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This post is in partnership with Stuga. I received a discount on the flooring in exchange for sharing the process.
The big theme for transforming our cabin is bringing in natural, durable materials. As purchased, the finishes and flooring in the cabin were builder-grade and in general, faux. The kitchen had vinyl flooring printed and texture to look like stone (a bad repeat will give it away every time) which transitioned (diagonally) into a carpeted living room. The two flooring types and awkward transition cut what should have been a flowing, open space, into two inefficiently defined rooms. I don’t believe in “open concept” for old houses, but it can be done well in homes that were designed for it.
Adding cohesive flooring is the most impactful way to bring visual unity and flow to a space. From there, you can bring in rugs and furniture clusters designed around how you’ll use each zone in your home. To get there (I can’t wait to buy more rugs), we decided to demo the carpeting and vinyl tile and replace it with Stuga wood flooring.
I first saw Stuga flooring used in Chris Loves Julia’s cabin and I loved it. As soon as we put our first offer in on the cabin, I ordered samples. And then more samples. I knew I wanted something in a wider plank than traditional hardwood flooring. The click locking mechanism looked easy enough to install ourselves. When I hear “engineered flooring” I think of plastic-y laminates that reflect light, sound synthetic, feel thin and bouncy. But that’s not what Stuga is. It’s engineered hardwood, which means it’s made with actual hardwood veneer and not a plastic laminate. And this flooring isn’t thin – it’s a hunky (I see you, Kim) 5/8″ thick. That means it can even be sanded (twice) and refinished.
- Wide planks
- Real wood
- Slightly rustic
- Quick shipping
- DIY Installable
The Stuga flooring also doesn’t have to acclimate the way that traditional hardwood flooring does (typically a three day process) – it just has to reach a temperature around 59 degrees. For us, since the flooring was delivered in the cold cold winter, we let it warm up in the cabin for about a day before getting into it. Another thing to note is that the flooring packs are sealed at a certain humidity level, so you should only open the packs when you’re ready to install.
Samples and Choosing The Right One
Samples ship free and fast. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you can order large 2×3′ samples to get a really good sense of the board variation and character for $15. I made three different sample orders in total, but my first one was to compare the budget collection and premium options.
Budget vs Premium
The Stuga budget options differ in price, board width, finish and how many times they are sandable.
- Budget Collection
- Price ranges from $3.95 to $4.99 per square foot
- Real wood laminate with a composite backing
- Shorter in length and narrower in width with a thickness of 1/4″ – 3/8″
- Of the 6 options, only Cortado and Rye can be sanded/refinished
- Acrylic finish options and DIY oil finish options
- Some colors in the budget collection may only be glued or floated (not stapled)
- Prices range from $5.96 to $8.25 per square foot
- Real wood laminate with a solid pine backing
- Longer in length and wider in width with a thickness of 5/8″
- All premium options can be sanded/refinished up to three times
- Acrylic finish options and DIY oil finish options
We narrowed down our selection to the premium options due to the option to sand and refinish more times, the thick pine backing, wider board widths, and longer board lengths.
Stuga flooring is also shoppable in color categories: lights, grays, neutrals, and darks with budget and premium options available for all. We looked at the colors in the neutral category for our cabin.
We have orange wood trim in our Pittsburgh home so I’m not scared of dealing with warm wood tones. When we had our floors refinished at home, we chose a warm-orangey stain a few shades lighter than our trim. It lightens up the look and doesn’t fight with the orange. I wanted to take the same approach at the cabin with its orange-y knotty pine.
I narrowed down all the samples to two finalists: Lucia and Shell. Lucia is the slightly darker of the two with tones of knots, grain, and character plus an acrylic finish Shell is a touch lighter, with a more subtle grain and knots but plenty of character, but must be oiled after install and about every year after that. I was nervous about the oiling so I talked myself into Lucia (both would have looked great, there was no wrong choice) but realized that my soul really really wanted Shell. We went with Shell and I couldn’t be happier.
Many of the colors Stuga offers ship right away, others have a lead time of a few weeks. Shell was in stock and shipped the day after I ordered it. Stuga flooring arrives via FedEx freight, so just a couple of days after I ordered, it arrived at a local FedEx facility, ready for the next step in the shipping process. I spoke with a local last-leg delivery company and scheduled the delivery. The timeline: I placed my order for flooring on Sunday and it arrived at my dad’s house that same week on Friday. Amazing.
Demo and Subfloor Prep
The main floor of the cabin had carpet and vinyl flooring installed. My least favorite thing? That diagonal transition. We ripped up the carpet, removed the transition, and were delighted to discover that the vinyl flooring was also a click + float install and was not glued down. Magic.
Once we had all the old flooring up, we vacuumed the heck out of the subfloor and checked for unlevel or bouncy areas. The subfloor needs to be as level as possible and have no movement (the subfloor shouldn’t give at all when you walk on it). We added more nails to any seams with movement.
Choosing the Right Kind of Underlayment
We had originally planned to install the flooring by stapling it directly into the subfloor with no underlayment. (If you choose to staple your Stuga flooring and want to use underlayment as a barrier, look for underlayment whose specs say that it can be stapled or nailed.) At the last minute, we decided on a float-in install (no nails, no glue, just the strength of the click and lock), so that meant we definitely needed underlayment. Stuga offers their Combo Underlayment for float-in installations but our last-minute decision meant we had to go with something we could pick up at a local store. I chose Quiet Walk because I love the idea of everything in the world being as quiet as possible, and also because of its features like no VOCs, recycled materials, and vapor barrier.
