Flooring, part 3

This is the conclusion to the flooring saga, following part 1 and part 2.

Tuesday night, after leaving my newly destroyed floors, my dad and I tried to rationalize the damage. It’d be fine tomorrow. It won’t look so bad after we put polyurethane on, and so on. But then we broached the subject of sanding it again and starting over. That’s when I decided to sleep on it. I didn’t actually give it any thought because I essentially crashed. I woke up several times, but discovered a new trick. If you put a little lidocaine cream on your finger and rub the back of your throat, it makes the hurt just a little less so you can sleep.

Wednesday morning I was still undecided about the flooring, still felt like crap, and just wanted to rest. So I did. That and I did a few phone conferences with my mom in Nebraska (who said that if my dad thought it looked bad, it probably was), and my wife in Washington, who thought the pictures I’d sent didn’t look that bad. We didn’t want the added cost and time it would take to resand and then refinish, but we’d have to live with the results of the stain if we didn’t. Since it looked so bad right where you enter the house, I finally decided that I had to resand. But first, I needed to rest.

A couple hours, several popsicles, a few pints of water, and a showing of Blazing Saddles later, I was feeling human enough to rent a U-sand machine from Parkrose Hardware (also damn awesome) and go after the stain. We picked this machine because it’s simply four random orbit heads with a dust collection system. We weren’t looking to sand away decades of neglect, just one stupid afternoon of stain.

Wednesday evening, when I mustered the energy to sand, I was delighted to find how quickly it removed the stain (my dad was right), and how nicely it took away all the extra filler left in the drum sander divots and low parts. I only managed to do the 36 grit before crashing again, but I went to bed with a sense of hope and a tub of lidocaine creme. Surely, Thursday I’d be better.

Thursday arrived, and I still felt like hell. I called in to catch up with my boss and spent a few hours catching up on e-mail. Thankfully, it was summer term, and after most classes had ended so the immediate stuff was pretty limited. I then dozed off in a rocker for a while and woke in a panic, realizing I still had to get the sander back. So I rushed over and did another pass on the floors with the 60, 100, and 120 grit then rushed the sander out to Parkrose.

A short time later, Michelle arrived home with the girls and took on the cleaning while I rested. By about 5pm, we were ready to try again with the finish. We’d tried spot samples of Zinnser’s Bulls eye sanding sealer, a shellac without wax. It looked fantastic, and it’s what we’d originally wanted before testing the stains. The lovely thing about shellac, is that it goes on quickly, and with a lambswool head and a painting pad, we shellaced the floors in about 30 minutes.

Something odd had happened too. Since Michelle and the girls’ return, I’d started to feel better. It’s unlikely related, given that it had been nearly a week since the throat pain had started, but after a popsicle, I was able to eat some food and drink a respectable amount of water.

Friday, Michelle and dad went after the polyurethane and really closed up shop on the project. They put on a coat in the morning, and then we took Ella out for a birthday trip to the Children’s Museum. We’d scheduled the day off, and managed to have a great time ignoring the incomplete project at home. My dad, saint that he is, put on another coat of polyurethane while we were out. Michelle and he put on the last two coats as well, totaling in 4 coats. We used the Zinnser water based Polyurethane because we’ve had great luck with Zinnser’s other products, and it was $10/gallon cheaper than the Varethane, which we’ve used in the past.

How’d it look? Freakin’ shiny, that’s how. We chose semi-gloss because we knew there’d be a fair amount of dog traffic and didn’t want the wear to show off so glaringly. Still, the semi-gloss reflected giant patches of light onto the ceiling. It was a startlingly mirrored surface, but it looked fantastic.

The final cost of the project, which includes the installation of new flooring in the kitchen, refinishing the floors (plus the stain disaster), miscellaneous costs like replacing the damaged sanding head, purchasing a dead blow hammer, buying pizza for demolition crews, etc. came to $1132. (check out the tally) The cost of the “stain incident” was around $150, though I have no regrets now. During the process, in my pain and dejection, I was certain I’d never do this again. However, hindsight is corrective, and $1132 for the entire project is still less than a third of what it would have cost for someone to refinish the floors. That doesn’t include installing new floors in the kitchen, which totaled under $400, or less than $2.60 per sqft for both the material and installation.

So, despite a few moments of DIY Hell, a week of pain and poor health, we came out in pretty good shape. See the pictures for yourself. Now we just have to repaint all the baseboards and install new quarter-round. Check back in 3 months.

Flooring, part 2

For every DIY story, there’s a sinister subplot where something goes wrong. In keeping with that, I’ve split the story in to parts 2 and 3, so each can have a separate disaster.

