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Back in my intro to engineering drawing course (required for everyone getting a degree from the engineering college, including us computer types), the T.A.s would constantly rail on us ‘your scale is not a straightedge!’. We were supposed to be learning to draw straight lines freehand, but the scale was so handy and right there!
Yesterday, I wished I’d had a TA like that standing over me all winter when I was scraping all the things downstairs with a putty knife.
To begin at the beginning: The wood floors are done, and M declared we would move this week. I thought that was a little tight, and in any case, he couldn’t get help then, so it’s next week, but still, SOON. In order to do this ‘moving’ we need to clean all the construction miscellany out of the living areas. We’ve got the tools out of the kitchen and the laundry, leaving only the garage, which is filled with larger things like drywall, scrap lumber, and insulation. the plan is to move those things upstairs, so we can use them fixing those rooms.
However, the bedroom they need to go in is a mess. It’s full of nasty degraded carpet padding which managed to adhere itself to the floor in large chunks. We had a small spot of this in the downstairs bedroom, and it took us ages to get off. It also turns your clothes red with dust, and re-congeals to your shoes. (yes we mask-up when working with it).
Before, we were getting it up with putty knives, or sometimes pry-bars, because that’s what we had, and they looked a bit like scrapers. Today, we were used the scrapers we’d bought for stripping the trim.
Night and day. I won’t say it made stripping nasty carpet padding off a 10 x 17 foot room fun, or easy, but we did get it done, which is more than we’d have been able to say using the putty knives.
So, tomorrow we carry things upstairs, and SOON! we move.
(no, really, it’s not that)
So, yesterday, they laid and poly’d the last piece of floor – yay, right?
Well, maybe not so much. See, I didn’t think they’d get to it quite yet, and my herb starts (you know, from *february*?) were upstairs… and needed watering. So, our bathroom has one door to the bedroom (which had been done earlier and was dry), and one to the dining room by the stairs, and we figured we could, with a bit of acrobatics, jump from the bathroom door to the bottom step without touching the fresh poly in the dining room.
See, those childhood ‘don’t touch the lava’ games were training for real life skills.
But wait, it gets better than that. We could have gotten to the bedroom – except that in a rare feat for us, we locked the front door. And as all our knobs are on the flaky side, we use the deadbolts. So, that just got harder.
A little thought, and M realized there was a third way into the bathroom. They’d installed a cabinet that backed into the basement stairwell, the back of which was pulling off and needed replacing anyway. (it was, get this, a piece of sheetrock finish-nailed to the wood as the only structural backing in the cabinet). Off it came, out came the shelves, and there we were. M, undeterred that he had to essentially leap the stairwell to get there, entered the bathroom, unlocked the door, and up we went!
The floors do look very nice, though the stain doesn’t really match what it was previously – the grain is darker and the places between lighter. I’m guessing this is evidence of a non-penetrating type stain in the past? The new floor blends in well enough which was a worry. Personally, I think that the scribbly-twisty grain in the new stuff makes the old look that much better, while M prefers the tight, crack-free fit of the new.
Other, more mundane, but probably useful activities involved finally beginning to organize the tools and ‘miscellaneous house parts’ in a manner conductive to living in the house, rather than just working there.
Also, we found someone willing to install a 12×12 vinyl floor for under $1000. Which saves us from a nasty, gluey mess diy-ing the room that was supposed to be the ‘cheap and easy’ one.
This weekend, we’ll probably start – dare I say it? – moving things.
(though we won’t move in until the kitchen vinyl is in – probably a two to three week wait on the materials)
Over the past few months, we’ve contacted probably close to a dozen flooring contractors. Including the big name renovation company that never returned my calls, the lady who spewed her personal problems all over us, the general good-old-boy fix it man related in some way to the neighbors, and the countless others who either couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t want to put nice, new flooring (preferably pre-finished) over that nasty old stuff, or gave us vague assurances, that, yeah, they could run their big sander machine over it and see what happened. We’ve finally found someone we reasonably trusted to deal with them, someone who seemed to understand the difference between old pine and both modern hardwoods and new pine (warning, irony coming), who didn’t need us to countersink all 5 bazillion top nails, or perfectly shim all the ends before he started. Of all things, this was guy was recommended by the person who sold us our water softener. But he was the best we’d found in a very long hunt, and we wanted them done.
He started Monday. We went by that evening to look at what had been done. There was this terrible anticipation driving out. Would the wood beneath be worth it under the nasty finish? Would there be giant cracks and gashes and terrible things he’d done to it without us there to say not to? Granted, that’s a little extreme, but the floors were my baby in this house, the one thing we were to afraid to touch ourselves for fear we might irrevocably mess them up, and I desperately wanted them to not, well, be ruined.
Well, the result is: I love my floors. I’m such a dork, because I took a ton of pictures, and put them on the computer, and touches them up, but I didn’t upload them, and now I can’t get them. But I love my floors.
They are smooth, and gorgeous, and the grain is straight and wonderful, and the boards thick, the blemishes gone, the cracks more even and less noticeable, the patches effective and seamless.
There are these eight boards that reach all the way across the office room that are just abso-crazy beautiful. All 7″ wide, with barely a swirl in the grain. Identical. Probably cut from the same tree. I counted the grain on one and there are 94 rings. They’re my favorites.
Oh, and they aren’t pine (remember my irony warning?). They are, instead, wide-plank OAK subfloors. Red Oak. It’s beautiful. For once, there is something in this house that isn’t just a ‘well, we think plaster walls are cool’ or ‘neat and good enough’ but really, truly, great. ‘Original 100 year old wide-plank oak floors – newly refinished’. That could go in a MLS listing and make just about anyone drool.
They still need stain (the natural look just doesn’t match the dark trim), so I’m still nervous like a parent sending her kid away to camp that things will turn out, but things are looking up.
p.s. We also still need to install new in the dining room (we decided so much of it was bad that it made more sense to use it for patches elsewhere than to try to fix it up), but the discovery of the red oak means it will be much easier to match.
So, our subfloor is old 3/4″ tongue and groove pine. In some rooms, it’s fairly flat. In others, it’s got a good amount of gaps and tilt. also, there are random places where the boards switch directions for a while (old patches?). As subfloor, it had never really been finished before, though there is paint around the outside of some of the rooms, where it was apparently exposed around an area rug.
I love it. The randomness, the patina, I think it’s great.
I’m not sure if we can keep it or not.
We had one floor man (who did good work for my parents) take a look at it, and he claimed it would be too thin to sand and refinish. -did I mention that our floor joists are around 30″ apart? And that they aren’t so much joists as, well, trees? This may be a factor. Also a possible factor is that he stood to make a good commission on an $8,000 floor if we choose not to refinish.
Still, I’m not sure. I’m not sure if we can get it even enough not to get splinters and stubbed toes (we’re bare feet kinda people). I’m not sure if we can put a finish on it that will withstand the large dog we plan to get.
So, we’re getting another estimate, and M’s going to push the ‘just put a really rough finish on it’ angle.
And maybe we’ll start on one of the easier rooms and see how far we get with a good cleaning as opposed to a down-to-new-wood sanding.