Saturday, December 29, 2007

Polyed ourselves out the door...

Yeah, there's some flaws...ours, the PO's...the PPO's...but I'm pretty in love with them anyway.

That's one coat of 2# amber shellac, one coat of the Zinsser SealCoat shellac (a 2# ultra blond dewaxed) and one coat of water-based Varathane clear satin poly.

We got up on Friday and went shopping to get all our supplies for this...and found that no one in town carries shellac by the gallon. At one point I tried our Pittsburg Paint dealer, and he looked at me like maybe I was little stupid and tried to sell me poly. He even spoke extra sslowly so I'd understand that people have moved away from it and did I know that it yellows really fast.

Anyway, we bought all the quarts on the shelf and it was plenty. And Lowes is doing some deal where you get a $10 off coupon every time you spend $50. So it's worked out to cost about the same as buying by the gallon in the end. Once we've got another coat or two of poly on, I'll feel a little more confident in something like success and I'll tally up my grand total.

It feels good so far.

Friday, December 28, 2007

So far, so good...

Here they are with one coat of 2# amber shellac...

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...

Lotsa lotsa sandpaper

I knew we'd go through a lot of sandpaper, but I had absolutely no idea it would be like this.

I'm pretty sure that's not even complete. And there's an awful lot of little 5 inch discs that are hidden under there...

For the middle of the rooms, we first tried sanding with the SquarBuff, but it just didn't have the muscle. That's when we picked up the drum sander to cut through the finish. Adam worked this machine, so he may have some things to add later, but I can tell you what I saw. The 24 grit paper really cut through, but the finish gummed it up pretty quickly. The top layer was melting and reconstituting on the belt in hard, shiny discs. This was another situation in which no one in town sold belts to fit, the rental store had closed for the weekend, so Adam was scraping what we thought was melted varnish off the belts to reuse them.

Then we hit the middle of rooms with 36 on the buffer. This was the end of last weekend.

This weekend, we picked up the edger and Adam went through edging all the rooms with 20 and 36 grit paper, taking care to level out the lip left by the drum sander. Again, we were flying through 20 grit paper, so I hit up the rental before they closed to get more paper. (BTW, the big boxes DO carry paper for the edgers and the buffers, just not screen) I described what was happening and the uy at the store told me that what was gumming up the discs was wax.

Tip number 2: Be sure to check what kind of finish it is. If it's wax, buy the special wax removing cleaner and clean it off. The rougher grit paper is the most expensive, and changing it frequently is a time waster. Just wasteful all around.

Then we hit each room with the palm sander at 40 grit to take care of any uneven boards. We decided not to cut across diagonally so as to save as much board as possible. One room's boards were all angled, so this one had to be done one board at a time by hand.

As for that dip in the floor, we sanded with 36 on the edger and finished with 40 on the palm. It didn't totally get rid of the lip or raised grain, but it did ok and we still ahve intact floor boards.

Then I buffed with 36 yet again, and then hit it with 60. At this point, I realized that the buffer wasn't really eliminating the swirling left by the edger. Adam had to go back to our rental house, so I stuck around over the holiday and wrapped up the round of 60 and took our little palm sander, with 40 grit discs and went around the edges by hand, taking out all the swirling. I also realized that the tack board (or possibly our removal of the tack board) had left a pretty deep scratch in the floor in a perfectly straight line. I sanded this out as much as possible.

Tip number 3: Don't just assume the swirls will sand out. They're a real bitch to get out, and if you can avoid them, do. After we realized that they were going to be a problem, Adam was able to really use the 36 to carefully remove the 20's big whirls and it went much, much faster in those rooms.

We also noticed that the drum sander had left a lot of little ripples, chatter, in the floors that the buffer wasn't getting rid of. I'm pretty sure this is due to the vibrating boards, as Adam had a pretty smooth hand with the drum sander. The shellac disguises a lot of this, but we'll probably see it in the shine of the poly. We'll try a satin finish to get a more waxed look and to dampen the high sheen.

Tip number 4: If you can secure loose boards, by all means do it. If you can get away with just screening and reapplying the same finish that was on before, do it.

Adam came back on Christmas day and we hit the middle of the rooms with 80 and did the edges with 80 on the palm sander.

On Wednesday morning, we returned the edger and they gave us some more screens and a few extra hours. Adam screened all the rooms, while I made a final pass at making sure the swirls were gone. Then we realized we never got rid of the drum sander lip in the kitchen, so I did my best with the palm at 40.

Then we celebrated with burgers and beer.

After lunch, we hit the edges with 120 on the palm sander and I used a carbide pull scraper to get into the corners and around the outlets in our floor.

We vacuumed, tested a few shellacs and called it a day.

Here's the breakdown on sandpaper:


For the kitchen, about 8 discs of 20 grit @ $1.50ea= $12

Rest of house,
19- 7"discs of 20 @ $1.50 = $28.50
10- 7"discs of 36 @ $0.82 = $8.20 (we also bought a 3pack of 36 at the big box for about $5)
100- 5"discs of 40 for palm sander. 2 packs of 50 @ $17 = $34
50- 5"discs of 80 for palm sander. 1 pack of 50 @ $17 = $17
15- 5"discs of 120 for palm sander. 1 pack of 15 @ $7 = $7


6- belts of 24 for drum sander @ $7 = $42
2- sheets 20 for buffer @ $6 = $12
10- sheets 36 for buffer @ $4.14 = $41.40
5- sheets 60 for buffer @ $3 = $15
4- sheets 60 for buffer @ $5.25 = $21 (from the big box-- always cheaper at the rental!!)
7- sheets 80 for buffer @ $2.50 = $17.50
4- screens 100 for buffer @ $7.50 = $30 (they only charged us for one since they forgot them. I love those guys!!)
5- buffer pads from rental @ $6.50 = $32.50
3- buffer pads from big box @ $7.50 = $22.50

Grand total in sandpaper:


plus rental fees ($175)


The continued rental saga.

My previous post from last weekend details the first few days of our equipment rental epic.

Well, this weekend we used our noodles and reserved the equipment we needed: an edger and the square buff. We picked them up on Friday evening and returned them on Wednesday morning.

Tip number 1: As I mentioned before, this is something that I cannot believe nobody told me-- local rental stores don't charge for the days they're not open. So I highly recommend, if you can stand sacrificing your holiday time, renting over weekends and especially Monday holidays that get you that extra bit of time. Our place does a "Weekend Special" that's a 2 for 1-- pick it up after 4pm on Friday and return it before 8am on Monday and it's yours for the price of one day.

