Tue. May 21st, 2024

We waited until the middle of October to start installing the hardwood on the second floor. Not only is the humidity level great in the Fall (somewhere between the extreme humidity of the summer and the dryness of winter), but it also worked with the other construction that was happening in our house.

We basically followed the same process as the last time we installed our hardwood. The only exception is that we bought a floor nailer this time. Given the need to finish the installation as quickly as possible (our radiator installation depended on it!), we needed to work on the installation during the week, which is harder (and more expensive) when renting tools. An 18-gauge nailer isn’t common, but we found a used one on Amazon for $250.

The biggest challenge we had with this installation was how to design the stairs. But once we had that figured out, we were able to move ahead with installing the hardwood floor.

Hardwood Installation

After leaving our flooring to acclimate for a few weeks and figuring out the stair design, we started installing the hardwood. 

We began the hardwood installation by installing a straight line in the hallway (and leaving space for our stair pieces). Finding the straight line wasn’t easy; we had to compromise between the wall and the brick and also deal with the fact that the existing stair railing wasn’t straight.

Once we had our straight line marked, we put down the underlayment, which basically just involves laying it on the floor. We didn’t even secure it because it naturally gets secured as the flooring is installed.

It took us the whole day to install the hallway.

We continued our installation into each of the bedrooms, creating a first row for each room to make sure the hardwood was square with the room. Each room took us a full day.

Installing the hardwood in each bedroom was basically the same and relatively easy (except that narrow hardwood is time consuming to install). The only challenge (and it wasn’t even that much of a challenge) was installing the hardwood around the radiator holes.

We also filled some of the holes and imperfections with wood filler.

It took us three entire weekends (and a few hours during the week) but we were finally done!

Hardwood Finishing

When we installed our first floor hardwood, we thought we might finish the floor ourselves. Finishing involves sanding the floors and then applying a stain and/or finish. We got a bunch of quotes but ended up going with a guy named Rick, who was the cheapest. He quoted us $1.75/square foot, which came to $700 total for the 400 square feet on the first floor.

We were happy with his work, so we called him again to do the second floor. His price had slightly increased but he gave us the price we paid last time (so $1.75/square feet). The square footage upstairs is slightly more so we paid $1,000 this time.

Rick showed up as planned but soon called me to tell me that it was too cold (around 12 degrees) in the house to finish the floors. Because we’re using a water-based finish, it needed to be warm enough for the finish to evaporate. Otherwise, the water would soak into the wood, possibly ruining the floor. So we quickly called our hydronics guy to bring over some heaters. By the next morning, the second floor was about 21 degrees and warm enough to sand and finish.

Our heating problem delayed us a day, but within 3 days we had beautiful, finished floors.


Our costs increased slightly from our first floor installation. The Aquabar was exactly twice as expensive as it was two years ago (for the exact same product), and the hardwood was slightly more expensive ($3.59/square foot this time versus $3.29/square foot last time), plus we needed more because the quality of this brand was far inferior plus the square footage upstairs is more than downstairs (525 versus 415). We also decided to buy the floor nailer this time, so we spent about $250 on the nailer instead of $122 in rental fees. If only we had purchased it the first time…

Here is the cost breakdown:

  • Aquabar – $49.95/500 square feet = $56 (w/tax)
  • Flooring – $3.59/square foot x 672 square feet = $2726 (w/tax)
  • Cleats – $45 for ~1500 nails  = $50 (w/tax)
  • Nailer – $250 + $20 shipping = $270 (no tax because it was used)
  • Sanding and Finishing = $1,000

The grand total for installation was $3102, or approximately $5.90/square foot. Combined with the finishing cost, about $7.80/square foot.

4 thoughts on “Replacing Hardwood Upstairs: Part 4 – Installation and Finishing”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *