Wood Floors

Is Installing Flooring Easy? (VIDEO)

using-engineering-hardwoodEvery once in a while, something comes across my computer that is so relevant, it’s almost too easy. Coincidentally, the post was about things being too easy – and in this case, it was about installing hardwood flooring, a task which most will agree, is typically best done by professionals.

Blogger Gonzo Dave of The Peripatetic Traveler decided it was time to replace his worn carpet. For him, it was easy – possibly too easy.

We glued the wood strips (prefinished Australian cypress) directly to the concrete slab, because we weren’t worried about moisture coming from the Arizona dirt under the house. That meant we had to pour the glue, spread the glue, lay the strips in the glue, position the strips before the glue set, and then strap them together so they didn’t move while the glue cured. After that, we had to clean up the excess glue, roll the strips with a weighted roller to make *sure* they were in the glue, and clean up the new excess glue. And, of course, we had to clean the glue off our tools and ourselves every night when we were done for the day.

(Side note: I finally got the last tidbits of glue off the floors THIS YEAR.)

By contrast, to replace the peel-and-stick tile in Rick and Eve’s kitchen with acacia hardwood flooring, we steamed the old tiles off, unrolled some underlayment and stapled it down, laid down the flooring strips, whacked them with a compressed-air-powered flooring nail gun, and PRESTO! Half the floor done in one day. No glue, no cleanup, no horrendous mess, almost no nothing except a beautiful hardwood floor.

Awesome job, Gonzo Dave! You’re right in thinking that for most people, laying hardwood flooring isn’t that easy.

Proper installation matters, as discovered by this YouTube user:

The bottom line is yes, laying hardwood flooring can be relatively easy, but unless done properly, you may encounter problems later on down the line.

Professional installation does cost more but with trained installers, you may end up saving a lot of money in the long-run. If you do decide to go it alone, make sure you start with quality wood. Acclimate the flooring to the humidity levels in your home.

  1. Make sure the room or level where the flooring will be laid is an enclosed space.
  2. Between 5 and 10 days ahead of time, check to see if the temperature and humidity of the space is at normal living conditions. In other words, let the heat or air run as it would normally for at least 5 days. Between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is a good range when it comes to the temperature. The humidity level should be around the yearly average for the area.
  3. If the temperature and humidity of the room is off, use a heating and/or air conditioning system to balance it out. Don’t bring the hardwoods into the space until the heating or air has been running for at least 5 days, and wait 7-10 days before actually installing them.
  4. Open the boxes and lay them flat in the room where they’ll be installed. If because of space you do stack the boxes try to stagger them to expose as much of the box to the open air as possible.

Once you do that, here are step-by-step instructions. If you have questions, your Amber Flooring representative will be happy to answer them.


Floor Maintenance, Green Flooring

Maintain Your Floors The ‘Green’ Way

Bamboo_Flooring-1You have a beautiful new or newly refinished hardwood floor. You dream that you can maintain the floor’s pristine look, long after the installers are gone. While life does get in the way of perfectly shiny and clean floors, there are definitely ways to keep your floors looking their best, even years later.

Choose your floors wisely 

Laminate is more durable than hardwood (although laminate can’t be refinished), hard woods are better than softer woods. If you know that your family is hard on floors, an already distressed or hand scraped floor won’t show the wear and tear as easily and it will give your home a stylish, rustic look.

Prevention is the best medicine

Brush loose hair and dirt out of your pets on a regular basis. Sweep every day or two. Dirt can scratch your floor and embed itself into the finish. Clean spills immediately. If possible, institute a no shoes inside policy. If not, be diligent about cleaning.

A damp mop should be all that’s needed once a week or so. Steamer mops work great with no cleaning solution.

Some people swear by vinegar or black tea as cleaning solutions, but both can be damaging to the floor and might even void your floor’s warranty. Check with the manufacturer. If you feel you must use a solution, there are many green alternatives like Dr. Bronner’s and Method, both of which have a delightful smell.

