Our Friend Gary

There hasn't been a whole lot of action around the house lately. We have discovered a leaky pipe under the bathtub drain. Since it is the drain line, the pipe only leaks when someone is taking a shower or bath. Unfortunately the pipe is hard to get to and requires going into the "difficult" part of the crawl space (inside the bedroom closet). In addition, the area where the leak is located is not really possible for an average-sized human to get too. Thank God Brice is so thin!!

Now I don't know anything about plumbing. Brice says he knows two or three things. So together, we decided that we could (probably) fix this problem. Either that or I will have to shower at the gym and use the toilet at the gas station. The plan is to re-route the bathtub drain into the drain coming from the washer. Why not repair the existing pipe? Well, the existing pipe is a flexible plastic pipe that could be replaced, but eventually it drains into a very large cast iron pipe. The connection between the two pipes is so corroded, that we thought it would be best if we didn't push our luck with the ancient apparatus. If that cast iron pipe goes, we will have some serious trouble. Instead, we will block off the existing flexible pipe, and just drain into the nearby washer drain line.

Recently we have obtained a new pet. As if four cats wasn't enough, an orb-weaving spider moved into the area between the storm and kitchen window. Although the weather is very cold, Brice started feeding the spider. We named him Gary. I made a video of the momentous occasion when we delivered a rather large fly to him.

The video is a little blurry, since the camera had a hard time focusing on the spider.




I know this is a month late.

My best friend Amanda came to stay at the house for a night and wanted to carve some pumpkins for Halloween. Even though they came from a pattern that you can buy at any store, they turned out really neat so we took some pictures.

This is Amanda's "witch" pumpkin.

This is Brice's "cat" pumpkin.

I decided to carve the tree since I am partial to things that are tree-related. Unfortunately, it took almost four hours and the next day it wasn't looking nearly as nice.

And here they are all together, day and night!


Update on Master Bedroom...

Here are the (be)latest pictures of the master bedroom.

First a few before pictures...

A pre-mommy Molly in the closet.

The closet required the most work: no doors, cracked plaster, a wall made out of plywood, no trim, a crappy closet organizer...

Now it has new paint, curtains, doors, and furniture (The angle made it hard to put the pictures in a panoramic view, but it gives the whole picture). I know that sums up a many weeks of work without much detail, but here are the pictures before the closet was finished.

Here are the finished pictures of the closet. It is a small closet and although I hated the old closet organizer, there weren't a lot of other options. Unfortunately, it is a deep closet so there is a lot of wasted space. What made it so difficult is the attic access in the front-middle of the closet ceiling and the cellar access in the left-bottom of the closet floor. I bought a slightly more expensive version of the old closet organizer and added a place for shoes. I also went through some of my clothes that I haven't worn since college.

Lastly here is the pictures of the doors. Both doors had to be replaced, mostly because I couldn't see myself stripping paint anymore. They are hollow doors, but they turned out pretty good thanks to Brice. He handled all the door work.


And the Crack Came Back the Very next Day...

I forgot to mention in the last post some of the interesting things we discovered while inspecting the front door. When measuring for the opening, we removed some of the vinyl siding around the door. The next-door-neighbor was correct when she said that the house used to be a tan/peachish stucco house. Of course that is after it was a brick house, but before it was a vinyl-sided house. It looks like I might as well stay with the vinyl, since the brick would take some effort to restore. Maybe the stucco isn't that bad, but I would be a little hesitant to pull off the siding and find something massively unpleasant. So for the time being, the house will be vinyl.

Another interesting thing is that the door was arched. I am not sure if the original door was arched, but the opening most certainly was. You can see this from the weird-looking header in the picture of the door. Under the vinyl siding, you can see see it even better, but a picture really isn't possible. Here is what I think the door used to look like.

Well, not quite, but I am guessing that the top bricks were arched like that. Since the porch was added on later, an arched doorway would no longer be possible. Or at least it wouldn't really be seen anymore. What a shame!

I also mentioned in the last post that the bedroom was finished. Where are the pictures you ask? Well, it is a little dirty right now, but I will post pictures of it at a later date.

Finally, before the dining room could be started I needed to determine what should be done with the wood burning stove. You might remember that it had a 90 degree bend in the pipes (my apologies to Lance, as this was the only "before" picture I have that shows the bend in the pipes).

