Monday, July 21, 2008

Moments in DIY history

Our best DIY moment-- the point where we really turned the corner and realized we could do stuff! with tools! and make it not look like crap!-- has to be our floors. When we first bought the house, we were so happy to have hardwood under the carpet that we didn't think much about them. We got an estimate to have the refinished and they were **choke** going to cost $4000. That was clearly not in our budget, especially after being told we had to rewire the whole house. No sir.

But getting the estimate did glean some good information; we found out that the floors were heart pine. They were in such bad condition that they had to be redone, but we wanted to recreate the color of the floors as they were under the carpet. They were a beautiful deep red and amber-- we looked into stains and oils and polys. We've since found out the the color was creosote, I believe, mixed with shellac. I only have a few "before" pictures that show their paint and carpet pad stained, scratched, worn down condition. The first two pictures show places in the house that weren't covered by carpet (The dining room and hall were hardwood when we bought it). The third picture shows floor that had been hidden by carpet...

There's definitely some debris that leads directly back to us, but you can see the carpet pad stains and how dark they were originally in the third shot and the worn down places in the previous two.

Turns out the creosote is illegal, I think, and therefore something we can never recreate exactly-- a lot of time wasted, really. But shellac by itself is certainly available. A little research with some of the wood salvage specialists, some excellent advice from Gary at This Old Crackhouse, and a better understanding of the properties of the wood and how each finish would alter the natural characteristics sold us on shellac. And a few good websites with directions on refinishing floors got us started on the labor.

But our most useful tool came in the form of a couple of cowboys that run the equipment rental store by our house. They helped us with the tools and materials, showed us how to use everything, gave us supplies and extra days free when they "forgot" to give us something before they closed-- mostly these were things we didn't know to ask for. Most importantly, they laughed at us when it was clear we had no idea what we were doing and when we screwed up by not removing the wax from the floors before we started. They kept us from taking ourselves and the project too seriously. They were great.

At any rate, many trials and tribulations. I did a couple of the rooms on my hands and knees with a palm sander one board at a time. We were afraid that the soft pine was too thin to handle any diagonal leveling passes with the drum sander. We left some chatter marks. And it was cold. We did this over Christmas.

But the sanding all worked out well eventually...
And so did the shellac...

We had to use regular amber shellac, one coat of it; this was more difficult to get hold of than I thought-- everyone thought I was too stupid to know what I was asking for and tried to sell me poly. Then we had to put on a second coat on of clear dewaxed shellac. And finally a water-based poly to preserve the color and finish.

Love. I don't think I've ever been so proud of myself. Maybe the drywall...Both of these were projects that everyone made a face over. You know, when I told people we were doing it ourselves they made a face, to which I responded by asking if they would like to give us the $3200 that hiring someone would cost. To which they, of course, made another face. We're poor. There was no other option. And looking back, even if we had the money to pay someone, I don't think I would do it. I've become so territorial about the house. I'm not sure we'd have found anyone who would have done rooms board by board or used shellac for that matter. This way, the house is renovated as we want it to be and with just a little extra care because it's ours.

This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value.


dogma said...


I tried to find out how to email you back luck. you commented on my blog about grates on the floors

I thought of grates too. I did find this resource maybe it will be helpful for you too. They sent me a catalog and there are many different syles and sizes of grates

good luck and Your blog is great!

Melinda said...

Your floors are gorgeous. Way to go!

Amalie said...

Thanks-- they were definitely worth the work!

Sandy said...

The floors are beautiful!

Amalie said...

Thanks, Sandy!