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Blog: Do It Yourself Remodeling

Getting Rid of Avocado Shag and Installing Hardwood Floors

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Refurbishing My House - Step One - Replacing old carpet with hardwood - See pictures below

My house had avocado shag carpet from when it was built in 1977.  It was shot!  There were places that had to be covered with extra rugs because it had worn through.  The den had avocado green vinyl.  It was stained, scratched and worn.  It is a really nice room with a fireplace but the flooring was dated and ugly.  The hallway had a different kind of vinyl. 

I'd wanted to replace it all with hardwood floors or Pergo.  After looking at lots of different options, I decided that hardwood was a lot better deal in the long run.  By the time I bought all of the Pergo stuff, the cost wasn't that much more for solid Brazilian Cherry which was 3/4 inch thick, 4 inch wide planks with 50 year finish guarantee.


We wanted to paint and decided the best idea was to paint before we did the floor.  We painted the walls and refinished the window sill and molding.

There is a 7 inch step up to the dining room of my house.  That's where we started because it was a smaller room.  We tore out the carpet, pad and staples. Because of some cat damage (bad cats!) in one of the corners, we painted the floor with shellac to seal the particle board that was under the carpet.  We then laid down some foam underlayment.  This is especially made for hardwood floors.

We rented a nailer from the local rental store but to be truthful, with the amount of time we needed the gun to complete the job, it probably would have been not much more expensive to buy one.  That would help you finish it at your own speed.  The plus to that is if it got jammed or had problems, they were great at getting it working again.


There is a lot of good information online about hardwood floor installation.  One important tip is letting the wood sit for a while before installation so the humidity of the boards can match the humidity of your area.

Figure out which direction to lay your floor.  If this is your first wood floor installation, trying a fancy installation is probably not the best idea.  The floor fits together with tongue and groove, the tongue side is the side that is nailed.  The nailer nails at an angle. Another thing to keep in mind is that it takes at nearly a yard (36 inches) of space from the wall to have room to swing the hammer for the nailer.  We bought a nail gun to do the face nailing.  The face nailer that came with the other nailer messed up every board. Any boards that can't be nailed with the nailer need to be face nailed, meaning the nails will show.

The boards should go the opposite direction of your floor joists or beams so across them.

The boards should be lined up so that they don't all stop at the same point.  They give you many lengths of boards in each box of flooring.  A few will be 8 feet long but many more will be 6, 4, and 2 feet long.  By carefully planning you can keep cutting to a minimum.

To saw hardwood, you need a good saw.  We used a table saw and went through at least 2 blades.

We worked having two of us laying out boards for future rows, while the other nailed the boards.  That way the nailing guy just needed to move them into place and keep going. Each board needs to be fitted by hitting the board by putting a 2x4 next to the board and hitting the 2x4 with a hammer or using a prybar to pull the board into place.

You will need spacers so that the flooring does not touch the walls, you need at least 1/2 inch between the wall and the first board.  They make spacers for this.  We bought a floor installation kit which had glue and spacers.  The spacers can be moved as you move along but there needs to be a 1/2 inch space between the wood and the wall all the way around.  This can be covered over with molding when the job is done and allows for expansion.

Probably the biggest mistake that we made was because we were working on a raised area the (7 inch step up), we learned that we should have started at the edge of the step rather than the wall so we would have a perfect edge.  As it was we put a strip on the edge that covered it so you couldn't see the places that didn't quite match.

After we finished the dining room, we continued into the living room, the entry hall and the hall down to the bedrooms.  Later we did the den, the front hall closet and linen closet floors.  A year or so later we did one of the bedrooms. 

Some things I learned:

  • You need felt on the bottoms of all furniture so you don't scratch the floor. 
  • A lot of dirt is under a carpet that has been in place for 27 years.  It really accumulates anywhere near the entry doors.
  • The job really needs to be finished, molding, closets, doorways to look really professional.
  • The color of the wood darkens after it has been in the room for a while.  It takes about 6 months for it to get to it's potential best color (at least that's the case with the Brazilian Cherry.)
Finished Job:

All in all it was a big job but really changed the character of the house.  People always comment on the floors, how beautiful they are and are surprised that we installed them.  I'm happy that we went with the hardwood. 

