Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our Home's Dirty Little Secret

We have been in our home for a year (wow!!!) and I have just started tackling a BIG project. See, our poor home has a dirty little secret:

Dirty, banged up, in-bad-shape trim. Literally throughout the entire house.

In a perfect world, I would pay someone to come in for a couple days and paint the trim and be done with it. We quoted this out when we had our ceilings scraped, but it's expensive! Typically it's more expensive to have the trim done than to have an entire room painted. Which is understandable, it's time-consuming.

But if there was ever a job that was easy to save money by DIY-ing, it would be painting trim. The entire project just costs your time and a gallon of paint!

I started the lonnng process of painting the trim in our home this past Saturday. It was easy and I got (almost) the entire living room finished. I was blessed with a steady paint hand, so luckily I don't need to bother taping.


Look at what a difference a coat of fresh paint makes!! The newly painted trim is on the left and the old, banged up trim is on the stairs.


It's the little things in life. The fresh, white trim makes me so happy.


Glossy and smooth... love it.


These are the only two things I used for painting trim:


This paint is the best paint I've ever used. It's waterbased but covers like an oil. I just recently discovered it and I am so glad I did. It's worth every penny.

And the color I used for the trim:


After updating the laundry room and our master bedroom (which is almost done), I'm working on projects that are free/super inexpensive until I can save my pennies to do tile in our two upstairs bathrooms.

To keep me motivated, I wrote out a trim to do list:


This post brings up a question I've been wanting to ask. You can see details of our hardwoods in the pictures. I have plans to someday either re-finish the hardwoods or replace. The hardwoods are engineered wood, and I'm pretty sure they are floating. They have never been refinished before but are in pretty bad shape. I hate the color, but I do love the grain.

So my question is - has anyone had their engineered hardwoods refinished? (I've been told you can do it, but only once). What can I expect for the cost? Also, I was planning on putting unfinished hardwoods with the same grain in the kitchen, and having the old engineered hardwoods and the new unfinished hardwoods stained at the same time so they will match.

This is waayyyyyy later down the road (a couple years?), but I'd love to hear anyone's experience with this because I'm wondering how much I should save/budget. My other alternative is to scrap the refinishing idea and just tear up what we currently have and put in something inexpensive and new where the current hardwoods are + the kitchen. (maybe even a nice laminate since we will eventually have a child in this house and there will be toys, etc. And maybe install it ourselves if it's easy). I'd love to hear any experience you guys may have!!! Thanks!


  1. Bryn, I used to sell hardwood flooring when I was in design school.  1) I would STRONGLY discourage you from using laminate "wood" flooring.   I have some now and had many customers who had the same experience but it is hard to keep looking clean, it chips and scratches (not any more durable for children), not to mention it just looks fake.  I hate it.  Plus it is just disposable and not a good investment.  2) You should be able to refinish the engineered hardwood, but only once.  In the store that I worked in we rented equipment and taught lessons on refinishing, this might be something you could DIY to save money.  3) New unfinished hardwood for your kitchen could run you $1-$5 per sq. ft. for the wood plus the cost of installation, staining, finishing (again, all stuff you could DIY).  So total cost anywhere from maybe $5-$10 per square foot.  Hope this helps!

  2. Looking good! I need motivation to paint mine. Nothing is wrong with them except they are painted the same cream color as the whole house. They need to go glossy white but I haven't had the nerve to start it yet. This post is nudging me further to that place!

  3. I agree with Sara, laminate "wood" flooring is the worst. It sounds cheap when you walk on it and never looks good. I have two small boys (4 and 2) we had our (55 yr old) wood floors refinished when my oldest son was a newborn. They looked good for a while but now look sad dirty and scratched, I dont know if our contractor didn't put on enough coats or we are just really tough on them. My suggestion would be to live with what you have until the children you will have are older ...say first grade. Unless you have a play room and can contain the toy, sand dirt food mess :-)

  4. What a huge difference in the trim - hard work pays off.   Nice job!

  5. I don't know much about refinishing engineered wood flooring but I do have some input on the laminate flooring. If you plan on staying in the house for a long time and/or have a big area to do, I would definitely recommend investing in hardwoods instead of laminate. We have Pergo laminate in our livingroom/diningroom and although it looks decent, the only reason we chose it is that our house is only a small starter home and we don't plan on living in it for more than 5 years. Also, our livingroom/diningroom is small(13x20) for both and I love rugs so I knew a good majority of the floor would be covered anyway. As far as being durable, we've only had them 1.5 years but we have an 80 lb. dog and I have yet to see any chips/scratches. We did make sure we got the Pergo that has a slight texture though so we wouldn't notice scratches as easily. And whatever you do, do not put laminate wood flooring in the kitchen. My Grandmother did this and she is already having problems with the edges expanding because of water...and she is obsessive about cleaning and keeping water off the floor. All it takes is missing a small little puddle for an hour and it causes major problems.