Well, it turns out that some chimney sweeps not only clean chimneys, but also fix stoves, fireplaces, and pipes. So I called a local chimney sweep and he said that the 90 degree angle was probably there because of where the rafters lay in the attic. He also said that the stove would need at least 16 inches of non-combustible materials in front of it. You can see from the previous picture, that this is not even remotely the case. You can also see that if I were to extend the bricks further out in the room, not only would the new floor need to be cut, but it would extend into the doorway as well. He suggested that maybe I purchase a new wood burning stove (in the spring when the deals are better), and it could be connected to the existing pipe. A new stove would be smaller, more efficient, and the pipe usually comes from the top of the stove instead of from the back. Even still, I would need to extend the non-combustible surface further out, to prevent starting a fire on the floor. If I were to completely remove the existing stove and replace it with nothing, I would have to patch a hole in the ceiling and the roof, and a weird brick area would remain in the dining room. Removing the bricks would most likely be out of the question, since the wainscoat cannot be matched without some custom work and the floors would need to be fixed.

Here are the pros of each option.

The pros of replacing the old wood burning stove with a new stove:

  • Efficient heating method for house

  • Smaller design

  • Help house resale

The pros of just removing the old stove and leaving things as they are:

  • Cheapest option

  • Non-combustible materials do not have to extend further in the room

  • Place to put plants

Because I shamelessly enjoy putting polls on my blog, I would like visitor's opinions on whether or not I should remove the wood burning stove all together or if I should get a new stove and extend the brick. Voting is in the side bar again.


Now to explain the title. The last two days we have had nothing but rain. This morning when I glanced over at the living room wall, I realized that there was a weird shadow there. On closer inspection, I found that the Krack Kote has swelled and formed a bubble.

This area has been repaired twice before. Why is is still coming back? Well the first time we repaired it, the joint compound cracked. The second time we repaired it, we used Krack Kote over joint compound (the Krack Kote label DID say that it can be used over joint compound). We felt like maybe we should have primed the surface first, but tried it anyway. It seem to hold pretty well. However, this time it appeared that one of two things have happened;

A. Water has somehow gotten into the house during this rain storm and has caused the joint compound to swell. This caused the bubble in the Krack Kote.


B. The humidity has caused the joint compound to swell and in turn, the Krack Kote to bubble.

Brice went into the attic today and could not find any leaks or dampness from the rain. The roof is still in very good shape and it would be unusual to find a leak. However a leak from the side cannot be ruled out. Last weekend Brice and I set to work cleaning the yard, house, and gutters. Perhaps a gutter is still blocked and water is backing up into a crack. Or perhaps water from the hose leaked through some crack in the roof or siding.

The other option is just swelling from humidity. This is possible, but I found a new and smallish crack in the ceiling above the bubbling in the Krack Kote and it is slightly darker then the surrounding ceiling. This makes me think that it is slightly damp and leans me towards option A.

Either way, there is a problem. I think that the best way to fix the problem would be to wait until things have dried out, remove the old Krack Kote, prime the surface thoroughly, and reapply the Krack Kote. Although there is bubbling, the Krack Kote has done what it promises, and that is NOT CRACK! I am very happy with the product at this time and will continue to use it on all my plaster (and occasionally drywall) walls.


Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out...

Since, this is a rather long post, I decided to post a more succinct summary at the bottom for those with short attention spans.


It has been over a month and a half since I have posted something to the blog. I don't want people to get the impression that no work is taking place, but if they had that impression it wouldn't be entirely off base.

Actually, some progress has been made, but there seems to be a road block that Brice and I have hit since finishing the bedroom (Oh yeah, we did finish most of the work in the bedroom). Brice thinks it is because the house is now livable and inhabited, thus making it harder to find the motivation to do any work. I think that I am just getting frustrated with the slow progress that has been made, and having to do things again, and again, and again...

So to recap what has happened in the last month...

I wanted to weatherproof the house before the cold weather came. I first looked into getting new storm windows, since many are missing pieces and they just aren't in that good of shape. Well, they certainly are cheaper than brand new windows, but the cost of the new windows is a deterrent for the time being. Probably those won't be replaced until next year. The bright side, is that I don't really need anyone to install them as there are already storm windows there and they are just screwed into the house. The down side is that they are $1,000+.