For the edger and buffer, 5 days rental (they were closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday)., we paid $68 in rental fees-- that's one day each at $39 and $29. A steal!! On Saturday afternoon, we realized that they forgot to give us sanding screen for the final step, and no one in town carries it other than rental stores, so they had pity on us Wednesday morning-- they gave us a few screens and a few extra hours at no charge to finish up. We're trying to come up with more things to rent just because they're so nice to us. I think they like to laugh at us when we leave, and I'm happy to provide entertainment, if that's the kind of deal we get.

Rental fees breakdown:

Edger for one day mid-week to do the kitchen: $29
Drum sander for weekend special (Saturday to Monday): $39
SquarBuff weekend special (Saturday to Monday): $39
SquarBuff weekend and holiday special (Friday to Wednesday): $39
Edger weekend and holiday special (Friday to Wednesday): $29

Equipment rental grand total:

Mo floors, mo sanding.

When researching DIY floor refinishing, I came across a few repeating bits of info-- don't let the drum sander sit, keep it from a halfway point in the middle of the room...if scared of the drum, use the orbital...wait for each coat to fully dry before putting on another...sand at a diagonal if you need to level the floors... I wanted to know how much this would cost (I'm frugal!), how long this would take. I wanted specifics!

Now, I know every floor has its own individual problems. For example, some of our rooms have been refinished once or twice, then covered with carpet for the better part of 50+ years. Others have been mostly exposed to wear and tear AND refinished a few more times. In one of the previously carpeted rooms, the floor is like this:

Still a little space to work with before we hit tongue, but still not enough to fool around with. However, only a few inches away, we move to another room that's been hit a little harder and dips down quite precariously:

I wanted to know how to sand these floors aggressively enough to get the finish off, but delicately enough to not hit tongue, but aggressively enough to smooth out the ridge and smooth up the grain that's been raised by all the foot traffic.

I also have to admit that this was a much bigger endeavor than I think either of us prepared for. Mainly, it just took way longer than we had hoped, and took a much greater toll on our bodies than we realized it would, which limited our working hours.

Anyway, the following posts will detail the big Xmas present to ourselves.

(A quick reminder that this is about 1200 ft2 of heart pine flooring, with some of the black mastic still on the kitchen floor. A pro quoted about $3800 to sand, stain, and poly, and patch the 2 floor furnaces with what I assumed was newer heart pine, as he didn't specify antique. We received estimates for antique that would have run to more than $1000 for just the wood-- then we'd have to patch them, and here is where we recognized our limitations. We've decided not to patch them at this time, but rather to buy antique grates, or have custom reproductions made. At the very worst, this will cost several hundred dollars, but we won't run the risk of making a $1000 mistake if it looks bad. One furnace is in a very prominent and visible area, so we're being extra careful.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Birthday revealed

This weekend, with the aid of a flashlight and my trusty compact mirror, I was able to find a date stamp on the backside of the bathroom sink. I wasn't able to find a year stamp on the toilet a couple of weeks ago, but we did locate a model number. I did a little research and found that it was a popular model in the 1950s.

Toilets break and get replaced and so I wasn't necessarily satisfied. Then I found a number of vintage American Standard ads on eBay that pictured sinks very similar to ours, that spanned from the 40s into the 50s.

Adam checked the bottom of the sink, but didn't find a stamp. Then Sunday, I scooted on my back and pretzled myself into a position where I could see that there were numbers on the surface facing the wall, but couldn't read them. It took a little mental rearranging to read the date in the mirror-- it was upside down and, obviously, backward. But we have a year.


With so many mixed styles in the room, it's nice to have that settled. Now on to the decorating.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Little Festivus Miracles

It looks like fate has had some pity on us in the end, and there have been a few minor miracles keeping my glass half full these last few weeks.

Aside from all the progress that we've been making, especially considering the fact that we can only work a few days a week on the house, we've had a couple of financial breaks. The electrical rewire ended up costing well under what we'd expected, as in, several thousand dollars less. Then the CH/A guys called to discuss repairing the cracks in the ceilings that they caused. I realized that they just wanted us to pay, so they offered to knock $200 off the bill if we'd let it go. After drywalling the entire kitchen for about that much, I think it's safe to say that we were well overcompensated for that little annoyance.

We also discovered a really great equipment rental tip-- this is probably something you all already know, but I was pleased to discover that renting things on Saturday morning at our local place gets us a one-day special-- they're closed on Sundays, so they don't charge for that day. 2 for 1!!! I have already reserved the edger and square buffer to be picked up Friday afternoon. I requested online that we have the edger from Friday to Monday; but when they called to confirm, they told me it wouldn't be "due back" until Wednesday since they're closed for Christmas and Christmas Eve. I'm not sure whether we'll be charged for those days or not, and he didn't say one way or the other. I have my fingers and toes crossed that they treat the holidays like Sundays. Either way, it needs to get done this weekend, so now we can take our time.

When we're finished with the floors, I'll be sure to post a breakdown of the cost. We had a floor refinisher give us an estimate-- to do the whole house, except laundry and bathroom (so around 1100-1200 ft2), was going to cost ~$3800. Whatever happens, we just hope we come in under the cost of a professional.

Another little bit of pleasure comes courtesy of my mother and My mother is giving us a porch swing for Christmas and this is the one we've picked out:
The porch swing at my mother's house was built in about the 1880s by her grandfather or great grandfather-- I lose track!-- it's a little creaky, but in excellent condition even when you don't take into account the fact that it gets daily use all year long. Sigh. If I can't have that one, this one will have to do!

And finally, my sister and I leave for England on December 31 to scatter our father's ashes. My dad built houses and renovated most of the major historic homes in town at one point or other, and so it's really a shame that he's not been around to help us with this, since he passed away in February. But we'll get to end the holiday season with him in his and my favorite city in the world.

It truly is a Festivus miracle!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Guess they don't make lumber like they used to.

Yeah, I had plans to buy a piece of select pine to test some things on-- different cuts and layers of shellac, and maybe some Danish oil or Waterlox for good measure. I also wanted to test the sealcoat and water-based poly, as I have heard some reports of crazing in this process...

Well, "select" pine isn't really gonna cut it for my purposes. I know it's a good thing-- they had clearcut a shocking percentage of forest by the early part of the century, and that was a terrible and unfortunate practice. It also means there is nothing I can get at the big box store that compares, and I have a feeling that the newer heart pine that you might find at a good lumberyard is not really comparable either-- at only 50-80% heart, it's just not the same. And the big box stuff? It had maybe 8-10 rings, maybe 20-30 in some of the tighter-grained boards, across a 6 or 8 inch plank. Ours has about 15-20+ rings per inch, as many as 30 in some places. Granted the newer boards are not quartersawn, but this is also a much less common practice these days-- and rightly so, because it wastes a lot of perfectly good wood.