  6. We have engineered HW in a majority of our house. I would not try and sand and re-stain. The actual wood part can be quite thin and unless you have a leftover sample of your floor kicking around you don't know how thin. You have to pick what you love from the beginning.  I would save up to get something else put though the house and kitchen that you love.  Maybe find an unfinished oak? That would have the grain you love and might be relatively cheap and you can pick your own stain!

  7. Bryn,
    My husband is a restoration contractor (ie he goes in after people have had water damages and fixes their houses). So coming from that industry's point of view, I would say to not refinish the hardwood floors now. Like the other commenters, I would wait until your future kids are a little older. Plus, if for some reason you need to sand and refinish the floors due to damage to them, you won't be able to in the future.

    I would also strongly suggest not getting laminate floors. With little kids or in an area where they might get wet there is no repairing them. You will just have to replace them. So say for instance your ice maker or dishwasher leaks -- your laminate flooring will swell up, and the only thing you will be able to do is replace them. I know in these cases you will probably make an insurance claim, but something small could happen that you would not want to make a claim for, and then you would be stuck replacing the floor on your own dime.

    Just another angle to think about things....

  8. I've been reading your blog forever but I don't think I've ever commented until now.  We are in the exact same boat with our floors.  We have engineered hardwoods and while I like the idea of hardwoods, I hate the finish.  We've thought about refinishing them ourselves, but I'll be interested to see what others say costs might be for having this done professionally.  One other idea I've been throwing around is painting them.  It's definitely much more of a statement look, but would be fairly inexpensive to do.  But I'm not sure what color.  We have 3 furry black animals, so white is out :)  I'm headed over to pinterest now to look for some inspiration!  
    Can't wait to see what you do with yours! 

  9. Yes, painting trim makes a big difference. Too bad I DESPISE that chore!!

  10. Oh our trim is no little secret, it's loud and not so proud! We need to suck it up and do ours but I just don't wanna be down in that position for so long! Maybe one day we'll strike it rich...

    Yours looks great btw!

  11. Oh my goodness I hate painting the trim and the edge of the wall that butts up to the ceiling! Kudos to you for tackling it! 

  12. Looks awesome, Bryn.  Makes SUCH a difference.

  13. Bryn-- My husband and I installed a floating engineered floor in our kitchen, dining room, and entry.  I am glad we did it, but now if I had more money I'd just install solid hardwood.  You can refinish the engineered, I am told,  just once, we haven't tried, but I would be afraid to tackle it DIY style, because it seems like it would be easy to make a major mistake and not be able to fix it if the actual hardwood is thin.  Just FYI, the factory finish on prefinished wood, etc. is supposed to be the strongest, they bake it on in the factory in a way that can not be done onsite.  So I am guessing whatever they refinish it with will be less durable.  I am anti-laminate, it just looks fakey in large swaths.  Ceramic tile or solid hardwood would be my picks, especially for a kitchen. I have champagne tastes on a beer budget, hard to figure out how to make all those "wants" work on a reasonable budget!

  14. I have the same dirty secret in my house! Except mine isn't banged up... it's a very yellowy ivory instead of a fresh white. DRIVES ME CRAZY! I've painted the kitchen, dining room and master bedroom, but still have the living room to go. You know what? I think you just motivated me to pick up a brush this weekend! Thanks!

  15. Love that BM paint- it is the best ever.  About your floors- have a flooring expert come to your house and tell you how thick the current hardwood is.  If it's 3/4" you can typically refinish it once.  We have some in our house and I am drying to rip it up and put down real hardwood.  Don't worry about it not holding up with kids around.  We had it in our house growing up and it still looks great!

  16. I don't have experience with engineered hardwood. I also wouldn't recommend laminate.

    However, we did have new solid red oak floors installed and stained - it cost about $6.50 per square foot. That included the cost of new quarter-round foot molding. I think it was well worth the cost as we now have a real wood floor we can work with for hopefully many many years to come!
    Our second floor we had sanded and restained and that was about $2.50 per square foot. We live in Northern NJ which I think tends to be on the expensive side of things.
    Both projects took about 1 week each with drying time. I like to DIY, but I would not attempt sanding and staining the floor myself. Hope that helps!

