Monday, February 27, 2012

Short Attention Span

Y'all know I have a short attention span.  It should come as no surprise then that I'm already thinking about what I'll tackle next after the floors are done. 

I think it should be the bathroom next to my bedroom, because I just can't take looking at this anymore....
That's the wall behind the tub, where the plastic tile is falling off.  I call this bathroom my "winter bathroom", because unlike the other bathroom in my house, it has a heat vent and taking a shower in there is actually bearable during the winter months.  Unfortunately, the winter bathroom didn't have a shower in it until I added that handheld thing about 18 months ago...and unfortunately, the tiled wall was never meant to handle as much moisture or humidity as a shower puts out, so the tile is popping off.  (I may have helped that process along by picking at the tiles when I'm in the shower.)  Anyhow, I now have a situation where, in order to take a shower, I'm going to have to tape plastic over that wall.

Or I could move to the summer bathroom a few weeks early.  The summer bathroom is in a sort of hallway between the back porch and the back bedroom.  I've talked about it before, but long story short it's about 11 feet long and slightly over 3 feet wide and has a shower tacked onto the end of it.  It's kinda icky, but not as icky as the bathroom next to my bedroom. 

Or I could finally do something about these two bathrooms.  I've been talking about it for years.  Long-time readers might recall that about three years ago Mare and I came up with a grand plan that involved tearing out the teeny shower, knocking out the wall between the two bathrooms, and turning the space into one big bathroom.  Well, I've rethought that.  For one (as many of my dear readers pointed out at the time) a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house is a lot more appealing to a potential buyer than that same house with only one bathroom.  For another--and the more important consideration, to my mind--is that taking out that shower and that wall and redoing that whole space would be a giant pain in my hiney.  I'm all about saving myself some hiney pain whenever possible. 

Eventually, I'd like both bathrooms to look somewhat like this photo I found on the Better Homes & Gardens website.  I love the beadboard and the tan walls, but I'm not sure about all that subway tile.  That's a whole lot of subway tile.  I love, love, love the tile floor too.  In fact, I'm surprised by how much I love it because I've always dreamed of a bathroom with black-and-white hex tile.  Maybe it's because that floor looks warmer, more like hardwood.  (I might actually have a decent floor under all the layers of craptastic flooring in at least one of the bathrooms.)  I like all the vintage details too, like the wall hooks and the shelf supports.  The neutral palette appeals to me too. 

So...after I decide whether or not to put a second coat of stain on the floors, and after I varnish them, and after I move all my furniture back into those three rooms, and after I buy a decent sofa for the front parlor....then I'll start in on the bathrooms.  Maybe.  Unless something else grabs my attention.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Right Thing

So yesterday and today I finally came to my senses about the floors.  I did the right thing, put down the wrecker bar, and stained the floors.  Minwax Special Walnut, one coat.  Debating about a second coat.  Opinions?

The dining room.
I'm not sure what that white thing in the middle of the floor might be a piece of cracker that Louis Cat was playing with. 

The front parlor.

I even finished staining the entryway too, but I forgot to take a picture of that.  I did, however, get photographic evidence of a security breach that occurred last night.

Gracie is apparently small enough to squeeze into the gap between the baby gate and the kitchen door and then somehow wiggle her way down to the cat door and out into the rest of the house.  At least that's my theory.  I didn't know she'd escaped until she scampered into the front parlor and announced with a loud meow that she was there.  Of course she ran through the wet stain.  And of course I stepped in it, too, trying to catch her.  (If you follow me on Twitter the pic I posted is of the first time she escaped.)

So what do y'all think?  Is one coat of stain enough?  The directions on the can advise two coats, but I'm not sure if that's marketing strategy to sell more stain or if two coats are really necessary.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leaving Well Enough Alone

Could we all pause in whatever we're doing and observe a small moment of silence for my original floors, a little tiny piece of which I uncovered today?  See 'em, running perpendicular to the new floor, right next to the gaping hole?  Sigh....They don't look to be that bad, at least not in the 6 or so square inches of flooring I can see.  Still, I suppose (grudgingly, and with regret) that I ought not to tear up the oak flooring we just spent hours and hours sanding in order to uncover another floor that we'll have to spend hours and hours sanding.  Especially not when I don't know what the rest of the original floor looks like.  This might be the only decent spot in the whole thing.  The rest of it could be water-damaged or terribly scarred or missing altogether and replaced with plywood or something.  I mean, this house was apartments for years and years, so the chances that the floors look decent all over are really slim.  Right?  Right.  Yes.  It's better to leave well enough alone.

