Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wood floors: Before and After

The floors were sanded and refinished on Tuesday! The bad news that I already posted about is that this is the last sanding for them.

I know our contractor thinks we should have replaced them now. He also told Steve this week in reference to our radiators, "Why don't you get rid of those stupid things?" He must be tired of moving them.

We had to draw the line somewhere financially. These floors could last a while if taken care of.

I think the floors look lovely sanded and cleaned up myself.

Here's the view from the dining room to the hallway to the kitchen...

...and after refinishing.

Here's one of the bedrooms before and after.

Not everything has to be brand new to be beautiful. If we felt that way, we'd be living in new construction and not a 1910 2-flat!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Scary Spider

Arachnophobics beware!

Since some among us seem to be on the subject of bugs and booboos this week, I thought I'd share our scary spider.

He has been setting his booby trap up all summer and he's looking pretty well fed.

We leave him be. He looks pretty cool. But he is defintely scary.

When I got up close to take the photos, I saw him rubbing some of his legs together getting ready for the kill. And... I saw into his eyes. Then I scampered away inside where it's warm and dry (it's raining here and has been all day long).

Goodnight Scary Spider!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Weekend Update

The guys continued working on installing trim this weekend. It even takes the professionals time to do this kind of finish carprentry, which makes me feel a bit better.

They installed the stained glass windows. This photo is a little blurry, but it gives you the idea. There will be picture molding where the color changes to white near the ceiling.

Here's a close up shot.

I really appreciate the nice comments people have left about the trim.

This weekend I was having a bit of self-doubt. Like, maybe this isn't all worth it. I think my doing that recap post and realizing I gave up my whole summer for wood, kind of bummed me out.

Even the most devoted can have low points it seems. I am no exception to this. It helps to have the kind words of encouragement at times like this.

They started tiling the bathroom also. These guys are excellent at tilework drywalling, and finish carpentry. It's nice to be happy with the work.

I am going to see what else we can have them take off our plate. If I showed you the list of what poor Steve has to do, you'd probably start crying. I don't know how he keeps it up without breaking down.

I am at one of those points where I just want to have a normal life and not work every weekend. I took a 2 1/2 hour nap today and am starting to feel more human again.

I hope I haven't smashed anyone's image of us, but we are in fact human and we do desire to do other things besides work on our house.

Usually we enjoy the work, but every once in a while we get hit with that "this house has taken over our lives and it is not good" feeling. It's already passing a bit. The end of a project can be difficult sometimes.

I think in a few months when we are looking back on this, we will be glad to have restored the wood work, but right now the thrill is waning. But maybe when they put the coffered ceiling back this week I'll get some wind back in my sails.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I have a boo boo

This is the time of year for bees. My yard is swarming with bees. They are all over my hollyhock-type plant and cone flowers in the backyard. Strangely enough they seem to like the sweet smell of sanded oak. I see them land on boards and try to pollinate them to no avail. The wood just isn't receptive to it.

They pretty much leave me alone and I wear OFF! to make sure they do.

But last weekend I noticed some poisonous nightshade growing on my neighbors fence, which adjoins our front yard. Of course I had to start yanking it off and next thing I knew a bee was on my head. I began flailing my arms about in the way people do when they are being attacked by bees. If the neighbors were watching, I'm sure they had a little laugh.

The bee came back at me and hit my shoulder, but it didn't manage to get the stinger all the way in. It only hurt a little so I don't think I was fully stung.

This "mini-sting" took almost a week to go away and it was quite itchy.

You think I would have learned my lesson right? No, of course I didn't. This morning as I did a little weeding, I decided to eradicate the rest of this deadly plant. And this time I did get stung. And it hurt. And it swelled up quite a bit.

Of course I took it like a man.

I had to show it to all our contractors and get sympathy. And every time Steve came my way, I said, "See my boo boo." There's something about a bee sting that makes you feel like a kid again. Sorry, but I had to show you guys my boo boo too.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Side effects

Okay it's time for me to come clean about something. We have pretty much sacrificed an entire summer for our 2nd floor wood work. We started in June with the removal of the trim. That claimed 2 of my vacation days. (June 3-June 6)

Then we continued with nail pulling, which went on for weeks and weeks. (June 11-June 26)

So after 2 weekends, I finished the nail removal and then we had to label the wood with a dremel. The Sharpie just wouldn't hold up under the harsh chemical strippers. (June 26-June 28)

Steve handled the dremel task since my hands were wrecked from 2 weekends of nail removal. Just imagine almost 2 full days work each weekend removing nails. Which circle of hell do you think this is?

