Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow

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Andronicus, stain not thy floors with blood.

Clouds and eclipses may stain both moon and sun but it was our job to stain these floors with Cherry Minwax.

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But first, Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. (Does anyone else think that sounds a little dirty?)

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When I did the front bedroom floor back in (omigosh) 2010, I applied everything using a brush. It was a small room and I wanted to be very careful about how much and how evenly everything was applied.

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Ha! Remember that hair?

This time around I had a much larger area to cover and I also had help to keep things moving so we wouldn’t leave the stain on too long. We used wooly pads on the end of broom handles to spread everything on the floors.

Here’s the Pre-Stain going on in the bedroom. (Tee-hee!)

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I still wiped everything by hand to make sure I got even coverage.

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We had some fun with the rag bag.

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Then we started applying the stain a section at a time.

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Once that was done we used basically the same technique to apply polyurethane. We used a variety specially made for floors. It was a little thicker than usual polyurethane (it looked and felt like maple syrup) and allowed application of a second coat without needing to sand in between.

Here are some more pictures of the staining and sealing process, in no particular order.

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Hardwood Floors: To Sand or Not to Sand?

A lot of deliberation went into my decision to sand the finish off the hardwood floors.

Once I got the carpet padding up, I got some help from a couple of experts in identifying what issues I’d have to consider. I knew that the floor had been refinished at least once and had been sanded very aggressively. When I removed the quarter-round trim from the baseboards I could see the original surface of the floor as it had been installed under the baseboard. There seemed to be a drastic difference between the original surface of the floor and the present surface. Whatever the actual measurement was, it made me worry that there would not be much left to sand before getting down to the tongue and groove between the boards.

I wasn’t able to get a very good picture illustrating this but if you look closely you can see a dark line just under the baseboard. That’s the original surface of the floor.

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One expert took a razor blade and placed it between the boards at several points around the living room and dining room to see how far it would go in before hitting the tongue of the next board. In some places there was about a sixteenth of an inch, in some places more or less. It was very inconsistent. That led this expert to be very wary about the prospect of sanding the floor with a belt sander. He said that whoever sanded it so aggressively in the past probably did it to even out some “cupping” which means curving of the boards to make a wavy texture across the floor. They took off a lot of wood and didn’t leave us much to work with. He suggested removing the varnish using chemicals and only doing a light sanding before staining. He gave me a bid on what he would charge to do the chemical stripping and refinishing. I don’t remember how much the bid was but it was quite a bit more than I was hoping to pay, since it’s a very labor intensive process.

Since I have the skill to do it myself I thought about how long it might take me to do that but since I am only working on these things after my day job I decided I wouldn’t have the time to get the whole thing done if I did it myself.

Next I spoke to someone who is an expert at running a belt sander. I wanted to know how much the belt sander actually takes off if the floor doesn’t need leveling or anything. I hoped that just sanding enough to take the finish off and prepare it for staining would be possible with the amount of wood we had to work with. He took a look at the floor with me and assured me that with the right grade of sandpaper we could do what we needed in just two passes. One to take the finish off and one to smooth it for the stain. It would require a bit more detailed sanding by hand using a handheld orbital sander to get into areas that had cupped, but since cupping wasn’t a big problem, that wasn’t too daunting.

I rented the belt sander from Des Moines Rental and it came with an edge sander. They sold me a bunch of belts and pads for both sanders and promised to buy back whatever I didn’t use.

Over the next two days, our expert, Brian Smith, ran the belt sander while K.O. and I ran the edger and a handheld orbital sander. We did one pass with 80 grit sandpaper to get the finish off and then one pass with 100 grit sandpaper to prepare the floor for stain and sealant.

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Because Brian went so easy with the belt sander, there were lots of spots where the floor had cupped a little where I needed to use the handheld orbital sander to get the rest of the varnish off. I did that detail work while K.O. did the edges and the corners and in three days or so we had the whole floor sanded and ready to be cleaned and stained.

Next post: “Andronicus, stain not thy floors with blood.”

Continued Window Progress: Nearly Done!

