Renovating our Master Bedroom

Part 1 of our Master Bedroom Before and After

When we first saw our 1890s home, we were confused by the upstairs master bedroom.  It was on a different level than the rest of the house….. Interesting, but why? There were three upstairs bedrooms, a bathroom and a hallway – and then a door – and two steps down to this room.

Master bedroom before
Master bedroom before

Century houses in our area typically have the same floorplan as ours – Living Room, Dining Room behind, next to a Kitchen, with Foyer and stairway in front, with three bedrooms and one bath upstairs.

We were extremely happy to find a house with a large kitchen and a small family room, and a fourth bedroom above.  It looks like at some time(s) in the past, a porch was turned into a kitchen and bedroom above, and then another porch was turned into a family room and bedroom above.  No architects involved, just add a room when you need it.

So the fourth or master bedroom above the family room, has a sloping wooden planked ceiling with no attic above and mysteriously, it is two steps lower than the rest of the upstairs rooms. 

The picture above makes it look brighter and more cheerful than it was.  Looking down into it it had the feeling of being in a rustic log cabin.  Funny enough, it had the same cedar window trim and brown carpet as the 1977 addition to our previous country ranch home.  We wondered if we were following the same home renovators from home to home 40 years later.

We didn’t work on this bedroom until we got many other projects out of the way.  We originally thought that as it was a larger room, we could put the two youngest (away at school) young men in there and throw in a TV for video games.  The boys were rarely home, and the room became the junk room.  I can always use a junk room, but it’s not something to be encouraged for me.

The junk room - window trim,  baseboards and carpet removed
The junk room – window trim, baseboards and carpet removed – yes that’s a sideways futon frame

We really needed a bedroom with a closet, so we decided to makeover this room. We also had acquired an enormous treadmill, so we decided to put in a TV and make it our master bedroom.  This was a good plan, as the room has a beautiful November to May view of the river below, and from May to October the room seems to be in a tree fort.

(There have been many times that I have fallen off the treadmill looking out the window at what the neighbours are doing, what they are getting from Wayfair and that sort of thing)

Our room overhaul had a few things we needed to accomplish:

There was a constant seeping of rain through our steel roof.  We finally found someone to place a barrier over the roof and repair the leak. The link to the story is here.

The "Lifetime" Metal Roof
The “Lifetime” Metal Roof

We also needed to

  • remove the carpet and put down a new floor,
  • stain the wooden ceiling
  • paint the walls
  • replace the window trim and put down baseboards
  • replace the overhead spotlights
  • install blinds
  • figure out what to do with our 96 inch closet opening
  • replace outlets, light switch, thermostat

We planned to do all of this work ourselves – and we did! As this was a 1970s room in an 1890s house, we also wanted it to look a little bit more like the rest of the house. We wanted similar floors, trim and baseboards.

Remove the carpet and put down a new floor.

The brown carpet
The brown carpet

We tore up the brown carpeting and under pad that was installed in this room (and throughout the rest of the upstairs).  This is a doable task, – tiring and involving lots of trips to the garbage dump.  The carpet installers had used more staples than seems humanly possible, and my husband removed every single one, with plyers, a prybar, a flathead screwdriver and anything he could find. This took days.

There was only plywood under the carpet and underpadding.  The rest of our upstairs bedrooms and hallways had original pine floor planks to be revealed and refinished.  There was nothing to save here.  The floor was however, reasonably level, so that we could install planks over the top.

The mysterious seeping wall stain
The mysterious seeping wall stain – window trim removed – removing carpet

(Reasonably level doesn’t mean level in an old house – you could probably roll a marble downhill in any of our rooms – but that’s OK).

Buying Engineered Flooring

We had previously installed laminate flooring and engineered plank flooring in our last house.  We knew that we could install “click” – floating flooring ourselves, but felt that nail-down or glue-down flooring was beyond us. We wanted to do-it-ourself for this project, and so searched for “click” engineered flooring. 

Laminate flooring and engineered hardwood are sometimes confused with each other because they can look similar. … Most importantly, engineered wood contains a top layer of solid wood while laminate uses a photographic layer coated with a wear layer to achieve the wood-look surface.

Shopping for Engineered Flooring
Shopping for Engineered Flooring – lots on sale, but nothing in stock

In our town, house flippers have been putting down laminate floors over top of old floors everywhere.  Laminate floors are great for consistent durable floors throughout a house.  We put down laminate floors in about 1998, and loved them, although that generation of floor was scratch resistant – it was slippery when the kids ran in from the swimming pool (many extreme wipeouts occurred), and it also bloated with spills, pet accidents and wet towels (absorbed water).

