Why I’ll Always Associate Piles Of Wood With bin Laden’s Death- Also, Your Opinion, Please.

I will always associate the news of Osama bin Laden’s death with walking through my disaster of a house Sunday night, surveying the destruction and tiny bit of progress on these floors. As I was videoing on my phone, my sister called through.
“Hey, can I call you back? I’m taking a video right now.”
“Oh, Osama Bin Laden?” my sister hurriedly replied.
“Yeah, this place is a freaking war zone!” I said right before I hung up, not even thinking that was an odd reference for her to make, but whatever, it seemed to fit.
I proceeded to record this. Please note that no babies were harmed in the making of this, and that I don’t typically leave my children unsupervised in rooms full of stacked furniture. Also, Kendall is really good about not throwing balls at his sister. I swear. I just remind him not to as extra measure.

Over the last week this “little project” of ours has become quite the Pandora’s Box. What started out as one home improvement has turned into a list a mile long. We now need to raise our kitchen cabinets, but before we can do that we have to replace the countertops, which means we’re going to have to do a new back splash. We have to replace the baseboards with new ones, which means we have to buy them and paint them first. Then all the wall paint needs to be touched up, and the curtains re-hung (or hell, just replaced at this point).

There were MANY bumps in the road, and I can pretty much say I don’t ever recommend Lumber Liquidators to anyone. Customer Service FAIL. Unfortunately, though, I think they are the only place you can get utility grade hardwoods. We worked through it all (and by we, I totally don’t mean me) with the help of Scott’s amazingly talented and generous brother who helped out.

The floor install, as of 8 pm last night, is finally done.

The view from a week ago.


Now we just have to fill all the knots and cracks in the wood with wood putty, sand them (which we are hiring a professional to do), finish them, and CLEAN UP. I feel like we are living like refugees. As I type this, I have 5 loads of laundry placed in piles randomly throughout the house. Why I keep washing it, I don’t know. Our bedroom is just as bad as it appears in that video. No. WORSE. Also? Stinky.

The really, really hard part is behind us, but the sort of hard part is still ahead, and that’s living on unfinished wood for at least a week with a toddler and two dogs. Thank God Leyna’s not crawling yet.

We are finishing the floors with a product called Rubio Monocoat Natural Oil Finish that I’m SUPER excited to use. I did a ton of research on eco-friendly, healthy finishing options, and this was at the top of our list. It’s completely VOC free, non-toxic, very durable and easy to maintain, from what I’ve read.

Now, I have a question for you all. Originally, we planned to finish them in a mahogany, as seen here. But, after getting the floors down, I am absolutely in love with the way they look right now. Since we used utility grade wood, there is a lot of variation in the colors, lots of knots, and I sort of hate to cover that up. I’m thinking of just applying the clear Monocoat over it. What do you think? Would you leave them natural or stain them a little darker?

Kendall is 3! Leyna is 4 months.


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  1. It looks amazing! As someone who has oak hardwood floors and wants them dark, I would recommend staining them. Just remember that a dark stain makes them look great, but may also make your room feel smaller. Take a look at your existing or dream furniture to help you figure out what colour they should be. In either case, they look fantastic!

  2. Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I kinda love the natural look too! Is the monocoat going to be pretty glossy/shiny? If it had a rougher or flat finish to it I think that would actually be really cool and modern-feeling. Sorta west-elm-y. As long as it’s not too yellow or red. Neutral to grey-ish I like. Have you tried a test plank yet?

    • That’s exactly what I’m thinking, Brett! It’s a mix of white oak and red oak, so some of the planks are more greyish. Monocoat has a flat finish, so it won’t be super shiny at all.

  3. That was hilarious and terrifying. LOL! It’s gonna look fantastic when it’s done and I would TOTALLY leave them natural. No stain.

  4. hi there…you don’t know me, but i follow your blog, and i also breed mastiffs. i know you have at least one. we redid our floors a few years ago with prefinished hickory. let me tell you, the lighter color floor hides dog hair VERY well, while anything darker is going to show more hair. we LOVE our floors with the light color and natural variations. in fact, we almost did what ya’ll did and went with the “saloon grade” and finished it ourselves. but we just weren’t that crazy ; ) it looks great though!

