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.

Friday, May 28, 2010

With a little help from our friends (part II)

A few weeks ago, my parents came for a long weekend. They made it very clear that they expected to work on the house during their visit, and I was expected to have a job list prepared for them.

Initially, I had planned for them to paint the walls of our front bedroom. I had completed painting the trim and had settled on a color for the walls, until P and I began having second thoughts about exactly what we would use that room for. (More on that later.) P thought I should just pick a color and we would figure out the room's purpose later. But I refused to move forward on a color until I knew what furniture was going into the room and what mood I wanted it to evoke--I guess it's a woman thing.

The gridlock on the front bedroom turned out to be fortunate, because I ended up assigning my parents a much larger project, which better suited the number of hours and hands we had available, and allowed me to squeeze every last bit of labor possible out of our guests: painting the dining room and kitchen. 

Both rooms were wood panelled (except one wall of the kitchen, which was wallpapered).  Not our thing, and it made the rooms appear darker than they were.  The kitchen already has a moderate lighting deficiency (two small east windows, both of which are shaded by our carport), so we want to maximize every bit of lighting we have.  Finally, the yellowish vinyl floor kitchen floor, combined with the paneling, wood cabinetry, and yellow-toned faux butcher-block laminate countertop and backsplash, made for an overwhelmingly yellow room.  We'll eventually replace the countertops, backsplash, and flooring, but for the time being, we needed a paint color that would tone down the yellow nature of the kitchen.

Here's what we were starting with:

We decided to paint the two rooms the same color in order to tie the spaces together.  My mom and I had been consulting by email, phone, and mailed paint chips, and thought that a light gray would brighten the spaces up and minimize the yellow cast.  I was overwhelmed by the number of gray paint swatches I liked, so made a semi-arbitrary decision to limit the field to Benjamin Moore's Historic Colors line.  I had been browsing the internet for pictures of paint colors I liked, and had asked my mother what paints she had used in the past, and was repeatedly frustrated when a color I liked was no longer in the company's catalog.  The historic colors don't change, so I'll be able to easily pick up a new gallon of paint anytime I need to touch something up.

From the Historic Colors line, we selected the Wickham Gray and Stonington Gray to test.  I followed my usually procedure and painted swatches on various walls with different lighting conditions. These two grays, more than any other color we've tested, are amazingly changeable depending on light and setting. The Wickham ranges from a light blue to a light taupe, while the Stonington swings from a light gray to a mid-range charcoal to a medium lavender. Fun!  We liked them both, but settled on the Wickham (the lighter one, on the left).  (I just want it on the record, after the bedroom paint debacle that you haven't even heard the half of yet, that we are usually capable of choosing a paint color!)    

I had planned to prime all of the wood paneling before painting, but had just put the samples directly on the paneling when testing the colors.  The paint was adhering and hiding so well, that I decided we'd just skip the priming, and paint two coats directly on the paneling.  We were using Behr's Paint and Primer in One, eggshell finish.  Skipping the primer was a good choice: even though the Behr paint promises that you'll only need one coat, I've found that that one coat needs to be thick and perfectly applied, even over primer, in order to look good.  By just putting on two topcoats, the project cost a little more (maybe up to $15 extra), but we didn't have to be nearly as exacting in our application of the paint, and things went much faster.  We also were able to use just one coat of paint in a few areas that are difficult both to reach and see.

It was wonderful to have helpers on this particular project: there was a lot of trim to paint, and a lot of careful cutting in by hand around the newly painted trim.  I discovered that my mother is really good at doing this kind of precision painting work, and is putting all of my painting in the rest of the house to shame.

And my parents are hard workers--they wore us out!  It was a lot of hard work, but a really gratifying project: two and a half days later, when it was time for them to head back home, the project was done, and the rooms were completely transformed.  P keeps saying that it doesn't even look like the same house.  He was skeptical of the painted paneling idea, but we both love the way it's turned out.