If your floor is damaged

Light scratches can often be buffed out or fill them in with a matching crayon and run a blowdryer over it. Viola! The scratched is fixed. Deeper scratches and stains might require refinishing and even professional care. Be sure to ask that the refinishers use no or low VOC stains.

carpet vs Hardwood
Carpet, Wood Floors

Carpet Vs Hardwood In Your Bedroom (Guest Post)

carpet vs HardwoodYou’ve just built a new home or are renovating your existing one and you’re deciding whether to get carpets or hardwood for your bedroom. A long term investment like this is not an easy decision. You’re basically stuck with it for the foreseeable future. The worst thing that could happen is you regret your choice a few years down the track – like all those people in the 70s who thought lime green carpets were a good idea.

You’ve just built a new home or are renovating your existing one and you’re deciding whether to get carpets or hardwood for your bedroom. A long term investment like this is not an easy decision. You’re basically stuck with it for the foreseeable future. The worst thing that could happen is you regret your choice a few years down the track – like all those people in the 70s who thought lime green carpets were a good idea.

You’ve just built a new home or are renovating your existing one and you’re deciding whether to get carpets or hardwood for your bedroom. A long term investment like this is not an easy decision. You’re basically stuck with it for the foreseeable future. The worst thing that could happen is you regret your choice a few years down the track – like all those people in the 70s who thought lime green carpets were a good idea.

But what surface should you choose? So let’s pit the two floor surfaces off against each other.



Hardwood Bedroom

In the blue corner, we have the people’s champion of the floor surfaces, hardwood.

It is the most prestigious of the floor surfaces and can add a sense of luxury to your bedroom. You can expect to pay more for it however, but the long term benefit of this purchase is that it will outlast carpet and add resell value to your home.

If the above information did not push you over the line, then perhaps it is worth knowing that hardwood is very easy to clean, and as a result, it will alleviate allergies.

There are some circumstances that might want to reconsider getting hardwood though. The first being pets. Unless you keep their nails trim, they will mark the floors. Secondly, if you suffer from buttery fingers and drop things often, hardwood might not be the best as you could leave dents on the floor. Thirdly, you will need to take your shoes off (especially high heels) before you go into the bedroom as they will scuff the floor.

But don’t make the decision yet, we still have to hear from the opponent.


Carpeted Bedroom

And in the red corner, we have the challenger to best floor surface in your bedroom – carpet.

Even though Hardwood seems to be the odds on favourite to take the crown, do not discount carpet. It, too, has benefits that might be better suited to your budget and lifestyle. Let’s take a look at what he can offer.

Carpet’s great selling point is that it is significantly cheaper per square metre. Yes, hardwood does last longer, but for those unable to afford the investment upfront, this is more of a viable solution. The life of carpet can be extended if properly cared for and steam cleaned at least once a year.

Installing hardwood is time consuming and if you want to have a minimum impact on your home life, carpet would be a better choice, as it is very easy and quick to lay.

Carpet is soft and comfortable and stops heat escaping through the floor, thus helping to maintain the temperature in your home.


The Verdict


If one thing is for certain, this battle will not end in a KO. It’s going to go down to what the judges think. Who do you think is the victor? Your decision will probably boil down to your lifestyle and personal preference. However, as we have seen, there are some discernable features and benefits between carpet and hardwoods, some of which may affect which way you go.




EFEmily Ford is an Australian DIY enthusiast with a passion for creating quaint living spaces with minimal effort. Based in Perth she writes for numerous publications on Flooring, DIY, Interior Design and Property Investment. She applies her trade at Property Institute and you can find her on Google+.







Image courtesy of Flickr
Home Improvement

The Bay Area Is Seeing Upsurge In Home Improvement Projects

Image courtesy of Flickr

Image courtesy of Flickr

If you’ve been putting off your much-needed or much-desired home improvement projects because your home took a hit during the housing crisis or perhaps you purchased it within the last five years, now might be a good time to take another look.

Since many, if not most, home renovations are paid for through home equity loans or through refinancing homes, the home improvement industry took a big hit as home prices dropped. Now, as the real estate market is rebounding (in fact, many Bay Area neighborhoods are at pre-recession levels), it might be a good time to turn your home into your dream home.

Homeowners often refinance their homes or use a home equity loan to pay for a remodel. Home equity loans were up across the Bay Area in the first six months of 2014. In Marin, 451 such loans were made in that period, a 5 percent increase over the same period in 2013, according to real estate information company DataQuick.

This was the highest number of these loans in Marin for any first quarter since 2008.