After this, our wood pile was transported across town to be stripped. This gave us a merciful reprieve until, just shy of 2 weeks later, we got the first of the wood back. (July 9)

Next up, building the drying rack, so we had an organized place to store and have the wood dry from staining.(July 15)

After about a month of repairing cracked boards, filling cracks with wood filler, and sanding, a bit of burnout was experienced.(August 6)

But when you are working with a deadline and a budget, you have to get back on that horse.(August 7)

And just when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel? Well, you find out there's more wood to finish.(August 10)

But you keep on keepin' on.(August 13-20)

Now we are truly reaching the finish line with the wood work. (Present)

We're looking at only maybe 2 more weekends max of working on trim.
Any side effects you might ask?

Well, my sinuses are very irritated from allergies (I get them in August) and the sawdust and I think from the fumes from the stain*. So are my eyes. I try to wear a respirator but it's summer and it's hot and I have been outdoors and I didn't think it would be so bad. I think I've said before that my right arm is bionic.

We are both very tired and somehow we just keep going. This is not to say it was a miserable summer. Obviously we enjoy the work or else we wouldn't sign up for it but we get tired.

Just wanted to paint a realistic picture for anyone crazy enough to think of undertaking this project: Refinishing 1900 feet of wood trim in a summer.

Oh I just remembered, I have 9 doors to finish! Oh well, what's another 2 weeks right?

We just got our Jorgensen Clamps for gluing the doors as the joints are loose.

Next up: clamping and re-gluing 9 oak doors, sanding them, restoring the hardware and the staining. At least it's not trim though. We've had enough of trimwork for a while.

*Free advice from author: Wear a Dust Mask while sanding!

Wood Pile Back in Ancestral Home(Partially)

The first trim pieces have been installed in the 2nd floor as of last night!! We are extremely happy with the way they look.

Our marking system proved very helpful, although it was still quite alot of wood for Steve to sift through yesterday.

One thing that made it easier was that for doors the code always starts with a "D" and for windows a "W". It's the simplest things sometimes.

Highlights from last night:

I was VERY tired yesterday afternoon at work. I was feeling really exhausted.

I got home, saw one of these windows and immediately felt rejuvenated enough to sand some more wood.

Our contractor Miro said that "only one in a million" would take the time to label the wood the way we have. That made me feel special.

I told him only people as crazy as we are would do such a thing. He laughed.

Miro figured out a way to add nice window stops that adds even more (appropriate) detail to the trim.

I found the rest of the den boards for the first floor and will have them all ready for Saturday. We may just be able to open that room up soon.

Steve told me that our Miro was pointing out some window sills darkened with age. Steve told him that we liked the age and imperfections in the wood. Miro laughed.

I hope we can find tenants that appreciate a good patina. That would be ideal now wouldn't it?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Some things that are done

There's been alot of progress in the 2nd floor. Taping is almost done. Some walls are primed and painted. The new windows came in and were installed today.

We have some working light switches up there now too. I am pretty sure the floors are going to be sanded next week. Cabinets and tiling next week too! Tonight we went to Home Depot and bought the dishwasher and subway tile for the bathroom. The stove and microwave will be delivered next week also.

Perhaps most exciting, our contractor asked us for some window trim. He is planning to start installing the window trim this week. I will most definitely post photos of the finished and installed trim. I am sure it will bring a tear to my eye seeing my precious wood pile back in its ancestral home again.

These are the salad/glory days for a houseblogger- seeing your work come to fruition.

It's almost hard to the feeling into words really. What does it mean to sacrifice a summer of weekends and then see it result in something beautiful and lasting?

I liken it to a surfer hitting the perfect wave. Or a climber hitting a high peak of a mountain. Something like that.

My arms are brown from working outdoors for many weekends. My right arm has become bionic now from extreme hand sanding. And we both need haircuts. Who has time for a haircut when there's wood to sand/stain etc...?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Container Garden

Over the weekend I spent some time at my Mom's condo visiting with my sister, her husband and my 7 month old nephew.

