Archive for December, 2011

Home Repair on a Budget: Days Thirty-One to Thirty Three.

It’s time to break out the bubbly! No, it’s not New Year’s yet, but at long last, I can move into the house again. The last job, installing and painting the quarter-rounds is done. This is a big day for me, something I’ve waited for for a long time. I have much, much more to do, mind you, but at this point, at least, I can breathe a bit easier; the hardest, toughest job is done and I can move back in and tackle the rest of the house while I’m living there.

Let’s see what I have so far…

This is the living room extension, I had just started and had this corner done; you can see the small pieces I cut off on the floor.

Above is the back bedroom, and below is the living room at the front door and coat closet.

Like every job in this house, it has had a few difficulties. One of them is a perplexing filing job some worker did to mate the baseboards to the door frames. The baseboards were apparently wider than the boards used in the door frames, so they were filed down at the ends so they wouldn’t protrude. In some cases this was more pronounced than others, but it meant laying the shoe molding (quarter-rounds) was a headache. Here’s how I dealt with it:

This shows how the baseboard was filed down just before it ends in contact with the door frame, and making a straight line to the door is impossible. So, I cut a slight angle on the end piece of quarter round and nailed it in place.

These pics were taken before I put the paint on, so it looks “unfinished” but my phone was dead when I did the painting, and now the paint has been applied and the lines and nail holes are mostly filled in. You can also see a lot of sawdust on the top of the baseboard; I had to go around with a vacuum and damp rag prior to painting the quarter-rounds. I also had a lot of gouges from the hammer and the sander to deal with, plus some stain which splashed up when applying that to the floor, so I basically gave the baseboards another coat of paint while I was at it.

I will go back and take my expensive Nikon camera to shoot the house in more detail as soon as I do some final cleaning and touch-ups.

I’m still looking for those missing receipts; I will have to guesstimate if I can’t find them!


Home Repair on a Budget: Days Twenty-Six to Thirty

A big milestone was hit last night: the floors are finally complete. All that remains now for the living room, hallway and bedrooms is to install and paint quarter-round molding and touch up the paint here and there.

After my last post, I got the sander returned and floors cleaned. As one can imagine, they have to be very clean in doing this kind of work. I began by sweeping, followed by a very thorough vacuuming. Then I went over everything with a damp (not wet) mop to catch any remaining bits of dust and debris.

Then it was time to lay on the stain. There’s very much a technique to doing it right. I used Minwax Red Mahogany stain, as I wanted a darker floor. For two reasons: first, this floor is very old and has lots of damaged spots in it. By using a darker stain, these damaged places don’t jump out quite as much. And secondly, I wanted a contrast to the bright white trim and relatively light walls.

In the pic above, you can see the application of the stain. I applied it with a brush, then immediately wiped it with a rag. You can also apply it with a rag. Either way, it’s a messy, sloppy job. You want to wear gloves!

One problem ensued. This stuff advertises a 6-8 hour dry time. It was actually closer to 5 days! A lot of factors were probably at work, most prominently were likely the cold weather and the humidity.  On day four I noticed it was mostly dry and on the fifth day, I could walk on it. I wiped it down again with a dry cloth to pick up any powdery residue from the stain.

Then it was time for the polyurethane. It is very important to get the proper polyurethane. If you use an oil-based stain (as the Minwax was) it makes common sense to use an oil-based poly. This was one of the learned lessons of this job. I bought a water-based poly, and made one stroke of the brush with it, and it immediately wanted to bead up instead of laying smooth. I wiped it off and went to the store and got the proper kind. (The only reason I got that kind was because they were out of the Minwax brand at the time.) But I got the Minwax Clear Gloss poly, which is oil-based.

This stuff is very messy to work with. It has the consistency of baby oil mixed with Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup!

It also has a tendency to bubble up.

If you look closely you can see a lot of white spots in the photo. These are bubbles. I am not sure why this happens, but it is most prominent in the sections where the grain is dark. It may be reacting to the stain in the wood, and the stain is absorbed more in the dark sections of the grain than the lighter ones. This is heart of pine wood, by the way. I did notice a caution on the can of stain about using certain kinds of finish with that color of stain, something about the pigment is incompatible with some finishes. But this finish was specifically recommended when using it. So, I’m not sure.