Part 2

After completing the flooring install, we had to move on to the larger project of sanding and refinishing the floors. We had intended to do this prior to inhabiting the house since that would have been ideal, but with the logistics of moving, it was too complicated to coordinate with multiple moving volunteers and exiting the old house in a timely fashion. But now, the dirty and decrepit floors, missing finish in more places than not, desperately need to be refinished. The process is rather intrusive, so here was our plan.

Move everything out of the first floor in to the garage, upstairs, basement or guest room. remove all the quarter-round from the base boards and remove all vents. Set all nail heads on top nailed boards well below the surface. Send girls and wife to Yakima to escape. Seal off the house. Rent equipment from Interstate rentals. sand. a lot. Fill gaps and cracks. Sand again. Stain. Finish with 4 coats of polyurethane. Move back in.

It was all supposed to happen while Michelle and the girls were gone, but on Friday, I started getting sick. No matter. My dad and I picked up Saturday morning and finished a few last prep items before picking up the sanders from Interstate Rentals (Awesome people, great prices, local business). We started with 20 grit on the drum sander and 36 grit on the edger and my dad worked the kitchen, edges and hallway while I ran the drum sander in the office, living and dining rooms. We took off a lot of wood, and the 20 grit left some pretty serious gouges. So we moved on to 36 for a pass before it was quitting time. We rode down to 5th Quadrant for a dinner and beers, then came home. I didn’t sleep too well for a second night and my throat had started to really hurt.

Sunday, we were back at it with the sanders moving up the grit, though we found that the large orbital sander did much less damage than the edger, which took off a lot of wood in a hurry. By the time we reached 100 grit, I was in serious pain. I was probably dehydrated and after 2 nights without much sleep, I was out of it, so I took a break and ended up taking a 2 hour nap. My dad continued to work and put a coat of filler in the office. I got up from the nap, choked down some potato soup and went back to bed.

Monday morning I felt like hell, but I had to get the sanders back to Interstate Rentals. We kept the large orbiting sander for another several hours, and my dad and I managed to get the rest of the fill down. We used Famowood filler, one of golden oak, and one of red oak because that’s all that CrossCut had. It’s a lot of work to put on, and sadly, you end up sanding off 98% of it. So, after wrestling it in to the cracks, crevices and unfortunately, the divots left by the drum sander, we sanded off the filler with the orbital using a 150 grit screen. The orbital lacks dust collection, so we ended up doing a lot of shop vac work as well. Dad ended up sanding all the edges with his older palm orbital sander because I somehow tore the pad on his Festool sander. I felt horrible about it since I was being especially careful with his new deluxe tool.

Many a person has speculated that being around all the dust is what caused my sore throat, or at least exacerbated the problem, but I think they’re wrong. I wore a respirator the entire time. I purposely bought a good respirator knowing that I’d be wearing it for a week. And while wearing the respirator in 85-90F heat, you tend to get a little muggy. So the entire time I had the respirator on, I was working in a clean, humid environment. It was actually more comfortable to be working with the respirator than not.

We finished early in the afternoon and I crashed again on the floor at his house. My dad was a little bummed because we had the perfect opportunity for bachelor nights with mom and my wife and girls out of town, but my not being able to eat and the pain kind of dampened the mood. Out of desperation, I rode my bike over to Walgreens and picked up some chloroseptic spray since several people had recommended them. I also picked up some coconut M&Ms thinking in only 15 minutes, I’d be able to eat something again. I was wrong. 15 minutes later, I applied the spray. Nothing happened, so I went to bed. 2 hours later, I woke up and my throat was raw and burning. Damn you snake oil merchants!

Tuesday I woke up hoping for some sort of respite. My dad checked my throat and didn’t see anything that looked like strep, just a really red, probably from all the glycerin in the throat spray. I finally emailed my doctor’s office (yeah, KP lets you e-mail the docs, and they typically respond really quickly) and the someone in the office responded that I should come in for a rapid test. I did, got swabbed, and was told I was negative for strep, but to hydrate, rest, and stay home. The nurse also recommended popsicles if I was having problems drinking water.

After numbing my throat with a popsicle, I drank a pint of water and got back to work. I started staining the floors with General Finishes’ water based Golden Oak stain. It looked best in the tests we did prior to the sanding on the new white and red oak and on the older flooring (I busted out a piece from the closet to compare). It went on fine in the kitchen, though made it look rather red. However, as I applied it in the office, then in the living and dining rooms, it started to look really bad. Maybe it was the heat (90F), maybe it was all the extra filler, and maybe it was just punishment for something, but my floors looked like crap. Cheap faux-aged pier one furniture crap. Splotchy, ruddy, and with huge lap marks. When I went home on Tuesday, I felt crappier than I can remember feeling in a long time. Dehydrated, defeated and pissed off. My dad was trying to find a bright spot in the mess when I crashed for bed.