So I abandoned the plan-- I'd hate to waste the time and money testing something that isn't even a fair representation when I could be baking yummy English toffee and stained glass cookies for Christmas!

Anyway, I guess we'll be testing the stuff in a closet while we work this weekend. Results to come.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Today's secret word is..."shellac"

So, with much thanks to Gary over at This Old Crack House and Di at Life in the Prairie Box and commenter Paul and the good folks at NunkProTunk and countless other people who have become accidental shellac lovers, we have decided to give the old stuff a try.

This weekend, we bought a quart of Zinsser Amber shellac at the big box and little can of red mahogany stain for the kitchen floor. After we got the kitchen floor sanded, we chose a few spots that we knew would be covered up in the end and, really, lets face it-- that floor is already so screwed, what more damage could we possibly do? So we tried the mahogany stain first. After waiting 15 minutes we wiped it off and it looked, well...wrong. It showed the grain very well, but in kind of a fuzzy splotchy way. I've heard that heart pine doesn't always take stain very well...the dark color also showed every imperfection, and here is where we were introduced to the lip caused by the drum sander. It stuck out like a sore thumb. Much edging will be required. Lucky for us, these floors have probably never been refinished, so they have a lot of life before we hit tongue. The color was lovely-- very dark and rich and red. In fact, it was exactly what I had wanted on the cabinets before we found that we'd have to disguise some pretty deep black mastic stains in the kitchen floor. Anyway, I'm really not sure what to do here...More to come...

Then we tested some bleach on the gigantic water stain:

You can see it through all the dust floating in the air there on the left. It's about 2' or 3' X 10' and seems to have originated from a washing machine leak in the next room over. Anyway, we tried a few rounds of wood bleach on a slightly smaller stain that came from the sink, and it didn't seem to do much.

But while the bleach and stain were setting, we diluted some of the shellac from a 3 to a 1 lb cut and brushed it on a few boards. I thought it brought out some lovely pink tones in the wood, but Adam thought too light. We tried the 3lb cut on some other boards and applied a 2nd coat of 1lb...Maybe more orange than we'd like, but with wood that varies as much as this does, it's hard to tell on such a small area. The 3lb test area looked an awful lot like some spots of our original finish that remained around the edge of the rooms, and then again, it looked nothing like some of the other spots-- mainly it was a bit too orange and not dark enough.

Admittedly, we were a little frazzled, worn out and in a hurry when we did all this, and so we didn't really experiment like we should have. We didn't try more coats than that, or try different cuts, etc. I have a hunch that building up the layers will really darken the wood...And a little time for the light to hit the heart of the pine will redden it a bit as well; heart pine is photosensitive and gets darker and redder with exposure to light.

This evening, I plan to go to the big box and get as high quality a piece of yellow pine trim as I can get, with as much heart as you can find in modern cuts of wood, another small quart of shellac (I left the other one at the house) and I will diligently try a variety of cuts and layers and combinations thereof, and see if something looks even close to similar.

Truly, I think our real problem is the fact that we had to take up a finish that we loved that took 90 years worth of wear and tear to create. There weren't many gouges or anything like that, but there were a lot of paint splatters and stains and discolorations and bleaching and the carpet padding-- no, no, no, no, no. That carpet padding glue was stuck for real-- I was eventually able to get it off with a light scrubbing of Oops, but it had stained the wood, and if you scrub too hard, the Oops bleaches the finish (even though the label says it won't). At any rate, it meant we really needed to sand and I'm afraid we'll now have to wait 90 years to get something like what we had...but at the rate we've been going, I think we may be right on schedule!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The weekend update

I am henpecking this post due to the fact that all the knuckles in my right hand are swollen to twice their original size after spending all weekend on the floors. My back and entire left side are also a bit of a mess. Just goes to show how out of shape I am.

These are the culprits.

And this is the fiasco.

Earlier in the week, Adam spent the better part of a day on the kitchen floor edging. It took so much time because it had all that crazy black stuff still clinging to a good portion of the floor. We then both got up bright and early on Saturday morning and made the trip down to our local equipment rental. Turns out they had already rented the edger. So they talked us into the square buffer under the assumption that it might do the edges and corners as well. So we made our way to the house and got to work. But the buffer simply lacked the power to strip the varnish. Back to the rental store.

This time we got the drum sander and a bunch of rough grit to do just the first pass on the floors; we still planned to use the buffer for edges and the more refined passes. The drum sander worked like a charm and on we went. I wrapped up the 36 grit passes in the kitchen while Adam took the drum sander to the rest of the house. Then I started following behind him to edge. That's when we discovered that the buffer doesn't have enough weight behind it at the front of the machine to do edges. Also worried that we were going to run out of belts for the drum sander. Rental store was closed. Back to the hardware store. Returned with 60 and 40 grit paper for the 5" palm sander. The 40 seemed to do an ok, if slow, job on the edges, so a trip to the big box store for a jumbo pack of 40 grit discs, gatorade, shop vac bags, the prospect of belts that fit the big sander, and beer. No belts that fit.

That process proved such slow-going that we stopped and reevaluated our strategy to get the most effective use of time and money. We were going to go ahead and do the rooms with the buffer up to 80 grit, return everything Monday; rent the edger and buffer again later in the week, edge, feathering into the rest of the floors, up to 100, and then screen everything with the buffer. But then we noticed how deep the lip is from the drum sander along the edge and decided it might be best to do everything as prescribed. This wasted much time.

At any rate, there were more trips to the store, more hemming and hawing over what to do, contemplation of trouble spots, and finally, we ended up doing the middle of all rooms up to 36 grit. We'll be edging and completing the sanding part of this ridiculousness next weekend. Hopefully.

Here's where we ended:

We also sanded the kitchen up to 80, and did parts of the edge to 120 so we could test some shellacs, wood bleaches, and stains. The gigantic water stain, as well as the super thin section of flooring in the dining room, and other sundry quandries are best saved for a later post, as is the entire issue of shellac...

Best part? When I returned the equipment this morning, I found out where the edger had been all weekend: at my realtor's house.

Little love affairs.

You know how when you meet someone, and you're so excited by all the possibilities of this person-- you think, "I want to know everything about you!" And then the other person does that-- they tell you everything about themselves...And well, um, hm...That wasn't really what you expected or were looking for...or really know what to do with.

