Goodbye, carpet! Restoring 19th century wooden floorboards

Hi all,

Hope you’re having a nice week. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for the weekend!

When we moved into our flat, we knew we wanted to do a lot (if not all) of the repairs ourselves. First up in our DIY show and tell is the hallway transformation. This has been our biggest project so far and was a bit terrifying to start because…

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The before and after.

 

  1. We had no idea what was under the carpet. Original hardwood floors from 1890? Concrete? Botched jobs? Monsters?!
  2. We knew that once the carpet is torn up there is no going back. Our flat hallway would be a semi-construction zone for the next couple weeks!
  3. After doing some research, I realised that tracking down Victorian floorboards is easier said than done. A few were advertised on GumTree, but only a few bits here and there. Would we be able to find enough (if needed) and for how much?
  4. And by far the most nerveracking: this was the first time we’ve ever done something like this. The potential for error was definitely there.

Here’s how the whole thing played out (taking place over five weekends).

First… the moment of truth. We ripped up the carpet to find original hardwood floorboards in pretty good condition – minus a few quick fixes from way back when (seen below).

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Someone way back when opted for a quick fix instead of replacing the full plank of wood…

Overall we were relieved. There were only a few problem areas. The horizontal wooden slab and concrete filler needed to go. A few planks further down needed to be replaced.

To see what we were working with we cleaned up what we could. Pulled out approximately 300 (!!) staples that held in the carpet, as well as the borders that fasten it to the side (the thin red and tan wooden strips).

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Carpet staples. Taking way longer to pull out than I ever imagined…

Cue the repairs! We searched online for planks from around the same era and made of the same type of wood (pine). No luck. It wasn’t until we stumbled across a carpentry shop in south London that we found what we were looking for. It felt like Christmas!

Next steps:

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  1. Cut out and remove broken planks. In a few areas we had to remove part of the adjacent plank too in order to access the joist below the floor (the horizontal frame where wood is securely drilled into). You can see a bit of the joist to the left of the 1986 Tango can we found under the wood!
  2. Cut the new planks into the correct size. Use a drill to nail either end of the planks into the joist.
  3. Sand! 

In addition to our smaller manual sander, we hired a heavy duty one. I’m in no way a sanding professional (I wouldn’t know where to start with the correct, technical terms!), but we used a fine sanding setting to ensure we took off the bare minimum. We wanted a smooth surface – but whilst keeping the character and history.

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Sand, sand, sand

We used the small hand sander for the borders.

Next up – varnish. We wanted the hallway to match the wood floor in our living room – or be as close as possible. We thought we would have to use a stain. We thankfully tested one in a small corner behind a door. It was way too dark. I would strongly suggest applying a small test sample to confirm it’s the shade of your wood floor dreams.

Instead of the stain, we opted for a clear gloss. It was almost perfect. We applied two coats – each took 10 hours to dry.

Finally… five weeks later… taa daa!

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We couldn’t be happier! The wood continues to the steps in our hall. Beyond that, carpet begins (we know there’s concrete underneath so we left the carpet).

So what do we do? Fresh carpet? Or perhaps new wood that hopefully matches the original? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

The first project has been crossed off the list. So, what should be next?

McK

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A dose of Victorian home DIY in London

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Can you tell I like plants?

Wow, time really flies by when you’re having fun. I haven’t blogged since January 2018 – and a lot has happened since then.

I’ve given into the travel bug, exploring places far and wide – to Thailand, Santorini, Rome, Prague, Trier, Barcelona, Amsterdam, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Minnesota and around the UK. Attended my first Glastonbury (!!). Started a new role at work. Became a cat mom.

Last but not least… we became homeowners! Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would own a flat in London. I’ve always been one for interiors and DIY projects, but now the decor and furniture fanatic in me is jumping for joy.

We’ve moved into a 1890 ground-floor Victorian flat. With its beautiful character and history comes decades-old quirks that need some love. From restoring original floorboards, maximising storage and finding affordable antiques, there’s always a little (or big!) job to add to the list.

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Hello, home!

That’s what I want to share.

As a first-time buyer, this was my introduction into the big world of home improvement and the problem solving that goes with it. I’m not going to lie, it was a little intimidating to begin with.

My first thought was ‘oh my god, what if something goes wrong and I ruin beautiful original features that have been here for 130 years?!’. Well, there’s always that chance… but that’s where a little bit of research, advice and YouTube comes in.

We’ve done quite a bit so far – so stay tuned.

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Grab me the drill, give me the gardening gloves. Let’s turn this house into a home!

More to come.

McK

The little things that help you deal with homesickness

Adventure, exploration, travel! It sounds so glam, doesn’t it?

Moving away from home and embracing a new city is a truly wonderful thing. Meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and learning something new – it takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you grow up as a person.

But we’re all human – homesickness is real. I don’t get it often, but every now and then I think about how much I would love a cozy movie night in with my mom or to wine and dine at my favorite DC restaurants with my best friends 3,662 miles away (but who’s counting?).

But there are a few little things that help keep the pep in my step…

Snail mail 

Who doesn’t love gifts and pen pals, am I right? My mom and I send each other little care packages full of silly USA or UK-themed presents.

Photo by McKenna

Exhibit A: A USA-shaped cheese board. It’s the one thing I didn’t realize I needed until I got it. In return, I sent her a little German Christmas market souvenir and a British flag chapstick (it is cold season, after all!).

The sillier the better – it’s all about catching the other person by surprise.

Embrace your traditions 

Photo by McKenna

OK, any chance to whip up good American comfort food is fine by me.

Thanksgiving is of course one of the biggest days of the year for us Americans – it just doesn’t feel right to not embrace the holiday even if you are overseas. Don’t even get me started on Halloween!

So, make it a thing wherever you are. Invite your friends over, pop some bubbly! There’s always something to celebrate 🙂

Make your home…homey 

Photo by McKenna

Make your home away from home…yours!

Whatever your thing is…fluff on fluff, boho chic, plants and flowers – go crazy. There’s nothing better than coming home after a long, exhausting day and relaxing in your space.

Photo by McKenna

Your home away from home will eventually feel like home 😀

Your go-to treats 

Let’s be real, sometimes you crave your family’s homemade banana bread or a sandwich from your favorite cafe back at home.

Photo by McKenna

London has a few American places that I have to visit every now and then… Pinkberry, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts (for the iced coffee!)… #basic

A little taste of home is what it is. Although it may seem small, it helps me.

Last but not least…Facetime and Skype to the rescue! 

Honestly, I don’t think I could have moved abroad if Facetime and Skype didn’t exist. It’s 100% first world problems, but catching up with friends and family – and seeing their beautiful faces – make it so much easier to live so far away.

What helps you when you’re feeling homesick? Tell me your ways!

McK xx