Category: Home Renovation

Best Finish for the Most Natural-Looking White Oak Floors

I don’t know why I’m writing another post about my floors. Probably because it’s been the dark shadow of my existence for the past month until it was recently fixed.

I’m in a much better place now.

In the past 6 months (2 months longer than expected), I have learned a lot through my renovation mistakes. My flooring fiasco is definitely the one that has caused me the most grief.

In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to capture the beautiful tone of freshly-sanded white oak. I chose the Bona DriFast stain in Birch because it seemed like the best option (of all of the swatches.)

Well, that was lesson #1. Don’t use a stain if you want natural floors.

Lesson #2. Alway listen to your GUT. I really kicked myself for this one. When the flooring contractor my GC used swatched the stains for me, there were some things that should have given me pause.

For instance, the white stain looked horrendous on my floors. I should have known then that their application of stain was too heavy for my taste.

Exhibit 1, see #1

I had other misgivings that I just swept aside because I was so focused on moving the project forward.

Lesson #3. If you don’t like something, stop work immediately. It will NOT get better. I was immediately disappointed after the stain was applied.

It didn’t look like the swatch that was pictured. (I think I could have lived with that.) Instead, it looked like there was a hazy, muddy film over the entire floor. What I hated most was how it covered up the beautiful grain patterns of the wood.

But, for whatever reason, I thought it would look better after it was finished.

I now know that I was in denial.

Two coats of Bona Traffic HD later was a much costlier mistake to fix.

After a lot of angst and grief – because it’s hard to justify refinishing newly finished floors! – I ultimately decided that I would not be able to live with the flooring choices I made.

I scoured the web for the look that I was trying to achieve. I read countless forum posts and blog posts and reviews but I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer.

I finally made a trip to my hardwood flooring supplier and posed the same dilemma. The manager immediately recommended a new product – Loba 2K Invisible Protect AT. He showed me a sample in the store and I was ecstatic.


Time to Choose a Stain Color for White Oak Flooring

I haven’t written about my home renovation as much as I originally intended. Work picked up and it was hard enough juggling that while simultaneously following up on the house, making micro decisions on a daily basis, let alone blog about it.

My general contractor and I get along really well but he’ll be the first to tell you that I am NOT an easy customer to deal with. He says I’m very “detail-oriented,” which is just a nice way of saying neurotic-perfectionist.

Overall, the renovation has been going pretty smoothly. The only minor hiccup was some issues that arose with the bathroom tiling. I may have spent a good 30 minutes yelling at my GC. Something along the lines of: “You know how I am by now, how could you let this happen?!”

Poor guy kept repeating, “We’re going to fix it. I didn’t say we won’t fix it right? We’ll fix it!”

I digress, this post is supposed to be about the flooring.


Best Place to Buy Plumbing Fixtures (and How I Saved a Ton of Money)

I know, I know. I run a mommy review blog so why the heck have I been blogging so much about home renovations lately?!

Well, I write about what’s relevant in my life and, at the moment, it’s all I can think about. (Sorry, not sorry.)

Anyway, I just saved $1,673.42, when buying plumbing fixtures and I KNOW this information would have been helpful to me. I’m hoping that these tips will help save YOU some money!

So we are planning on gut renovating two bathrooms and the kitchen. As part of the process, I have to purchase the fixtures (e.g., faucets, sinks, lights, hardware, etc.)

While trying to figure out what I wanted to buy, I visited a few kitchen & bath showrooms. However, I think they have intentionally deceptive practices by leaving out model names, prices and/or are non-intuitive when browsing unless, perhaps, you speak with a salesperson. When I did get pricing, they were always substantially higher than what I could find online.

I hate buying things in stores that I can buy cheaper elsewhere. If I had a mantra, it would probably be: Buy high-quality products at the cheapest possible price you can find for that product.

So I started searching for the things I wanted online. Normally, Amazon is my go-to retailer for baby products but when it comes to buying fixtures, I wouldn’t recommend it. Not only is it not more cost-effective, but it is also difficult to navigate unless you know exactly what you want. Not to mention, it has virtually non-existent customer service to assist you with questions specific to the product.

That’s when I came across, an affiliate site to (I am not getting paid to write this post. I genuinely want to share how I managed to save money on buying fixtures with others.) Anyway, I loved the usability for this site. It also helped me know when there were required valves or parts with certain items I added to my cart. (This was a lifesaver because there are so many various valves and miscellaneous parts for bathrooms that I wouldn’t have otherwise known were necessary!)


General Contractor Saga

What is it with general contractors? It’s been almost two months and I still haven’t been able to start work on the house.

I thought that if I devoted all of my time and energy on making sure I had my ducks in a row then I’d have the smoothest home renovation in the history of home renovations.


Without further ado, my general contractor saga that has spanned two months (which, when you can’t move in until after construction is complete, feels like decades):

General Contractor #1

I had this guy picked out even before we closed. He had built a friend’s house and I thought it looked wonderful. Based on her home, I could tell that he would pull off a transitional style well. After meeting with him several times, over a period of several weeks, to discuss in detail what I wanted, we finally agreed on a price for the work to be completed.

He sent me the contract to review and left out the labor cost for installing kitchen cabinets. This wouldn’t normally be so appalling except for the fact that he knew the place I was purchasing cabinets from did not install cabinets and he had already quoted me 40K for labor!

I had also ignored several red flags from this particular GC but this was the last straw. Most alarmingly, he refused to itemize the work that he was doing and instead gave me a quote for each section of the house. When I asked him to break down the costs, he told me it would be a waste of his time to type everything up. I was basically going on goodwill and trust which I now realize was my folly.

General Contractor #2

After the prior fiasco, I immediately went on Angie’s List and started researching companies with good reviews. I found one with excellent reviews and was able to set up an appointment immediately. The guy came to the house and we went over all of the work to be done.

I received a quote the next day with a 7-page itemized breakdown of parts and labor. Not only that, the quote was significantly less than the first GC. It was like a dream come true!

I told him that I would love to go with his company and asked him to send me the contract to sign.

The day after, he told me that his boss was confused about the scope of the work and that they could not do the job as quoted. They were not making enough money. I asked him to give me a new quote but our relationship quickly deteriorated after that.


The Start of Our Home Renovation Project

I previously mentioned that we were in contract to buy a home. Well, we finally closed and, since then, life has been a non-stop whirlwind of meeting or speaking with general contractors, architects, kitchen designers, roofers, painters, gardeners, the list goes on…

I think I’ve dealt with almost 20 tradespeople in a span of three weeks!

My husband and I bought a solid house in a great location. However, the interior is dated and the kitchen is terribly laid out. In light of the fact that we *hope* this will be our forever home and that we have two young children, we are trying to renovate as much as possible before moving in.

This means: Gutting the entire kitchen and three bathrooms, reflooring, raising ceilings, knocking down walls, replacing the roof, converting the fireplace, adding and/or redoing all closets, painting. Basically, a lot of effin’ work.

And, of course, that also means I am now in neurotic research mode. Which has since become my full-time job, for the time being.

I plan to start documenting my home remodeling journey, if for no other purpose than to share my neurosis with others.