And then you go into rationalization and reassurance mode to yourself and everyone around you-- "Things really are going to be great-- we compliment each other, you see? I like his flaws. They're character." And then you reach the "Oh, shit." stage. Not a panicky "oh shit!" Just a reality check and realization that a lot of niggling things are going to have to be dealt with. Doesn't mean it's not going to work. In fact, getting through this stage and still being excited can mean the start of something great.

Apparently, renovating a house is a lot like this. "These floors are so beautiful; they're just dirty! A good scrubbing, sanding, a fresh finish-- they'll be gorgeous! Has that part been sanded? It has? They'll still be great-- you wouldn't want a house that didn't have any character, would you? Did you sand it with the 20 grit? Oh. Shit."

Welcome to my weekend.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Focus on the kitchen...

This weekend we begin sanding the house full force. Then once we get the floors out of the way, we'll be in a position to move into the house and stop paying for 2 homes. But after the floors, it'll be full steam ahead on the kitchen. So now that we've made some decisions about how we're handling the floors, we can start planning the remaining aspects of the kitchen.

Here's a reminder of the before, so you'll understand that anything we do will be better than this:

Yep, that's fruit-themed vinyl faux tile on the backsplash. The fridge goes on the far left of this picture. The only change being made to the layout is that our new gas stove, is being installed on the opposite wall from the one you see here. We'll be choosing a yellow color for the walls, and the ceiling fan is a goner-- a new gift for the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We purchased the appliances during a labor day sale-- Frigidaire silver mist gas range, microwave and top-freezer refrigerator. I don't like the way stainless smudges and we couldn't afford the non-smudgy kind. The dishwasher is a black Frigidaire with all the bells and whistles-- I haven't lived in a place with a dishwasher since I was 9 years old, so this was the one appliance we wanted to splurge on. Someday, I'll upgrade to drawer style...mmm...Oh, and lighting decisions come a bit later, when we decide if we have room for an island. We're gonna live in the kitchen for a bit before we make that choice.

So anyway, we gutted the thing, replaced the walls and here's where we stand now.

Cabinets are at least partially in place. We will be adding another upper cabinet to the far right so that we can attach the microwave. We have an old lower cabinet component that we won't be using, so I guess we'll adjust that to fit. We started sanding the uppers so we could refinish, and ended up deciding that they really are a pretty color naturally, so we'll just clear-coat them and leave as is. I don't like the door style, but they're pretty solid, so I may just learn to live with them for the time-being.

We still need to replace the countertop base; it's currently particle board, which will swell under the tile. Sink is graphite ($235 at Lowes), and faucet is in oil-rubbed bronze (which I happily found on Overstock for $65!!). The surface is going to be Uba Tuba granite tile (also part of the Labor Day sale purchase-- at 20% off they were about $7.70/ft2), and we'll do a wood trim edge-- I think we should get a piece of trim that matches the cabinets. Adam's not sold on the idea.

As for the backsplash, I had wanted to use yellow/beige 4 inch translucent glass tiles. They, however, cost an arm and a leg. Then we discovered metallic glazed tiles in bronze. They cost the other arm and leg. I suggested bead board painted the same color as the walls (a light yellow, eventually) but with a slightly shinier top coat, and that one was nixed right out of the gate. "Too country," apparently. We both think a tumbled stone look would look good, but I think that would be a little boring-- predictable.

My newest suggestion is faux tin ceiling tiles. They're moderately priced; somewhere between nice ceramic or stone tiles and glass at ~$18 per 18X24" tile. if nothing else, these just seem so much easier to install than tile, especially with the goofy, uneven masonry/concrete wall that this stuff is going on top of.

At any rate, neither of us has outright nixed this idea, so it still has a fighting chance.

Then again, I do have a knack for talking myself out of Brilliant Ideas all the time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Does it get any better than this?

Adam got started with the edger, and I am just so pleased with the way this is turning out. I'm sure I've probably just jinxed the whole project, but seriously...considering the way this entry looked not so long ago, with its 3/4" worth of ugly flooring and that horrible black mastic-- I'm thrilled!

Its not all good news. There was a thin black strip of linoleum that went around the room as part of a border. My understanding is that this stuff was heated up to adhere to the floor. It looks like maybe that particular little strip burned the floor a bit during application:
But you know what? I can't even be bothered by that. At the very worst, we'll put a dark stain on this room only-- it does look like the POs may have replaced some boards with oak strip and there's definitely some water damage on the other side of the room, as well as some slightly more prominent burn marks where the fridge will sit. I just don't want them stained so dark that the beautiful grain-- the reason we went through all this and didn't just put down a new floor-- is hidden. But I'm certainly ok with rustic. In fact, I'm ecstatic for rustic. I was so ready to throw in the towel with these floors about half a dozen times through this whole process. Adam kept me moving, though. And now no one's happier about this than I am.

And on another kitchen note...Ta-da!
Upper cabinets! They look better in person. And the two on the right aren't fully installed. We'll have to shim out the one on the far right to bring it even with the others and to compensate for the extra space created by replacing the plaster with drywall. The black and red stuff on the solid masonry wall is old backsplash mastic, soon to be covered up by...this is yet to be decided, actually...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


After all the talk of my bathroom's birthday, I decided to revisit my research about the house's history. I'm not sure if this is common practice nation-wide, but in Arkansas, we don't get abstracts anymore-- we pay for title insurance. Yay for spending less money-- boo for not getting a detailed packet about the physical history of the house. At some point, I may shell out the money for this; and I will definitely spend some time in the library and county courthouse once I have the time. Maybe I'll take an afternoon to do so while the university is out of session...

Anyway, until then, I'm relying on the good old internet and a lovely little spiral bound book that a city resident put together about our neighborhood. He's published a few maps-- a late 1800s diagram of the lot numbers and a fire map from 1907. There's also a history of the 2 neighborhood schools and of the trolley that went down our street. He's also scoured the city directories and listed everyone who was officially listed as an "occupant" of the property address. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that a house was there, I suppose, or that it was the same house, but it does lend some interesting information.

For example, I do know that each house on the block occupies 3 (very skinny) lots and that there was a house on the lot next door by 1907, as well as a smattering of external buildings (barns, etc.) on our lot. At that point in the town's history, this was a little bit out in the country, so the development was mostly new. In 1922, the first occupant was listed as T.H. Brannan. I found out that he was the editor of the city newspaper. The property then changes occupants a few times and then in 1924 or 25 it's in the hands of R.C. Coffy, who was only a year or so earlier named the (operations?) Manager of the Light and Traction company-- these were the people who ran the trolleys and streetcars; the street car went down our street and was one of the big reasons that the area was even developed, since it was on the outskirts of town. I also know that the streetcars ceased operations in 1933. I wondered if Mr. Coffy got a raise and was able to buy a house in a new subdivision...And in a place where his work was able to provide transportation.