Blossom end rot

Blossom end rotOur brandywine tomato plant went from being giant and promising to decrepit and homely before any of the wonderful golden fruit could be harvested. The fruits have sunken, black bruising on the bottom that I initially mistook for simple bruising. Luckily, mom has had the same blight before and clued me in to blossom end rot. Looks like the problem isn’t stressed growth, crowding, or drought, but more than likely a calcium issue. Or possibly uneven watering.

Either way, I’m hoping to address it before all the fruit is ruined. The brandywine is the easiest way to recoup the cost of a yard garden because the math is so simple. One tomato = four dollars. 15 tomatoes, and the entire raised bed has been paid for. Two tomatoes and all the initial seeds are paid for. Now I have to use other math.

Hardwood floor, part 1

Ella helps install flooring.Over the weekend, Michelle and I, with the help of family, replaced the kitchen floor. The entire first floor with the exception of the kitchen is original oak tongue and groove flooring, and it is in desperate need of refinishing. We’d meant to refinish before we moved in, but time being what it is, kept us from doing so. Now there’s sliver danger when you slide your feet, which both Michelle and Ella have discovered. So, before refinishing, we’d talked about what to do in the kitchen. It was having another set of issues.

In the kitchen, the floor was covered with vinyl stick down tiles. They looked nice enough, and they hid the dirt pretty well, but many had stopped sicking, and the corners of some had even come up so when you were shuffling haphazardly for that first cup of coffee, you got the added jolt of a chunk of vinyl in your toe. Plus, underneath the tile was a layer of occasionally wet particle board. Some had swelled to make the floor additionally uneven and humpy. So, we tore it up. Jason, Michelle, my parents and I all took turns ripping out the tiles and board, and ultimately, the old ship lap subfloor.

We hadn’t counted on taking up sub-flooring, so the extra time and labor, plus the cost of replacing the subfloor was a surprise. Luckily, not a major cost, but it put us a day behind “schedule.” I mock the schedule, but we really need to have it wrapped up before the next weekend for sanding.

At this point, I should mention the replacement flooring again. It’s reclaimed tongue and groove oak flooring from a deconstruction service in Kenton. It’s a mix of red and white oak, which I expected to look just right once laid down with the rest of the flooring. Plus, I got a smoking deal on it. The cost per square foot was around $1.70, and there’s enough left over that I’ll be able to sell the rest to someone and knock the price down to the $1.50/sqft range.

Anyway, installing the stuff was a dream once we got the sub floor taken care of. There was some awkwardness around the pantry doors and a challenge of backfilling the small section behind the island, but with a rented floor stapler from Interstate Rentals (awesome folks, btw) we installed ourselves back on to schedule, finishing right around 9 pm on Sunday. Michelle, who often feels cheated out of projects because she’s wrangling a girl or two, got plenty of opportunity to ravage her back and knees as we tag-teamed the parenting. She’s much happier about it, and considering how awesome the floor looks without even being finished yet, I can’t agree more.

Now, we have 3 full days until the drum sander tears through what little finish is left on the original flooring and hopefully matches the whole thing together. Boxing of items commences tonight. I think we have the stain/sealer/finish regimen picked out as well.

I’ve added a few photos here.

State of the Garden

I was chatting with Lindsay the other day talking about our gardens and she asked me to post pictures. Here they are.

The strawberries are still mysteriously vanishing before I can eat them, and I’m doubting birds as the culprit. So far, the peas haven’t made it very far. From the vine to our mouths. They’re crisp, sweet, and delicious. The chard on the otherhand has made it in to meals, and will be doing so again very soon. Beans are on their way as well.

A few additions

The inspector failed me, but he gave me a number of useful suggestions. One was that I include the the original re-plumb on the permit so everything is legit. This of course complicates the project and nearly doubles the cost, but I like to play by the rules so I’m going for it. Now the challenge is finding the time to do so around other engagements and work. The car’s ABS system went out so we had to drive it way out to the mechanic and way out to pick it up two nights in a row, then there the whole thing about shutting water off when people are using it. So tonight I’m going to try and do a quick blitz on the mainline fixes followed by the loudest updates that the inspector recommended on the in-building system. Hopefully that’ll leave the quiet fixes (with the exception of cussing) for after the girls are asleep. I really want to get that hole closed up.

New main line

I agonized over how to make a pun in the title that used pipe, tube, or hole, and eventually gave up. Not because I couldn’t think of any, but rather better taste prevailed.

Anyway, this weekend I replaced the main water line from the city’s meter to my shutoff inside the basement. It was a keystone project that effectively held up 4 other major things we’d like to complete, so once I pass inspection (assuming I do), a cascade of new projects will shower on to our summer weekends.