So I moved onto the two exterior doors. They both need to be replaced. The back door, in particular, has gaps around the top and bottom of the door that are large enough to view what is going on outside. The slightly ironic situation is that the side of the door fits so tightly that when it rains and swells, I cannot get out the door without the help of Brice. In addition, the jamb, threshold, and back screen door are also rotten and should be replaced when the door is replaced.

The front door on the other hand is a beautiful solid oak door with glass. The same door at Home Depot cost well into the the $800 range. It pains me to have to replace it, but over the years, the door has not weathered well and has gaps all around the window, splitting joints, and several holes where many locks once existed. It would be far too expensive to fix it, and the house would not have a door for an undetermined amount of time. That probably is not the best deterrent for thieves.

With all my frustrations about the wooden back door, I thought that steel would be the best alternative. It is affordable and won't be subject to shrinking and swelling when the weather is humid (which normally is never on the front range, but this summer has been particularly wet). Too lazy to remove the freshly painted trim, we took the measurements of the doors themselves and took them to the local Home Depot.

This however, was not the way to plan for a new door. After being asked a number of questions that I couldn't answer and discovering that both doors would not be the $170 base model I picked out, but rather two $400 custom cut doors, I went back home in frustration. We removed the trim around the front door and measured the opening. The rough opening was the same size as the door itself. After a few seconds of mulling this new prospect over, we realized that the door did not really have a jamb, it was just hung directly onto the framed opening of the house.

      Now, this is not normally how you would hang a door. The rough opening should be framed and then a door and jamb are placed inside the opening. However, this meant that we COULD hang a normal sized door within this opening!

      Or so we thought... We measured the narrowest part of the door, and found that the opening could hold a 32" door (The current door is 36") For those that don't know much about doors, that is a pretty small door. Most likely this would mean that the next owners should get accustom to my style, because a lot of the furniture would not be leaving (or entering) the house anytime soon.

      It should be noted that at this point in time, I had already phoned my parents and requested their help installing the doors before winter. They were planning on coming on the weekend of Columbus day. The time to order doors and get them before my crew arrived was rapidly diminishing.

      Desperate, I searched for local handymen that might be able to suggest what should be done about the front door. I found a couple of carpenters on Craigslist. The first seemed a little too eager to get the demo saw and create a bigger opening in the bricks. I wasn't really comfortable with that idea. I wasn't sure how this house was constructed and didn't want to try anything too risky with the framework. He asked what I planned to do with the door and I said that I would probably donate it to the local construction recycling center (discussed in an early post). He offered to take it off my hands to save me a trip with the door. Whereupon I tried to negotiate a trade for part of his labor in return for the door. Anyone can tell you that I am not a good salesman. Needless to say, this was unsuccessful.

      The second carpenter showed up half and hour late, got out of his truck and proceeded to pour what looked like a beer onto the sidewalk. He then smoked a cigarette and opened and drank what looked like another beer, before coming up to the front door and apologizing for being late. He said he wasn't comfortable with the idea of removing the framing as he didn't want to be responsible if something catastrophic happened. He suggested just getting a slab that would fit the opening, much like we had now.

      My parents came up to visit despite having no door to install. They surveyed the situation and we decided that the old wood frame should be replaced and a new slab should replace the old door. In other words, the new door would be exactly the same as the old door, only hopefully weather tight. At least this would not require someone elses labor (except my wonderful parents, of course!).

          ***********************SPOILER ALERT!!**************************

          • Brice and I are lazy and have not worked in the house for a while

          • Storm windows are too expensive to replace at this time

          • Both exterior doors suck and need to be replaced

          • Remove all trim to measure for new door and jamb

          • Front door is attached to framed opening

          • Carpenters from Craigslist may be sketchy

          • Front door will be re-attached to frame of rough opening sometime in the near future


        Plumbing Woes...

        For the last couple of weeks, our plumbing has started to make funny noises. At first it belched a little. Then it started gurgling. Finally, it made loud gurgling and belching noises every time someone took a shower. At first we thought this could be a venting issue. But soon, we found that the bathtub drained slower, the sink wouldn't drain at all, and the toilet seemed continually clogged. I know my limitation, so I called a professional. This afternoon, the plumber came over to inspect the gurgling plumbing. He cleaned the main line out, because he could not find a trap in the house. No surprise since the house predates most indoor plumbing. He said that at about 30 feet, there was an obstruction, but surprisingly he only pulled out a few roots. He did make a point to say that he would not be responsible for a crack in the cast iron pipe (which is apparently a likely enough event that he felt he should warn us). Luckily the ancient pipe seemed to withstand the abuse. for the time being. Now I am a few dollars poorer, but at least the sewer is functioning again!