Except...I had exactly these same fears when I tore off the ugly shingles from the outside of the house.  And that turned out well.  Really well.  Exceedingly well.  In fact, on the whole of the house WTB replaced three clapboards, and then only because a stovepipe hole had been cut in them. 

Something tells me I really wouldn't get that lucky twice.  Right?  Yes.  Right.  Not to mention that tearing up the oak floors now would mean a waste of all the time and money I've spent so far.  Right?  Yes.  Right.  It's better to leave well enough alone.  Isn't it?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How Cool Is This?!

The online version of This Old House recently listed their Best Old House Neighborhoods for 2012, and guess who made that list?  Lexington, Missouri!  My little hometown!

In my estimation, my neighborhood is easily the best of the Best Old House Neighborhoods...but I might be a tad biased.  Still, living practically smack in the middle of the Old Neighborhoods National Register Historic District, being surrounded by gorgeous old houses, within walking distance of the other three (yes, three!) Historic Districts in Lexington--our downtown, the Highland Avenue neighborhood, and Wentworth Military Academy--and having the best neighbors ever, my neighborhood's got almost everything a person could want.  A little ten-minute stroll (7 minutes if I'm walking with WTB) and I'm downtown to get a reuben at Riley's Irish Pub & Grill, browse through the furniture and antique hardware at Missouri River Antique Company, buy a book or two and a great cup of coffee at River Reader, check out the cool stuff at Patlen's Smart Shop (which is located inside a former bank building that was once robbed by Jesse James), and window-shop the fabulous furniture at Blackthorn Trading Company.  (This is not an all-inclusive list of the shops by any means--just my very favorites.)

Come see Lexington for yourself.  You can plan your trip at and find links there to local Bed & Breakfast inns, our area wineries, and a calendar of events.  And should you fall in love with Lexington, there are several historic properties for sale in town.  I can't say enough nice things about the folks at Welcome Home Realty, who specialize in historic houses and have a real passion for the properties they sell.  Some of their listings are truly swoon-worthy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Incident

A couple of days ago I ventured down into the scary basement to take Joe The Floor Guy's advice and look at the underside of the floors.  Because the actual basement extends under the house for less than half its length (the rest is crawlspace) I knew I wouldn't be able to see much.  I could see all of the kitchen floor (which is not being refinished) and part of the dining room, but I wasn't about to climb up the dirt walls and wiggle around down under the house in all the dust and cobwebs and Lord knows what else just to see the parlor floor.  Most especially not when I'd already pretty much made up my mind to stick with the floors I've got.  (Go back and read the comments after my last post--lots of really good advice there.  Thanks to everyone who commented and gave me food for thought.)

So Charlie and I finished sanding the rest of the floors Friday and Saturday.  Not without incident, however...

We'd been scraping at the black glue and varnish in the corners and along the edges of the three rooms for hours and hours.  It was a long and tedious job, made even longer by the fact that both of us have almost no patience and so we took several breaks to sit outside on the front porch in the sun.  Friday afternoon I walked into the other parlor (where all the furniture's stacked up) looking for something and literally stumbled across a Craftsman Multitool.  I took it to Charlie.

"Look what I found," I chirped.

"Does that thing have a sander on it?" he asked.

"Yep," I said, "and it's got a triangle-shaped head so it'll get back in the corners and there's a whole pack of sandpaper in there and---"

"Where'd you find that?"

"In the other room," I said.  "Dylan and Sarah gave it to me for Christmas three years ago."

Charlie adjusted his hat.  He made that little 'huh" sound he makes when he's stalling.  Then he said, "So you've had that thing this whole time?  And we've been scrapin' glue off with a [bleeping] pull knife and razor blades?!?!"


"Yes...I guess I forgot I had it...."

