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)

Home Repair on a Budget: Day Twenty-Two

The day I was looking forward to for a long time turned into a disaster!

All the main painting work was done, the trim finished, everything moved out and floors swept and vacuumed. So, at 9:00 am I arrived at the rental place and picked up the floor sander, and a bunch of sandpaper.

By 12:00 noon I had everything ready and fired up the sander.

The unit is extremely heavy, but operates very smoothly.

But no sooner had I started than I realized I had a significant problem.

This area has been sanded four times in the picture, and you can see here, absolutely nothing is accomplished. The sander could not even touch this old stuff. This is not the cheap stuff you buy today that’s just pressed sawdust and glue with a thin layer of veneer on top. This is solid wood, one inch thick, with a heavy-duty finish on it.

So, I went out to the building to get my belt sander, and tried that.

The belt sander, using a medium 80-grit paper, was able to cut right through to the wood. So, that made it clear, I’ll need to do the floors with a drum sander, which is an entirely different kind of work. It’s a lot more labor intensive, but it’s something I have done before and it’s difficult to use,  so at least I know what I’m dealing with.

Thanksgiving is upon us, so that’s all the work until after the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Home Repair on a Budget: Days Seventeen Through Twenty-One

Well, the biggest milestone has been passed. All the painting of the front and sides of the house has been done. That is, the living room, the living room extension, hallway, and the two bedrooms have been completed.  I can’t begin to tell how relieved I am.

There will be a good many touch-ups to do, and things to correct and redo later, but the main job is done.

A few pics…

This is the back bedroom, with the double window facing the backyard. This window is in the roughest shape of all. Will need to be completely redone at a later date.

This is the closet of the back bedroom. Only bad thing about this door was someone painted it with a roller brush at some point. Ugh!

This is the closet door of the front bedroom, with a part of the doorframe and edge of wall that protrudes forward a bit. The windows and doors of this room were in the nicest shape of anywhere in the house.

Tomorrow is the big day: floor sanding.  I dread that…

Old total:  $284.83

New total: $284.83  (no new purchases)

Home Repair on a Budget: Day 16

I’m scratching my head this evening, but I think one mystery about my house has possibly been solved. Several features about this house have always puzzled me, such as why the ceilings and doorways are lower than most houses, and why the walls don’t seem to mate up just right in places.

I have come to believe my house is actually one of the post-war kit houses that could be ordered from Sears and other places and were shipped by rail and assembled on site. The ceilings, for example, are about 7’6″ high, and the doorways are lower, about 6’6″ or so. And many places such as corners don’t seem to have been mated together properly, with a few gaps here and there.

Another thing: all the corners in the house have small 1×1″ trim boards attached where they join, but in some places 1×2″ boards were used. Very odd, since most houses use joint compound and drywall tape, or plaster, to form the corners.

This is one such corner. I hate that the camera really struggles to translate the color, but anyway, every place where there’s a joint you have this kind of mating: wood strips to close the gaps in the walls.

And then there’s this curious place in the hallway floor. This was discovered after the old carpet was ripped up. There’s this line where it looks like the floor was just cut. At first I thought it was done to install the old furnace, but then I noticed the line is on a direct plane with the center of the house, directly under the roof peak.

It was odd to me they would cut the floor like this, and even seasoned HVAC guys don’t generally do sloppy work like this. But it makes a lot more sense if this is actually a seam where two halves the house are joined together.

I will need to research these old houses some more and see if I can find what model it was, and where it was sold.

In other news, my bedroom door is done and both bedrooms have received the first coat of paint.  Her’s a quick view of the back bedroom.

Oddly, this back bedroom has a small chair rail. I’m leaving it, will just be a new challenge when it comes to painting it.

Lastly, this little scraper is worth it’s weight in gold: I think it was about $5.00 at Lowe’s. With several packs of scraping material or sandpaper, it cuts right through old paint fast. Definitely a good investment.

You can see the attached scraping material on it, it’s some kind of very rough mesh. You can even use them to scrape small items without the handle tool.

Had to buy more paint this evening. So, new totals are in order…

Old total:  $216.50

New Total: $284.83

Home Repair on a Budget: Days Eleven-Fifteen

I combined several days of entries into this one this time, simply because the work was repetitive: no need to repeat “I painted trim today” for four days straight. On the plus side, I have good news.