        This weekend we will begin working on the bedroom. That means repairing some serious cracks near the attic entrance, finishing stripping the trim, and of course painting.

        In the meantime everyone has just been lounging around after the holiday. Here are some pictures of the kids...




        and Nelson


        The Container Store...

        As I posted in the last blog, I went to visit my parents and some friends in southern Colorado last weekend. On the way down there, we stopped in Lone Tree to see the Container Store. WOW! I love that store. My close friends and family know how much I love to organize things and here was a store that was full of shelves, plastic boxes, and just about every conceivable item for organization. I was in sensory overload. I am very interested in their Elfa closet system, but that will have to wait until I get a closet to organize. Nevertheless, we still bought some various items, including the 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips. I looked all over the internet for reviews of these little strips, but found very little information. So here is my review...

        3M Command Picture Hanging Strips

        3M is a pretty interesting company. Most are familiar with their "sticky" things, such as Post-Its and packing tape, but few know that they also make small animal stethoscopes and fly fishing lines. They usually don't disappoint me and certainly are extremely innovative. With the Command Picture Hanging Strips, I think that they have once again made a very useful home product.

        The walls in my house are plaster, and even though I often wished we had replaced them with dry wall, we did spend a lot of time trying patch the billions of cracks that peppered my walls. For this reason, I am afraid to use the swamp cooler (since humidity can cause new cracks to appear) and hang pictures using nails or screws. But a house without decorations is no house for me! I saw the strips in Living magazine and thought, perhaps this was something that I could use.

        The strips come in three sizes and have different recommended weights. The medium strips held pictures up to three pounds, so that is what I bought. The package has six strips, but you use them as a pair, so actually it is three. Since we used two for each picture, this was a bit of a pain. Luckily I had enough to hang the four vacation pictures I had in mind when I purchased them.

        The strips are adhesive on one side and a weird plastic Velcro on the other side. The two strips then lock together, while the adhesive holds one strip to the wall and one strip to the picture. What makes them even more unique is that they are not supposed to take off your paint when you remove the adhesive from the wall. The back of the package does warn that they should not be used on wallpaper, however.

        After you clean the surfaces that the adhesive will stick to with rubbing alcohol, you stick one strip to the picture. You then lock the two strips in place with each other, peel the backing from the second strip, and place the picture on the wall. The directions were a little confusing, but when you see the product it is very intuitive. Once the pictures are on the wall, you can remove the picture or make adjustments to level if necessary.

        The best thing about this product is that no damage is that done to the walls, while the pictures stay in place and cannot be bumped and nudged. The only thing that caught my eye, was a warning that instructed the user not to use these strips to hang picture over the bed. That does make me wonder if I am going to come home one day and find my pictures on the floor.

        So here is the final result...

        And a picture of the side view...


        Trip to the South

        This weekend we took a pause from the hustle and bustle of the housing project and went to south to visit my parents. Most people think of Colorado as a beautiful, forested oasis. However, the majority of Colorado's population lives on the east side of the Rockies where it is actually high plains...pretty arid, especially where I grew up. While I enjoy the slightly wetter summer we have had, I hate any humidity, since we usually get dry heat. So despite driving three hours on the nation's most horrible interstate (I-25), it was nice to visit the "desert", and see the local wildlife... Here is a tarantula on my parents garage. We see them pretty often at my parent's house, but we were pretty surprised that it could climb the slick garage walls so easily. It even scooted across the glass!

        This weekend we also lost out dear friend Haley the German Shepard, who stayed at our house while her parents went to Alaska for three whole weeks! Lucky jerks... She didn't die, she just went back home. Anyway, she was a lot of fun to have around, and it seems weird without her. It was nice to finally have a yard where a dog can stay.

        Here is Haley and the Hose.


        2 Rooms Down...

        Here are the newest pictures of the living room...

