RACHAEL HOUSER » photography for couples & families

Last Thursday I blogged the first of three posts about our hardwood floors – the before. Today is all about the during! Images in this post were taken with both my camera & my phone. I kind of just grabbed whatever was closest at the time :)

The first step was to pull up the carpet, carpet pad, carpet nail strips, and staples. You can imagine that was a tedious task. Don’t let the images foul you… there isn’t one step of this project that wasn’t tedious! Which could explain why it took us two months from start to finish! Underneath the carpet we found particle board in the living room and hallway and old brick patterned laminate roll out “tile” in the dining room.


Yes, Neil created a make shift TV shelf so that we could still record our TV shows during the whole process! It definitely came in handy… we watched TV while we worked and that made the work not seem so… tedious!


Did you know you shouldn’t lay hardwood over particle board? You can’t. So we pulled up the particle board and found several broken/rotten planks of solid wood sub flooring. I’m surprise this 45 year old house didn’t have more than that! Easy fix! We replaced those boards but very carefully – there was a possibility that the laminate flooring had asbestos! A week after sending a piece to analyzed, the results were negative! Yay!


Under the particle board and laminate was tar paper, which was falling a part. Again, 45 year old house people. We puled that up, ripped off the baseboards, and cleaned cleaned cleaned.



Next was the (first) tricky part… instead of purchasing engineered hardwood or paying someone to install unfinished hardwood, we decided we would MAKE our own! Yea, we’re crazy and genius like that ;) Introducing high grade plywood! I was incredible meticulous in choosing a 3/4 inch thick plywood with a grain that I loved. We cut the sheets into 6 inch planks because it’s what I’ve always dreamt about! Our garage is still a mess from the project!


My favorite part is up next! Nailing the planks down with a nail gun! I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did!


We used hardwood spacers between the planks and walls and a line of wood nails between the planks themselves. This was a personal choice, btw. I’ve seen some tutorials that used a larger spacer and some that didn’t space them at all. I’m very happy with my decision – I think it adds a little country and age to them.


Half way done with the living room…. It’s so beautiful!!




Believe it or not, the easiest part was sanding! We closed up the kitchen and the bedrooms and rented a vacuum sander. Took about an hour to sand the whole floor and we only had to sand twice! Once before we wood puttied (where it was needed) and once after.


We vacuumed and damp mopped the floor after sanding the second time – this is important!


This was the part we disliked most: staining! In order to get a consistent stain, only one person could stain at a time. And it took forever! Luckily, I’d picked a stain that was the color I wanted with just one coat!


I started, Neil gave me a break, and I finished the next morning.


The stain can suggested we wait 12 hours before applying polyurethane… we applied three thin coats…


And then sanded with finishing blocks.


Part of the floor was sanded with a dry wall sanding poll and finishing sand paper. BAD IDEA. Don’t do it, no matter how tired you get of sanding on your hands and knees!


This is what will happen! The sand paper and pole do not bend or give or flex at all so any minor rises in the wood will have the stain sanded right off! We caught it in time and I added the stain back with a q-tip but it could have been a big mess.


We vacuumed, damp mopped, and scrubbed the dust out of every single nail hole (with a tooth brush and water no doubt! What can I say, we’re dedicated!!!) before applying a fourth thin coat of poly. It still wasn’t where I wanted it. Perfectionist, I know. So we did one last thick coat and allowed it to dry for a full 7 days before we moved furniture onto it. Here’s a sneak peek of the after, which I’ll be blogging soon!


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Another installment of This is Me: The Pinterest Board! Today I’d like to introduce my Disney loving side! I am 100% true Disney fan, through and through. Those who know me in real life know this very well. I’ve been to Disney more than 15 times, PLUS that’s where Neil and I honeymooned! YUP. It’s definitely my favorite place in all the world!


Excuse the language here but this is exactly me and one of my oldest friends in college! Love it!


This thought runs through my mind pretty much…. all the time. Yup.




I want this as a tattoo for two reasons: I’m a nurse and I freakin’ LOVE Disney!

And finally, this is me each and every time I’m in Disney World:


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I’m blogging this a tad out of order. BUT I wanted my first second house project post to be a little bit more involved, which this one totally is! You guys, in case you don’t follow me on instagram (which you should!), we installed custom hardwood floors. Installed. Not re-did. Installed!

I’m obviously new at this whole blogging house projects because I totally failed at grabbing a “before” shot of the floor. SO I had to steal these from a previous post. This is what we were working with before hand:


Our complaints about the carpet are your typical carpet/homeowner complaints, plus a few because this carpet was on the shag side of things:

+ Carpet holds dirt like whoa, no matter how often we vacuumed
+ Shag carpet – there were permanent “trails” in the carpet where the walkways were
+ Carpet also holds fleas! Last summer was awful awful awful.

The carpet wasn’t overly gross – the previous owners took care of it as well as they could. Carpet is just gross :/

So we decided back in September that before the summer came back around we would have rid our house of all the carpet! And we did! Stay tune for more about our new hardwood floors!

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Beware, this is a long one – BUT it’s full of valuable information and if you’re preparing for your engagement session, it’ll be a life saver!



Engagement sessions are usually done about 6 months before the wedding. Sessions are typically done on a weekdays in the evening. Weekdays will ensure that most public places will have less people and be more accessible for shooting. If a weekend dates is needed, please contact me at least two months before the desired date to check on available weekends.

Figuring out when to book is largely based on what/how your will be using the images. If you just want them for the experience, you can choose whatever season and feel you are going for. Many couples use the engagement photos for save the dates. These are usually sent 4 months before the wedding. In this case, you would want to book the session about 6 months before the wedding to make sure the editing and printing can be finishing in time to send the save the dates. If you want to make a guest book to display at the wedding, you’d want to book at least 3 months before the wedding.