I understand that bungalows became popular during a housing boom in the town during the 1930s. Our neighborhood was a slightly upper scale subdivision, so I'm assuming it was a little bit ahead of the game. Also, our type of hardwood floors were becoming less and less available by the late 20s.

I also found out that one of the longest running occupants of the house-- from 1970-1990-- had moved to the town we now live in and passed away 2 weeks after we took possession of the house.

Anyway, none of this is probably interesting to anyone but us, but I am please with what I've gleaned with as little research as I've been able to do. HUD told us the house was built in 1940, but I think I can safely narrow the date to a 10 year period between 1922 and 1932. Hopefully a further inspection of the fixtures and a trip to the county courthouse books of deeds will get me a bit closer.

Update: I found a digital copy of the Sanborn Fire Map for our town. It was initially confusingly labeled; one version was the 1908 version and one was called 1908-1950. However, when I found our street, there was the outline of our house with it's distinctive porch, and a date stamp that read "New Sheet, Dec. 1924." So I thought I was in good shape. But then I looked at my mother's lot, and a house the same shape as hers was located on it, even though her abstract says 1949...Either it's a different house, or hers is older than we think...Or the date on the map is wrong. But since this is a photocopy of a physical piece of paper with a physical date stamp on it, I'm going with one of the first two possibilities...At any rate, I'm a bit closer. We seem to be pre-1924.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fixtures fun

We're finally at the point where we can shop for fun stuff like hardware and lighting-- we decided to get rid of most of the ceiling fans (we'll be installing an attic fan soon) so that means buying a lot of new fixtures. I love to shop! This was a great opportunity (read: excuse) to bargain hunt and buy pretty things. I'm finding, however, that in terms of new ceiling lights, we have basically 2 choices at our local big box stores: lights that look like nipples...Or lights that look like we just yanked them out of an outdated apartment complex...

So we could get the inspection out of the way, we went with the latter option. They were $4.97. Also, I am hopelessly immature and I giggle like Beavis and Butthead every time I see one of the boob lights in the store. I was afraid I'd do the same thing at home. And while laughter is the best medicine or whatever, I decided I need to have at least a modicum of control over my giggling.

Anyway, I'm now starting to hit up my internet options...

We do have one original period fixture in the living room:

It's a little (ok, a lot) on the dirty side in this pic, but when clean, it's a yellowy pink and it has grown on me tremendously. I kind of love it.

We've also picked out and purchased a chandelier for the dining room:

The dining room is connected to the living room by a very wide open doorway, adn I wanted the two fixtures to get along, visually speaking. Obviously, they don't really come from the same place, but I think they can live together relatively harmoniously. And it was on clearance.

Now I need to find a fixture for the office and I'll be happy. I can live with what's in the bedrooms and bathroom for the time being-- they're not so much public spaces, so I don't feel the need to have them done first. The office is separated by double French doors, so it's lighting is also visible from the living room, and I'd like these two fixtures to be similarish as well...I'm looking at something like these:

I think the one on the left is maybe too heavy for an office and the one on the right, perhaps a bit too modern-- or too "modern imitating art nouveau"...? Dunno. I feel like I'm getting warmer, anyway. And something like this for the porch...
No need for anything to be matchy-matchy, or so similar that the house becomes Arts & Crafts or Art Deco themed or something. Just not completely out of character.

Time to hit up eBay and see if I can find anything that doesn't look like a boob or cost an arm and a leg!


Took a little time to draw a largely inaccurate sketch of the house layout. The shaded areas are closets-- in the bedrooms as well as linen in the hall and towel in the bathroom...And these drawn closets are probably a big larger than their real-life counterparts. There's not a great deal of storage space, but it's more than I expected for a house of its age and what's there is certainly dedicated space. Everything has its own home.

When was this bathroom's birthday?

Update: At closing, above...And at move-in, below, with the paint color we decided on with the help of this post...

When I showed my friends pictures of the house, a few of them offered their services for pink tile demolition. I was outraged! I would never tear out this gaudy pink tile bathroom, partly because I love it, partly because I think some of the neighbors would lynch me for it, partly because the kiddo loves it, and largely because each individual tile has lasted so long that it seems a shame to destroy them now. Only the built-in tile soap dish has a banged up corner. Otherwise, it's all intact. I know, I know. When we eventually sell this house down the road, with so many updates, a totally retro bathroom isn't exactly going to be a selling point. But I don't care. I love it. (Ok, so I don't love the wall treatment, or the out of place cabinet above the toilet, but those things can be fixed with minimal destruction!)

Anyway, I found a light fixture on ebay that matches my living room light, and it got me to thinking about Art Deco styles and patterns and colors. I had originally thought of pink coupled with a really dark color (black or burgundy) and the strong geometric patterning of our floor tile as Art Deco, at least in spirit. The color in this photo seems a little truer on my screen than the pic above, btw:

There's also a cresting wave trim piece that goes around the bathroom, and behind the door, there's cabinetry, including a built-in hamper, with plastic door pulls-- they're certainly not original, but I wondered if they replaced glass handles that had been there at one time. The door knob is also distinctly Art Deco.

But then the inspector came; he and many other guests have since dated it as circa 1950s. and THEN we established that the tub, toilet and console sink are likely original; a family friend grew up in a bungalow nearby and said that her house had a sink and tub like ours and that they had been original. I picked up the tank lid for the toilet, and it is stamped "NOV25"; this is actually where we get the building date for our house-- HUD claimed it was built in 1940, but the K&T wiring had already suggested otherwise. Knowing what we know about the neighborhood, as well as the architectural style, old phone book listings, and the toilet stamp, we went with 1925 as the likely date. Give or take a few years; there's a listing in the city directory as early as 1922.

Anyway, I guess I'm at a bit of a loss as to the age of our bathroom decor. It doesn't really matter to me much whether it's 1920s, 30s or 50s. I still love it. It's just, as with many other things in this house, it's a total curiosity as to how it got the way it did...Any ideas? Any idea what the hell color I'm supposed to paint the walls? It's looking like white is the only safe bet here. The PO did some kind of textured treatment that looks like she glued paper bags to the wall and ripped them off before they dried.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A possible floor solution?

Literally-- we think we've found a recipe for a shellac mixture and poly coating that will come close to mimicking the way the floors look right now.