        We painted the lower part of the fireplace, just so it looks okay for the time being. Eventually we will tile the fireplace and hearth. We also bought a couple of pieces of furniture (on the wishlist) from American Furniture Warehouse that complimented the coffee table.

        Although this picture looks much the same, you can see the new curtains...

        The only things left to finish in the living room are to replace the front door and to tile the fireplace!

        Here are some pictures of the new curtains in the office. I wasn't sure whether to hem the curtains on the shorter window, but I think that the longer length is okay in a room with the high ceilings. Plus I think that it matches the other window. (Let me know what you think by voting in the poll on the left side of the blog...) **The poll was closed some time ago, but the consensus (by a narrow margin) was to leave the curtains the full length **

        I got the curtain rods for $15 at Big Lots!!

        And here is the office with some furniture in it. I don't really like the set up in the room right now, but the cats like to use my desk as a ladder to the high window. Plus the bookcase needs to rest on the east wall, since the floor is slanted and on the other wall, the bookcase leans forward! Ahhh, old houses...


        Let There Be Internet

        The internet connection was installed yesterday. Now I can include some updates on the various projects in the house.

        As promised, I will include pictures of the bathroom. Here is the tile after it was grouted and sealed. As you can see, the shower is already in use.

        Here is the vanity with the new counter tops, faucet, and Foster...

        The bathroom still needs scraping, primer, and paint, but it is coming along. After much deliberation, however, we put the bathroom on hold and worked on finishing some of the "almost complete" rooms in the front of the house. So back to the office where we patched some new cracks (yes, more cracks...) and prepared to paint.

        Since our cracks are so prolific and some have reappeared, we tried a two new products to seal our cracks. The first product is called Krack Kote. It is rubbery, and unlike joint compound, claims that it bridges a crack, not fills it. It allows movement to continue, which is good, since this house is always on the move. It has a fiberglass mesh that comes with it, and is applied similarly to the technique we use for joint compound. It seems the only drawbacks are that it is difficult to use on the "stucco" texture in the office and I could only find it on the internet. The second product is called Goodbye Cracks and is an elastomeric spray that seems like it will work on very small, superficial cracks. The drawback to Goodbye Cracks is that it comes in a small can and is pretty expensive. Plus it took several coats, smells like spray paint, and left me with rubbery boogers (I probably should have wore a respirator). Although neither compound has been on the cracks for very long, the Krack Kote seems to have a lot of promise. Goodbye Cracks will probably work for small cracks, but I have less faith in it over the long haul.

        Here is a picture of the office with the cracks repaired. The top repair is Krack Kote and the brown spray paint-looking repair Goodbye Cracks.

        After the final crack repair we primed the office. That took forever, since the office was a bright, pastel purple. Here is the office after priming.

        We painted the trim and ceiling. The trim remained white, but looked so much better after the hours of scraping. Plus we used a semi-gloss so that it will be easy to clean. The ceiling was just a white, matte paint, but worth mentioning since they make this new product that goes on pink and then turns white when it dries.

        Finally we applied the new paint. I wasn't sure about the color, since it appears more like split pea soup under non-CFL lights, but in the daytime it is true to my sample. Here is the final product... This is after all the touch ups.

        All that is left is to replace outlet covers and some of the outlets that I painted, put in a new vent cover, add a door, and finish the clean up. Hooray for progress!


        There Actually Is Some Progress

        Move-in day was Saturday (and Sunday, and Monday...), but everything is just stacked in boxes either in the storage unit, the garage, or the living room. I haven't posted pictures of the bathroom, but we managed to grout and seal the shower surround, put in the main vanity, and finish most of the drywall work. I will post pictures soon, but don't have access to the internet until the 8th... Also I don't have a desk or a place to work, but those are little details.

        Now what is the plan of attack for the rest of the house? I obviously didn't get as far as I had hoped, but now things must be finished, because I simply can't live like this any longer. So I think the best plan of action is to start room by room and make them livable. For most of the front part of the house, the only major "to-do" item I have left is to paint the rooms. For the back part of the house, pretty much nothing has been done.

        On another note, I found a really cool website called Wishlist. This website lets you save a list of things that you would like to buy. I am currently putting housing items on mine, so that I can compare prices and remember when I find something that I like. The neat thing about this "wishlist" is that you can bookmark an object that when clicked it allows you to put the item you are looking at into your wish list. That is the best I can describe it, until you try it for yourself.