Remodeling projects are keeping contractors busy throughout the county as well as upscale communities like Walnut Creek and Palo Alto and some middle-income Bay Area neighborhoods where houses have regained equity lost during the housing bust.

Source: Marin News

It’s been so busy, that some contractors are turning work away. Others are offering longer than usual wait times. Amber Flooring is extremely busy, but we are fully staffed and we and our vendors are working overtime to meet customer needs.

In an uncertain economy, it might seem irresponsible to max out your equity once again, and you’d be right. Most experts recommend that you spend no more than 20 percent of your home equity on improvements. Wisely spent, you can increase your home’s value by 10 percent or more.

For more information about where you can get the biggest home improvement bang for your buck, here are some suggestions. (hint: hardwood flooring is very good for your home’s bottom line).

Home Improvement

How Much Money Should You Spend On Renovations?

070315-N-4965F-003Your kitchen and baths are dated, your carpet is dirty, you need a new deck or to knock down a few walls. Your home definitely needs a new something, but how do you decide how much to spend and what to spend it on?

The first thing you want to do is ask yourself why you’re renovating. Are you getting ready to sell or is it for your family’s benefit.

If you are selling your home:

If you are planning on selling your home, you have one very specific goal, and that is to maximize your selling price. If you live in a relative starter neighborhood, high-end finishes such as hardwood and granite might not net you the money you put in. On the other hand, if your neighbors have the high-end finishes, you definitely don’t want to skimp.

Consult with your real estate broker. Ask for the appraised value of your home as-is and for the appraised value with planned renovations. In an ideal world, you would be able to double your renovation costs come sale time, but 20% is a good benchmark.

If you have to skimp somewhere, opt for less expensive flooring, like laminates, bamboo or cork. Here is a handy guide to flooring prices. Carpet can save you money, but carpet is not particularly popular with buyers, especially on the main floor of the home. Instead of solid stone countertops, invest in a quality laminate, unless of course, all your neighbors have hardwood and solid stone.

Install extras like large walk-in showers and spa tubs only if you have the room and only if they fit in with the neighborhood.

The exception of course, is if your home is potentially a tear-down. Then, it may not be worth investing any money into it. Again, discuss that with your real estate broker.

In general, buyers look for new flooring – preferably wood, an updated kitchen with new appliances and updated bathrooms. Most other remodels can wait for the new homeowner.

Don’t forget to work on the all-important curb appeal. Paint, both outside and in – in neutral but fashionable tones. Add inexpensive shutters for character and add some inexpensive landscaping.

If you are staying in your home:

If you are staying in your home, the sky’s the limit – well kind of. Try not to spend more than 20% of your home’s equity. Do go for the high-end fixtures and surfaces. Unless you plan on selling your home within the next couple of years, you’ll probably get your money out of them simply from your own usage.

However, before you do structural changes, like breaking down walls or subtracting bedrooms or bathrooms, talk to a real estate broker. Changes like that could dramatically change the value of your property. You might also want to talk to your broker if you are looking to add a pool. Depending on your neighborhood, a pool might be considered a liability and the lack of backyard space could negatively impact your future sale potential.

Decks are a great investment unless it intrudes on too much of the yard space.

Before adding on to your home, inventory your neighborhood. It’s never advisable to have the biggest or the nicest home in the area because because you’ll never get a big enough return on your investment.


A bold parquet floor. Image from Gary Hall.
Carpet, Decorating

How To Choose The Look Of Your Floor

A bold parquet floor. Image from Gary Hall.

A bold parquet floor. Image from Gary Hall.

Most decorators would tell you that you should decorate from the floor up but what happens when the floor is the only part of the decor you don’t like? How do you decide what to do to update your floor? How do you choose the look of your floor?

1. Evaluate your needs – If you have pets and children, you might consider hardwood. Hardwood tends to be better for resale value as well, so if you plan on selling your home within the next five years, that’s definitely something to consider. Many people mix it up and have hardwood in the high-traffic areas and carpet in the bedrooms.

2. Do you want your floor to stand out? – This may sound like a stupid question. If you’re going to invest in new flooring, of course you want it to stand out, right? Well, that depends. Do you want the floor to be the focal point of your room, or does that honor go to furniture, art work or a beautiful fireplace? If you don’t want the floors to be the main focal point, but you still want them to be notices, perhaps you want a floor that compliments, rather than detracts, from your decor. For example, a gorgeous wide plank distressed wood can be neutral but still interesting.

