Thursday, December 27, 2007

Time and machine management

This was definitely a project that took much longer than we anticipated, much longer than it should have, with pitfalls that could have been avoided. But we were anxious to start. And had no idea what we were doing.

Each machine had upsides and downsides-- little quirks that we'll know how to better manage the next time we tackle a project like this (Ha!).

The palm sander.
It's the best $30 investment we've ever made and I love it. Since it didn't make the swirls that the edger did, it was perfect for the lighter edging, and it's smaller size and lighter weight made it great for reaching places the sander couldn't or tackling angled boards.

It's my hero.

The Best Investment runner-up award goes to the shop vac WITH WHEELS. Put a long extension cord on it, and it follows you around the house while you hunch over to get all those pesky little dust particles.

I've heard a lot of horror stories about the amount of dust that this project creates, but I don't think I was ready. I wore a paper mask, but I still could have built a new bedroom suite out of what ended up in my nose, throat and mouth. I also tried to wear goggles, but they just fogged up with my mask-redirected breath and the sawdust in the air. I tackled the stuff that required putting my face right up to the floor since I don't wear contacts. Adam does, and I can only imagine how painful that would have been...

Having not expected to use the SquarBuff, we didn't do any research. By the end of the first day, my arms were killing me and I could hardly control the machine. It weighs as much as I do, and never wanted to go the direction I was asking it to. We later discovered that the buffer pads get smushed in one or other corner and proceed to pull that direction. Flipping over the pad until it's in the right position, and frequently changing pads, giving them time to refluff, all made a huge difference in control.

Mostly, though, it just took a long time. If we had been thinking, we'd have reserved the equipment, and made a list of everything that needed to happen to each room. We'd have checked to make sure we had some of each grit-- had EXTRA of each, since you can return what you don't use. We'd have worked in shorter spurts where possible. It takes such a toll on your body, that you stop using time very effectively. We'd have tested the floor finish and cleaned the wax. We'd have been more careful with the edger's swirling.

We probably would have risked losing some board to a diagonal pass with the drum sander. It would have saved a lot of hands-and-knees work and a lot of obsessing over how to deal with the chatter-- we probably wouldn't have eliminated it, since our floors are too lose to have secured them all, but it might have reduced it.

We wish we'd known sooner that the weekend special begins Friday night, not Saturday morning.

I keep thinking, "I am NEVER doing this again." And then I go through all the "wish I'd known"s in my head and I think it would be much better next time around. We won't be able to live in this house forever-- there's no room to grow, and we plan to do some more growing...But with both of us working in education and our love of older homes, the chances of us affording a totally renovated house any time in the future are slim to none. So I guess this is our tester house; we've got the time to make mistakes and got enough of a deal that we're allowed to screw up and still come out ok...


We are in said...

I think you're very brave to undertake such a big and scary project - and to put so much effort into doing it well. Especially since you already know that it won't be your house "forever".

I read your comment on my blog and it seems we're in the same boat in a lot of respects - old, abused HUD houses purchased last spring.

We wanted to have the floors professionally done before moving in, but our settlement was delayed six times and there was just no time to do anything before we had to start moving in.

The hardwood floors underneath the carpeting are in really rough condition. Every time I pulled up a section of carpeting and saw the gouges and chatter from one of the previous owners sanding job I told myself that it would look better under the next section. That surely he got the hang of using the machine as he went. (I assume it was a "he".) Alas - through the entire first floor he never seemed to get the knack for "keeping it moving" while in contact with the floor. I imagine that he was a jackhammer operator in his day job.

After uncovering it all we realized that it's probably too badly damaged to sand it down smooth without ending up in the basement.

We had one of those "oh shit" moments you talked about in your love affair post. So, we've adjusted our expectations and embraced the damaged floor as "character". We've got "character" out the wazoo around here!

Instead of sanding we're just tediously scrubbing old layers of wax and finish away, re-staining and giving it a couple coats of poly so the dust mop doesn't drag on the dull spots anymore.

When you're all done and you can put the furniture back in I'm betting you're going to be so pleased with the new floors. Once you start actually living in the rooms I doubt you'll even see, or eventually even remember all the little flaws and imperfections that have bugged you while you've had your face twelve inches from the floor critically inspecting every centimeter.

I sew and I can't tell you the last time I was perfectly satisfied with any piece while I was making it. There's always a stitch I think should have been better, a seam I don't think lined up the way I intended, etc, etc. Then when it's done (usually) I think it's fine, everyone else thinks it's fine, and I can't even find whatever it was that so distracted me while I was in the process of making it.

Whatever you end up with - and I'm sure it will be lovely - is definitely going to be better than what you started with. So congratulations!

Gary said...

We had 9 floors to sand so we bought a used drum sander for $650 from a rental place. That way I could take however long I needed to sand a floor. You can buy paper on line in packs of 10 sheets for less than $2.00 a sheet. Instead of an edger I used a variable speed grinder and cut discs from the used drum sander sheets. If you put a window fan in an open window blowing out it cuts down the fine dust a whole lot. If you buy a sander, after your floors are done you can sell the sander for what you paid for it. Of course I went the rental route the first time I sanded a floor with the flat surface sander which did very little compared to the drum sander.

Anonymous said...

For dust, we've had huge success with the plastic masks with replaceable filters. They are so much better than the paper kind - they actually *seal* too, so you don't get that breath going up and fogging glasses problem either.

This has mostly been with plaster dust and crawlspace dust so far, but I imagine wood dust would be about the same.

Nate said...

Well, I've been working recently on plaster walls and ceilings. Just sucks the life out of me. I wish I could blow all of the dust out of my nose and find myself a few new rooms! You think I could with all of the joint compound garbage I've inhaled today! Good luck with your work. Love your blog! It's become one of my regulars, read it all the time!