Unlike some friends I know, I don’t have access to excavating equipment. I dug the trench from the house to the fence, and my parents somehow got roped in to digging from the sidewalk to the meter. All told, the digging and tunneling under the sidewalk took 5 hours. The plumbing then took about 30 minutes. I love pex.

Well, except the part where I was 1 ring short and had to drive all the way out to Parkrose Hardware to buy another. 30 minutes of driving for a 25 cent part. Oh well. Got back, spent another five minutes plumbing, then had a home brew (that plumbing still worked) before turning on the water. Everything worked great. No leaks, more pressure, and a big hole in the ground.

Now I’m waiting for the inspection. This is the first time I’ve gotten permits for anything (shhh) and I’m amazed at how easy the process was. The city of Portland has an online form for smaller permits (plumbing, mechanical, electrical) and I was able to submit and pay for a permit, as well as receive a PDF of the completed permit in under 15 minutes. Damn! I’m a little nervous the inspector is going to want me to change the configuration of the pipe as it connects to the service, so Ella and I might go to the hardware store this morning before the inspector shows to buy the parts, or we might just stay here and telecommute. Plus, I’m nervous about all the middle school kids walking by my trench. I’ve got it covered, but after watching all the New Seasons customers walk over the trench, I have a pretty low estimation of people’s courtesy and intelligence. Someone drove over the plywood I had set out to mark the work site. I watched like 10 people (most of them adults) walk over the covered hole, oblivious to the giant piles of dirt on either side. Jackass entitled liberals…


Michelle and I occasionally forget that we have a toddler and infant. During those moments, we decide to do things like install a patio in the front yard; something we’d planned on for next year. Still, the idea of sitting in the front yard this summer, sipping a beer or gin & tonic while interacting with the neighborhood was a big enough attraction that we forged ahead. Saturday morning after Ella’s tumbling class, she, Michelle and I piled in to my grandpa’s truck and went to pick up stone from Oregon Decorative Rock on Columbia Boulevard. Ultimately we required one of the experts on site to provide a tie-breaking decision. Even though it wasn’t my preferred choice, I couldn’t find any fault in his logic regarding the weight and therefor cost of Michelle’s preferred stone. (900 lbs worth)

Once we had the stone on site, we dug up the rough patio area (below, marked with a hose), then shoveled the sod and a few inches of soil in to the pickup. Somehow the area ended up larger than we’d started with, so the truck was quite full. While I was heading out to Wood Waste Management (awesome), the spare tire on the truck popped off and started draggimg behind the me. I pulled to a stop, crawled under the bed, and discovered that the spare is like 110% the size of the designated spot and my shoveling arms were too tired to lift the spare over the latch. After several attempts with deteriorating results, I used the shovel and rake as opposing levers and was finally able to get the spare on, got my soaked self the rest of the way to the recycler, unloaded the sod and dirt, filled up with sand, and got home.

Less than 30 seconds after starting to shovel the sand, it started raining hard. It was Midwest hard, so I figured it wouldn’t last. I kept shoveling, then it turned to hail, and the wind came up. I bolted for the vestibule and we watched as strange torrent of rain fell on Portland. Storm gusts accompnied the rain, and it moved through the tall firs threatening to snap the giants with its unusual directions. Then, it was over. I changed my shirt and got back to shoveling sand. Michelle and I then placed stones haphazardly only to find we were about 4-5 stones short. It was quittin’ time though, so we grabbed dinner at Laurelwood and slumped in our seats through dinner.

The next morning I ventured out to get those extra stones, and once 10am rolled around, I started scoring pieces with a circular saw and masonry blade, then used a chisel to snap the pieces trying to make the edges look as natural as possible. This went on until around 1pm when we finally finished cutting and then had to finish up leveling, pounding, and sanding. By 2pm we were finished, but cleanup required finding a place for the extra 1/3 ton of sand, most of which ended up on the side of the garage “for future use.”

Being a glorious weekend, it was actually great to be outside. Ella spent much of it riding her trike down the sidewalk and back, and yelling “Hi Eric” or “Hi Erin” to the neighbors across the street. It was delightful, and we ended up with a patio that we can enjoy over the summer while engaging the neighborhood.


I re-clipped the hens wings in an effort to keep them in the run during the day. The idea is that they’ll be less likely to get out of the run and poop all over everything. Especially the back steps and the patio. Neither of the Jersey’s are as bad as Layla about flying out, but one of the two can often be found out roaming.

Layla, on the other hand is rather contrary and even after clipping both wings (this time), I found her out and about the next morning. She pooped right dead center on the patio in what I can only assume is her method of registering her disapproval of the clipping.