In addition to adding a moisture barrier and reducing sound transfer between floors, underlayment can help level out subfloors. We ran strips of underlayment in the sloped areas of the subfloor to raise it up before laying the full coverage layer. I highly recommend getting a big, serious pair of shears for cutting underlayment.
Once we had all the underlayment down it was finally time to install those beautiful Scandinavian oak boards!
Installing Stuga Floors with the Float-in Install Method
Float-in installation rules to keep in mind:
- Boards must be installed with a 7/16″ expansion gap around the perimeter of the room
- Flooring is best installed moving in one direction through the room because of the click system
- Boards that start the beginning of a new row must be at least 20″ long
- End seams on a new row need to fall at least 20″ away from the end seam of the previous row
- Ripped boards can be no narrower than 3″ wide
- Pull boards from different boxes to ensure a good mix of grain and color
- Table saw for ripping boards longways
- Power miter for trimming boards short ways
- Oscillating saw for special cuts
- Handblock for tapping boards into place (included with flooring purchase)
- Locking pin tool to unlock the locking mechanism and lock the last board (included with flooring purchase)
The cabin living room comes to a point, so we trimmed the end of each starter board at a 15-degree angle using the power miter saw.
We cut 7/16″ shims to hold the proper expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. In the photo above you can also see a hole cut for an air vent. We cut holes for floor vents using the Dremel oscillating saw. To mark exactly where to cut holes for the vents, we put one board down over the vent (typically covering about half of the open vent hole) and then I stuck my arm into the hole and traced the outline of the vent hole on the underside of the board.
Stuga floorboards lock together along their long sides with a special wooden lip and groove system and along the short sides with a plastic locking pin system.
To nestle the boards together, one board lays flat on the floor while the next board is tilted in at a 20-30 degree angle. Tap along the lip edge with the handblock all the way down the length of the board to secure the lip and groove together. The tilted board will lock in and flatten as you tap.
There is an additional locking pin system on the short ends of boards that locks the board ends together nice and tight. You can see the plastic strip at the end of the board above with little teeth sticking out. Once a board has been tapped in flat, you lock the boards together with a swift tap with the handblock (there’s a side of the handblock with a special groove just for this purpose). This action slides the plastic pin system inside, locking everything in place.
I hope my walkthrough has helped show you that you can tackle this install yourself! But you’ll need more information to really dive into it: visit the Stuga site for more instructions (including videos). Or take a look at the manufacturer’s guides on glue-down, staple down, and float-in installations.
Tricky Areas and Locking the Last Board
The cabin had some tricky areas that required special techniques, specifically the fireplace.
The fireplace provided a little bit of a challenge for the flooring. For the cleanest looking installation, my dad used the oscillating saw to trim the faux stone to allow enough clearance for the Stuga boards (with a scrap piece as a guide) to slide underneath. It took a long time but it was worth it.
Tapping Boards in Around the Fireplace
To get the ends of the boards underneath the stone, we had to lay the board (with the tilt and tap method above) and then tap the end of the board to slide it forward and underneath the stone. If you need to tap boards to get them to slide like this, be sure to only tap on the exposed pine lip and not on the wood veneer so you don’t dent it. We used a scrap piece of flooring and a wooden block to cushion the boards against the hammer.
Locking the Last Board
Remember that special locking pin system? You’ll need to lock the very last board in place but you can’t do it with your trusty handblock because there will be a wall in the way! Stuga supplies a last board locking tool that slides between the wall and the board and allows you to engage the plastic locking pin by pulling the tool towards you.
The flooring we installed requires oiling immediately after install and about once a year after that, especially in high traffic areas. If you choose one of Stuga’s options with an acrylic finish, you can skip this step! Stuga sells the exact satin oil you need and one bottle covers about 1000 sq ft. I had to oil the floor in sections, moving furniture to one side and then the other, but in an ideal world, you would be able to oil the whole floor in one pass. To oil the floor, you’ll need two microfiber pads, a special stick mop, and oil.
How to oil your Stuga floors:
- Pour a little bit of oil out (pour close to the floor so it doesn’t splatter like my first attempt in the photo above)
- Use a microfiber dry mop to spread it around in a nice light coat across the entire floor (I used the mop and microfiber pad from the cleaning set plus an extra microfiber pad)
- Wait about 15 minutes and go back with a clean microfiber pad and polish to remove any extra oil.
- Stay off that floor for at least 24 hours and then repeat with one more coat.
Above is a photo of the oiling in progress – you can see where the oil has been applied in the top right.
I could really tell the difference between coats one and two and even went back in some patchier spots to even things out. Stuga says two thin coats are better than one too thick, sticky coat, so keep that in mind! Once dry, the oil gives the wood a light satin shine and protects the wood – droplets of water should bead up on the surface rather than soaking in.
The Finished Floor
These floors have completely transformed the cabin. The whole space feels warmer, more natural, and miles more modern. I honestly couldn’t be happier.
It’s so satisfying to admire the finished floor from the loft above.
We gave ourselves an extra challenge by installing the flooring around the existing kitchen. Because we’re keeping the majority of the kitchen’s existing footprint, we were able to install the flooring before we have the new cabinets. We were able to move the appliances and install the flooring fully underneath and we removed the cabinet toe kicks to continue the flooring underneath just enough for some wiggle room when the new cabinets are in. I cannot wait until we are able to see our new kitchen dressed up with our new Stuga floors.
Anything I missed? Can I help answer any of your Stuga flooring questions?