Hardwood Flooring Overload

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe I haven’t provided any updates in nearly a month, but with the holidays and work keeping us busy, not many decisions were made.  One of the things that we did try to make progress on is our hardwood flooring choice, but I’m honestly not sure we are any closer to making a decision than we were when we first started.

The problem is that there is a nearly endless supply of choices when it comes to hardwood flooring these days.  I almost wish we were just given a handful of options to choose from– the way most of the larger, less custom, builders would operate.  Instead, we can pick from the entire universe of options with their different construction, materials, finishes and sizes.  It can be overwhelming.

Here is a quick pic of samples of just some of the floors we are currently considering.

Traditional hardwood floors are laid in place and then sanded to be perfectly smooth before the finish is applied.  It’s been done that way forever.  A newer trend is to order the wood prefinished by the factory.  Almost every person we have talked with has been in favor of this method.  Apparently, because the finish can be applied under controlled conditions in the factory and a higher number of coats can be applied more easily, the finish of a prefinished floor ends up being more durable.  And durability is one of our big goals for the materials in our house.

I hadn’t been sold on the idea of prefinished floors initially– and they aren’t perfect– but we have come around and are pretty sure that is the direction we’ll be going.

Alright.  Decision made, right?  Just pick a color and be done…

Not so fast.

Beyond deciding what type of wood and how wide the planks should be and whether we want an engineered floor (a discussion for a different day), we also have to decide what type of finish.  But didn’t we just say we wanted it prefinished?  Yes, but there is more than one way to finish a floor (whether onsite or prefinished by the factory).

This decision is where a lot of recent effort has gone and I would greatly appreciate anyone’s insight about it.  From my research, the 2 main types of finishes are polyurethane or oil.  Most people are probably familiar with a polyurethane finish which typically give a more shiny appearance and sits on top of the wood.  An oil finish, by contrast, gives a bit more natural appearance because it soaks into the wood.

The shiny appearance of classic polyurethane finish is not the look we are hoping for and while there are apparently options to make it more “matte” that we need to investigate, the oil finishes that we have seen definitely seem to capture our style better.

Of course, no decision can be simple.  Oil finishes have a major drawback of increased regular maintenance.  (And they tend to be more expensive, but that’s a lesser factor right now.)  As I already said, low maintenance and durability are key features for every part of the house so hearing that we need to apply oil to the entire floor– which will end up being about 1000 sq ft– once a year or more for at least the first few years does not make me excited.

The sales pitch that we keep hearing, though, is that oiled floors are easier to repair damage or conceal wear.  Basically, all hardwood floors will get damaged by scratches and dings and general wear in high traffic areas.  In a polyurethane floor, there is no way to fully repair a scratch without completely sanding off the existing finish and refinishing it.  And we are told that you can’t just refinish one area… the whole thing would need to be done.  On the other hand, if a scratch or wear pattern happens in an oiled floor you apparently can just clean and then re-oil that area and it will end up blending pretty nicely.

Again, this is what I’m hearing from salespeople.  Does anyone have experience they can share about trying to keep up either type of hardwood finish?

I Spoke Too Soon

I hadn’t even finalized yesterday’s post— about how we had amazingly managed to not pick the most expensive cabinet designs– when we had another shopping trip that had a more expected outcome.

We decided to brave the frigid temperatures to check out Chelsea Plank Flooring.  The production facility and factory store are only about 10 minutes away from us and our builder highly recommended we consider that product.

So we made our way into their showroom– probably about 40 feet by 40 feet– and talked to one of the nice salesmen.  I wanted to hear more about prefinished floors versus site-finished floors among other inquiries and we both wanted to see the different style/color options.  And they have a pretty good selection.  The floor of the showroom was finished with at least a dozen, maybe more like 20, different options and then another 3 dozen or so samples were “installed” in about 2×4 foot sections on the walls all around.

We couldn’t have been there more than 5 minutes– just talking at the desk– when Stephanie pointed to one of the samples on the back wall to say she liked it.  To which the salesman replied, “you have excellent taste…that’s the most expensive product we sell.”

No joke.

I don’t think we had even gotten our bearings in there.  I know I hadn’t even seen 50% of the options, but my beautiful wife was able to find the most expensive one– distressed walnut– just like that.

To her credit, I like it too.  It does look very nice and even after trying to find something else that we both like as much or more, we were unsuccessful.  Here is a pic of the sample they had in the showroom.

There’s a lot more to investigate before we would be making a final decision.  Apparently walnut is a relatively soft wood so it would be more prone to damage.  The runner-up option we found was hickory and would be much tougher so more research is necessary.  Plus, I’m still not completely sold on the prefinished flooring.

More to come.

We Have Cheap Taste

Okay, that title’s a bit misleading.

What I should have said is that we don’t always have the most expensive taste… just most of the time.

A few years back, I was out car shopping and Stephanie was thinking about what her next car might be.  She casually pointed to an SUV parked at the dealership saying that she liked the look.  It was a Porsche Cayenne!  I’m pretty sure she didn’t even know that Porsche made an SUV, but that’s just how it goes.

