the orange floors. We covered the floors throughout the house (apart from bedrooms) with light sandstone tiles. They were so lovely and instantly made every room feel fresh and new. However, as fate would have it, we found ourselves moving to California just a year later and we had to give up those lovely new floors – and our brand new dream kitchen. Oh well.
By the way, I couldn’t bring myself to remove that ’60s stone and ivy wallpaper from our kitchen so it’s still there hidden behind a wall of cupboards. I like to think that at some point years down the track a future owner of our home will be renovating the kitchen and discover a little surprise behind the cupboards :)

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39 Deb December 31, 2013 at 2:24 am

You are amazing–nothing else to say. It really is lovely!

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40 Ceebee December 31, 2013 at 4:44 am

This story is such a testament to your vision and determination. Love your reply about the communication aspects too. We have 80-year old floors and, before we moved in, had the aged, orangey surface sanded down, rebuilt in places, and refinished with a pale natural stain. We had a team of men working hard, and it still took many days. All the dust made me nervous too – I knew it was messy work, but I had no idea!

They used the heaviest, non-glossy sealant on our floor, and it still looks perfect minus the occasional scratch. We are definitely protective of the floors, esp. when the kids attempt to drag something across. But I try to remember you saying that children should be the most precious thing in the house! :)

So glad you are feeling recharged after this major experience. Hard labor but gorgeous result!

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41 Pleased as punch December 31, 2013 at 8:39 am

WOW. I’m going to give you credit. I know how much having a tiny panel in our kitchen cabinets replaced cost (not to mention time + frustration). I would have freaked, too, if they were golden.

I think they look really nice. Hopefully we will be ripping out carpet, linoleum and tile this (or next) year…so this gives me hope we’ll have a beautiful floor soon enough!

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42 Summer December 31, 2013 at 11:35 am

First of all, the floors turned out gorgeous, and I hope they wear well for you! That’s such an awful story though. It makes me sad that you had to go through that, but boy, does it make you human. My dad is a floor man by profession, so in many ways I got extremely lucky. The downside to that is that he’s a floor man by profession, so imagine having that talk with your dad, who’s installing it for free. I love my floors, but I’m not 100% satisfied with them (did he skip the sealant altogether, I wonder?). It’s like the cobbler’s kids never having shoes. :\

In other news, do you ever watch Holmes on Homes? The things that can go wrong!

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43 Maylene December 31, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Thank you for sharing the story of your floors! They look amazing. Also it made me feel a little better about our own misadventures in remodeling. We are in the middle of our first ever remodel project in our home, and it didn’t go well. We ended up firing the contractor hired to do the work, even though he was very experienced. I am still so upset about all the money spent to date and now we are pretty much back to square one with the project. And I am terrified to hire someone else because I don’t know if my expectations are unrealistic or not. I learned the same lesson that I need to be very involved in communicating how I want things to look and the quality I expect on a daily basis. Sometimes it does seem easier to just DIY!

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44 Robin December 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm

The floors are truly beautiful, Gabby. Wow, what a story, though! But I know that feeling when you are not happy with how a project is turning out and HAVE to change it. You did good!

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45 Rachel December 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this whole process and for your comment about communication. The floors really are lovely. Do you know the name of the non-yellowing sealant?

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46 Margo, Thrift at Home December 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm

oh my word, they’re gorgeous! And thanks for sharing the backstory. We had some renovating nightmares (small claims court involved), but our floors were a success story from start to finish. We have original wood floors in our Victorian house and we had them refinished with water-based sealant (not shiny) and they are super durable. I clean them with Bona, which I highly recommend. When our floors were done, my husband actually laid down on them and kissed them and fondled them – we were so giddy!

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47 Elizabeth / Violently Happy December 31, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I know that exact feeling too well. We renovated our 90 year old kitchen and I almost had a heart attack when our floor guys stained our brand new floors a darker color than I wanted. I was devastated and ready for them to pull out the floors and start over. Luckily, he used a warmer top coat which ended out being a lovely walnut finish. http://sunkissis.blogspot.com/2013/05/our-kitchen-remodel-part-two.html Lesson learned, always be present during the work! Ask silly questions and request a small patch of work before they commit to the entire floor.
The whitewash turned out beautiful.

Happy New Year!!

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48 Hillary December 31, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Gah! What a nightmare but goodness your floors look beautiful now! Had a similar predicament when we first bought our house and were having the wood floors redone. After sanding off the old finish several times, the floor folks didn’t clean all the debris off the floor and walls before putting the sealant on. We had bugs and debris sealed in the floors!! Similarly we had to insist they redo it or we would withhold some of the payment. They started from scratch while we and our two babies lived off a hot pot. To add insult to injury as they crew left they told our contractor (a personal friend) that if they knew our professions they would have charged us double! Grrrr

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49 https://www.couchsurfing.org/people/rateoptions/ March 11, 2014 at 12:22 am

You have more useful info than the British had colonies pre-WWII.

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50 Adriana January 1, 2014 at 5:29 am

Gabrielle, the floor looks gorgeous!

It’s always easier to “get used”, as he suggested. The lesson here (at least for me) is: Never give up. Congratulations and happy 2014!

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51 amy January 1, 2014 at 10:18 am

I really wonder why he used a sealant that yellowed the floors. We had our floors refinished a couple years ago in our 110 year old home. The company we used said their sealant doesn’t yellow. I also paid extra to get some type of super strong top coat sealant. I wonder if there is a flooring business close to you that would have a similar sealant if you are worried about it wearing and getting to your white wash layer especially since this floor is in such high traffic area.

