Finally. . . our Victorian Living Room!

Bill repainting the living room

Whew, it has been a big and busy year for the Berthels.  We moved back into the living room this weekend, after putting on the sixth and final coat of ceiling paint.  Yeah, six.  Well, you heard about it being too glossy.  Then, we needed to put on 3 coats of matte to get it just right.  I can’t say I’m completely pleased, as I am a precise and finicky painter, but it is livable.  We cleaned the woodwork, scoured the floor, touched up the walls and moved back in.  I still need to oil the woodwork and Bill is finishing the mantel detail, but we moved in.  And, we need to hang the light.  I think we’re both worn out, though, frankly.

To recap 2011, we opened the year with a full pregnancy on my part and Bill hurriedly moving through the floor in the master bedroom so that we could have a place to settle the baby.  We spent the first four months living in the guest room and downstairs because the smell of those floors was so strong.  The newborn took all of our energy and time, and yet, we began putting up sheetrock.  AND while we were living in the rest of the house, we began re-plastering the nursery, in anticipation that our little one would be moving in there by late spring.  Well, as most things go, that took us a while and it was late summer before Will lived in his room.  SO, while that room became livable, we tore apart the living room, in hopes that we could plaster and paint and be done by the holidays.  It is the holidays, so we had to move in.

We decided to fore go refinishing the rest of the floors, until we could find the product we liked and the time opened up for us to do the work without sacrificing Will’s lungs or our sanity.  As of yet, we don’t know when that process will be complete, but I can say that we’re feeling the need to rest and work on the details.  With so many tidbits to finish up, I don’t know when we’ll begin the next big project.  Right now, we have two bedrooms to refinish, one bath to redo, one laundry room, a garage to paint, floors all over to refinish and all of the hallways to rework.  There is a lot left to do. . . but a lot more time to do it.

Moved in finally

Right now, we are going to enjoy our little guy and complete the little things we have going on.  I have lots of painting to keep me busy and Bill will share his woodworking as it progresses.

In the meantime, enjoy your holidays.  And write when you get a chance, we love hearing from you.

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Is the painting finished yet?

Putting up masking to repaint the ceiling

Technically, no.  Well, maybe.  Okay, I’m honestly not sure anymore.  We’ve repainted the walls and now the ceiling, so everything has about 4 coats of paint and at least one coat of primer.  It is our living room after all, so we’ve wanted it to look absolutely perfect and it has taken a while to get there.  We switched brands of paint as well as colors for the room in mid stride and ended up not liking the results.  So, after some debating a lot of test mixing, we finally found the right wall color and then Bill wanted to repaint the ceiling to a matte finish so that it looked smoother.  I can’t blame him, and yet it was just too much for me to think about.  I’m ready to be done already.  I think we’re honestly both tired of living in the dining room.  Not to mention, once this room is actually finished, it will be the first time in 2.5 years that we’ll live in the house in all the rooms.   Since we moved in back in July of 2009 we have yet to occupy all the rooms of the house and enjoy them all at once.  Once we move back into the living room, all ten rooms in the house will be used to their full capacity, and we’ll take a much needed break from plaster work.  Oh, there is plenty more to be done, but Bill is going to do some wood working and I”m going to paint for a while, maybe a long while.

The final choice of green

So, this is the living room at this point.  I haven’t yet decided if I really want to stencil this whole room.  I know, I know.  I have started creating a stencil for it and I’ve talked big about it, and now I’m changing my mind again.  The walls look really nice plain and I’ve picked out a ceiling stencil.  Thinking I might just hang art and pictures and let it go at that.  I’ve decided how to stencil the front hall and with a patterned rug, it might be enough. (I do realize that I owe you a stencil tutorial.)

We aren’t going to buy rugs for a while, though, considering that Will is enjoying the walker right now and the hardwood floor works well for him.  So, we rolled up the other rugs downstairs so he can maneuver room to room on his own.

The Christmas tree is planted squarely in our front window this year, a different spot than the previous two years.  It will be hard to decide the permanent place for the tree, but it seems to belong in this room for the long haul.  Now to place the furniture and think through how the baby will get around and what he’ll want to pull down or crumple.  Once everything is in place, I’ll post some completed photos and take you on a house tour as of where we are right now.  I just want to get all the plastic down and tools put away first.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

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!