Late last week, I stumbled across Goodwin Pine's "professional" section for their website. Goodwin Pine, , is apparently the leading company with regards to antique heart pine-- salvaged and river recovered. When I was still shopping for heart pine to patch the floor furnaces, I emailed nearly every company I could get an address for who might possibly sell the stuff. A few were able to give me estimates, many of whom weren't able to guarantee the clarity of the wood. I've mentioned that ours is extremely vertically-grained with no knots whatsoever. Any variation there would stand out like a sore thumb. Anyway, the companies that couldn't help me for whatever reason-- don't do orders that small, don't sell heart pine, don't sell it in that particular grade-- all directed me to Goodwin. And when you see their website and brochure, you see why. They really are a company dedicated to this one, very particular, largely unavailable (new, anyway) species of wood. They have a very specific grading system and a lot of suggestions on the maintenance and restoration of this kind of wood.

Anyway, their "professional" section, which I had not seen before, suggested using a 3lb cut of dark dewaxed shellac, thinned and used as a wash. They claim that this will provide a bit of instant ambering. Then coat over it with a water-based poly. Supposeedly, the shellac dries pretty immediately (it's an alcohol base, after all) and as long as it's dewaxed, it shouldn't interfere with the poly.

Now I've never used shellac for anything, so I'm tiptoeing into some unchartered territory for me... Any tips or hints from anyone who's done this would be greatly appreciated!

As for house progress, we happily made none this weekend ;-). Sunday was going to be devoted to a family gathering, so we decided to take the weekend to catch up on things at our rental-- cleaning, some light packing, a few trips to Target. Our cats couldn't believe their luck to have us both in the house for 3 straight days, a clean living room, and boxes galore for snooping and napping. It was like heaven for everyone involved.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

At a steady clip

First of all...drumroll....The electrical inspector signed off!!!!

That doesn't mean we're done with the city-- we still have to have the mechanical inspection (for the newly installed HVAC) and then the final...but that's one MAJOR step!!!!!

Other things are moving along as well. This last weekend saw the painting of the walls-- a sandy, adobe sort of color in the living room and office-- Caramel, from Lowe's Eddie Bauer Craftsman Collecction-- and green in the dining room-- Ruskin Room Green from the Sherwin Williams Arts & Crafts collection. We painted all the rooms with Valspar primer, which didn't coat very consistently, but it did the trick of toning down the dark colors that were already there. Luckily, the actual colored Valspar paint went on very thick and smooth; the Sherwin Williams Classic 99 paint, however, went on very streaky. The dining room will therefore likely need a second coat. In other words, I highly recommend the Valspar Signature stuff. And with a mail-in rebate (and a 10% off coupon), it was cheaper than the SW, even though the SW was already on sale AND I had a 5% off coupon. Still, the Ruskin green was just what we wanted, so I'm not too disappointed. Here's before and after of the living room (sorry-- camera phone again):

We finally gave up on getting the chair rail paint line eliminated. I simply reached a point where I couldn't stand the thought of wasting any more precious time futzing with something that probably wasn't going to be noticeable to anyone but us and would be deal-withable later. Screw it.

And the dining room was also a lovely success:

I know that the actual colors don't translate well, having gone through the camera and different computer monitors...But you can see how much lighter we went and what a difference it makes. It was a little like getting a haircut, though-- you know how the minute you decide to cut your hair, people start complimenting you on it? Yeah, that's how it went with the paint. Everyone who came into the house looooved the colors it was already painted. And while I could have totally lived with them, I really thought that it made the rooms feel a little cave-like.

I swear, though, the POs did some weird painting-- like painting the side of the trim the same color as the wall, and the casement windows in the dining room are also the same color as the wall, even though the trim surrounding them is the color of the rest of the trim. Who knows. Much shaking of my head.

Next painting step will be to paint the trim an antique white semi-gloss. And we have great brushes for it! I now know why my father always painted rooms with a brush and never with a roller-- he bought $40 brushes and they're worth every penny. We only used them this time for getting close to the trim. But while Adam and I complained of brush strokes in the green paint with our cheap $7 brushes, my mother had no problems because she used what she was calling the Magic Brush. And it was magical.

All trim work from here on out is to be done with a Magic Brush.

And stupid me, I forgot to take pictures of one of our biggest accomplishments-- the upper cabinets are mostly installed. Because we replaced the plaster with sheetrock, they don't fit into the space in quite the same way. I believe much shimming will be needed.

I will have pics of the cabinets soon-- hopefully with them totally in place. We also sanded the cabinet facings. The wood is really pretty-- hard maple, maybe?-- so we thought we might just put a clear-coat on them. I've also found a company that would make doors for something like $500 total, so we may just opt for new doors altogether, rather than sand the ones we have and don't like.

Adam spent today at the house edging the kitchen floor-- he says it's coming out pretty well, so hopefully there'll be pics of that coming soon.

We've decided to make the end of January our final goal of getting completely out of the rental. I was a little upset about it, but as long as things are moving steadily, I'm happy with whatever.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We got walls

In fact, we got some pretty good walls, if I do say so myself. Mudded, taped, and primed. My dad built houses when I was a kid, and luckily I picked up some drywall skills through osmosis-- I sure didn't get any by paying attention. The job's not perfect and we still only have the primer coat on, but I don't think we're going to need to do any texturing (touch wood). We also got the lower cabinets moved into place. (Apologies for the blurry pics-- I forgot to put new batteries into the camera, so I had to use the phone.)

I have to give credit where it's due-- I'm a big fan of the metal reinforced inside corner tape. We bought it by accident at the hardware store, but it turned out to be the perfect material for one particularly wonky corner. Some previous owners, many years ago, tacked a modular broom closet onto the end of the pantry. I wasn't a perfect fit, so once the plaster was gone, there was about an inch wide gap between the wood broom closet and the corner stud, with nails spanning the distance at an angle...we had to bevel the drywall and then I did some fancy footwork with the tape and...voila! a corner with only a ghost of a seam. We also ended up with an outside corner that was essentially too big for normal metal corner beading. I used the paper-backed metal instead since there was nothing to screw into...So far so good. I couldn't find any installation instructions, so I just slathered on a ton of joint compound, pressed it into place and got rid of the excess with a trowel-- I basically treated it like any other taped seam. We'll see how well it stands up to the refrigerator door.

Then, after mopping up the drywall dust, we got to see the floors for the first time-- we'd never mopped up the water-soluble mastic, so it was quite a nice surprise. We did a little bit of spot sanding under the lip of the cabinets-- the water damage is pretty obvious, but I think a darkish stain will hide a lot of problems. Then we sanded part of the cabinets-- the facing is indeed solid wood, and a careful pass with a belt sander does wonders.