    • That is great to hear!! Yes, so much of my apprehension is if the dog hair will show up worse on this since our Mastiff and our Labrador both have dark hair. Thanks for chiming in!

  5. OMG! Watching that video was making me twitch and want to help you clean up when this is all over.

    I love the look of the unfinished floors as well but not having a full idea of the rest of your decor I don’t know if I could give you a decent opinion.

    Good luck though and I can’t wait to see the final results!

  6. I say stick with the mahogany – the one you picked is very light. It will bring out the richness in the wood. You will still see the variation. I must say I am impressed. Yall are making GREAT time and the look amazing.

  7. TheNextMartha on

    I laughed like 5 times! Hilarious. I mean, I feel really bad for you but it is a little funny right? Why did the cabinets move up down? Can’t remember. So far it’s amazing. In my opinion, I would try testing a plank or two in the color you chose and one just sealed/natural. I’d then live with it for a day or two. You can also ask a real estate person (if you know one) what their thoughts are on resale value for each style. I personally would add a little color to it. It will warm it up and even it out a little. Good luck! Can’t wait to see the after pics.

    • Oh, it’s totally hilarious. My life is like a freaking sitcom. The cabinets are lower now because we added 1.5 inches of floor on top of the concrete slab with the plywood subfloor and hardwoods. Good point about the resale. I’ll ask my realtor friend. Thanks!

  8. I like either choice, but something to consider – a clear coat will yellow with time and eventually, you’re floors will look sorta orange rather than white/gray. I’m not sure how long you plan to be in the house, but if it’s for a long time, you need to stain. If not, go for the natural!!

  9. Def. keep them natural. We are in the same never ending cycle of home improvements. We *almost* went with a darker wood (like most of our furniture. But why we didn’t? It shows EVERY SINGLE little dust particle, piece of hair, foot print, etc. We bought a couple sample pieces and put them down for a few days to see how they looked. Yeah, they would have needed to be mopped like 5x a day. So not worth the look for all the work needed to keep them looking clean.

  10. I have dark wood floors and I do love the way they look – when they are clean. The thing is, they are REALLY hard to keep looking clean. We have two cats and every single piece of fur shows up. I would say a daily quick vacuum is required to keep them looking nice and I don’t do that nor will I have time when baby arrives in a couple of weeks, so I would advise going with something lighter. Natural is great or even cherry is just so much easier to keep looking good.

  11. OMG, it’s so weird to actually hear your voice!

    Anyway, we’re a midst a bathroom remodel right now and watching this video, brought me right back home. I can not wait until it’s done just so we no longer have a toilet in our living room and a shop vac as a permanent fixture in our kitchen.

    GL! It looks beautiful!

    • Ahhhh!! Good luck to you! I LOL at the shopvac. That thing has been worth it’s weight in gold, though, so I shouldn’t dis it too much.

  12. From the pictures here, the floors look awesome! I would leave them natural.

    And if you REALLY hated them natural, couldn’t you could relive this fun and sand them down and stain them mahogany?

  13. The color thing is a personal choice, I could really go either way. I wouldn’t be at all scared to show the natural variations in the wood, in fact, I think that’s a big part of the beauty of wood.

    We’re planning to put wood in when our carpet gets gross, so I’m a little jealous that you’re getting them now, and a little horrified at what might be my future. (Although we won’t be doing them ourselves: My husband is no Mr. Fit-it, and I’m too lazy!)

  14. as someone who has dark-ish wood floors, I would say go lighter. I find myself dusting the damn things literally twice a day. Also, any type of spills (especially drips of milk) show up very easily on the darker floors. I found that out the hard way when my toddler’s sippy cup was leaking all over the place… 🙂

  15. I had dark wood floors in my last home, and while they looked beautiful, they showed every speck of dirt immediately. I was vacuuming almost daily and quickly found myself in a love-hate relationship with my floors. I imagine leaving them natural would save your sanity a bit more. 🙂

  16. we refinished our oak floors ourselves when we first bought our house. and, after spending three days straight sanding and prepping, we were beyond exhausted and went to stain the bedroom floor and *accidentally* applied the varathane top coat instead of stain. oops. but then once we looked at it, we realized that we loved the natural look more than the stained look. do you have a spot (under the fridge maybe? or in a closet?) that will be hidden where you can do a patch test?