3. Color – A real estate broker will always advise you that neutral is better for resale value and that’s true, but you are the ones that will have to live with the floor right now. Why not please yourself? If you do sell your home in the future, a hardwood floor can easily be refinished and while engineered floors, laminate floors and carpet aren’t as flexible, they are relatively easy to replace.

When decorating with color, choose one dominant color and two complimentary colors. Since the floor is such a large area, that will most likely be your dominant color. If you prefer something a bit more neutral, a dark stain can make a statement. Go grey or even black.

4. Pattern – Parquet, or patterned, wood floors can be spectacular, but they tend to suit very individual tastes. A parquet in the foyer with standard plank floors throughout the rest of the home, could give you your touch of individuality without being too busy. On the other hand, parquets will add character. If you are a little hesitant to go with bold patterns, a classic herringbone pattern is timeless and beautiful.

Many people choose to go for a more conservative look and add a beautiful patterned rug, which can easily be changed with the mood. If you choose not to opt for parquet, wide planks are very modern and sophisticated.

Regardless of how you are leaning, a specialist at Amber Flooring can help you choose the perfect floor for your home.



Wood in kitchens and bathrooms can give continuity and richness.
Decorating, Wood Floors

Wood Flooring For Bathrooms and Kitchens?

Wood in kitchens and bathrooms can give continuity and richness.

Wood in kitchens and bathrooms can give continuity and richness.

Increasingly, wood flooring is becoming a must-have for home buyers. People appreciate the rich beauty and typically want it to go all the way through the house. Unfortunately, the floors often stop at the bathrooms and even the kitchens, for fear the wood will be damaged by dampness and spills.

The concern is valid. It’s relatively easy to put a water resistant finish on an engineered floor,  or even a solid wood floor. But, that is only good if the water stays on the floor for a short amount of time. No wood finish is truly waterproof, which might not be such an issue for kitchens, but if you aren’t careful, it can be a nightmare in the bathroom.

Are there wood floors that can be taken into the bathroom? For most woods, an engineered wood floor is the best option, although not perfect. Laminates can be an option, but the wood grain on a laminate is printed on.

If you do choose to use an engineered floor or a laminate, it’s probably a good idea to consult with a plumber, just to ensure there are no current or potential leaks. A quick search on the Internet will show you dozens of videos about leaks destroying brand new bathroom and kitchen floors. You also want to make sure that your bathroom has good ventilation.

If solid wood is more your style, think about woods that grow in humid environments. The two best woods for humidity are cork and bamboo, both particularly resilient and durable, even under high humidity. All hard woods, like oak, maple, cherry, ash and teak, can be finished in a way that it will last in kitchens and even in bathrooms. Like all woods, though, and frankly, all floors, you always want to be diligent about cleaning up spills and even the puddles from when you get out of the shower. The greatest enemy of beautiful flooring is standing water.


Home Improvement, Wood Floors

Can Hardwood Floors Help With Next Year’s Tax Bill?

Post_and_Beam_Barn_KitchenIt’s April 15th and one more tax deadline has passed. Regardless of whether you paid or you received a refund, you probably wish you could have done a bit better. Like every year, I assume, you vow that this year, you will take advantage of all the tax deductions available to you. Perhaps an overlooked tax deduction is right at your feet.

Home improvements are some of the most common and the most accessible deductions. Some, like major repairs, can be deducted in the same tax year. Others, like hardwood flooring, might not earn you a same-year deduction, but it will make your home more enjoyable while you are living there and come time to sell, your flooring could perform double duty by increasing the sale price and lowering your ultimate tax bill.

Naturally, if you are making home improvements for tax benefits, consult with your tax professional, but if you expect to have at least $250,000 in equity in your home ($500,000 if you file jointly), it’s a good idea to start hedging against a big capital improvement tax bill if you do decide to sell.

The IRS has very specific definitions for home improvements. It must actually be an improvement. In other words, if your home has carpet and you replace the carpet, it probably won’t be covered. If you paint your home, repair your roof or water heater, it will likely be considered a repair and you might be able to write it off for the same tax year. However, if you add to the value of the home with added rooms, a remodeled kitchen or bath, fencing, a deck, a security system, central air or you got it, flooring, it is considered an improvement to the home and you may be able to claim it against your capital gains. Here is a more detailed list of acceptable improvements.