My Mom's building has 6 units and it was converted in the 1970's and they did a nice job. They repaired/restored all the plaster and kept all the original built-ins, doors and trim.

It's the kind of condo I could live in without breaking out into hives. And to top it off, she has really great neighbors in her building and the buildings next door.

I like going over there to see her and her great neighbors.

They have an incredibly charming bricked backyard and have done a great job with container gardening in it.

There's so much you can do with containers really.

This fence has a stunning clematis on it in Fall too.

I donated the cannas to their cause.

They use mainly clay pots to keep uniformity.

It's a real little paradise in their yard.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The first day of the rest of our lives

Yes this was the weekend that we finally finished the "old wood." Now we have moved onto the "new wood" that Steve spent an entire day purchasing last week.

Saturday, I finished sanding and staining the last of the boards and stripped a few small ones left. Closure, it's a good thing.

Steve bought a new router so we could make the profiles we need.

He used the router to make door casing with rounded edges. For this he used a round-over bit.

Here's a close up of the finished profile.

On Sunday I sanded them all (about 24 boards in all) and we stained them. Steve hand-sanded his kitchen shelving unit and then experimented with stain. He found the right mix, but when he tried staining the maple, it came out very splotchy.

So he stopped and went to the computer to do a google search. It turns out that maple is one of the hardest woods to stain. There are many different methods and Steve is going to do some research and decide what to do.
Many of them involve sealing the wood first and then putting a stain over that. Sometimes shellac is used as a sealer, sometimes other solvents. More to come later on that. This is Steve's first attempt using maple. Up to this point it's been all oak and one teak medicine cabinet.

...and in other news, the healing begins in our kitchen. My strategy for dealing with this disruption is... I don't look at it. I keep my head down and don't look at it. Seems to be working for now.

It was a super busy weekend between "the wood" and the fact that my sister and her husband came in with my 7 month old nephew. Of course, I had to get in as much baby-time as possible.

I'm sure you can see why.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Renovation two-step

I am sure many of you are familiar with the good ole' renovation two-step. You take two steps forward and one step backward. It's a common phenomenon. Sometimes you are prepared for it and then sometimes not.

Take for example, the fact that we had to cut up our lawn and patio to run electrical wire underground. I knew that was coming a while before it happened.

Or take the example of our roof tear off. I knew that there would be some damage, so I built up some resolve to deal with it.

But sometimes things happen with no notice. Things that can shake you to your very core. Things that test your resolve.

Today, one of those things happened here at my house. I'm showing you the good news i.e. two steps forward first, so be prepared for the blow.

While I was at work blissfully oblivious, our plumber came to install the pipe for the toe kick heater for the 2nd floor. This was one of the steps forward. The other step forward are the three rooms upstairs that are completely taped and now primed (see photos).

The one step backwards? I'm sure many will think me melodramatic (and I am being tongue in cheek here lest some take me too seriously), but what happened today will go down in infamy here at the 2-flat.

See, the walls from the upstairs kitchen don't line up perfectly with the walls from the 1st floor kitchen.

The pipes for the toe kick had to be run all the way down to the basement- through the 1st floor walls.

If you put two and two together, you'll realize that the unthinkable happened.


Yes, this is the same kitchen that we slaved for over a year to complete ourselves. The one where we went without running water for almost a year. The one that we drywalled ourselves.

Quite honestly, when Steve called to warn me at work, I felt like they had cut holes in me. It really felt that bad. Or else, maybe like they cut holes in my dog. You get the idea.

I am sure it will come as no surprise that because we are so busy with "the wood", we are going to pay our crew to fix this as soon as humanly possible.

And what did I do when I got home today? Did I let it get me down? Did I drink myself into a stupor or eat a pink of Ben and Jerry's?? (actually I never do these things)

No, I sanded some more wood. I'm not licked yet!
My kitchen will be beautiful again as God is my witness.

Monday, August 14, 2006

2nd floor progress report

One thing we had to add to our project was leveling the dining room ceiling. Over the years, the posts supporting the building deteriorated (which is why we replaced them) and this led to the ceiling sagging. We lifted the building about 1/2" but this did not fix the ceiling in the 2nd floor.