Here's a group picture just before my parents left, in front of our newly painted wall:

And a few more stunning after pics:

With the crisp white trim and the light blue-gray walls (especially on paneling, which does a nice bead-board imitation), we've discovered that we have inadvertently created a nice beach-cottage vibe.  We're good with that, and might stick with it for other parts of the house--so long as that doesn't mean we have to decorate with starfish and corals.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cleaning the floors

With our floors repaired, puttied, and sanded, there was one more small step remaining before we started to apply finish: cleanup.  It was a bit of a drag, and took a few hours, but I didn't want to cut corners here.  It seemed silly to skimp on the easy stuff, and have all of our hard work result in a product that wasn't as good as it could have been.  So we pulled out the ShopVac (to which we've added a bag and a HEPA-quality filter), and gave all of the rooms a thorough vacuuming.  Actually, we started out extra-paranoid, and vacuumed the walls and ceilings, as well as the floors.  After a room or two, we decided that was overkill--there wasn't much dust clinging to these surfaces.

The traditional next step is to rub down the floors with tack cloth.  But our favorite flooring book (which is also the newest one out there) agreed with my gut instinct and suggested reusable microfiber cleaning cloths.  I already own a stash of these, and love them.  To spare my knees and speed the work along, I clip them into my Swiffer mop--they're just the right size to fit in there.  The Swiffer makes fairly quick work of going over the room, and the cloths pick up a LOT of dust that the vacuum missed.  I had to go over each room 3-4 times before the cloths no longer picked up much additional dust.  So a few hours later, we were finally ready to start applying finish.  And that's when things started to fall apart....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pleasant surprises

When P and I bought the house in March, we thought that the landscaping was just azaleas and dogwoods.  I like dogwoods, but I was a little disappointed that there were no spring bulbs popping up in our yard. 

Well, two months later I'm finding that the landscaping is just mostly azaleas and dogwoods--there are also a few pleasant surprises lurking out there for me.  First, a lush peony bush appeared.  This was really exciting to me--I had been planning to buy a peony for next year.  Peonies formed that core of my wedding bouquet, so I've got a soft spot for them. 

I cut a big bunch of them and used them for a centerpiece with our Mother's Day dinner--they were amazingly aromatic, like an old-fashioned garden rose.  Nothing like the grocery store peonies I used in my wedding bouquet!

Now I've got these mystery plants coming up--they certainly look like calla lilies to me, and the timing would be right.  Another very exciting discovery--P chose to have calla lilies in his boutonniere for our wedding.  Callas are also pretty expensive to buy--usually 3 for $10--so discovering a natural source is great!  They look like they need to be thinned, so I'll do that after they bloom (assuming they do prove to be callas), and spread the wealth around the yard.

What are the chances that the two flower species we chose to use for the wedding would be the two that would appear in our yard?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Corners and edges

The random orbit sander was great at getting right up to the edges of the floors, but still, it couldn't get the last half-inch or so, nor could it get into the corners and a few really tight nooks and crannies we had.  Then there were a few boards that had particularly low corners, and we didn't want to run the sander for an extra hour to level the whole room enough to get those few extra square inches.  So all of those spaces had to be done by hand. 

This scraper was good for getting the finish off of larger areas, like corners, that we couldn't get the sander into.  We hadn't bought it with this particular job in mind (P gave it to me as a Christmas gift for refinishing furniture), but it turned out to be exactly the same width as our floorboards.  This was very convenient--it's very sharp, and I discovered the hard way that if I tried to do two boards at a time, I was liable to put a serious scratch into one.  The scraper required a good bit of strength to use effectively, so I left that one for P. 

Mostly, we used a really low-tech solution: a folded piece of sandpaper left-over from the random orbit sander.  80 grit was good for removing finish, followed by a quick polish with 120.
The difference between the before and after pictures is fairly subtle, but it was definitely worth the effort.  (Yes, the baseboard molding in this room is at carpet height, so elevated off the floor by about 1/2".  Yes, this is a problem--we can see under the boards and into the gaps along the wall.  No, we're not in any hurry to do anything about this, for reasons that will become clear later.)

Finally, P, being the meticulous guy he is, used a putty knife to scrape the worst of the finish out from between the deepest of the remaining bevels.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

With a little help from our friends (part I)

A week and a half ago, P's older brother A, his wife T, and son little A came to help us move our belongings out of their storage locker and into the house. 

They were an enormous help--A pretty much single-handedly loaded all our belongings into and out of the U-Haul while P arranged them to "optimize usage of space."  I'm told that this was a very important and difficult job, but it sure looked like A was doing all the work.  Then again, I'm not in a position to point fingers--I loaded some of the lighter and funny-shaped items into the truck (lamps, drying racks, kitchen chairs, etc.).   I didn't even lift a finger with unloading the truck.  I unpacked some of the kitchen items, and just pointed at where I'd like the men to put things. 

