Review: Lumber Liquidators Natural Oak Flooring

lumber-liquidatorsI recently installed hardwood floors in my Bodega. I originally wanted to use flooring made by Bruce. Home Depot carries Bruce flooring and their website said it was in stock.

After driving 40 minutes to Home Depot, I discovered that their website was wrong. Out of the 6-7 styles of flooring in stock they had only 2 with enough to do my job. Whats the point of only having 6 boxes (120 square feet) of hardwood flooring in stock? Even a tiny home needs more flooring then that.

I made an executive decision to drive to NH where there are 3 home depot’s and 2 Lowes within a 10 mile area give or take. On the way I remembered that there was a Lumber Liquidators and decided to shop there first.

Its in the basement and around the back of a furniture store but easy enough to locate. I located a display of natural red oak flooring that looked acceptable.

I had a choice of “select oak” or not. The select product has a more uniform color I was told. Unfortunately, the select product was sold out and I could only get the “non-select” oak.

The salesman assured me that the color variations would not be too bad. I figured I could cherry pick nice pieces for downstairs and use the rest in the loft where they would be less visible. I plunked down my Amex card and signed the receipt.  As I was about to walk out I asked the sales guy “I can just return any unopened boxes right?” he said yes but with a 20% restocking fee! “. The piece of paper you just signed says that in the fine print. Thats a bad way of doing business if you ask me. Home Depot takes stuff no questions asked.

I figured the square footage to the exact amount and added 10%. To that number I added an extra box of 20 square feet “just in case”. The salesman told me that most people just figures 5% over not 10 as I had.

After unloading the boxes I sized up the amount of color variation and quality of pieces. Overall I was not that impressed. I had many warped pieces (greater than 1 inch) and several that were unusable due to surface defects.

The difference in color between lightest and darkest was about 6 shades or more. If you removed the darkest pieces the varation was maybe 3-4 shades of variation which I could live with. As the floor went down I decided that I like the variation more than I thought I would. On the fly I decided to include some of the darker pieces in the downstairs floor.  Overall the color variations were not an issue for me at all.

When the floor was complete, I had about 5% scrap due to just crappy pieces being in the box. The other 5% was normal scrap from having small ends and rip cuts.

Bottom line is that the poor quality of the product forced me to use about 5% more material than I would have.  If you factor this into the price of the flooring their pricing advantage begins to dissolve.

Conclusion

I can’t really recommend Lumber Liquidators flooring over anyone else. Their pricing is hard to compare to flooring carried by Home Depot or Lowes because the grading is tough to gauge (on purpose I suspect). Top of the line “select” grades are perhaps a few cents more per square foot at Home Depot.

For a flooring store with such low overhead (crappy location) and a draconian return policy (20% restocking) I expect better quality product or a deeper discount. Next time I will probably skip Lumber Liquidators and go with Home Depot. Even with their spotty selection, their prices are reasonable and they have better customer service IMO.

More loft floor

 

Tiny House Wood Flooring

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I will start off by saying that installing wood flooring in a tiny house is hard! Its not hard from a technical perspective. Although some sections demand perfection in your cuts if you want nice tight joints. By definition, tiny houses are….well tiny and some sections are just hard to maneuver in.

For the most part everything is covered by trim and if you can measure and cut to 1/8 inch then you’re good. Wood flooring is hard on the body. Even with nice kneepads, the knees are sore.  Bending over to align and nail pieces is hard on the back. Whacking the nailer over 1700 times beats up the rest of you!

There was a day that guys did floors without air tools…that must have been rough. In any event my wood flooring is in and it looks pretty respectable.

Tools

I rented a floor nailer and hammer from Home Depot. A good floor nailer is $600 and not worth owning.  I already have a finish nailer so did not need to rent one. You will also need a saw to cut the pieces. If you have only edge cuts then any POS saw will do.  If you have fine cuts (around the wood stove) like I did then a nice saw is probably required.

Flooring

I started laying the floor by the front door. I wanted to lay the floor out so that I had a full section in front of the stove rather than some notched pieces. I laid it out 3 times and still ended up 1/4 inch off!

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The nailer squishes the boards together much tighter than you can by hand. Over the course of 22 rows, the boards squished together close to 5/16″.  I started 1/16″ closer to compensate for this effect, but still ended 1/4 inch off. I imagine a pro flooring dude would have known how to lay this out properly, I only had Ajax and he thought it would work.

The 1/4″ notch does not look bad as I was able to make it very tight. The rest of the floor went as expected, it was just very time consuming and tiring.  By days end Saturday the downstairs was compete less three thresholds sections.

Sunday morning I finished the three thresholds. Each was a bit different and required quite a lot of fitting and screwing around to get all the pieces in there. By afternoon Tim came along to help me do the loft.  I was able to lay the floor while he trimmed the pieces.

After about three hours it was complete. I managed to smash off the edge of my window sill with the flooring hammer as the pieces got close to the wall.  A bit of glue and some clamps and its looking good again.

After the flooring was in a massive cleanup began and the floor carefully swept to remove any dirt that was tracked in. The cardboard cartons that the flooring comes in makes excellent floor covering while you are working.

Doggie Door

Ajax is an independent dog and likes the ability to come and go as he pleases. The yard will be surrounded by 5ft wire fencing to keep out the local wildlife and keep Ajax from harassing them. He just needs a way to get out of the house.

I bought a PetSafe Extreme Weather door from the local Petco. It comes with 3 flaps to keep the cold air out of the house. The two outer flaps are rubber and seal with a magnetic catch on the bottom. The inner flap is insulation to keep the heat in.

