Refinishing Floors

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, mostly due to my spending my time more focused on the house work and the fact that I am actively working on my degree. With a baby on the way, the master bedroom and adjoining nursery-nook are of the highest priority!

Most every floor in our house needs refinishing. All of the first floor has worn finish and some slight damage due to years of neglect. The second floor has a mix of things going on. THe hall is very worn, the bathroom we have already refinished and the bedrooms are all at different degrees of “bad”. Worse of all the rooms in the entire house is the master bedroom. With heavy paint on the perimeter 20 -24 inches of the room and the entire niche painted with what is at least three coats of porch enamel there’s major sanding and work to be done on this room’s floor!

Refinishing floors is something any energetic DIYer can do. It involves renting some equipment and being fairly organized but more so, it requires muscle and energy. Sanding a wood floor is hard, dusty work. The sanders are heavy, operating the sander requires upper body strength and you’ll feel like quitting well before the job is done.

Drum Sander

Here’s a picture of a typical drum sander rented from the local hardware / rental center. We’re lucky enough to have a rental center 15 minutes from our house in the next village south of where we live. Their prices are reasonable and better yet, they are very encouraging and nice people.

Without going into too much detail about the sander, know this: The whole unit weighs about 180-200 pounds so get help if you need to carry it up stairs!

Taking the Sander for a Walk Floor sanded before edging completed

The sander is essentially a large electric motor that spins a single drum that the sandpaper is attached to. This drum spins at a very fast rate of speed tearing whatever it comes in contact with into dust! And speaking of dust, 90% is captured by the suction the machine generates and deposits into the attached dust bag. The master bedroom being roughly 400 square feet of floorspace generated just under a full 30 gallon garbage can of dust when all said and done. Good thing the sander has dust collection. Could you imagine having to sweep all that dust!

As you can also see in the picture, we had paint to remove from the master bedroom floor. It appeared to be a porch and deck enamel type paint that was still very well adhered to the floor. Luckily it was only painted around the perimeter of the room … what appears to have been a painted border around a centered throw-rug which was stapled to the wood. To efficiently remove the paint required that I start with 26 grit paper. For those of you that have not seen 26 grit before it’s similar in texture as asphalt roofing shingles. Needless to say, this floor has some irreversible damage not even this heavy-duty sander can remedy but the floor will be massively improved no doubt!

The sander has an on and off trigger. It’s as easy as that. You plug it in and pull the trigger and hang on! The sander wants to move forward due to the rotation of the spinning drum as it gets traction on the floor. The only “rule” is do not allow the drum to be in contact with the floor while standing still. If you keep the sander moving forward or backwards, the finish will be good. If you stop, even pause, the drum will create a “swail” in the floor.

The painted floor was in such poor condition it required 5 full passes starting with 26 grit and ending with 100 (26, 32, 60, 80, 100). With so many passes on heart pine flooring, I surely got a few “swails” in there. Although not pictured, I rented a “pad sander” that allowed me to remove many of the defects of the more harsh sanding process the drum sander left behind.
Also not pictured is the edge sander. As you can barely see in the picture, the drum and pad sander cannot quite get closer enough to the baseboards so an edge sander is required. The edge sander is a heavy-Floor sanded before edging completed duty disc sander that allows you to safely sand right up to the baseboards. I removed and discarded all of the shoe molding since what was used was quarter-round. I’ll digress here but it really bugs me when carpenters use quarter-round instead of real shoe molding. Quarter-round lacks the slight vertical gain you get from shoe molding which makes the profile a little more elegant but more so, makes sweeping the floor, up to the edges, more easily done!

After all the sanding was complete and I vacuumed and tack-mopped the floor to rid it of all dust the finishing could begin! We chose to stay true to the period of the house and used an oil finish. To be specific, I researched oil finishes for 1880’s era homes. Most commonly used were tung oil finishes; sometimes simply tung oil alone. Waterlox still makes their “Original” formula just as they did in 1910, only 25 years later than our home was built. As far as commercially available floor coatings go, this was as close as we were going to get to “original”.