This was by far the best moving experience we've ever had, and not just because A was doing all the work.  We're used to having to deal with stairs, too-small apartment doors, lines for elevators on moving day, either sub-freezing or tropical temperatures, rain, etc.  This time, the weather was lovely.  And this is one of the times when it's great to live in a ranch.  A and P tied up the tree branches that block the front of the house, and backed the truck right up to the front door until the truck ramp connected directly to the top of our little porch landing.  Everything could be wheeled right in on a handtruck--very little heavy lifting required!

So now we've got all of the stuff in the house, but we haven't decided where we want it to go, nor have we completed work on the rooms.  So we've just turned our living room into a new storage locker.  Still, it's really nice to have everything in the house--we can begin to unpack boxes and place furniture as spaces get prepped. 

It's also really helpful to be reminded of what we have, and to see it's current condition.  We have an oak dresser that used to be in P's brothers' room.  A was eyeing it fondly as we about to load it into the truck, and we agreed that they just don't make furniture that solidly anymore--it would be worth my time to refinish it so we could enjoy it for many years to come.  Then A loaded it on the handtruck, and we discovered that the dresser now had a softball-sized hole punched in the side.  Not sure how that happened--the side is made of plywood, not particleboard.  I was pretty surprised and annoyed that I hadn't noticed that when the movers dropped it off at the storage locker--we could only make damage claims at the time of receipt.  Anyway, now I just need a floor plan that places the dresser into a corner.  I'm not ready to give up on it yet.  :-)

A also brought us a used lawn mower from his landscaping business.  We knew we were getting one from him, but had a five week gap between closing on the house and his visit.  In that five weeks, we got away with only hiring someone to mow the lawn once.  (He did charge us extra because we'd let the grass get so long.)  Anyway, the lawn looks a lot better now--we're well on the way to no longer being a blight on the neighborhood!

The weekend wasn't all work; having a very active nineteen-month old in the house with us ensured that.  We hadn't seen little A since Christmas, so it was fun to see how much he had grown and changed.  He's starting to use a few words, and is super-cute when he says "cracker."  I love seeing the things that we take for granted but that totally fascinate kids.  He and I spent about twenty minutes opening and closing our front storm door--him on the outside, me on the inside.  Once he closed the door and admired his handiwork for a few moments, I would unlatch it for him, as he can't yet reach the doorknob.  (Thank goodness he can't leave the house on his own!)  Then he would do all the rest of the work of opening the door fully, swinging it around a little, and then swinging it closed.  Again and again and again.  As my mom says, who needs toys?

T was a big help behind the scenes--every time I turned around, she was doing dishes or helping to clean up.  When I came back from helping the guys load the truck at the storage locker, I found her washing dishes in the right well of our double-well sink, while little A stood on a chair so he could scrub out the left well (which we've designated our construction material well) with a sponge.  It certainly needed a cleaning!  Thanks, kid!

Most of all, it was nice to have family around.  Since T is a mom, and Sunday dinner is a big thing in P and A's family, I figured I had better do an actual Mother's Day dinner.  If it had just been P and I moving, we would have just grabbed something at Chik-fil-A.  Instead, I threw a pot roast and some potatoes in the oven first thing in the morning, and didn't worry about them until whenever the guys had unloaded the truck.  (I love how forgiving pot roast is!)  Toss a little broccoli on the stove, and look--dinner!--in hardly more time than it takes to drive to Chik-fil-A and back.  I don't know why I don't do this more often for just the two of us, but having more family members around the table definitely makes the event more special and fun.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Floor Putty

I mentioned that we had to remove a number of nails from the floor before sanding them, in order to prevent damage to both the floors and the sanders. When P used more appropriate nails to fasten down the now-loose floorboards, he didn't use the old holes, but drilled new ones. So now there were empty nail holes in the floor.

Our favorite flooring book talked about using putty to fill in the nail holes in the floor. This doesn't seem like a terribly common practice--at least based on our attempts to find floor putty. We were disappointed by how few options were carried by the Home Depot where we were renting the floor sanders, but we couldn't find any other area stores that carried any putty. Conversely, when we looked for putty products on the internet, we were overwhelmed by the number of choices.