"How in the hell do you hand scrape for hours and hours and forget you have a multitool?!" Charlie yelled.

I'm hoping that was a rhetorical question, because I didn't answer him.  I just handed him the multitool and walked away.

Needless to say, the rest of the sanding went much quicker than it did in the beginning, so yesterday afternoon I went to Lowe's to pick out stain.  After much agonizing deliberation, I came home with Minwax Golden Oak...which is way too light.  I swear it looked darker on the little sample in the store.  At home it looks, well, golden.  And pale.  So I'll be taking that back as soon as I can and exchanging it for something like Chestnut, which I should have bought in the first place.  If there's rain or snow or other weather that prevents pouring concrete, Charlie will stain the floors Thursday and Friday; if there's concrete weather he'll start the floors on Saturday.  In the meantime I'll be cleaning up lots and lots of dust from the floors and the walls.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Joe Makes Me Think

Joe The Floor Guy called Friday afternoon to say that he was coming by to look at the floors and give us some free advice.  I immediately began to worry and fret, and that became contagious.  By the time Joe got there an hour later, Charlie and I had convinced ourselves that we'd torn up the floors beyond repair, that we never should have started this stupid project, and that I'd be better off just covering it all up with carpet.

When Joe showed up he walked through all three rooms, took a look at the still-yucky floor in the other parlor, told us that there really isn't an easier way to get the glue up than to tediously scrape at it, and declared that we did a pretty good job. 

Then the trouble started.  Joe verified my opinion (and Mare's too) that these aren't the original floors.  "You have wide pine under this stuff," he said.  "What's on there now is red oak, but it's a cheap floor and not real thick.  It'll last awhile, though.  You know, you could take this stuff up and restore the original floors...."

I'd been thinking the same thing, remembering when Mare and I did just that on another old house he used to own. 

Charlie read my thoughts.  "Oh, no.  Hell, no.  If you're gonna do that, you're on your own.  I didn't go through all this sanding for you to pull it up."

"It would be a big pain in the ass," Joe said, "because it's all hand-nailed and you'd have to fill in all those holes."

"Like I did when I took off the outside of the house," I said brightly.  "I had to fill in billions of nail holes in the original clapboards."

"Oh, Lordy," said Charlie.

"Well yeah, compared to that this wouldn't be so bad.  We've refinished floors like that before and they look really good when they're done," said Joe.

"Oh, Lordy," said Charlie.

Joe continued, "If you're gettin that idea, what you need to do is go downstairs and look up at the floor from underneath to see how much patching and stuff there is.  It'd be a big job for you, but it'd bring back the original floors."

"I wonder if they raised the baseboard..." I mused, then looked at the wall closely. "Nope, looky here. You can see the seam between the plaster and the top of the baseboard. I bet only the shoe moulding was raised. That would mean I'd just have to pry that off, not the whole thing.  Oh, gosh, Joey, now you've got me thinking...Mrs. Kelly would be happy if I put back the original floors."

"Then Mrs. Kelly better come back from the dead and help you do all that," Charlie said.  I sense a mutiny.

Joe left laughing.  "Let me know what you decide."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Free Agency

I knew it would happen sooner or later.  Joe The Floor Guy got wind that Charlie and I are doing the floors ourselves.  Joe hit me up on Facebook chat.

Joe:  Hired a free agent, didya?  You're on the list now...the bad list.

Me:  I feel really bad about not hiring you, but honestly....I can't afford you.

Joe:  Just kidding.  Where are the finishing pics? 

Me:  We're a long way from finished.  That's as far as we got on our days off.

Joe:  DAYS?!  I could've had it done in a day!  Haha.

Me:  That's cause you & your family are like the MLB of floor refinishing....we're more like the Little League team that's in last place....or the Bad News Bears.

Joe:  Make sure you get all that old varnish off, or the new stuff won't bond right.

Me:  Okay.

Joe:  Do a light sand between coats.

Me:  Okay.

Joe:  And get in the corners good.  Do you know how to get in the corners?

Me:  Ummm....

Joe:  I'll just come over Wednesday and evaluate your progress.

Me:  No!  I'm afraid you'll walk in and be all, OH MY GOD, you're doin it ALL WRONG!!