Newer vinyl plank laminate is water resistant – but wood floors sell and differentiate in our neighbourhood – and they can be sanded and fixed if you are willing.  I find it funny to be shopping for “hand-scraped” flooring when I have wood floors in the rest of the house that I hand scraped myself.

So we went shopping for engineered wood flooring (which is wood over top of a core).  We tried to find a floor that looked similar to our real wood floor in the adjoining hall and bedrooms.  This was tough!  It seems like there is less availability of snap and click engineered wood floors than there used to be.   We looked everywhere.  There are so many flooring distributors, but they all want to sell vinyl or ceramic planks these days.

We finally settled on one of only two in stock engineered flooring products.  It came with underlayment which we rolled out across the flooring.  The entire cost was about $800.  This was a great deal – but when we opened up the flooring packages we were disappointed with the thickness of the wood layers.  At first we thought, we knew better and should have held out for something else – but in the end the floor looks great – and there is still enough of a wood layer to refinish (a little) if it ever needs it.

Don’t Forget to Buy Enough Spacers

Spacers for Engineered Flooring
Spacers for Engineered Flooring

For this fairly large room – we had to search all the stores in town to find enough “spacers” to put down this floor. The flooring planks are to be laid with spacers against the wall – to allow expansion of the flooring and also to create an even spacing of the flooring from the walls. Before starting a floor installation, it is a good idea to layout all of your spacers or at least plan their layout.

The floor planks came in various lengths, and we had some stress deciding which plank length to put where ( to reduce cutting, make sure we didn’t run out of planks, and make it look good!) We decided to lay the planks lengthwise in the room, to minimize cutting. We also had to work out how to use the long, medium and short lengths of planks that came in each box. We wanted to see lots of the longer and medium size lengths, and not end up with a bunch of the smaller pieces all in one area. (It’s a good idea to take a look in all of the boxes before your start).

Installing Engineered Flooring

We had a nice even plywood base to start with, and laid down the underlayment across the floor to start. Then we laid out the planks along the long side of the wall, against the spacers. It takes a while to get used to the snap and click process, and you want to make sure that everything clicks with no gaps before you get to far along.

Laying engineered flooring planks along the first wall
Laying engineered flooring planks along the first wall
Installing Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Installing Engineered Hardwood Flooring

This project took several days of planning, cutting, snapping and clicking, and thinking about whether we were doing it right. It was doable though! When we got to the end of the room, we still had run out of spacers and used pieces of wood. My husband used his miter saw to cut the planks, and there was definitely some drama when we made cutting mistakes. I always say measure once, cut ten times – maybe that’s the problem.

Installing Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Installing Engineered Hardwood Flooring – the last pieces

In the end – the edges of the planks were all covered by the baseboards.

After - The Engineered Hardwood Floor
After – The Engineered Hardwood Floor

The floor does look like beautiful wood, it has held up well, and it is similar in colour (but not the same – as close as we could find) to the original pine flooring in the rest of the upstairs.

Whitewash the wooden planked ceilings.

The wooden ceiling planks had been stained in a cedar tone. My husband set to work on this ceiling with a large stepladder and a big paintbrush. He had to use a brush to get the paint to penetrate between the planks.

Staining the wooden plank ceiling white
Staining the wooden plank ceiling white

We wanted to achieve a whitewashed finish – showing the woodgrain through – but lightening the room up, and also covering some of the drips from the long term roof leaks. We used an opaque white woodstain – from Home Depot.

Linen White Wood Stain  from Home Depot
Linen White Wood Stain from Home Depot

The stain went on well, but it is difficult to work with a stain on the ceiling. It is thinner than ceiling paint – therefore drippier! When staining a big ceiling it’s difficult to avoid the overlap that occurs when you paint one section and then move on to the next. I had wanted to dojust one coat of stain, but my poor husband had to carefully apply THREE coats. Even with three coats, the ceiling is still opaque to show the woodgrain through – and the overlaps were eliminated.

The first coat of white ceiling stain with overlaps.
The first coat of white ceiling stain with overlaps.

Paint the Walls

This room was originally painted in a light brown – dark tan and was warm – but kind of depressing. I think the colour was selected to go with the constant dripping down the wall from the roof leak. We had the roof leak fixed – we thought…… and painted the room a basic off white with a pink undertone. Then the roof leaked again and the drips happened again. We fixed the roof again and re-painted!

The white ceiling, off white walls and the wooden floor made the room seem so much larger. We also removed all the trim and got ready to sort out the closet. (To be continued in part 2!)

Here’s a quick peak at the after:

Master bedroom after - new engineered hardwood, white stained ceiling and off white walls
Master bedroom after – new engineered hardwood, white stained ceiling and off white walls (& giant treadmill)

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