The oil accepts up to 25% oil based stain added directly to it or the floor can be stained first. Since we only wanted to add subtle tone to the already well aged heart pine floor, we added 25% Minwax Early American stain directly to the first coat of oil. I pad-applied the first coat and vented the room. One nice feature about tung oil is that it dries and cures by oxidation meaning all you have to do is supply fresh air to the room. An open window with a window fan does the trick… even in the middle of the winter with temperatures in the 20’s.

The entire finish takes 4 coats to complete. The first coat with stain mixture (which soaks in dramatically) and then three subsequent coats of the oil alone to build up a durable, semi-gloss finish. Allowing at least 24 hours between coats to dry, an entire floor takes just under a week to complete however with the busy schedule of everyday life and trying to optimize the warmest days to vent and circulate air had us done in about 2 weeks.  

Putting in the base molding

I’m sure we’ll write one last blog post on the mast bedroom to show the room in it’s finished state but here I’ll share one last picture that gives a decent visual for the finished floor. There are a few tools on the floor due to my putting in some extra base molding. The living and dining rooms have double stacked bas moldings so we took that design element upstairs into the master bedroom as well. This allowed me to make a new, clean line of base molding which framed the newly refinished floor nicely.

Every project thus far has taught us new lessons. The major lesson I’m taking away from refinishing the master bedroom floor is to never use a lamb’s wool applicator pad again. I brushed the last coat by hand due to the fuzz left from the “lint free, fuzzless” pads we bought. I washed them before use as directed and “delinted” them too. Oil floor finishes do not require any sanding of the oil but due to the pad leaving fuzz on the third coat, I had to sand the third coat, mop with mineral spirits and then proceeded to brush apply the final coat. It came out nicely considering where it began!
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Stenciled and Sanded, part 8

The first day's work of stenciling

Well, I’ve spent the last week working on the stenciling and I’m quite pleased.  The pattern is delicate and very Victorian, and the monochromatic palette is just perfect.  As the stencil is so delicate, I’ve had to work in small batches, only doing 5-8 patterns at a time.  I’ve only worked one wall completely, and I’m debating on doing more as I like the pattern so much and the rest of the fabrics will be solids (textures, but solids).

Bill is in favor of me doing the whole room, but it is exhausting work.  So for now, we’re starting with just the one wall.  We’ll see what January brings.

Huge belt sander

For his part, Bill has started the floor.  We rented a huge floor sander and he spent 8 hours sanding the previously painted floor with 4 different levels of sand paper.  One has to go in steps with sanding.  You start with the heaviest grade and go down slowly.  The grit on the initial sandpaper was like asphalt it was so heavy.  Neither of us could believe that it was what would be needed, but sure enough, once Bill used it, we couldn’t have gotten by without it.  I think that this room is truly the most difficult room in the house, due to all the plastering and sanding and wall removing we’ve had to do.  Other rooms should be smoother.  But, each comes with its challenges and cool discoveries.

Bill sanding away

Once the main part of the floor was sanded, Bill rented and edger to get close to the walls.  Unfortunately, this is a hands and knees sort of machine, but it tucks right in next to the woodwork.

The pine floors smell amazing during and after the process.  I can’t imagine how this house must have smelled when it was brand new.  This house would have smelled of fresh pine and waxed cherry woods (at least, that is what I imagine.)  Course, it could have smelled like coal and bad wallpaper paste.

Now that the edges are smooth, Bill rented a second push sander, a pad sander.  It was a newer machine and lighter “on its feet”, smoothing out any ridges that were left.  We will likely be able to do most of the house with just this sander, but we’ll see as we get into each room.  This is just our first test on the floors.  Bill worked tirelessly on Sunday finishing the corners with a hand sander and then cleaning the dust out of the room.  He was anxious to put our first coat of stain and oil on the floor.  The weather was warmer yesterday, so we could vent the room properly.  I didn’t go upstairs most of the day to avoid the fumes, but I peeked in on the room this morning.  It is stunning.  Bill is gifted and the original pine floors lend to a beautiful finish.  We’ll put on several more coats of oil to finish over the next week/two weeks.  Can’t wait to show you the final pics.