P confronts this type of problem all the time at work--which of the myriad products available will be fulfill his company's needs? What are the specs on the product? What kind of wear and tear will it stand up to? So he approached this just as he would with his employer: he phoned a major distributor that carried a large number of these products, and asked which would best suit our needs.

They recommended only one for our purposes: Woodwise Wood Patch.  So we ordered ourselves a gallon, and P got to patching.
We initially tried patching before sanding, since the patching compound itself would need to be sanded smooth.  But P quickly discovered that this wasn't the best approach.  Our floors were stained a darker color, and we were planning to sand off the stain and leave them in a natural color.  But the process of working the putty into the holes caused bits of the old stain to chip off and get mixed into the putty, leaving it a darker color than we wanted.  So the puttying had to be done after the initial sanding to remove the finish, but before the final sanding to smooth the floors--that is, between our second and third weekends of sanding.

The putty dried a little lighter than its wet color:

Once sanded, it looked like this:  ( I took this picture before we vacuumed, please excise the sanding dust filling the cracks.)

Yeah, the nail holes are still rather visible.  The Wood Patch comes in a wide variety of colors, and we ordered the red oak version, since that's what our floors are make of.  However, our floor boards have a remarkable range of natural color variation from board to board:
So it's understandable that the Wood Patch doesn't match most of the boards, since they don't match each other.  And even though many of the nail holes are still visible, we're glad that we matched them.  It should improve the durability of of floors (because things can't get stuck in the holes and pull at the boards), and will definitely make it easier to keep them clean.  I can simply sweep the smooth boards, instead of having to vacuum out each and every hole.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bedroom color dilemma

We have three bedrooms in our house: a master bedroom, and two which we refer to as the front and back bedrooms.  We'll be setting up the back bedroom as my office (i.e., the bedroom of the curtain fabric).  P and I are planning to set up our things in the front bedroom, while we complete some additional projects on the master.  We'll probably be using this as our bedroom for at least a year to come.  I wonder if we'll ever get around to moving out: the master bedroom is short on windows and fairly dark, while the front bedroom has fantastic light. 

Our current priority in the renovations projects is to complete this bedroom.  It will be lovely to have one room finished that we can retreat to at the end of a day of working on the house.  And hopefully the whole house will start to feel a little more ordered when we can finally put some of our furniture where it actually belongs!

P did a great job of prepping the room for painting.  A number of the nails holding our drywall to the studs had loosened, so you could see (if you really looked hard) the nail heads bulging out.  He pulled all of these nails, refastened the drywall to the studs with screws, and spackled over all of the resulting nail holes and screw heads. 

I did some work to clean up the crown molding.  The plaster that had smoothed the joint between the molding and the ceiling was starting to look pretty scruffy.
So I chipped it off.  I assume this is plaster.  It certainly crumbled like plaster when I gave it a good whack.  Today builders would do this job with caulk, but I doubt that anything like the plasticizers used in modern caulk had been developed in 1954.  Or did people still call whatever they used then caulk, even though it isn't much like what we use today?  Anyway, I used good, modern caulk to seal the newly exposed seam.

We primed all of the wood I had exposed in removing the plaster, and all of P's new spackle.  We painted the ceiling and the crown molding.  Hopefully today I'll finish painting the trim on the windows and doors.  At that point, all that will be required to complete the room will be: 1. to paint the walls, and 2. to replace the baseboard molding that we removed before refinishing the floors.

Now we reach the really tricky part: choosing a wall color.  I'll be painting all of the living areas in the house a light gray, so I'd like some other bedroom color.  It needs to complement our bedding, which is blue.  The bedroom walls in our last rental were a light blue--we really liked the color, but I thought it was a little much with the bedding.  So, blue and gray are out.  We'd like a relatively light color, to keep the room nice and bright.  And one final note: these walls have been painted many times over the years, and have a lot of roller texture built up.  But now certain patches of the walls are nice and smooth where P spackled them.  So whatever color paint we chose, we'll be using the flat finish, so as not to draw attention to the variety of wall textures.

I first selected two taupes, with pink/gray undertones.  (I don't like taupes and beiges with yellow undertones.)  I decided to test two Benjamin Moore colors, Featherstone and Mocha Cream, to decide whether we preferred a darker or lighter wall color.
I was quite excited about these colors, until I painted the swatches on the walls.  Definitely not what we were thinking.  The Featherstone was far too pink, and the Mocha Cream was too dark, and not pink enough.  I pulled my fan deck of paint colors back out, and quickly decided that if we didn't like these two colors, there was a good chance we weren't going to like anything in a taupe.
Back to the drawing board.  I decided it was time to get over my irrational fear of painting a room green.  Somehow, I'm convinced that if I paint a room green, it will either be too yellow, or it will look like my grandparent's living room.  But I was inspired by some swatches in the Freshaire paint line (particularly a color called Hidden Sea Glass), and decided to give green a try. 