Still not sure what to do about our living room walls-- we took the chair rail off to open the room up a little (it didn't seem like original molding) and apparently there had been a lot of painting around the rail over the years. There's now a lip of built up paint. We sanded it down some, but the walls have been textured at some point. I guess we'll try to match the texture. Time to start sampling!

Still a lot to do, but we're making progress.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Getting things done...

This last week was pretty productive in terms of getting the kitchen walled up. As I mentioned before, we can't get our final inspection until the kitchen has walls. Being 80 years old, the house doesn't have a square joint in it, so cutting the drywall was quite a process, especially for us amateurs, and there were a lot of little annoyances that kept making the job harder. We had to get a couple of rotted spots in the floor patched. Then we had the issue of an old doorway to what we can only assume was a butler's pantry-- you can still see the trim for the doorway in the laundry/mud room, which appears to have at one time been two rooms: a pantry and a small back porch landing. Anyway, we got that framed in and were finally able to hang the excessively heavy 5/8" drywall:

Yeah, there's some pretty big, gaping seams-- and we're no experts on taping and mudding. But most of the walls will be covered in appliances and cabinets and framed prints...and maybe even some textured paint to forgive the many sins that we and every other previous owner has committed in this room.

In addition to finishing our drywall hanging (which you can imagine involved a lot of cursing and quite a few ruined boards), we got the house cleaned up, made 2 trips to the dump, finished our backyard privacy fence, got one gas line added for the stove and removed a couple that were no longer needed. We'll get the gas turned on today, hopefully, so we can be sure to check every pipe that's been messed with; and we have the start up scheduled for our new heat pump tomorrow-- and just in time, as it's supposed to get wicked cold tomorrow night.

As you can see, we've started the mudding process, and one of my big goals this week is to get the next 2 coats on and sanded. I will also be sanding down the little paint strip left by the removal of the living room chair rail and primering as much of the house as possible. We'll try to get the kitchen floor sanded and the cabinets back in place. We still have a giant gable vent to build. We need to get the house as ready as possible for the inspection and for the big sanding and finishing of the rest of the floors. And then I think we'll be in a position to move in.

But I gotta tell you-- it's been awfully hard to get much done with the outdoors as pretty as this:

There's a ten year old girl in there somewhere...

Electrical Updates

Well, the electrician has gone as far as he can until the final inspection. He ran all the wires, added new boxes where necessary, and wired up our cheap, $4 light fixtures from Lowes. So before the final inspection can happen, we have to show that all the wires will be covered up, which means getting a lot further with the kitchen-- as in, getting the actual walls up.

So far, the money has totaled around $5000. More things were grandfathered in than were expected, and we asked for the bare minimum. Putting in a new 200 amp box and wiring our new heat pump cost $2k. And the rest of the house was about $3k-- lots of our outlets are in the floors because of the masonry walls, and they were left there; we also had smoke detectors hard-wired in, which is code but which is also going to totally suck the first time I burn some toast.

Now, we haven't had the final inspection yet, and once that is done, there may be more things needed that could cost extra. But we're keeping our fingers crossed that this is at least the bulk of it...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Let's talk kitchen hand towel at a time

We bought our house from HUD-- it was totally cleaned out with government efficiency, so there's nothing left of the previous owners. The layers of the structure-- especially the kitchen-- have been the only little "treasures" we've found. That's the glass-half-full way of looking at this, because in reality, I spend most weekends saying over and over, "Who the hell thought this was a good idea?"

When we first visited the house, we both tripped over the kitchen floor-- about 3/4 of an inch higher than all other floors in the house. Each owner just stacked another layer on the top until we ended up with the lovely black and white sticky vinyl tile:Now, before you say "Oh! I love black and white checkerboard and it's so retro!" you should know it was in terrible shape, matched absolutely nothing else in the kitchen, and showed the impression of the faux-tile flooring beneath it. So we did a little digging at this here location to see if the lovely pine floors were living underneath. They were! But that's also where we discovered that there were a few other layers culminating in some seriously sturdy black stuff that went right over the wood. Hmm.

At this point we decided that, regardless of the state of the wood, we needed the floors to be a bit more level or we'd end up face-first on that floor more times than we'd like to, especially if we were going to have to add to the pile to cover up that crap.

A little internet research, and we started peeling away. Below the top layer was another black and white sheet vinyl. Below that was my favorite-- it looked like candied fruits suspended in gellatin. Another plywood subfloor below that. Then yellow sparkly sheet flooring. We thought it ended there and went straight to the mastic but no-- TRUE linoleum. The stuff that was laid out and heated to adhere to the floor. It was very 30s and very cool:The black border is separate from the red trim is separate from the central art deco pattern. And each piece was put down with a different mastic. So we both spent a lot of time on the internet looking for way so get this crap off the wood, a lot of hours on our hands and knees trying out all the different things we found...

And here's what worked for us so far: Steam and Ace Hardware adhesive remover, which burns like a mofo if you're not careful. Wear gloves.

First, we peeled as much of the actual flooring off as we could. The central rug used a largely water based glue. I used a spray bottle to dampen the area; then I laid a wet tea towel on top. I took my old iron (good excuse to buy a new good one!) and ironed the wet towel on a high cotton setting until it stopped sizzling-- a few seconds, less than a minute, moving around the area so it didn't burn. I then pushed with an old scraper (going with the grain), and most of the leftover backing and mastic just peeled right off. Then I repeated the process and used a carbide blade pull scraper to get as much of the remaining mastic off as possible. It left a white/gray residue that smears with water, so hopefully that will sand off when we're ready to finish the floors. You can see that white overtone-- almost like the wood is simply dried out. But if you wet it a little, you can see the wood beneath it.

The black border areas were a different story altogether. They had no intention of coming off of the wood no matter what we tried. We used Kleenstrip (I think) stripper and adhesive remover. The stripper worked better that the adhesive remover. But then we tried the Ace brand adhesive remover and it seemed to do a better job. Just painting it on, waiting, and scraping with a good, sharp blade. Repeating where necessary. Unfortunately, this mastic was an oil-based one. So it has stained the wood, possibly further down than we want to or can sand. On the other hand, though, this is mainly around the perimeter where the floor will be covered by cabinets, appliances or overshadowed by the cabinet overhang.

Our next step is to sand the floors; however, as we all know, it's a process, and we have to get a few other things done first. Then I think we're going to try staining it a dark red mahogany...? The room is big enough that I think it can take the darker floor and darker cherry cabinets. We're just hoping the dark stain will mask the glue stains enough. We're ok with the floors being "rustic"-- they'll have nail holes from the plywood, etc. But hopefully it won't be crazy obvious.