To get pretty, golden light, we will be shooting during the “magic hours” (an hour or two to sunset). So, please be on time. Since I’m a natural light photographer, the sun dictates how long I can photograph you.

Make proper considerations for traffic, hair delays, and fashion emergencies. An average shoot lasts 1.5-2 hours… if you show up 30 minutes late, the session is not extended, bunt rather, ends at the regularly schedule time. Please don’t think ill of me… I just want to be honest in advance and let you know I want the BEST photography experience for you – and being on time achieves exactly this!


Two hour sessions allow for two locations. If you already have locations in mind, great! That’s where I’ll put my skills to good use and find those perfect little pieces of heaven. Is there somewhere sentimental to the two of you? Take me there! But if you need suggestions, I have them!

Not all locations are created equal. It’s part of the “professional” in my “title” – I can make any location “work”. Some locations, however, don’t need any assistance from anyone or anything to be beautiful. Those are the locations that will really make your session feel effortless. Some locations have great light, some locations have great backgrounds. Some locations have both – let’s find those locations! (yet another Wedding Wednesday post coming soon!)


Stay away from anything with too much pattern or colors too heavy in the red/orange range b/c they don’t register as well on camera. Embrace the season’s color scheme but also be yourself. I recommend one dressed-up-casual look like skinny jeans or capris with a nice top and one more formal look like your favorite Sunday dress. I would love to see him in a button down with dark jeans or grey slacks. But above all we want these pictures to feel like you guys, so think of it as your style just dressed up a little.

Guys should wear long pants or dress shorts. This means dark socks should be worn by men if they are wearing long pants. Ladies can wear skirts, capris, sun dresses, and/or pants. Just a reminder to consider the length on skirts and dresses because you will likely be sitting on the ground at some point. All the jeans should be the same tone. Dark jeans or light jeans. Khaki’s can usually be different tones. ALL clothes should be ironed. NO graphics or word art.

+ Matching perfectly – coordinate, don’t replicate.
+ T-shirts, ill-fitting, or outrageous clothing.
+ Colors that wash you out or that are too similar to your skin tone.
+ Anything damaged or worn out.


Don’t skimp on the accessories. Accessorizing your outfits with things like headbands, hats, jewelry, jackets, and boots can create a very stylized look. Color, texture, and layers are important. Layering it up adds tremendous depth to the photographs. So, instead of wearing a shirt and jeans, try adding a scarf, jacket, and some fun accessories!

Ladies, it’s also a great idea to get your engagement ring cleaned right before the session so it’ll be extra shiny and sparkly! I’ll be getting up close and personal with in and you’ll want it looking its best!


Some ladies will have their trial run for hair & makeup for the engagement session. This helps them feel a little more “done-up” for the session and boosts their confidence. I’m not saying this is a must at all.

However, what I can say is that in my experience shooting engagement sessions, ladies want to feel pretty and confidence…and sometimes spending a little extra time getting ready is all it takes! If you’d like recommendations, I’d be happy to pass those along.


It’s always fun to bring along props. I want every engagement session to look like it could be in a magazine, so feel free to bring things along that really reflect your fantastic personalities. If you like wine, bring a bottle to enjoy during the session. If you like books, grabs a few favorites. The list is endless! Some suggestions are: bids, camera, magazines, books, picnic basket, desserts, records, etc. Whatever feels like you! Some couples bring their dogs – which is a great idea! Just make sure that you also bring along someone who can take the dog when it’s not needing in a shot (there’s only so many posing we can do that will include it).

That being said, if you aren’t including your dog in the session, please don’t bring any observers. You will have a much more comfortable experience in front of the camera if you concentrate on your sweetie and the gentle guidance I will give you. Once their an audience, clients tend to get self conscious and distracted.


Let’s face it – most men don’t LOVE being in front of the camera. For many couples, this will be the first time they’ve spent in front of the camera in such a substantial way. Most guys find it incredibly beneficial to be shown a few engagement sessions from my blog before hand so they can get an idea of what they’ll be asked to do. The evening before, pull up a couple of your favorite sessions to peruse – the more comfortable he feels, the more comfortable you’ll feel :)


Your sneak peek will be posted to the Facebook page the following business day – sometimes I’m able to post it the same night as your session! At least 80 images will be chosen and edited with very minimal retouching, if any, and ready for viewing through your very own online gallery (next’s week’s Wedding Wednesday is all about it!) within 2 weeks. All high resolution images will be delivered through digital download via your online gallery with rights to print your images anywhere your fancy. That’s what makes me a shoot and SHARE photographer :)

Finally, come to you engagement session ready to relax and have fun! This is a carefree time that you should be excited for! It’s an excuse to spend the evening with your fiancé celebrating your future together. Often, couple will make a night of it – going out to dinner or a movie afterwards. Come ready to be affectionate, laugh, and play!

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Katie & David met in a Murray State general education class years ago. The wonderfulness that is Facebook joined them together later after finding out they had so much in common. He was going to see a movie, alone, and she couldn’t let him do that, alone. So together they saw a movie, and had their first date. They’ve been together ever since, inseparable.

Sunday was the hottest day we’ve had so far this summer spring so we played it cool and shot their session in the shade as much as possible. BEST IDEA EVER. I’ve done dozens of sessions on Murray State’s campus but never had that limitation… which lead to us finding some beautiful locations!! I can’t wait to try them out again! And I can’t wait to photograph Katie & David again for their July wedding!


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