But the bubbles happen no matter where you are applying it. It takes a very slow, easy stroke of the brush. I was tempted to use a roller brush, as I’ve heard people do, but I have used this stuff before (and also got bubbles before) so I was leery of doing that.

It took a total of twelve hours to apply it, moving slowly, room by room, slowly backing my way to the kitchen entrance and the back door.

Surprisingly, this stuff dried in no time. It was dry in about 4 hours, enough to walk on.  Then, of course, a second coat is necessary. The wood likes to drink it up in places, so it looks a bit splotchy on the first application. So another marathon twelve-hour application was done last night. Let’s see how it looks…

This is the back bedroom.  You can see the reflections of the windows in on the floor.

And above is the front bedroom.

And above we see the short hallway.

Finally, below, we see the living room and living room extension.

And that’s it. This was a long, tough, and at times agonizing job. Expensive, too. I didn’t even keep track of all the money I spent this month, so now I have to go and dig up my receipts and total it all up. I would estimate a total of over $100.00 on stain, brushes and polyurethane.

And it’s not over yet. Take a look at this:

This looks like the wood was gouged in some way, but it’s insect damage. At first I was thinking it was termite damage from long ago, but the channels where it’s eaten up are too wide, leading me to think it was some kind of wood-boring beetle. At some point I will have to replace this board entirely. I’m unsure how or when; I will have to locate a duplicate three-inch tongue and groove floor-board and then cut this one out. For now, I just took the bucket of polyurethane and poured it in, filling the spaces and making it hard. I might get an area rug to cover it as it is unfortunately in the middle of the floor!

Lastly, here is my next project, once I get the quarter-rounds cut and installed:

This is the old oil furnace for the house. The blower is on the left (air filter sits directly on top of it) and the burner and firebox are on the right; air blows around it and straight up.  Not surprisingly, it produces a nice, warm heat (oil is a fantastic heat fuel; it has more BTU’s per dollar than any other fuel) but the flood I had a few years ago damaged the circuit board. I have the new one now and I’m planning to install it soon.

I will add the figures as soon as I have located my receipts…

Home Repair on a Budget: Day Twenty-three to Twenty-five

After the Thanksgiving holiday layoff, I got paid again and resumed work. This kind of hurt, because the funds I had designated for it went partially to the rental of the sander that didn’t work, and then I spent money for gas to get home on.

So, I had to rent a second sander and purchase paper.

Anyway, I didn’t get it picked up until 5:00 pm on Monday, and spent all evening and all night sanding the floors. Let’s take a look.

As you can see, this sander, using a 20-grit paper, cut quickly through the old finish and got right to the wood. It is a lot more labor intensive. With an orbital sander, the unit can stay in one place without too much danger of gouging the wood. Not so one of these. You absolutely must keep it moving at all times, as the drum will quickly gouge out a trough in the wood.

A few problems ensued, natually!

For some odd reason three of the sheets of paper just shredded. I know I got all the nails and things off the floor, so this had me puzzled. After those three sheets, I had no further problems.

Except for the dust collector. I noticed the bag wasn’t filling with sawdust, so I had take apart the unit to get to the clog.

This happened using the 20-grit paper; it really rips up a lot of floor in a short time, so the sawdust is heavy and sticky with old varnish. (Safety note: NEVER leave piles of sawdust in a closed bag, they have a tendency to go up in spontaneous combustion!) I just shook the sawdust out in the yard.

Finally, I got all the floors sanded. Here’s what it looked like then.

I am not sure why there is a darker area from the wall to about 3 feet out. This machine operates by turning it on and walking backward as you sand, so you have about 3 feet you don’t get on the first pass, and then you have to turn around and go the opposite way. Perhaps it has something to do with the direction of the grain; trees grow upward, so perhaps going in the opposite direction creates a different “cut.” No other way to do it, though.

Obviously noticeable is a larger gap where the sander couldn’t reach, about 4 inches wide.

To get to that I used my trusty belt sander, with a 50-grit coarse paper.

I could have rented an edger, but as seen here, this does a great job. I went out to Wal-Mart last night to round up all the 50-grit paper they had in stock.

And here’s the wall after sanding the edges.

The quarter-round molding will cover up the remaining lines, for the most part. And the stain I plan to use will hide the leftover, visible areas if all goes according to plan.

Old total: $284.83

New total $369.96 (cost of renting sander plus paper)

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