  17. Megan {Honey We're Home}June 21, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    Looks great! So fresh and clean!

  18. Try Orange Glo 4-n-1 cleaner and polish for your hardwoods. It will make them shiny and reduce surface scratches. We had engineered wood and they just looked dull and dirty no matter what I did. I usedtwo coats of Orange Glo and it made a huge difference. I too have also heard you can refinish them once, but I don't know how much it runs. Also, I wouldn't do laminate. And what about ceramic in the kitchen.

  19. Engineered Hardwood...ugh... We put it in our old house and instantly regretted it.  We had kids, and it seemed like no matter what they dropped it put some mark into it.  I was disgusted.  The actual "wood" part of the engineered wood is probably less than an 1/8 of an inch thick.  In other words...good luck refinishing it.  Highly recommend hardwood (expensive), but worth it if you want to look.  Also recommend waiting until after the kids are gone.  I have boys and seriously had no idea how much of a terror they could be!  :) 

  20. www.hollymathisinteriors.comJune 23, 2011 at 12:10 AM

    oh yes girl...my dirty little secret too..you are so smart to do it right..when i was inmy 20s and we moved into our house i painted it all and didnt do the best job though i used oil...after two kids and ten years it is showing some wear and tear..in fact i told the new cleaning lady just this week to "please please wipe down the baseboards and cabinets really good" and then i said "really they just need repainting" and she looked at me like nuts..

    i need to go back and see if the paintyou used might be used on some clients' cabinets..thanks for the tip..


  21. I have the exact same problem in my house, although we have lived there for almost 7 years (which is REALLY embarrassing - how could it take me so long to deal with it?).  I have been putting it off because I think it is going to take more than just a coat of paint - it has been painted over again and again, so the paint looks thick and goopy (not sure that's a word), and there are some pretty serious gauges throughout the house.  Did you have to do any resurfacing or filling of stuff like this? I have no idea how to do it, and would love some advice if you have any.  Yours look great, but the way! I'm sure it feels so much better - like giving the house a bath :-)

  22. Ugh...trim painting. I am currently in the midst of the veeeerrryyyy long process of painting every single piece of wood molding in our entire house. The baseboard, windows, door frames, doors, everything is a really unattractive orangey stained color so we have decided to cover it all up. One room at a time. This includes sanding, cleaning, priming, and painting, and oh my gosh it is taking longer than I ever thought it would! The pay-off is how beautiful and crisp it looks afterwards. I may need to try the paint you used in the above post. Good luck! :) 

  23. About your floors: If you can stand to keep what you have for a bit and save some cash, then that opens up a lot of nicer options for you.

    I'm a realtor and most of the time when buyers around DC see anything besides good looking hardwood or brand new carpet it's a nose-turner-upper. Out of the solid surface floors laminate is considered cheap and not durable. Installed tile can be amazing if done right but is expensive and usually people cheap out and screw up DIY projects. Grout can get fuuuunky and not many people are aware that you can steam clean the grout. Nobody considers vinyl or some of the more unique options anymore.

    I actually have a tile look laminate installed on the slab in my house and it's held up reasonably well for the last 3 years... except around the bathroom door and the washing machine which overflowed, both courtesy of the sadistic live in mother in law. Virginia is humid - cant put hardwood on a cement slab and expect it to not warp. If you want laminate anywhere just keep in mind that some of the seams will look shitty from moisture infiltration if youre not Type A about keeping it dry.

    My firm has an affiliated general contracting business. They're not cheap, but the work is done promptly and correctly. They've quoted previous clients $3/sqft for refinishing (real) hardwood and $8/sqft to install new. They have a subcontractor complete the work, so I'm sure there's a better price out there.

    I've seen a lot of "stain to match jobs" and most dont yield a very impressive result. If at all possible I would see if you can match as closely as possible with real hardwood OR if you have spaces that would allow, then maybe a different color or inlay pattern could look nice and define the space for you. Just make sure the plank witdths are the same as what you have now and the transitions make sense for a cohesive look. The Gunstock color for hardwood it's one of the more common medium tones nationally with builders.


THANK YOU for taking the time to share your thoughts. I appreciate each and every comment.

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