I’m not any different, though.  When I was in high school, my family went to pick out a new dog. The breeder had quite a few puppies at the time (cocker spaniels).  It didn’t take long playing with them for me to fall in love with this little brown puppy with quite a lot of personality.  Decision was made.  As we were getting ready to check out– for lack of a better term– she mentioned that some of the puppies had chocolate coloring in their lineage that would come out if they were bred and the chocolate coloring carried a premium.  Sure enough, I looked down at Nugget and she had a chocolate nose, not black.  We had no intention of breeding, but that nose cost me an extra $100.

Anyway, back to the house.  We went out to look at kitchen design yesterday and tried to educate ourselves a bit about the different options.

And there are a lot of options, some of which I may tackle in future posts.  But, for now, I’ll focus on the topic at hand: how we actually didn’t have the most expensive taste possible when it comes to cabinets.

First off, I think we’ll just try to keep ourselves from even considering custom cabinets because I’m sure we would want them if we really investigated it.  Plus, from looking at the semi-custom cabinets that are available and knowing that we don’t have an irregularly shaped kitchen, we will definitely be able to get some really nice stuff without going custom.

The other conclusion that we came to was that we don’t want inset cabinets.  This was something I didn’t even know existed until the designer showed it to us.  In my mind, all cabinets are the like ones I’ve grown up with, with the door mounted on the front of the cabinet frame.  But it is also possible to have doors that are inset so that they are completely flush with the cabinet frame.  I can see how it would be appealing, but at least in the display we looked at, it wasn’t our thing.  And they would have been an added expense that we don’t have to worry about now… hallelujah!

(Sorry, I totally neglected my duty as a blogger to take a picture to show what we are talking about, and when I looked online, none of the pictures I can find are allowed to be reused, so just google “inset cabinets” to see some examples.)  #Fail

Again, inset cabinets probably can look really awesome.  Our impression might have been swayed by the fact that the display also happened to have lots of added details in the edges and moldings that we definitely don’t want, but we’re happy concluding that we don’t need or want inset cabinets.

We Started Appliance Shopping

Our builder is hoping to work on a first estimate during the month of January, so they have asked us to start working on selections, which is very exciting, but equally stressful.

We need to pick– or let someone else pick– everything about our house.  That’s the double-edged sword of building a custom home.  We have ultimate freedom to create whatever we want– within constraints of the budget, of course– but have hundreds of decisions to make.

I’m sure I’ll spend some time here discussing many of the bigger decisions for us that will keep me up late at night researching, but the prospect of all the little decisions– like trim shape or cabinet pulls– has me stressed enough.

All of these decisions will not only determine the look, feel, comfort and durability of our home, but they will significantly impact the bottom line.

We are getting good guidance from our builder and they have narrowed some of the massive options out there so we aren’t, for example, trying to research every single hardwood floor provider in the area.  As a result we’ve been pointed in the direction of trusted, local resources for specific things.

One of those recommendations is Big Georges Home Appliance Mart here in Ann Arbor.  It happens to be right down the street from my daughter’s swimming lessons, so we decided to stop by today after her class.

Appliances are definitely one of those items that could majorly swing a budget.  Big George’s has ranges listed on their website over $18,000 and I know there are ranges out there that easily exceed that price.  (No, we aren’t going to be spending that type of money.)  A nice kitchen appliance package could easily be $6000 and as soon as you start talking about a cooktop with separate wall ovens, vent hoods, built-in microwaves and a refrigerator and dishwasher with some of the latest bells and whistles, the price starts to soar.

I was hoping today’s visit would allow 3 main things:

  • Determine a general style/feel.  I know that Stephanie doesn’t care for pieces that have too much of an industrial appearance.  I do actually kind of like the look, but won’t be sad that we don’t select a pricey Wolf cooktop that really exemplifies that style.  I think we saw things that we both like that are industrial enough, but don’t look like Wolfgang Puck should be using them.
  • Figure out which pieces we want and sizes.  One of the other big things we need to figure out to make the estimate as helpful and accurate as possible is the kitchen cabinets and counters.  So, we need to meet with a kitchen designer to figure out what cabinets we need and how much counter space will be present  Knowing, for example, that we probably will go with a 36 inch cooktop with separate wall oven(s) vs an integrated range will affect those plans.
  • Try to start narrowing brands.  If we knew we needed/wanted to have a  specific brand, that could certainly have budget implications, but we really didn’t have enough time to get to that level of decision making today.  Lunch time snuck up on us quickly and our daughter got fussy.  That was probably just as well, though, because we won’t be actually purchasing the appliances for 8 or 9 months probably, so who knows what new features or designs could come out by then

What I wasn’t hoping for was to create new questions that need answering.

And that’s when the salesman mentioned induction heating.  I had always assumed that we would have gas burners since that’s what I’ve used for nearly my entire life (our rental house has electric burners, but otherwise, it’s always been gas).  But hearing about how induction heating is more efficient than gas, easier to clean up since it is just one smooth surface, faster to boil water (we love our pasta!), but still very responsive like gas has me very intrigued.

As one might expect, an induction cooktop is more expensive than the other options.  In fact, it appears to be double the price of a gas cooktop if not more in some cases.  Beyond that, I am concerned about durability.  I don’t want to always worry that I’m gonna put a pot down too hard or slide it across the surface and leave a scratch.

So, now I’ve got something else to research.  I’ll let you know what we decide.

Please share any thoughts you have that could help us out regarding induction vs gas or anything else about appliance selection.