So we decided to have our crew correct it.

The drywall is coming along nicely. They expect to be finished by this week.

This is a view from the dining room to the kitchen.

Below is where the stained glass windows will go.

Here's the main bedroom closet (small) and nook for a dresser.

We added many small details.
Such as:
*blocking for a wall safe
*blocking for flat screen TV
* speaker wiring in the walls in the living room & kitchen
*blocking for art pieces
*wiring for additional lighting.
*and of course, all the original wood trim....

I'd say we are 98% finished with the old wood now. I have some plynth blocks to sand that I finished stripping on Sunday and 2 sections of coffered ceiling to stain.

Then it's onto the new wood.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

This is where it all happens

It looks quiet now, but with an orbital sander and palm sander buzzing away, it reminds me of a race track.

Steve and I have been talking about the difference between the way we handled the wood trim on the first floor and second.

For the first floor, we stripped and refinished the trim room by room. We have decided this is by far the preferable method. A whole house-full of trim is just alot to deal with at once.

When you do a room at a time, you can focus a bit more on the minutae too. I'm not saying we are doing a sloppy job, but when I only have a smaller number of boards, I tend to get a bit pickier.

When you have a house-full, you get out the artists oil paint to obscure those stubborn tiny areas that don't want to take stain. Either way, it will look quite good, it's just there's no way I can go over every board with a microscope.

Friday night, we worked until 9pm and yesterday I put in a full day sanding the remaining old wood and then staining.
Obviously the boards with more detail take longer to stain and sand. They must be sanded by hand and then to get stain in the crevices, a putty knife inside a stain rag works wonders.

Steve spent half the day on the roof grinding out joints on the parapet wall and then joined the staining party in the backyard.

The drying rack has come to good use. The top shelf has all the finished wood and we've been able to leave trim to dry overnight on the many lightweight shelves.

On the floor in front of the rack you can see all the new wood we have to deal with.

Here are a few more things that have made this project easier to tackle:

*Having a "kit" put together with all the tools needed. This way you're never seaching for an awl etc...
*Using Off! to avoid bug bites. (nothing more annoying than being pestered by insects while covered in sawdust)
* Of course, the drying rack.
*Making a chart and labeling system.

Back to finishing wood now!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wood marathon

We're gearing up for a real wood sanding-staining marathon weekend here.

Today, Steve spent 6 hours shopping for wood at our favorite wood source Owl Hardwood. For woodworkers, this place is truly the bomb. If you haven't been there, I highly recommend it.
If you've been reading my blog lately, you might be saying to yourself, "More wood??? Why I thought they already have quite alot of wood around there..." And you'd be right.

But we had some damaged base molding that needed to be replaced as well as a few pieces of the coffered ceiling, and the window stops were pretty trashed. And we are adding some picture molding and beadboard. So today, Steve brought home a decent pile of wood for us to sand and stain.

Steve called me at work today to warn me...."Honey, I just want you to know I'm bringing home some more wood-it's kind of alot. I just want you to be prepared."

Me-blanching on the phone, "How much is it? Can you tell me how many arms full it is?" I judge wood by how much I can carry in one trip to the garage you see.

After this phone call, I announced to my co-workers (who know all about the saga of the wood), "Steve's bringing home more wood! Can you believe it?" They laughed. And I kidded with them that if we ever have children, we should name them Maple or Oak. Yes, I am in deep folks.

This sanding-staining marathon will begin tomorrow after work.

Let the games begin.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


New sashes made of ponderosa pine made to size: $85.00 each.

Stained Glass window repair: $140.00

Light shining through newly refurbished window: Priceless!

Here's what it looked like before.

Now, if we can just keep Scrappy away from them.

We do have a plan actually to keep that most evil squirrel away from our newly restored windows... plexiglass storm windows. Take that Scrappy!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Insulation in and trimwork continues

Our crew worked all weekend getting the insulation in so they could start drywalling this week. The 2-week delay by the electricians has put us under more pressure to get the apartment finished for renting out October 1st. We know it will be done by then, but it needs to be mostly done by mid-September so we can show it.

They started the ceiling today too-exciting! It's starting to feel all cozy up there now. Maybe this will help our heating bills.

