Monday, May 31, 2010

Sanding Sealer: Where the flooring project began to melt down

With our floors sanded, patched, repaired, and cleaned, it was finally time to start spreading some goop on them.  I was ready to jump straight to the polyurethane.  P decided we should put down a coat of sanding sealer first.  I don't really know what sanding sealer is, but I do believe in using appropriate primers.  And he was the one heading up this project for a reason.

We were approaching the home stretch of the project.  We could smell completion in the wind.  And boy, were we ready to be done.  After working on these floors for three weeks already, we were tired of looking at them.  And until the floors were completed, we couldn't do much work with the rest of the house--we were trying very hard not to damage our beautifully sanded, and completely unprotected by finish, floors.

So in our eagerness to get done, we were pushing the clock: working really long days on the floors, and longer evenings on weeknights after P got home from work.  That schedule was probably our first mistake.

We got our first gallon of sanding sealer, and started applying.  P was the main guy here, spreading the sealer along the floorboards.  I poured more sealer on the floor when necessary, and served as a general go-fer. 

Things were proceeding swimmingly.  When the first bottle of sealer ran low, I ran out to the kitchen, gave the second bottle a good stir, and came running back with it.  And said, "Um, P, aren't you boxing us in?"

He insisted that he had a plan.  And I figured that I trusted him.  Actually, I really prefer knowing what the plan is, but P has a really hard time putting down sanding sealer (or paint, or whatever), and coming up with words at the same time.  And based on our track record, he's always right, and I'm always confused.  So I figured it would be easiest if I trusted him and didn't bug him about what exactly this plan looked like.

Two minutes later, P looked up and realized that his plan involved boxing us in--we would be trapped in the back corner of the house, as far as possible from exits, surrounded by a sea of wet floor.

We had a few options: 1. stop in our tracks, leap across the nearly unleapable expanse of wet floor between us and the kitchen, and resume at a later date, 2. stop work where we were, and begin in the back corner, and work our way toward where we were standing now, or 3. (I think this was P's vote) box ourselves in, and wait in the corner until the sealer dried.  (Since this was our first coat, it was soaking into the floors fast, and was dry to the touch in a half and hour or so.)

I decreed option 4: take advantage of the fact that we live in a ranch, and hop out the back bedroom window after finishing.  (After P awkwardly perched on our 3" windowsill and finished coating every last square inch of floor, that is.)

So we were working along happily toward the window, until suddenly our painting pole unscrewed itself from our finish applicator, and all this dirt (more like flecks of black paint) poured out of it onto the floors!  Where did that come from! 

We did not want this trapped in our finish.  Note to self: the next time you get boxed in while refinishing a floor, be sure to have a pocket full of damp papertowels.

But I didn't, so we had to improvise.  P was working in his undershirt, so we stripped that off of him, dampened it in the hall bath sink (which was conveniently right next to the meltdown), and wiped up the floor.  (TMI, honey?)

And, moving along.  We boxed ourselves according to plan, and I hopped out the window (which was a lot higher than I had remembered--at least we had a soft landing on the grass!).  While I was standing there waiting for P to finish the last bit of floor and jump out and join me, I looked at the bottle of sanding sealer in my hand.  And realized that it wasn't actually sanding sealer.  When I had run to grab the second gallon, I had accidentally grabbed a bottle of polyuretane instead.  Well, that explained why it was so much easier to stir than the first bottle. 

Really, it was an easy mistake to make.  Check out these bottles:

Pretty similar, right?  Right?  Except this is really embarrassing for me, because, by nature, I will read ANY piece of text you put in front of me.  Anything.  The back of the cereal box, the fine print on the coupon....  If I have an idle moment, my eyes are scanning for text to take in.  Which is why I was standing out on our lawn at midnight, barefoot, reading a polyurethane bottle.  How I hadn't read it before that moment is beyond me.

The polyurethane and the sanding sealer also looked and smelled almost identical.  Which takes me back to my first point: I don't understand sanding sealer.

Anyway, the results weren't that bad.  Both adhered well to the floors, and we don't seem to have created too many problems.  There was a bit of clouding where the two touched each other--presumably they shouldn't be mixed when wet, and some of the chemicals crashed out of solution.  The good news is that it couldn't have happened in a better place than our dining room floor (which we were already planning to replace at some later date for reasons I'll explain another time).  Now that we buffed and recoated, it's almost impossible to even tell where the problem was.
All's well that ends well.  Except for the buffer.  More on that next time.

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