And if it turns out heinous, we'll look into laying new hardwood-- even though that raises the floor back up to its previous level, we would have had to lay something over the ugly B&W checks, so we'd still be ahead. Or perhaps we'll give cork tiles a try...

I know the dreaded black mastic is a common problem of houses this age-- linoleum floors were so very "now." Any advise on finishing with this kind of distress in the wood would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, October 29, 2007


After staying out far too late with good friends on Friday, I had a bit of a slow start getting to the house Saturday morning. I think I've mentioned before that we currently live about an hour away, and so we have very little idea of what's happening in the house during the week. And when we're in town, we stay with my mother a few blocks away.

So it was with a big fat smile on my face that I unlocked the door to the house Saturday afternoon to see...wires! lots of em! Apparently, the electrician was able to start work on the house this week and that is the one thing holding us up, really. Lots of outlets are in the floor and so we can't very well do the floors until everything else is done; can't paint until we know where new outlets will be cut into the walls; can't close up the kitchen walls until the electrical inspector signs off on them. It's one big chain reaction, and it starts with the rewire. We're one step closer!

Then I got a little further back into the house and also saw that some changes we'd asked the CH/A installer to make were least the biggest ones. It was very, very exciting.

However, without any electricity, we're a bit limited in our projects. So this weekend, we sprayed down the screened porch and finished scraping, and spent Sunday painting trim. And it's amazing how much better it looks. Who knew a good scrubbing and some white paint would make such a difference! Still no after pics yet-- have to replace some ceiling panels and rotted trim...and still need to rescreen, but you can see what we started with:

Monday, October 22, 2007

Floor Help!!

On the agenda for today's lunchtime obsession is our floors. If it weren't for the stark unevenness between the floors that were protected by the carpet and those that were not, I would probably say we should just give it good cleaning with mineral spirits to get the carpet pad glue off and be done with it. But the floor boards are continuous throughout the house, and their uneven height (as well as all the paint splatters from careless POs who knew they'd be carpeting and the raised grain in the areas that received a lot of traffic) means a bit of a sanding is ultimately required.

But how do we finish them?!?!? We love the way the antique vertical grain heart pine has aged into the shellac/varnish coating. Lots of rich colors that vary all over. And it's fairly dark (you can see a pic a couple of posts below)...Has anyone out there had any experience finishing floors like this? First and foremost we want to maintain that overall variety of tone, but we'd also love the floors to be somewhat darker amber...

The pics I've seen of floors that just have tung oil seem too light...Maybe they are just so recently finished that they haven't aged enough yet? Should we stain the wood the very lightest color that we see in the floor currently, and let the rest darken? I'd rather not go with shellac, seeing as how we have dogs, cats and kids and that can be a deadly combo on the floors.

I'm just so confused...

The weekend update

While I can't say it was a good weekend, I can at least claim to have been productive.

I met with the electrician by myself Friday. Adam is sick, so he kept his germy self at our rental home all weekend, and here is what I found out. We can save some time and money by stripping all the outlets, switches, light fixtures, ceiling fans, etc. Easy enough...We also talked cost. Lots of the outlets are in the floor (because of the aforementioned concrete walls-- bad for rewiring, great for insulation.) and these outlets are on a couple of circuits that run under the floor. The lights and switches are on other circuits that run overhead in the attic. Our city ordinances want each room to be on its own independent circuit. That means using up one entire circuit and breaker slot for 2 or 3 outlets and a light. That seems a bit much to me. But because the house is old, some things may be grandfathered in. Until the inspector comes and helps us parse through that, and the electrician actually gets started, we won't know how much money this whole thing's gonna run. He has said, though, that it should be less than the $9400 original estimate. Fingers crossed-- and I'll keep the blog updated on that. I had the hardest time getting even a rough idea of cost when we bought the house, so hopefully this will give someone else at least a figure to work from. (and FYI-- house is about 1460 ft2 with a mixture of plaster walls, sheetrock over plaster, sheetrock over concrete and a completely exposed kitchen. Also has a ~250 ft2 detached garage and shop. Dunno if we'll be wiring that or not...)

It could also be a week or so before he gets started-- this wasn't in anyone's plans.

So I got moving on it this weekend. I managed to get all the switches and outlets unhooked; and I got the blades and lights unscrewed from the ceiling fans. Boxes and ceiling lights/fan motors are next.

Maybe it's all for the best, since this seemed to be the PO's idea of a job well done:Nevermind the bad patch or the splice that I had to cut through because they didn't use a little splicer cap-- it's the newspaper that's shoved around that splice that makes me confident in this sample of DIY handywork.

Also in weekend news-- finally mowed the yard. Now that we've moved into a neighborhood where the residents take care of their grass, we had to step up and buy a mower. I took breaks from the electrical to put the thing together, and when I lost my light in the house (no electricity=no after hours work!), I mowed the yard. And I have to say that it was the most fun I've had trimming any grass.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

When a city ordinance is not your friend

See all those wires? That's the good old knob and tube that's been the bane of my existence for quite some time now.

We knew it was there when we bought the house, but most of the modern major appliances had been put on newer circuits and the wires were 12# quality copper. Most importantly, estimates ranging from $9-14k for a total rewire made us that much more fond of those old wires.

One of the biggest factors in the high cost was the fact that interior side of the exterior walls are all concrete/mortar with sheetrock on top of that. The time and cost of mortar bits to bring all the outlets from the floor and into the wall added a lot to the cost. Not to mention the local ordinances that go so far above and beyond national code...

So we decided to upgrade the old fuse box and the service (from 100 to 200 amp) and add 2 new circuits for CH/A and be done. We'll get to the rewire when we have a little more money. And here's where all the trouble began.

Our local ordinances state that if you alter more than 50% of the wiring of a house, you are then obligated to bring the rest of the house up to code. It also says that the box and circuits for CH/A constitute 50%. I'm not sure how they justify that, considering it is neither 50% of the materials, the labor, nor the cost...But when the inspector came out, he saw that we had also taken all the plaster off of the walls of the kitchen. Plaster was crumbling off, the holes were patched with sheetrock-- it needed to come down. He decided that this was a kitchen remodel and with the exposed wires, it would have to be brought up to code...therefore exceeding the 50% rule, therefore requiring a full rewire.

The electrician tried to get us out of it by rerouting unnecessary circuits and we took our case to the board of appeals, but no such luck. So this afternoon we meet with the electrician to get our homework assignments: anything we can do to the house that will make his life easier, the job quicker, and in turn cost less money.

I imagine our weekend will largely be spent on this. Guess the porch rescreening will have to wait.