If you are looking to sell your home in this year, you might want to calculate your equity – keeping in mind that Bay Area properties are currently hot and you might end up selling for more than your listing price – and see what improvements could keep you from having a big capital gains tax after your sale. Depending on your tax bracket, the capital gains tax could be anywhere from 15-20% of the profit above the capital gains threshold. In other words, if you sell your home for $300,000 in profit, and you file single, you could owe between $7,500 and $10,000 to the IRS. You might want to ask your real estate broker, but a new floor might end up saving a lot of money.

If you aren’t looking to sell your home this year, it’s a good idea to space out home improvements, instead of having to do everything right before you sell. Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, new kitchen and bathroom fixtures and hardwood floors are some of the easiest and most cost effective ways of increasing your home’s value while potentially decreasing your tax liability once you do sell.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 4.01.32 PM
Amber Flooring in the News

Amber Flooring Project Featured In The New York Times

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 4.01.32 PMWhile Amber Flooring has had significant regional acclaim, it’s rare that a Bay Area project earns a writeup in the Paper of Record, a.k.a., the New York Times. However, a Berkeley home, which was remodeled in 2012 and was a collaborative effort between Amber Flooring and Mueller Nicholls, has garnered such attention that its beauty is even the talk of the East Coast.

The home, a 1912 Mediterranean Montecito-style single family home in the Berkeley Hills, is inhabited by Signey Judd, Jonathan Wade and their two children.

“We had looked at hundreds of homes, and we fell in love with this one on the spot,” Signy says. “It faces the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay, and our view is framed by redwood trees — it’s not even a cityscape. The original architecture is simple and clean, and we remodeled, so it’s not traditional Mediterranean anymore, but we kept the bones. We spend a huge amount of our time outside, in the yard and on the deck. We have enormous sliding doors that sort of open up the whole back of the house.”

Source: New York Times

The remodel was spearheaded by Bay Area builders, Mueller Nicholls, who specializes in cabinetry and comprehensive remodels.

The main living area is all new with gorgeous white oak flooring, which was custom-colored with Rubio Monocoat 0 VOC Penetrating oil finish, which is environmentally green. The existing flooring, including the bedrooms, media room and stairs, was sanded and finished.

The result is comfortable and homey as well as well as modern and sophisticated.

To view the entire article and a slide show of the home, visit the New York Times.

Orinda Residence Tropical Wood Flooring
Wood Floors

Hardwood Floors Boost Resale Value

Orinda Residence Tropical Wood Flooring

Orinda Residence Tropical Wood Flooring

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to home shows, specifically to House Hunters (yes, I know the whole show is fake, but I love torturing myself by seeing where my buying dollar will go in places like Kansas City, as opposed to the Bay Area).

On the show, there are a few constants. Everyone, and I mean pretty much everyone, wants big master suites, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors. Some people are happy with laminate flooring to provide the look of hardwood floors, but the vast majority want the real thing.

Carpeting has its upside. There’s nothing like a soft carpet on bare feet, especially in cold weather. Carpeting can make for great insulation in older Bay Area homes. However, even the best carpets only last a few years and before they need to be replaced, you’re bound to find stains which can’t be removed. Hardwood is much easier to clean and to maintain.

Another appeal of hardwood is consistency. The same flooring throughout, especially if the panels are laid lengthwise, gives the home greater flow and can even make it feel larger. A well-finished floor can even work in kitchens and bathrooms. Rooms can easily be customized with area rugs.

If your home doesn’t come with a hardwood floor and if you don’t like the look of laminate (which has the look of hardwood printed onto wood fiber), an easy compromise might be engineered hardwood.

Engineered hardwood shares a similar tough core material with laminate, but on the top, is real hardwood. Like with laminate, engineered floors are easy to install. Most float above the base floor and are attached with a tongue and groove connection.

The problem with both laminate and engineered floor, is that there is little to nothing to work with in case of scratches or deep stains. Real hardwood, while less water resistant and less damage resistant than the other two types of floors, is easy to sand and to remove damage from. Hardwood flooring, like laminate and engineered flooring can also be installed using the floating tongue and groove style and the investment is definitely worth it for your home’s resale value.