7 Comments | Post Feedback

Lovely Avocado Shag

Susan from ThriftyFun

This is what we were replacing.

Installing Wood Floor: Putting down foam underlayment

Susan from ThriftyFun

Here we are laying down foam underlayment over shellac and taping the pieces together.

Installing Wood Floor: Wood Before Installation

Susan from ThriftyFun

Here is the wood. It came in the cartons like the one shown (heavy) also showing some loose boards.

Installing Wood Floor: First row

Susan from ThriftyFun

Installing the first row. It also shows the avocado vinyl that was also in the den.

Installing Wood Floor: First 4 rows

Susan from ThriftyFun

Installing Wood Floor: In process

Susan from ThriftyFun

Installing Wood Floor: In process

Susan from ThriftyFun

Installing Wood Floor: The Step

Susan from ThriftyFun

Here is the step down in the dining room. The green shag is 7 inches below the edge.

Installing Wood Floor: Finished Section of Floor

Susan from ThriftyFun

Here's what it looks like finished.

Maggie Loves the Floor

Susan from ThriftyFun

Here's Maggie on the floor.


Thursday, August 17, 2006 | By mef1957

I so want hardwood floors but ... it was getting harder and harder for my husband to hang plywood on our windows every hurricane season so our floor budget ended up on our windows for post-Katrina installed colonial hurricane shutters! I have thought about doing a wood floor ourselves but it seems so intimidating. Just doing a ceramic floor in our master bath was a major project for me! I love the color of your floor and would love to see a wider shot. It sounds like your installation was on a raised floor? Ours would be on a slab. Anyway, congratulations ... looks like you did a great job and the floor is gorgeous!


Thursday, August 17, 2006 | By ThriftyFun

I'll post a larger shot once I get the camera back here from the office. It is a lovely color. I know that you can install this on a slab but I think you would need to nail the first board into the concrete, then glue the boards together. I've done tile and I think this is easier, no grout to deal with.

Luckily so far no hurricanes for you this year. We'll all keep our fingers crossed. I might worry about how flooding would affect a wood floor in your house, does it ever flood where you are?

You're Welcome!
Thursday, August 17, 2006 | By mef1957

Yes, thankfully the season has been quiet ... let's pray it stays that way!! Flooding isn't a problem in my area "generally." Came close in Katrina but we were spared. Could be a different story if we took a direct hit here though. Anyway, can't wait to see the whole floor. I just love that color! Maybe I'll work up my courage someday.... Thanks, Mary

Beautiful result!
Saturday, August 19, 2006 | By Grandma Margie

Your new floors are beautiful! I am assuming that the boards are prefinished. Did you apply a sealer to the whole floor when installation was complete.......or is that even an option? I am planning on doing the exact same thing but worry that a quick, mischevious grandchild could spill some type of liquid on the floor.......which could seep into the joints of the boards......and possibly ruin the adjacent boards. What is your opinion or experience on this? I'm told that installing unfinished flooring and then sanding and finishing it is a huge pain in the neck.....and back! This appears to be so much easier! It's wonderful that your children helped you do all this work.

Thanks and Yes
Sunday, August 20, 2006 | By ThriftyFun

Hi Grandma Margie,
Yes, the boards are prefinished. They have a 50 year finish on them so hopefully it will last for a long, long time. We did have an aquarium that dripped in one place for quite a while. Once we discovered the leak and moved the aquarium, it looked discolored and slightly raised. Once it was dried out, everything seemed fine. There is no additional sealer over the top. We've had some spills (juice, milk, coffee, soda) and as long as the liquid doesn't stay on long, it pretty much beads up until you can clean it up. I'm very happy with it. I've tried all kinds of dust mops, etc. on it and it seems as though a good vacuum is the best way to keep it clean.

The finished floor
Tuesday, August 22, 2006 | By ThriftyFun

Here's a longer shot of the floor from the living room up into the dining room which we are using as an extended living room at present. You can see how we finished the step up with painting the sheet rock (which had previously been covered with avocado shag) and putting a strip of small corner molding along the edge and quarter round stained molding at the bottom and around the edges of the rooms.

image: The finished floor

Tuesday, July 08, 2008 | By deepsea

Thanks for these great tips!

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Susan from ThriftyFun (Contact)
Port Orchard, WA USA
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