Our home has been a work in progress for about eight years. We are currently working on our third major home addition since we purchased the place in 1998. At the beginning of this journey in home construction, I was the farthest thing from being described as "handy". In fact, back in those days, I could easily go through a couple of screwdrivers just trying to put a screw in the wall. My wife would freak out as I stripped one screwdriver after another on simple tasks. The truth is, she was the one with all the tools when we got married. But, time and sweat equity have turned me into one of those guys that your buddy calls when he has a quick construction question.
But, this last weekend put my knowledge and nerves to the test. For the first time in my life I am tackling installing real wood flooring. I spent the better part of both Saturday and Sunday trying to piece together a maze of 3.5 inch, tongue and groove boards to form a nice (defined as acceptable to the wife whose taste is way valued over my own) tight floor. I wanted to share a couple of things I learned along the way.
- Never turn down help. I started the project alone and found it impossible to straighten, cut, and nail boards by myself. Call your buddies a couple of days before the job and line up some help. This is not a job for loners.
- Trust your wife's opinion. About a day and half into the job you will be very inclined to just start nailing anything together in wild abandon. When the wife suggests that a certain gap will be a problem and you might want to swap out a board. Just do it! A couple of days later when the fog clears you will be very thankful that you don't have to stare at a really ugly floor for years to come.
- Get the right tools. The first pile of research that I did basically told me to get a nail gun and leap into action. But, a discussion with my friends at the lumber yard led me to a tool called a T-Nailer. This tool has a plunger that you strike with a mallet to force a Christmas Tree looking nail into the tongue of the board at the perfect angle for blind nailing. It also adjusts to allow you to nail directly down into the face of a board when you are too close to a wall to blind nail. This week I will also be looking for a tool that a friend turned me on to that uses a lever to close gaps in curvy boards. This tool will help you avoid having to lie prostrate on the floor pushing boards with all your remaining strength while your wife pounds the T-Nailer (notice the hint at a voice of experience talking).
- Stop before you collapse. Don't try to build Rome in a day. It won't happen. Make realistic goals after you have started working. Stopping at midnight just to finish will make getting up and trying to be a successful CPA on a Monday morning almost impossible.
- Take your time at the beginning of the job to square the first row of flooring in the room. You have to understand that the first row is by far the most important in the whole project. If this row is not square to the room. The last row put down in the room will be really odd against the wall. You really have to think ahead to be sure to plan for odd corners or doorways. I really almost screwed up royally in my last doorway. It was about 10pm Sunday night and I was at the very end of the area. I was about to put down the second to the last piece of flooring when I realized that I had to install the piece that went under the door frame first. Had I not thought of this, I would have been ripping out boards at the very end to try to get the piece to fit. But, I probably would have just stopped and gone to bed frustrated.
Well I have one more weekend of flooring left. Wish me luck!