Joe:  Duh.  You know I'm gonna say that.  But I can give you a little free advice.

Me:  I am scared. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Before & During

I can't really call these before-and-after photos because we're still a long way from "after", so I'll say they're before-and-during pictures. 

Front parlor before

Front parlor sanded

(Looks uneven because I hadn't run the ShopVac yet.)

I couldn't get a before picture of the foyer because Charlie was half-done in there before I even knew he'd started, but here's what it looked like after he was finished sanding. 

And saving the worst for last...the dining room.  This is the room I was most worried about because it had so much damage to it.  Several years before I bought the house, the neighbor's tree fell over in a storm and poked a big hole in the roof of my house.  I'm not sure of the particulars, but the end result was a pretty large patch of water damage (about 4'x4') on the floor and the total replacement of the original plaster ceiling in there with sheetrock.


Not so ugly.

The floors are pine, narrow-width boards maybe an inch and a quarter.  Oddly, the dining room floor's made from hundreds of short little pieces.  (You can bigify the pictures and compare the foyer floor to the dining room floor to better see what I'm talking about.)  In places we could see the original stain and varnish.  The floors were stained sort of a maple color originally.  I'm thinking of going a bit darker to even out some of the bad places in the floors that didn't completely sand out, like maybe an oak or walnut. 

Last night I had a nightmare that while I slept, some creature came into the house and turned the floors black again.  In the dream, it was sort of like a giant land-dwelling squid that poured out ink.  I woke up terrified about 6 a.m. and ran into the dining room, then through the front parlor and into the foyer.  The floors, of course, had not turned black.  What a relief.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Woooo Hoooo!!!

With a post title like that, you know it can only mean one thing.

Yup, Charlie started on the front parlor floor today.

The historic first pass of the sander
My mother called me this afternoon to ask how things were going.  "I don't think he has any idea how long he's been workin," I told her.  A few minutes later Charlie walked into the kitchen.  "That clock on the stove's not right, is it?"  I assured him it was.  Four-thirty.  He'd put in three solid hours of work.  My mother and I laughed.  Charlie looked grim.  He may even have uttered a bad swear at that point. 

But the floor looked like this:

You can barely see the floor through all the dust....
Note that in the first photo, the curtains are up; in the second they're not.  Yeah, probably should've taken those down before he started sanding....

When I saw the floor without that damnable black glue on it for the first time ever, I jumped up and down and clapped my hands.  This time Charlie laughed.  "I take it you like the way they look so far," he said.  I answered a resounding, "YES!!" 

He still has a long way to go.  It's taking much longer to sand that black junk off than he thought it would.  (His original plan for today was to sand the front parlor, the dining room, and the foyer.)  As I write this, it's nearly 6 pm and he's still working.  I've been trying off and on for the past half hour to get him to quit so I can buy him a nice steak dinner at the pub.  He is most definitely not a grasshopper...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Less Grasshopper, More Ant

It's becoming quite clear to me that the universe is trying to tell me something.

And that something is:  stop putting things off, girl.

The original plan for Wednesday was to come home, stay up, and pretty much kick butt on the house:  get the second coat of paint on the parlor window, put the sash locks back on, clean house, do laundry, move some furniture and--most importantly--pack up the 5 billion fragile little things in my great-grandma's china cabinet so that Charlie and I can move furniture on Friday and start in on the floors. 

Instead, I slept until 1:30 in the afternoon.  (Totally Charlie's fault for not calling me on his lunch break like he usually does, right?) Then I straightened up the house a bit, colored my hair, and went to supper and movie night with my bestie Amy.  "Meh," I thought, "I can do all that stuff on Thursday, no problem."  Which would've been true, except...halfway through the first movie I got a page from work that I was being called in on mandatory overtime for day shift on Thursday.  Day shift.  Ugh.  But as my friend Colleen tweeted, "Just think though, it's extra $$."  True.  OT pay which will go towards stain and poly and picture rail and other stuff.  It's a good thing.

Thursday night I am cleaning my house.  Then I'm pulling all the small furniture into the other parlor.  Then I'm packing up the china cabinet.  I am.  Really.  No more putting things off.  I need to be less like the fabled grasshopper and more like the ant.