First of all, finding a good contractor is KEY! Check references, get different estimates, whatever it takes to feel comfortable with your choice. We had used our guys at our last house, so we knew they were good. And when we chose them the first time for our last house, they gave us the most honest bid (they came in lower than the insurance claim). Their work was amazing, and we loved them.
Once you've chosen your contractor (assuming you already know what you want for your house), they'll schedule you. Hint: if you schedule it for an off-month (i.e. wintertime), they'll probably give you a discount. Also, before they come, you'll pack up everything - even stuff on the walls.
ETA: THREE WEEKS BEFORE YOU BEGIN, GET A MOISTURE TEST DONE WHERE THEY DRILL THROUGH THE FOUNDATION TO GET THE READING, AS IT'S MORE ACCURATE. YOUR PLANS AND COST MAY CHANGE BASED ON THE FINDINGS, AND YOU CERTAINLY WANT TO KNOW THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN. WE DIDN'T, AND IT WAS THE BIGGEST FRUSTRATION AND WASTE OF TIME.
The schedule should look something like this:
Days 1-2: Rip out old flooring and put in new flooring, stairs and spindles, if applicable.In our first house, this only took one day since it was smaller. But if it takes two days, you'll need a place to stay that night, most likely. We didn't stay home because the spindles were off of the stairway, and it would have been dangerous for the kids. Plus, it was DUSTY!!!
ETA: DON'T WAIT TO GET A MOISTURE TEST DONE AT THIS POINT!!!!! We did, and it was indeed moist, BUT it never dried out, and we scrambled to figure out what to do about it. We had already had a pressure test done of the water line and the waste line to see if there were any leaks, and there were none. So the moisture indicated that the membrane beneath the foundation is compromised, making it perceptually wet. (A dehumidifier, as the wood flooring installers recommended, would do nothing to solve this.) That means that we need a moisture barrier applied to the slab. And if we would have done the moisture test three weeks in advance, then we would have gotten the moisture barrier and had a plan in place on the first day instead of waiting three weeks for it to dry out. WASTE OF TIME!!!!
Days 3-9: The crew doesn't come by, but the unfinished wood sits and gets acclimated to your house.
You can walk on the floor and even get it a little dirty, but you don't want to spill anything on it since the liquid could get beneath the flooring more easily since it's not finished. You can live in your home at this point, but you won't be having any company for sure.
Days 10-15: The crew is back, and they do the scraping (assuming you get hand-scraped), sanding, and finishing. They come back each day to put a new coat of polyurethane (or whatever they're using) and let it dry between coats.You have to be out of the house completely for this, and it is one huge mess! Dust will find its way onto everything you own that is not sealed in an airtight container.
Day 16 or 17: You can move back in.Before you do, however, you will be dusting ev-er-y-thing - walls, bathrooms, inside of cabinets, basically anything that was inside. Then once you've cleaned, you can move things back in.
The few days before the start of the process, we packed everything up (sort of) and put it all in the attic or garage. There were a couple of heavy things that we scooted into bathrooms. After they finished days 1 and 2, we moved the mattresses back into the rooms to sleep on.
This schedule, however, is in a perfect world when everything goes as planned. Of course, with us it didn't. They found moisture on the foundation in the front two rooms, so first we had to get our plumber out to check and see if we had a slab leak. We didn't, so now the concrete just has to dry out.
|The brownish area is from concrete that they filled in the slab with when they repaired a previous plumbing issue.|
The floor guy did a moisture reading, and now he will do one 7 days later. If it's drying, then they'll wait another 7 days to start the process downstairs. If not, then we'll have to reassess. This has added a total of 16 days to our project, doubling the time spent living out of boxes and on dusty concrete.
So now our process is a tentative 29-30 days (tentative because we don't know if it's going to dry on time or not). We are on day 4, and it really feels like day 28. But I really can't complain about it. I asked for this, and it's a huge blessing that we're even able to do it. Plus, I really like to idea of making my house right. It's so going to be worth it.
All in all, I would do it all over again, and I would definitely recommend doing it if you're able. It adds an aesthetic value to the house that, to me, is priceless. That said, I totally don't fault anyone for not doing it! You have to be a little crazy to go through it (twice).