    • We really don’t have the time. We did a sample plank with the mahogany a while back, but I just think it might overwhelm the space now.

  17. What added up to be 1.5 inches in height? Are they hardwoods or engineered? I keep pondering why salesmen say you can’t put hardwoods on concrete cause I do not agree.
    Looks great. Jealous!

    • You can’t lay hardwoods directly onto concrete, so we had to lay a plywood subfloor first. That, along with the additional height of the hardwoods added and extra 1.5 inches.

  18. Natural all the way! Before I even finished reading the post & I saw the picture I thought “I hope she can keep them like that”. Natural for sure!

  19. I’d leave the cabinets where they are. What’s an inch and a half?

    On the floor, I’d do natural now. In 10-15 years, when the hellions, I mean children are older, you can go all sophisticated with dark floors. You have a LOT of floors and all of that being dark seems kinda overwhelming to me.

    • I thought the same thing at first, too, but after walking around the kitchen, it actually makes a huge difference. The counter tops just aren’t at a comfortable working height anymore.

      I totally agree about the dark being overwhelming. I think it’s a lot further from the look I originally envisioned.

  20. You are a brave, brave woman! It looks fantastic. I’d probably lean towards staining it because I tend to like darker finishes. Looks great natural, though!

  21. This may have just been my deciding factor of living in a hotel or being on a week vacation if we end up installing hardwood floors. Thanks for the heads up, and glad that you are nearing the finish line! 😉

  22. Definitely don’t do dark mahogany. The same way your bright white tiles show every fleck of dirt, dark hardwood esp if it’s shinny, shows every speck of dust.

  23. Leave them the color they are now. When you are tired of the color then stain them darker. Then darker still when you are tired of that. Lots of options for the future. They look fantastic!

  24. I feel like natural would be a more forgiving color for dog scratches. We have cherry floors and I die inside when I observe what our golden retriever has done just by virtue of walking around.

  25. My husband runs the local branch of a hardwood flooring distributor, so from my “professional” (haha) opinion, I would really think long and hard before staining the floors dark! Dark floors show every speck of dust, dirt, dog hair, crumbs, etc. Also, if they get scratched–which they will–from dogs, matchbox cars, furniture being dragged across them, the scratch will stand out more because it will show the natural wood color. Just my $0.02. I am super impressed, by the way, that you lived through that. We weren’t even living in our house when we had the floors done, and I thought I may go crazy! Props to you!

  26. I lived the war-zone life. I know your pain.

    But once it’s over? Ahhh! Sweet victory!

    And those floors look awesome! I love how bright they are, so I’d leave them natural to give the illusion of more light in the house. And then, if you sell later, the new owners can darken the floors if they want to.

    It’s looking great, Jill!

  27. I would leave them natural. The lighter the floor the less dust and dirt shows on it and it brightens up a room. We love our natural floors (feel free to glance through a few pages of my blog to see ours) and although I like the look of darker floors, I loathe the dust/dirt/hair that shows on them. Your floors look fantastic and you are a saint for living through the construction. I would have shipped the kids off to grandmas and checked into the Four Seasons! (K, not really but a girl can dream right?)

  28. Your “living like a refugee” comment aside… you can easily go darker when you stain wood. It is a lot more labor intesive (and not always possible depending on the stain) to go lighter.

  29. I think you should either go with a clear coat but depending on the wood and the color of the clear coat it might give it a more yellowy type look. I would definitely pass on dark wood it could look bad with big pup pup paws gouging it and showing the lighter wood under it.
    What kind of wood is it? I would definitely do a test piece before hand! A very hard lesson to learn if you don’t 🙂 which i only know from learning the hard way (Fine Woodworking BFA)

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