I rolled up to the Home Depot paint counter, and asked the paint guy to mix up the Freshaire color in a Behr brand sample size.  The paint guy declined, explaining that for reasons unknown to him, the Freshaire colors never looked right in any other brand. 

Maybe this was a sign that I should try some zero-VOC paint.  I asked him to mix me up a Freshaire sample, then.  Nope.  Freshaire doesn't come in sample sizes.  Given my love (and Consumer Report's love) of Behr and my poor track record of choosing paint colors, I thought committing to a quart was a bad idea.  So I took my swatch and compared it to all the other swatches Home Depot had, and decided that Behr's Whitened Sage was a pretty close match.  For good measure, I grabbed a similar, but slightly darker, color as well, Sliced Cucumber.

Hmm.  Those don't seem quite right either.  Whitened Sage looks a little too yellow on the walls, and Sliced Cucumber is far too dark, and in my mind, almost verges on olive tones.
I'm not quite ready to give up on greens--the Whitened Sage is the best of the failed choices.  So, next I'll to find something that is green, but has bluer undertones without being too blue, nor too bright and aqua.  (We're going for really subtle and peaceful in this room--aqua would be a pretty good choice for the back bedroom, my office, next door.)  Maybe Spring Melt, in the new Martha Stewart for Home Depot line?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hosting guests while renovating

My grandparents are at my cousin S's college graduation today.  (We're so proud of you, S!)  Our house is roughly halfway between my where my grandparents live and S's college, so they were able to break their trip at our place, and spend two nights with us.

We've been looking forward to their visit for several weeks now, but we aren't nearly as far along with our renovations as we had hoped.  Instead of having a lovely guest room, most of our furniture and belongings are still in storage.  P and I have been talking for months about getting ourselves a new mattress and setting ours up in the guest room (so we actually have a guest bed), but we can't agree on how soft/firm we would like it to be.  He wants to solve this problem with a SleepNumber bed--he slept on one in a hotel once, and loved it.  I'm not thrilled about how expensive they are.  They adjust firmness by inflating or deflating a series of airbladders, and I just can't believe that design is really durable.  Then again, I haven't heard anyone complain about their SleepNumber mattress not lasting as long as they would like, so maybe I should just get over that one.  So, back to the part where it's really expensive.

Does anyone know of a manufacturer that sells a queen bed where you can get one side firmer than the other?  We've only been able to find that option with a king bed (or a DIY king by putting two twins together), and I'm not sure we want anything that large.

But I digress.  I was supposed to be talking about my grandparents.  Luckily, they're fantastically good sports, and are up for nearly anything.  They also remember what it's like to be where we are.  Fifteen years ago, they began building a new house for their retirement.  But they were concerned about whether they would be able to sell their previous house.  The real estate market was quite slow there; several other houses on their street were listed for sale, and some had been on the market for as long as two years.  So they listed their house for sale several months before the new one was scheduled to be completed--and of course, it sold in less than a week.  They put all their belongings into storage, and spent the next few months living first with my uncle's family, and then in my family's guest room.  So they can definitely relate to our current situation.

P and I have been sleeping on a mattress laid directly on the floor, while the frame and box spring are in storage.  So we dragged the mattress into our smallest bedroom, and proudly surveyed our new guest room:  the mattress laying on our newly refinished hardwoods, and a neatly folded pile of clean towels for our guests.  We'll call it the minimalist look: no bedside table, no lamp, no clock.  But the floors!  They were beautiful!  And our guests would be in such close proximity to them, with no box spring or rug to interfere!  Pretty good deal, right?

Next up was making the hall bath inhabitable for the guests.  The most important order of business was rehanging the door that I had taken off the hinges to paint.  (Who wants to use a bathroom with no door?)  So the newly painted, crisp white door was rehung in the still cream colored door frame.  Then, to clean: I removed the bits of stripped wallpaper from every surface, chipped stray bits of spackle off of the countertop and out of the bathtub, and wiped construction dust off of everywhere.  Finally, I got nice and thoughtful, and put soap, shampoo, and conditioner in the shower, a dispenser of hand soap on the counter, and a throw rug on the floor.