Floor sanded before edging completed

Finishing the painting, Master part 7

We took a little time for ourselves over Thanksgiving, sharing a wonderful weekend with Bill’s family, including his parents, brother with his wife and children and Uncle Ron from Manhattan.  As is tradition, we cooked a lot and ate a lot, rested some and just enjoyed the good company.  It was a much needed break.

Now that the holiday is over and we’re looming into Christmas, we are back in full mode over the next several weekends to complete the Master Bedroom.  Whew, it’s been a long time coming.  I believe we are in day 35 of working on the room.

I chose the color "Aspen Grey" for the walls

The nook has been primed and painted, the closet has been painted and I’m in process of painting woodwork with the final coat.  Bill will put new shelves in the closet and make it more usable, as it will be his closet for work clothes.  I’m looking forward to inheriting his home-built armoire for my own closet, which you’ll be able to see once we move in all the furniture.

And on to stenciling.  A huge thanks to my mom, Clare,  who managed to find my stencil in her area in South Carolina!  I’m so grateful to her and so excited that the room will have the decor I was hoping for.

In tribute to Donna Jean who asked me to outline my stencil process, I’ve posted some photos and I’ll walk you through it.

My stencil -- in blue acetate.

First, it is vital to have a good quality stencil, and preferably more than one for any project.  The stencil should be well made, and I personally prefer working on a heavy acetate stencil.  Just in case something happens to it, like tearing or paint build up, you’ll want to have more than one.  For this project, I have four.  It is an incredibly delicate pattern, and I didn’t want to run out of it.

Second, a stencil brush is the best way to go.  Stencil companies try to reel in people by showing how easily they can roll a stencil, but a brush will give a quality finish without seepage underneath.  Stencil brushes are stout, round, short bristle brushes.  I have three on hand in different sizes, but will likely use a 1″ for this project.

Here is my test, the stencil paint is too wet for my liking. I'll redo.

Third, the paint should be thick, not watery.  Plain latex housepaint is sometimes okay, but I like the heavy body acrylics as they give me the driest brush.  It is important to keep the brush dry during the process.  If it is wet or soaked with paint, the paint will seep under the pattern on the stencil and ruin the design.

You can use a removable adhesive spray to position and reposition the stencil on the wall so you don’t have to hold it, but I just tend to hold it in place and work from there.  (You can also use tidbits of blue painters tape to hold the edges)

Since this stencil has a definitive pattern that is whole, I will start a few inches away from the left corner and work both to the right and down across the wall.  There are small triangles in the stencil called registration marks; they are meant to help me align the stencil pattern as I go.  You can see one of them in the bottom right of the photo above.  I will also use a bubble level to make sure the stencil is straight on the wall; I can’t count on the ceiling or floor to be even.

Putting up the stencil for the first time, I get some paint on my brush and make sure that all the bristles are evenly covered by moving the brush in a circular motion on a flat surface, like the edge of my stencil.  Then, I press the brush lightly and use a circular motion to work the paint into the stencil.  If the brush is dry enough, it will leave just the pattern, and not seep underneath.

I plan on doing just one wall to start the room.  It is weeks of work to do a whole room, as you might remember from the dining room, and this is a more delicate stencil.  If I really like it and I have the energy, I might do the other three walls.

After the painting is complete, Bill will ready the floor by sanding!!  Hopefully, this Friday we will start that process!

Still painting . . .

Just a short catch up. . . We are still in the master bedroom, wrapping things up to prepare for the floor rejuvenation!  We can’t wait to try our plans on the floor.  The whole house needs floor work, but this will be our first real test.

So far in painting, the master bedroom now has a fine coat of grey on the walls accompanied by a sharp looking off-white trim.

Check out the interesting floor pattern in this shot. ?? Several places in the house have the floor painted around what appears to be an old rug. Probably done to conserve paint.

Here you can see Bill rolling the walls after I’ve cut in around the edges and moulding.  It’s a beautiful warm grey, close to a French grey that will look great when the floors are complete.  I’m on the warpath to do some stenciling, but have run into an issue getting more than one stencil of the pattern that I’d like to reproduce.  However, I’ll be working on the ceiling trim later this week to complete the painting in the main part of the bedroom. Bill is still in process of priming the nook and closet.  Almost there!

