Posts in Home Decor
Installing Laminate Flooring in a Rental Apartment

Like many DIY projects, I think the prospect of installing new flooring can seem incredibly daunting to a lot of people. Also like many DIY projects, if you don't have the tools, time, or patience to do it well, it totally can be best to leave it to someone else! That said, if you have the time, patience to learn a new skill, and some friends to help/lend tools, this can be such a good way to fix up your space on a budget!

My kitchen 8 hours into new flooring. Look how sharp that quarter-round looks!

My kitchen 8 hours into new flooring. Look how sharp that quarter-round looks!

So there are a lot of amazing things about my house! It has a great side yard for my dog to play in. It has a great little deck where I can relax and barbecue. It's super close to work and friends and it's in a neighbourhood where I feel really safe! When I moved in though, it had the WEIRDEST floor situation. The kitchen had 60s-era sheet linoleum and the living room had the world's cheapest berber carpet that had been kind of poorly installed so it was unravelling at the edges and wherever the previous tenant had slightly damaged it.

The weirdest part though, was the line where these two flooring types met. It was an inexplicably curvy line.

Why? WHY?

Why? WHY?

This is a picture taken from the listing for the apartment on Kijiji so it's actually pretty flattering to the space. Believe me when I tell you the reality was worse. I lived with these floors for about 10 months before I decided I couldn't do it anymore. My landlord liked me as a tenant and trusted me to make minor repairs based on some of my other handiwork, so I pitched him a plan. I, with the help of my parents and godparents, all of whom had experience installing floors, would do all the labour for free if my landlord would pay for the new flooring and materials. He was into it (to be honest I think he just wants to keep me happy so he won't have to find a new tenant) and even had me go for a medium-quality flooring instead of the cheap stuff I'd proposed. 

I spent about $1000 CAD (of my landlord's money) on laminate flooring, foam underlayment, PVC quarter round (so I wouldn't have to paint it), and a few other odds and ends. With the help of my incredible parents and godparents we were able to rip up all the original flooring, remove all the staples from previous carpets, install all the new flooring, and finish it in just two days! 

This type of flooring clicks and hinges down as you install each piece and is actually incredibly easy to install once you get going. The hardest parts were cutting the pieces that needed to fit around corners or inside closets and honestly? Ripping out all the staples at the beginning. 

The basic process is as follows:

  1. Remove the existing flooring, as well as trim if desired

  2. Remove any vestiges of the original flooring including nails, staples, and tack strips from carpet

  3. Clean the area as much as possible to ensure a clear surface

  4. Lay foam underlay across the entire floor, securing with the built-in adhesive at the edges and seams and stapling where necessary

  5. Beginning in a corner and running perpendicular to the floor joists in your home if possible, lay the first row of wood against a wall, cutting the last piece to fit

  6. Using the excess from the last piece of row 1, or a new piece you trim down, start the next row so that the seams are offset from one another, then repeat each row in the same manner.

  7. Cut the last row of boards length-wise to fit in

  8. Reinstall any trim/baseboards/etc. including quarter-round to hold in the new floors

I honestly think that with enough time to practice and get comfortable anyone can do this. Just remember to take your time and finish it properly, even if it means cutting one little sliver to finish a row or trimming around a corner properly. The extra work is so worth it! 

Here's a before and after to check out the insane difference it made in the space.

Before: The wiggly division line makes very little sense and the drab colouring makes the rest of the house look sad and dated.

Before: The wiggly division line makes very little sense and the drab colouring makes the rest of the house look sad and dated.

After: I didn't even paint! The better looking walls are a result of the better lighting but also the MUCH improved contrast with the floor and freshened up baseboards!

After: I didn't even paint! The better looking walls are a result of the better lighting but also the MUCH improved contrast with the floor and freshened up baseboards!

I think the improvement is evident! I think the lesson here is really that one change can completely transform a space. If you've been putting off a project because of the work involved or the fear of learning a new skill - take a weekend and try it. Watch some videos, read some instructional guides, and then get your hands dirty. 