I was really quite pleased with myself for cleaning the place up, and P was quite impressed with how good it looked when he got home.  Want a peak?
Yeah, it's all about perspective, isn't it?

As I said, my grandparents are great sports, and didn't complain a bit about anything.  Though my grandfather did get stuck in the bathroom, as I had neglected to put the new doorknob on the door, so you need a screwdriver or other implement to open the latch once it had closed.  (As soon as I freed him, he put the new knob on for me.)  And after quietly observing the situation for 24 hours, they politely asked if I would mind if they took the full-length mirror that was laying on my "to junk" pile outside and propped it up in their room, so they would be able to comb their hair the second morning.  My grandparents are pretty good problem solvers!

We had a great time on their visit--it was a great excuse for us to see some of the local attractions and try out a new restaurant--all things P and I had been meaning to do, but hadn't made the time for until we had guests.

And we have several more guests coming soon!  So thanks for breaking us in (and getting that doorknob on the bathroom), Grammy and Pa!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Curtain fabric!

I've been having a hard time figuring out what color I want to paint the bedroom that will serve as my office/craft room.  I want something bright and energizing, but that will still work with the rest of the house. 

Since I was being indecisive while staring at the paint swatches, I thought that perhaps the way to make a decision would be to first select the fabric I'll use to make the curtains, and then work backwards from there to the paint color.  Again, I'm thinking something punchy, bright, large print....  But I hadn't been making much headway with that approach, either--I wasn't able to find a fabric I liked at a good price, nor one that was so perfect that I didn't mind paying an arm and a leg.

Then, a member of the new modern quilting group that I'm a part of sent us a link to Pink Chalk Fabric's Anniversary Sale.  They have some really great fabrics at some fantastic prices.  I was tempted by a number of their options:

I finally decided on this one, an Amy Butler in the Nigella home decor fabric line. At $5.99 for a 54" wide decor weight designer fabric (normally $14.95), it's a great deal! (Plus, by using a 54" wide fabric, I'll be able to get two curtain panels out a of width of fabric. I'd only be able to get one out of a 44" width--that's a big cost savings, and one of the major reasons I chose this one.)

Go check out Pink Chalk Fabric--they have some great deals through May 17, but they only have several yards of each fabric, so they're selling out quick!  And I bought the entire stock of this one.  :-)

Once the fabric arrives, I'll pull out my deck of paint chips and think about what color to paint the room.  Maybe a light turquoise, a few shades lighter than the leaves, or a light green, as in the swirl in the flower petals?

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Between P and I, we have 3 bachelors degrees, 3 masters, and 2 Ph.D.s.  By both temperament and training, we like to thoroughly research any project before beginning. 

We bought a few books on wood floors, and checked out several more from the public library.  Our hands-down favorite was Charles Peterson's Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide to Layout, Installation, and Finishing (Taunton Press, 2010).  The book is only available in hardcover, and costs $30, but we considered that a good investment for this project.  If everything went right, refinishing the floors would cost us several hundred dollars.  If we made a mistake and had to undo or redo a step, it would cost far more than the $30 book.  Plus, our time is valuable, and a tip that saves us an hour or two is definitely worth $30.  Finally, we want the floors to come out looking really good, and to be as durable as possible, so that we don't have to refinish the floors again for many years to come (as that's quite costly in terms of both time and money invested).

(Image courtesy Taunton Press)

Perhaps all of this is to say that we really like to buy books, and it's a habit we're really good at rationalizing.  (You'll see much more of this habit when I start discussing decorating challenges.)

Wood Flooring is (so far as we can determine) both the newest and most authoritative text on the subject.  New is important--flooring technology has changed significantly in the last ten or fifteen years.  More products are available than ever before and product quality shifts over time.  We now understand the health hazards involved in working with certain finishes far better than we did before.

Wood Flooring, like most Taunton publications, is not the easiest text for the complete novice to pick up.  The author assumes that you will understand some amount of technical language on tools and finishes.  Taunton publications also assume an audience with perfectionist tendencies: they're aimed at people who want to invest significant time (and money in tools) to get the best possible outcome.  But if you really want to do a good job, it's hard to beat Taunton as a guide.