I haven’t had any flooring drama. Almost had a shingle drama. The shingles were delivered and I asked to see them before I left for the day. I made the roofer return them and get different ones. The samples we picked from did not show a good example of the overall shingle color. Our roof would have been gray when I wanted a darker color. It would have looked awful with the exterior of our home.

Good for you sticking to your guns! I would have had the same worry when approaching someone as well.

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52 amy January 1, 2014 at 10:19 am

And the floors look great!!!

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53 Kim January 1, 2014 at 10:36 am

We just finished re-doing hickory floors. We had old and new as well and I wanted a grey stain…like you….to show the grain but be a light coat. We were hoping for a barn wood look. I’m not sure why I could find so many photos online of the floors that we loved yet when it came to actual application our flooring people seemed to have never heard of such a thing in their life! The first color we chose as a stain didn’t work and we had to stop mid project and start over. (Which they loved :) We ended up getting more of a grey glaze/paint and each board had to be glazed and then wiped off accordingly. Your post hit home perfectly!! It wasn’t what I wanted at first…not as much of the grain shows through as I thought…but after fighting for it and living in it a few days, we now love it!! I hope it wears well too….here’s crossing our fingers!!

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54 Ann January 2, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Wonderful!!!!!

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55 Jackie January 2, 2014 at 4:58 pm

I noticed you wood is different widths. Do you like that? Or is that just how it was? We are looking to put hardwood down and I don’t like the dark hand scrapped wood that is popular right now.

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56 Anna January 3, 2014 at 10:36 am

Beautiful! I dream of floors like that.
Are those Marimekko socks in the first picture?

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57 Victoria January 3, 2014 at 11:31 am

I love this story! I can so relate t0 it: the moment I lost my sense of humour with our builders was the moment the ‘old wood’ varnish went on to our floors, a treacly dark brown. I stuck my head round the door to say I was nipping out, took one look and said “Stop! Just stop!’ I too longed for white-washed boards but I’m afraid I wimped out utterly on the negotiation, so here we are with clear-varnished (the compromise) pine boards, with gaps that cheerfully swallow a DVD… Your floors look wonderful and well done on managing to get the reality to square up with your vision! I love that you both pitched in.
I really enjoy your site, especially the warm candid way you write about your own life. Have a wonderful 2014 in your treehouse!

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58 Traci January 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm

These look amazing and I’m so in awe of your commitment to getting the perfect color. I love it! My husband and I bought our dream house (a 1958 Eichler in Sunnyvale) and completely remodeled it. I wanted the perfect light colored floors (like you, with no yellowing) that I kept seeing in Scandinavian design, but didn’t want the commitment of having to sand, seal, etc. So I finally found white washed bamboo, which I LOVE. However, our disaster came from having our contractor install them instead of a dedicated floor guy. He did a fantastic job on our house as a whole, but installed the floors wrong and now we keep ending up with huge gaps. sigh. floors. But seriously, your floors look fantastic! Here’s ours: http://www.45walldesign.blogspot.com/2012/12/house-tour-part-one.html

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59 maja @modchalet January 9, 2014 at 8:39 am

@Tracy- Your house looks amazing!

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60 maja @modchalet January 9, 2014 at 8:38 am

We had a similar experience with our white washed floors, too!

http://modchalet.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/a-bit-o-drama/

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61 Nicole January 13, 2014 at 3:36 pm

We had a horrible experience installing hickory floors in our first house. First a portion was water damaged right after install and when replaced, was left uneven and mismatched. Then we discovered that the wood in another part of the house was infested with tiny beetles that would periodically come to life and leave little mounds of sawdust (and holes in the wood). Plus, all the damn sanding and dust.

So when I saw that you were starting this adventure I held my tongue. I totally feel for you! If you’re like me you will fret over this floors forever… or at least a long time. I’m so glad you got the look you wanted and won’t have to see the mistakes all the time.

I think the next time we install wood I will opt for the kind that come pre-finished… so if something goes wrong we can pop out a piece rather than refinishing.

However, OMG! I love the white look you got and the puttied nailheads. Whoa, lovely. Enjoy.

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62 carmen February 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Gabrielle,
I am so happy that you put the time to capture all the details about your beautiful floors and sticking to your guns about your overall results. Oddly enough, it’s how I came to discover your blog. I also am obsessed with our dark floors and actually had a consultation with Merick a couple months back about bleaching our walnut floors to have the same end result. At the time, he didn’t have a lot of experience with that kind of finishing and I’m thinking of enlisting in his help again especially after seeing your floors. Would you recommend him after all your tireless effort?

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63 Design Mom February 18, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I would definitely work with him again. He was cheerful and easy to work with and always did such a great job cleaning up after himself at the end of the work day. If I was doing it again, I would just communicate more with him.

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64 Carmen March 20, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Thank you!

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65 Gabriela June 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Hi there,

Can you please share the name of the sealant? We are going to try and whitewash our floors hopefully with a bit more luck.

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66 Shari Winicki June 25, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Hi Designers,

I am buying a condo with ho-hum quality bamboo in the living room, and other laminates in the other rooms. I, too, am thinking that a “white wash” might marry them up. But I was thinking of a half-water, half white paint coat, thinly applied, and then a sealant. I am on a tight budget.
Reactions??
Ideas??

Thanks!!

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