We have been delayed a little more as we have been spending a lot of our time this fall with cool people.  We’ve had a lot of visitors over the weekends, and just last weekend, it was my sweet cousin and her hubby from Missouri.  I’ve also been spending some weekdays with a fun artsty neighbor friend and a new friend who is visiting family in Ithaca.  Not to mention dinners and games with friends from Golden, Bill’s company.  It has been a wonderfully social fall for us, especially being that we live in such a small town.  So, “thank you” to all the cool visitors we’ve had.  We’re looking forward to more!

For those of you that are just finding our blog for the first time, we’re in process of re-doing the entire master bedroom and sharing our step by step process.  You can see Master Bedroom Parts 1-5 in the archives of the blog, or click below for each part.  Thanks so much for following!

Master Bedroom Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

Painting!! Master Bedroom Part 5

Things are moving along, we’re on day 26, I believe, of working on the bedroom.  Bill has completed all the plastering and priming and woodwork in the main bedroom, and he’ll be winding down the rest of the plastering in the nook this weekend.

All primed and ready for the paint

We were a little behind after I last posted due to finding some hairline cracks in one of the main walls after we had primed. . . which is really not cool.  We think that because of the painting and activity in that room that the hairline cracks became apparent.

So, we re-meshed and re-plastered and re-primed that entire wall, which added a few more days to the work run.  But, now, its all in pristine condition.  It’s just hard to keep in mind some days that we are still learning as we go, and that the house won’t be perfect.  But, it will be our work, and we’ll love what we’ve done, knowing that the small flaws are what enhance its character and show its age.

View into the nook

Much of the moulding that had originally been around the windows and floor was removed, due to the odd window coverings and makeshift closet.  So, we searched for substitutes and small pieces in the basement that would work.  Thanks to a super resourceful neighbor, Neighbor Dave, we were able to replace what was around  the windows, so we were just shy of the basecap moulding for the baseboards.

What we found in our lumber yard works, though it isn’t a perfect match.  However, the room is complete and very sharp due to Bill’s gifted wood-working abilities.

View from the windows

Now, on to what I actually can do.  Paint.  I don’t add a lot to the plastering except for moral support, and I didn’t prime much on this go. . . so now its my turn to lend a hand to the process.

For those of you that don’t know, my background is scenic art — painting for theatre.  And, I have spent a few years doing some home and business painting, both faux finishes and straight up wall painting.  (Bill has, too, actually, the multi-gifted man he is.)

Bill's sweet handy-work

So, painting is a real joy for me.  In this room, I took the time to make one of my favorite tools for cutting in the edges, a bamboo brush holder.  Unbelieveably, there was a stick of bamboo in the attic.  I sawed off the end to get a hole opening and then sawed slits around the edge.  With the addition of some rubber bands, the bamboo can hold a brush so that I can stand on the floor and cut in around the edges.  Voila!

 

Ceiling is painted

What you see here is the now painted ceiling, a pale grey that I mixed with some leftover wall paint and our normal ceiling color.  Though ceilings are not the most fun to work on, there is such a huge difference between a ceiling that needs work and a pristine, freshly coated ceiling.

Next, I’ll cut in the walls and paint them with 2 coats before doing any stencil work.  Stay tuned for those pics!

Master Bedroom. . . part 4

It is long overdue that I catch all of you up on the house work.  We have been working, but there aren’t a lot of photos to show for it.  So, I’ll catch you up on what I can.

 

Two cars fit in the one car garage

 

First, here is a shot of our newly re-organized 2 car garage.  In the last post, I wasn’t able to show how we could park everyone in comfortably.  We’ve spent a few days organizing and hanging tools to make room for everything, so I needed to share.  It’s a tight squeeze, but in the heart of winter,  might pay off to keep the cars snow free.

Now, on to where we are with the bedroom.  It’s now day 19 of the Master Bedroom work.  And, Bill is sanding as I type.  The plaster is almost complete, we’ll need a few touch ups right before priming.  The room is chalk white, except for some of the pink trim showing.  If the floors looked good, the room would be pristine.

 

King of plaster!