Finally, please indulge me very briefly while I talk about my philosophy on rentals and decorating, improving, and styling them. I've had so many people ask me why I put so much energy and time into a place I only rent, into a place I only intend to be for a couple of years. And even before I redid these floors I've always had people ask why I spent any amount of time or money settling into places that were objectively temporary. In university I once bought a whole slew of Christmas decorations including a table-top tree for an apartment I knew full-well I'd only be living in for four months. You know what? I don't regret a single minute of effort or penny spent. Whether you are living somewhere for two months or two decades your house should be a home. It should be your solace and a place you can find peace and happiness regardless of what's going on outside. If you have to spend a little money on the right piece of furniture, do it. You can always sell it, swap it, or repurpose it when you move on. Don't be afraid to nest a little bit, wherever you are - trust me, your happiness and comfort at home will be well worth the mess. 

DIY Coffee Table: West Elm Knock-off

Fun fact. When you start a blog after years and years of projects you have lots of backlog to get through. I don't have much in the way of progress photos for this project, heck I barely have good finished photos. But I thought this little table was worth talking about.

I made that!

I made that!

A couple years ago I was living in the cutest little apartment. It was heated by a gas stove that mimicked the look of a wood-burning one, mounted on an exposed brick wall, in an old building with tons of character. It was also TINY. And it only had one, equally tiny, usable closet. 

I have a lot of hobbies that involve tools and equipment (crafts, baking, brewing beer, building things, rock climbing) so I have a LOT of stuff. I needed creative places to store things and I needed them EVERYWHERE. I also didn't have room for a desk and desperately needed one. Then I saw this:

Industrial Coffee Table by West Elm

Industrial Coffee Table by West Elm

It's beautiful. It's functional. It could store all my linens and blankets and I could use it for everything from working on my laptop to guiltily eating dinner in front of the TV. Unfortunately it was also crazy out of my price range at over $800 USD. Plus shipping to Canada. 

Listen, everything West Elm makes is gorgeous. This coffee table is gorgeous. If you can afford it, get it. But I looked at that coffee table that I needed and could never afford and I had only one thought, "it doesn't look THAT complicated. I could probably make that."

I am not a woodworker. I had not built furniture before in my life. The most experience I had besides assembling IKEA furniture was the Home Depot for kids classes I used to do when I was 8 where we'd build a birdhouse. But I'm a pretty capable person and you know what? You're allowed to just do whatever you want! What's the worst that can happen?!

So I drafted plans for a basic box made of cheap pine that I could stain and I scoured the internet for the type of hardware I would need to lift the top without hinging it so that anything sitting on it would stay sitting on it. I found a few local options for over $100 but I eventually settled on hardware I found on Ali Express for less than $30 including shipping. (They're no longer available but this is what the listing looked like.)

When the hinges came in I built a box out of pine and installed the hinges. I wound up having to have the whole top lift because of the exact size of my hinges relative to the small size of the table I wanted to build, but you could be more true to the inspiration table if you found smaller hinges (just make sure they'll support the weight of the table-top + what's on it) or made your table larger (same rules apply). 

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I wound up using blocking inside to hold the box together without any screws being visible with the outside. You could avoid this and maximize your interior space more if you didn't mind screws showing, if you filled them with stainable filler, or if you used a kreg jig when assembling (I don't have one yet!). Honestly though, this was really simple and worked super well for me.

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Once that was done I sanded everything perfectly smooth before staining and sealing the table! I also determined the height I wanted the finished table and ordered some hairpin legs accordingly. Had I been less picky or had more time I might have built some legs myself or scoured flea markets for a good deal but I ended up spending about $150 on a beautiful set of legs from Hairpin Legs Canada and I couldn't be happier with them.

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When the legs came in the install was super quick and easy, even in my tiny apartment! Note the dirt devil acting as a shop vac.

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And the table turned out fantastic, if I do say so myself!

Like my apartment? Check out the rest of my old place on  Apartment Therapy's Small Cool 2016 .

Like my apartment? Check out the rest of my old place on Apartment Therapy's Small Cool 2016.

It's now been two years since this project, I've moved, and I still couldn't be more thrilled with it. The table stores cozy blankets which always have an awesome woody smell when I pull them out to use. I can eat or work off of the top, and I just get so many compliments on it! Also, since I built it myself, it's the perfect size and proportions for the couch. 

Best part? My landlord was so impressed I'd made it that he trusted me enough to re-do my floors! But that's a future post!

Mel