All the paint and trim in the living room and hallway has been done. Four straight days of marathon sessions resulted in completion of one LONG project. The living room, as I believe I mentioned before, has eight doorways, three windows and crown moldings and baseboards. So the vast majority of the work was trim work.  I didn’t take pics: the room is still full of the detritus of a major paint job. Tomorrow I will clean a lot of that up.

I did start on the bedrooms tonight. The first thing was to paint the front bedroom door and remove the hardware from the closet doors and second bedroom door.

One thing I had forgotten about: this old house has two old-fashioned box locks, the kind that uses a skeleton key, on the closet doors.

I doubt these locks have ever been used, they’ve been painted over many times.

I got the paint off the screws and removed them, then the lock slides right out.

Once the lock is out, it’s time to get the paint off and free the deadbolt. There was so much paint that seeped into the lock and dried it was stuck solid. Had to take it apart (VERY CAREFULLY) so I didn’t get the cams or springs loose. Here’s the inside, with the deabolt removed for cleaning.

The deadbolt fits directly beneath the brass striker, and it’s also solid brass. After I cleaned the mechanism I oiled it with a touch of transmission fluid and wiped it clean, then put cover on.

Then it was time to clean the paint off the outer face of the lock.  Once I’m finished with the doors I can get a buffer and polish the lock face, which is solid brass.

Lastly, the house has these neat crystal doorknobs, definitely an item you can’t find anymore. This was installed on one of the hall closets this evening as I got the hardware re-installed in the living room and hallway.  Gotta love this old stuff!

Previous Total:     $216.50

New Total:             $216.50  (Still no new purchases, but will have to spring for more paint, soon!)

Home Repair on a Budget: Day Ten

Today marked a milestone of sorts: all the trim, windows, doors and door frames have finally received the final coats of primer in preparation for painting. The baseboards have long been done, but the door frames and windows, and the doors themselves were taking some time. This is all focused on the living room and hallway for now, which is the main living space.

The living room and hallway have eight doors total and three windows.  Front door, coat closet, kitchen door, bedroom doors (2), bathroom door, hall closet one and hall closet two.  And two windows on the front of the house and one smaller one on the side.  That is a LOT of trim  work. Nothing to do but keep plugging along on it.

One issue, as stated earlier in this blog, was my earlier over-extending myself and subsequent exhaustion. I’m learning to slowly pace myself, keeping in mind Wyatt Earp’s famous quote on gunfighting: “Take your time, but quick.”

Here is where I am today.

This is the front door and the hall closet, masked, primed and ready for paint tomorrow.

I forgot the pictures of the windows, but it’s nothing new, and same old stuff.  I am actually not sure if I will even paint the windows themselves; I may replace them entirely in the near future, depending on funds.  We’ll see. If not, I will tackle that a bit later.

This is the hallway, with the twin closet doors and the bathroom door. The primer is still wet in the picture; when it dries it is flat and non-reflective.

The two bedroom doors are opposite these doors.

This is one VERY tight space to work in. Back in the day, there were minimal (if any) code requirements regulating the size of hallways and widths. To give you an idea of the size, that bathroom doorway measures exactly 24 inches wide, so the hallway isn’t much wider than that. Bending over runs the risk of brushing against a newly painted surface, which I did today!

Lastly, this is a bit of a mystery to me. This is the front bedroom doorway. Notice the door jambs.  They only go about two-thirds of the way down, and are neatly cut off.  This is true for both doorways.

I’m at a loss to explain this, but I have one possible idea. If anyone knows otherwise, shoot me a comment.

My guess is it was not closed completely to allow for better air/heat circulation. Back in the day, this house was heated with a wood or coal or oil stove, with a flue opening in the living room. And later, an oil furnace was installed in the living room floor, with a single large vent blowing the hot air upwards.  So there was no heat flowing to the rooms. Having a slight opening in the doorway would allow for some heat to come in, I guess.  In theory anyway. In the winter, you’ll freeze your hiney off if you leave the doors closed.  Of course, now the house has a fully central heat pump system, so it’s no longer an issue.

Tomorrow’s job: painting all that trim with the final coats of latex trim paint.

Previous Total:    $216.50

Today’s Total:       $216.50    (Again, no new purchases.)

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