 

Bill will be finishing the sanding today and we’ll start priming.  We’re using a shellac primer, which allows us to paint over the old trim, the plaster, anything raw like wood, and have completely even coverage.  It’s beautiful stuff.  Once the priming is done, I can spend the week painting the ceiling and walls!!!  I won’t tell you the colors I’ve chosen yet, to share the surprise in the photos yet to come.

We will still need to touch up plaster in the “nook” and then in the closet.  We’re lucky to have a rather large closet in such an old house, but it certainly isn’t big enough for the two of us.  We’ll remodel it so that Bill has lots of room for  work clothes, and I’ll inherit the armoire that he is currently using.

The “nook”.  It is a small “room” off to the left side of the master bedroom, about 7′ x 8′ with a window and a cabinet built it.  Originally, it could have been a dressing area, or a place for a crib.

 

Master Bedroom floor plan, (each letter is a window)

 

Sometime since 1894, someone put a sheetrock wall between it and the main bedroom, with a window and door opening.  We left the sheetrock to divide the spaces, as ideally down the line we’d like to make a second full bath in that space (if the plumbing allows.)  I’ve put in a quick floor plan sketch so you can see really how the room is laid out.  (Technically, we don’t have a fireplace in the bedroom, but the chimney runs up through the side wall.)

Lastly, once the painting is done, I’ll stencil and we’ll do the trim.  But, we will also do the floors in this room to complete the whole thing.

The middle of the room is bare wood flooring, as in, never been touched with any sort of finish.  The outside, around the trim has a 2′ painted perimeter.  Clearly, a carpet was in the room, and everything not covered was painted brown.  The upstairs hallway and small back bedroom are the same.  However, the painted area is a mess, and we’re going to sand, condition, stain and finish the wood to protect it and make it sharp looking.  If we felt we could maintain an original oil and wax finish, we would.  But, we don’t really need more upkeep on this house than we already have.  I’m aiming to get started on the floor before Thanksgiving, but it will depend on how quickly I can get the painting completed.

I’m off to help Bill clean up sanding dust, hope you enjoy the update!

Working on the kitchen, library and bedroom

Well, there isn’t a lot to show this week in pictures because the progress shots aren’t nearly as exciting as the finished pics with the “before” alongside.  But, I can promise you there is a lot happening.

This week, I started working on the kitchen.  No, the bedroom isn’t complete, but I needed a project of my own while Bill plasters his heart out.  He has done such a beautiful job in the Master bedroom that I’m still shocked it looks almost normal.  AND, we’ll be able to move in this fall.  I’ve picked out colors, stencils and I’m ready to put on the finishing touches.  While he works on that ceiling, I started peeling wallpaper in the kitchen.

Mid-project kitchen shot. . . looking towards the backyard and laundry room

To peel wallpaper in a normal setting, one would find a corner and just pull.  If it is put on correctly, it will come down smoothly without marring the walls.  “Put on correctly” meaning that the walls were primed beforehand.  In our case, most of this paper was put directly onto sheetrock or plaster, meaning that it takes hours to pull down 4 square feet.  The reason people put up wallpaper on un-primed surfaces is that its cheaper and it sticks really well.  I’ve spent four afternoons, so far, peeling down the border in the kitchen.  Spraying with a mix of water and fabric softener loosens the glue and then I can scrape with a razor blade.

Once I’m done, I’ll prime and paint.  We aren’t changing out appliances or counters in the kitchen yet, though it could really use it.  Down the road we’ll either custom build or get something more suitable.  Right now, there is just a mish mash of cobbled together counters and parts.  Except for the spacious butler’s pantry.  🙂  Yum!  I’ll shed light on that space down the road.

And, I mentioned the library in the subject for a reason. . . There are several other ongoing projects that we have yet to mention.  Bill is setting up his wood-shop in the basement, which is in process because of ongoing projects and major clean-out needed down there.  We have also finished the library, which was originally the front parlor, except for the bookshelves and stencil work we’re going to to.  It will definitely be my favorite room in the house once it is complete.  And, last November, we put in a pellet stove, which was a small overhaul in itself.  All of those we have yet to share here with photos, mainly because we want those pieces to be complete before you see them.  There is much to come!