In spite of the slight cave in of my morale on Saturday morning, Steve and I managed to finish sanding most of the boards that day.

And then we started staining. We use a mixture of Minwax: 3 parts Golden Oak, 1 part Red Oak, and 2 1/2 Dark Walnut. It's a warm brown that is close to what we found underneath the layers of paint.

Our contractor recommended Pratt & Lambert 38 Clear Varnish in Satin. We tested it out on a board and it looks fine. We will probably apply it after it is installed.

Here's a close up of a few door jambs. Looks pretty good for almost 100 years old. Gotta love the nice straight grain.

I'd say we are about 75% finished with staining- not bad really. I do have some miscellaneous boards I need to strip and then there are the 9 doors, which will be arriving tomorrow. But at least the doors will be something different.

When I spend hour after hour doing the same repetitive task, I start to feel like I'm being punished for something. I either need to finish something or switch tasks. Since we are on a deadline, I don't really have that luxury. But it'll build character right?

To sum up what remains: (not for for the faint of heart)
*One bundle/stack of trim to be sanded and stained (these were glued boards mostly).
*One smaller stack of boards ready to stain.
*A small (hopefully) bundle from our wood stripper. These will need to be filled, perhaps glued, sanded and stained.
*9 doors will need to be filled, sanded & stained and have the hardware reinstalled.
*Strip some door hardware.
*Strip a handful of boards & 20 or so plynth blocks (just one layer of stripper-all have been heat-gunned already).
*Lightly sand and stain the replacement molding when we get it from Owl Hardwood. Some base molding, most window stops, shelving for closets & pantry etc...

Oh my, I can't believe I'm actually doing all this.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Wood pile is no longer my friend

I think we've been spending too much time together. And frankly, she just isn't pulling her weight. I have to do everything for her: fill, sand and now stain. Not to mention moving her back and forth in and out of the garage. She really is a tyrant.

What kind of friend lets you do all the work anyway? And after all my work, she will look beautiful, and me? Well, I'll be the worse for wear.

Yesterday, she upset me so with her insensitivity, I had to have a little cry. But then I got back up, dusted myself off (literally) and went back to work. I won't let some 100 year old oak boards get the best of me- no sir!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Flooring Repairs & Electrical Update

The crew has been working on repairing the existing oak and maple floors upstairs this week. They have gone through 5 bundles of oak. We had some maple left over from the 1st floor, which they used.

According to our contractor, the floors have been sanded numerous times and so this sanding will be their last. This is why it pays to take care of your wood floors and screen them when needed rather than sand them and run them down till they have to be replaced. This building was a rental for so long and took alot of abuse so this is what we've got to work with now.

Here's a maple floor repair in progress in the kitchen and hallway. It is pretty much finished now, but Steve thinks they did not put the wood boards on sleepers and so they may have to be redone. In case you don't know what "sleepers" are... In the past, floors were raised off the subfloor by strips of wood about 1" thick by 1 1/2" wide called sleepers. It reduces noise overhead. I believe it's done now when you put radiant heat under your floor, but otherwise is not typical. I'm no expert on this though- so feel free to pipe up if you know something more.

As for our electrical inspection, the inspector asked for the following changes:

1. All 3 panels need to be on the same wall. Right now one is on an adjacent wall-it has to be moved. The only way this panel would be allowed on an adjacent wall is if there was 3 feet of clearance and we do not have room there because there is a window right next to it. This means we have to move our laundry sink and washer/dryer to accomodate this. Not major, but a job.

2. The telephone and cable lines need to have a control panel in the apt. so that the resident of the apt. has complete control and no one else can tap into it. Stealing cable or phone service is the concern I guess.

3. The junction boxes for the ceiling fans have too many pipes coming into them and so the boxes muct be larger to accomodate the wiring. We had to wire most conduit at the ceiling because our 2X4s are flat on the wall and don't allow the depth for conduit. We did this to avoif losing any footprint in the unit.

4. There must be exterior lights on each back porch that operate with a switch. We currently have electric eye lights on the 2nd floor landing.

The electricians were here until 9:15pm tonight till they couldn't see anymore. We bought them pizza. Tomorrow we'll have alot of workers here and we will be working on the wood pile- we're getting close to starting staining.