Tuesday, August 18, 2015

House Update: Bedroom Floors

I know it's been forever since I've given you an update on the house, but the truth is drywall is boring.

Drywall mudding is boring.   Also dusty.

Painting is boring.   Also messy.

Sorting antique flooring is boring.    Have I told you about this flooring?   I found it at a salvage place, without nails [!], for 69 cents a square foot.  About a thousand square feet of 2-1/4 inch maple and oak antique flooring from a 1910 house up near Chicago.   [With the miller's name stamped on the back.  Henry Buchholtz.]  Also, every board was numbered and labelled with the room it came out of.   Cool!   We brought it home, wiped it down and stored it for a year in the basement.   Then we had to haul the blasted stuff out of the basement to the upstairs, which meant up the basement stairs, through the house, outside and up the ladder, over the roof, through Claire's closet.   Piles and piles of flooring.  Also, it was very hot.  There was a lot of complaining.    

I wanted to sort by number/room, but I was out-voted.   Okay, the truth is, I caved to all the glaring.   We sorted by length and end configuration:  flat, tongue, groove.   Flat/flats here, flat/grooves there, flat/tongues here, tongue/grooves there.   Then it was just a matter of being as efficient as possible with the sizes so that we wasted as little wood as possible.   Once the wood was laid out by size, it wasn't too hard to find a board very, very close to the size we needed.  

Laying antique flooring is not boring, but it is a big pain in the everywhere.  Old boards have gunk in the grooves.   They are bent.   They had been refinished once before so the tops didn't match up when nailed down.  It took weeks to get the floors laid.    If you ever need tips for laying antique flooring, then give us a shout because Eric is expert now.  Triangle jigs are your friends.

Then there was hand planing the worst of the unevens down.   That was my job.   I used this Bosch 6 Amp 3-1/4-Inch Planer .  I am a great planer.   [After the first 15 minutes or so of getting used to the crouching, pushing and noise.]  Planing was kind of fun actually.   It's the loud power tool thing.  Also, planing is dusty.

Then there was the sanding with the monster sanders that we rented from Menard's.   Sanding is boring.   Also dusty.  Also really exhausting.

We had to make some important decisions during the sanding.   Most importantly, how perfect do we want the top to be? 

Answer:  Not perfect.   It's old wood.   With a lot of stories [my favorite is the very old ink stain we found in between two boards.   Very old.   The top stain had been sanded off when the floor was refinshed earlier [1970s?], but I am dying to know Who spilled that ink and when?]  There are places where the old finish is still there where the boards were uneven and the megasander just didn't get down that far.   There are places where the awful dark walnut finish from the last re-finishing  didn't come quite all the way off. [Who in their right mind would finish light maple flooring with a walnut finish?   I ask you!]   There are nail holes from when the floor was originally laid in the original house.   There are cracks and dings in some of the boards.   I want those stories to stay there.   I want to look at that floor and be reminded of all the people who walked on it and worked on it for the last 100+ years.  I love every imperfection.

Also, I'm lazy and there's just only so much sanding I can stand before Let's Freaking Move On Already.

Then there was the cleaning of all the dust.   Three times, just to make sure we got as much as possible off the walls and the floor before the floor finishing.  

In short, we've been so busying doing the house [and the jobs and the garden and the canning and the occasional house cleaning] that there just was not time to document it.   Sometimes you have to choose between doing something and taking pictures of it.

However,  this past weekend,  finally,...FINALLY! we finished the floors.  And I remembered to ask Lily to take a pic so there would be at least a little documentation.   The pic above shows me just starting the first coat of shellac in Lily's room.  Dig that apple green wall color.  It's cheery, I tell you.

This is what we did:

First coat: Amber Shellac, by Zinsser.   I heart shellac.   It's old.   It's fun.   It's got that period look we're after.   Also all of the doors and trim we've salvaged had/have shellac on them, so...matchy matchy!  Also, have you SEEN what shellac does to wood?   Gor. Geous!  

Then:  Light sand with 220 grit,  and wipe down with tack cloth [cheesecloth soaked in wax.  Awesome!]

2nd coat:  More of the shellac in Lily's room.  Claire's room is in a corner of the house with a totally different light, and darker wall color and she only needed one coat.

Then: Light sand with 220 grit,  and wipe down with tack cloth.

3rd and 4th coat:   Sealer, by Zinsser.   It seals up the wax coat in the shellac and preps the surface for the polyurethane that comes next.   Then sand and wipe down after each of these coats.

5th and 6th coats:  Minwax, Ultimate Floor Finish, Water-based polyurethane.  It was a lot more expensive, but everything Eric studied recommended it so we went with it.   We only want to do this One Freaking Time and if you don't pay in quality materials, then you will definitely pay in time and aggravation.  [I know this for a fact.]

Pics of finished floors coming soon.


  1. P.S. The background of your blog matches Lily's room. But you already knew that right?

  2. Oops! Looks like my first comment didn't go through so a P.S doesn't make sense. Anyway, can't WAIT to see the finished floor photos. You amaze me!

  3. Hooray for making progress! The floor looks good!

  4. "Sometimes you have to choose between doing something and taking pictures of it." Please tell the undergraduates.

  5. You? Lazy? You're kidding, right? ;) I am floored (hah!) by how amazing you and your family are, being able to do everything under the sun! I just can't even contemplate tackling flooring with antique boards.

  6. Love it all...can NOT wait for pictures. Hurry!!!!! (LOL)

  7. Wow they look amazing and you have given them a new home for many years to come well done for all your hard work

  8. Hello, Robin! Clearly, fixing the bedroom floors was an impressive amount of work, from the sanding right up to the coating. It’s great that you finished it! After finishing a great amount of housework like this, I think it would help if you reward yourself. I’m sure it would feel great, and make the next set of work less taxing. All the best!

    Van Lucas @ JPC Custom Homes


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