At the time of my last post the remaining windows in the house looked like this:

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While I had a great experience learning how to refinish and reglaze the window sashes myself, I decided in the interest of time that hiring someone to do the sashes while I refinished the frames would be best.

I found a local contractor who was willing to work on the sashes while I prepped the frames. When we got the sashes back from him, K.O. and I took turns cutting slots into the sides of each sash so they could run on the metal weatherstripping rails we’d be installing in the frames.

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We used heavy duty chemical stripper to remove the paint from inside the frames. Though we didn’t test it, we were fairly certain that several layers of the old paint contained lead so we worked with gel chemicals and mineral spirits to keep as much of the paint contained as possible. Once we had the wood as clean as possible, we sanded the insides of the frames to restore the beauty of the natural wood grain and prep it for sealant.

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We sanded for a long time and grew very attached to our safety goggles and face masks. We loved wearing them. We never wanted to take them off. Can’t you just see the love in my eyes for these oh so fashionable accessories?

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In between what seemed like endless days of sanding, we measured the frames, ordered the metal runners from Dorbin in Chicago, and did the necessary prep work so they’d fit around the weight pulleys. For that I used a pair of tin snips. Tin snips seem to come in one size. One size does not fit all. Maybe someday they’ll make tin snips in my size.

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There were some hard to reach areas where the chemical stripping gel just didn’t get the job done.

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For those areas I used my Dremel tool.

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Here’s one of the areas around the pulleys in progress.

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I needed to replace about half of the weight ropes. Once I did that we were ready to install our newly refinished sashes. Here’s one of the dining room windows going in.

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At the time of this post we’re still waiting for the stops to come back from being dunk stripped and we need to install the locks and lifts. The facing parts of the trim still need to be sanded, stained, and sealed. But in the meantime, the sashes work, they are beautiful, and they are amazingly airtight and rattle free. Here are a few of our nearly completely rehabbed windows:

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Mission Accomplished!

When we left off last time, our living room and dining room looked like this:

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On Saturday, it looked like this!

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Actually, that picture is from after I’d cleaned up after the party a bit. But you get the idea.

Friday night Brandon put up the last of the wallpaper border in the dining room.

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I’m very pleased with how it came out.

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On Saturday morning he put the attic door back on with freshly painted hardware.  (I still have a little more clean-up work to do on that door, but it looked pretty nice having it back up.)

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On Saturday night Our New Old House was full of friends and laughter. We finished all the projects on our list in the knick of time and it was a wonderful party.

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We’re so grateful for everybody who came and celebrated with us! Our house is so much warmer with friends to share it with.

Countdown to party: T-minus 2 days…

Here’s where we were on Tuesday night. Party’s on Saturday. Can we do it?

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I think we can.

We’ve made some good progress on the dining room. Here’s how the dining room windows looked mid-chemical strip:

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And with chemical stripping done, waiting for wood filler to dry so I can sand it.

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The rest of the woodwork in the dining room is coming along nicely. I finished stripping one side of this door.

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And the rest of the woodwork on the doorways:

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Here’s the kitchen doorway mid-chemical strip:

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Brandon took off the door so I could get the rest of this doorway stripped. It’s pretty much done now except for some minor clean up of putty between the pieces.

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And the kitchen doorway very close to finished:

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In the living room we still had a section of wall that needed priming.

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So Brandon primed it.

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Also, I heat stripped the paint off the window frame and baseboards on that side.

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There are still sections of the floor that need to have the carpet padding scraped off so I’ve been finishing that job this week.

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Finally, in preparation for the party, I made a batch of cookies. Ok, really this batch was just to motivate myself to keep working. Well, ok it was to bribe myself to keep working. Whatever. Cookies rock.

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Last night I painted the whole living room with the same bone white that is in the dining room. I was only able to do one coat, but it’s a huge improvement from the stark white primer. Tonight I’m going to finish scraping the dining room floor (finished the living room floor on Tuesday,) do a couple of touch ups on the wood work, and possibly heat strip the woodwork around the living room front door and front windows. Brandon started putting up the wallpaper border in the dining room last night and we’ll finish that tonight. Then Friday will be for arranging furniture and cleaning up.

Phew! There’s nothing like marathon house fixing!

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