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This door was a real pain in the ass to install and required about 5 hands to hold all the plastic parts together. Once installed its pretty sturdy. Ajax required a bit more coaxing to go thru it since its quite a bit thicker than the one he’s used to.

Inspections

Monday morning came the parade of inspectors…all two of them. Four inspections were required: Fuel storage (propane), smoke detector, driveway, and final plumbing. The first three are handled by the DPW Manager and the fire chief.  Since they are the same person in my town it made things easy.

He inspected the driveway apron to make sure there was adequate protection to the side of the road so it would not crack. The fuel storage inspection made sure the tank was in the correct location and the tubing was installed properly. The smoke detector inspection looked at the location and function of the combination smoke/CO detector. Everything passed, and I wrote him (yet another) check for $50.

 

The plumbing inspector looked at the final plumbing work and measured the hot water temperature in the sink and shower. He wanted to see 125 degrees F at the sink, and 113 degrees F in the shower.  Satisfied, he signed my paper and left.

Whats next?

I need to install baseboard trim and a few other doo-dads. The building inspector will be by this week to do a final inspection. Next weekend I will move the pump controller, batteries, and PV wiring to the new house.

Three More Tasks Complete

The questionnaire

This weekend once again the weather looked to be snowy and wet so I planned for most of my work to be under cover.  During the week I traveled to a nearby Home Depot to pic up a octogan shaped window for the wall above the porch.  I try to monitor the local Craigslist.com listings for any building materials that I may need.  This week a guy advertised some composite decking for $1 per foot which is more than 50% off!  It turns out that the guy was located just 3 miles from my building site.

Junk Shopping

When I located the address for the guy with the composite decking, I was shocked to learn that it was not some random dude with some spare decking.  It was an entire salvage yard with all kinds of new building materials.  Much of it was remnants, defects, or surplus from other jobs.  I picked thru several lots of different colors and found a pile of brown decking with enough decent looking pieces.  $200 and two trips later I had 13 pieces of decking 16ft long each on the job site.

Decking Installation

The first step was to cut the decking to length.  I picked 16ft lengths so that there would be no cuts showing on the deck.  Composite decking is actually quite heavy and bows a lot.  I put the saw on the floor and propped up the decking piece with blocks of 2×4’s.  I laid the pieces in place on the deck as I cut them and inspected them for any defects.  Luckily, I only discovered two defects before screwing the pieces down.  One I was able to hide against the wall and the other I was able to use the spare piece that I bought.

Composite decking requires special screws so that you don’t get puckered holes.  I bought two pounds of Grip-Rite fasteners in brown and the T-15 bit needed to drive them in.  The first tier I butted solidly against the front wall of the porch and drove fasteners in four places.  I decided to pre-drill the holes to make the fasteners easier to drive and ensure consistent placement.  The second tier I spaced using some very small (about .030″) finishing nails.  Being under a porch I am not too concerned with water drainage and didn’t want the unsightly gaps that are more appropriate for an outdoor deck.

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With all the decking tacked down, I went back and pre-drilled the remaining faster locations (2 per joist @ 16″ OC).  About 2/3rd complete, I realized that another box of fasteners will be required.  I did manage to get at least one screw in every board.  If you are planning a composite deck project, don’t even think about joist spacing greater than 16″ OC this stuff is pretty flexible, also be sure to inspect for defecte carefully.

Window Installation

Yup, I screwed up big time.  The framed opening for the octagon window was 1 inch too narrow for the window (missed it by that much ||).  I really liked the window and its size, so I decided to hack it up and make it fit.  I cut the inside down by an inch so that it would fit within the foam and overlap on the right and left by 1/2 inch.  I screwed it thru the foam into studs which means that there really is no wood holding this window in place, just four really long screws.   If it were something that got lots of use, it would be an unacceptable installation. This window will require a ladder to open and will probably never be opened so it will be fine.

When it comes time to trim the inside (which will be interesting), I will attach some screws in strategic locations to add more support.  The trim will be a window buck that holds the window from the inside rather than the outside.  When finished you won’t ever know I screwed up until its time for replacement.

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Using the porch roof to work from made the job pretty easy as I could cut and tape my foam sheets right there.  With the outside done, I applied some spray foam to seal around the inside of the window.  The inside looks pretty messy right now, but will clean up nicely when I add trim.

Bathroom Framing

Sunday I worked indoors and began framing my bathroom walls.  Using data from the CAD system, I laid out lines on the floor where the pressure treated studs would go.  I used a pencil and long steel rule for maximum accuracy (chalk lines can walk).  The studs were secured to the concrete with drill and screw fasteners.  I chose not to get fancy with the pipe and cut two separate pieces to get around it.  The concrete next to the pipe is a bit high and it would have been a nightmare to use a single piece and shims.

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I framed out the wall section using very specific data from the CAD system.  This wall will be the framing for built-in kitchen cabinets and medicine chest.  The studs need to be in exact locations so I don’t waste any space inside the cabinets.  The two middle studs will be the medicine cabinet on the bathroom side and the kitchen sink on the other.  The rest of the open space I will divide into upper and lower cabinet sections as the spirit moves me.

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Sub Flooring

I will be installing a 1.5 inch thick sub floor made up of a 3/4 inch thick pressure treated board with 3/4 Advantech OSB laid on top.  The pressure treated planks will be attached with building adhesive and Ramset pins with the Ramguard coating which is compatible with pressure treated lumber.  You can see the test piece I installed in the pic (floor behind Ajax under window), I will be installing pieces like this at 16″ OC on the entire floor….pics as I work on it.

P.S. Ajax is not a big fan of the ramset gun…it took me 5 minutes to get him to pose for that bathroom pic.