        Anyway, I have posted my wish list onto the blog, but I must clarify that the point of this list is NOT to solicit for gifts (certainly some people use it for registries and the like). However, you are welcome to let me know if you see a comparable item for a better price somewhere else.


        New Features

        I just wanted to post some information on the new features that I added to the blog. They may only be interesting to me, but I created to-do lists on www.tadalist.com. They have information on some of the projects I still need to complete before move-in and then beyond. You can access them by clicking on each room in the Project Tracker on the left side of the blog.


        A Little Off Course

        Tonight Brice and I went into a nearby town where a company that intends to mine in the area held an open house. Expecting a "town-hall" style meeting, I came away from the open house feeling about the same as I came in. Although my property is still some ways away from the mine, the process they are about to use is "in-situ." mining. This allows the company to harvest the uranium without creating a high-impact site. However, it creates a semi-risky procedure that has potential to leak into the near-by ground water thus contaminating surrounding areas.

        So far the only information that we have heard about the project (save for the companies own website) is from people who oppose the process. It is small grassroots group and I applaud their effort, but it seems as though it is too soon to make a judgement for or against this process (although I must say that I am probably on the "nay" side right now).

        On the one hand, mines are an unfortunate necessity. We need the things that they produce and this includes uranium. On the other hand, many mines have had track records that are less than stellar. The term "rip and skip" is brought to mind.

        Unfortunately, no one owns their mineral rights and Colorado still abides by some pretty old claim laws. Uranium is plentiful here, and if the permit is granted, the ranchers cannot stop the company from mining on their land. I am sure those that own the land will feel violated by any group that chooses to use their land as they see fit.

        From a purely practical standpoint, a new industry can create jobs, which in turn can sell a house. On the other hand, negative image and possible destruction of the environment can kill a house sale.



        Two is the number of days that it took to finish staining the entire house. It is also the number of brain cells I have left. I suppose that the polyurethane will take care of that.

        After the finishing the sanding, we realized that the "pig" (i.e. edge sander) left dents where the wheels rolled (particular on the pine) as well as swirl marks all around the perimeter of each room. This is a common problem, that we were completely unaware of. It meant, of course, that we would have to hand sand all the edges of the floor, otherwise we would have a frame around each room. It wasn't easy, but after sanding the edges by orbital sander and/or hand, we were finally able to start part two; staining.

        I chose a stain that was the second darkest stain available from Minwax; black walnut. I was looking for something dark and modern. I wanted the floors to be like this. But that isn't all that easy to do, since my floors are newer oak floors and really old pine slab floors.

        We started by staining the pine floors. This meant that we would need to treat the floors with a pre-stain so that they would take the stain evenly. You really only need to do this with pine and other soft woods like maple. We bought enough pre-stain for he entire house, but decided against using it on the oak (more on that later). The directions are simple. You apply the pre-stain, wait for about ten minutes, wipe off the excess, and wait again for another ten minutes. Then you begin staining.

        With the pre-stain applied, it was easy to stain the pine floors. I brushed on the stain, waited about fifteen minutes, and then wiped off the excess. The floors were beautiful...until I got to the end of the room. The instructions on the pre-stain say that you should apply the stain within two hours of using the pre-stain. Since this was my first room, I was very slow to finish. By the time I got to the end of the room, the pre-stain was no longer working its magic and I began to see where some stain may have sat longer. There were lines in the floors. I was very upset, but came back the next day, sanded down the areas, cleaned then with pain thinner, and tried a second time. I wouldn't say that it was excellent, but much better.

        After some debate, we decided against applying the pre-stain on the oak. I worried that I would see lines in the stain as before. However, the oak stained very easily. We did have a few problems with the stain. The first problem was a set of mysterious footprints in the middle of the room that stained darker than the areas around it. We could not figure out how these footprints arrived and why they were only in the middle of the room without leaving anymore anywhere else. No one had stepped in the stain, and it was like natural oils from the feet remained on the wood and made it stain a different color. After several days of being blamed for the footprints, I stood next to them only to find out they were not my own, but Brice's. So after the stain dried, we came back the next day, sanded out the footprints, cleaned with paint thinner, and re-applied the stain. Perfect! The second problem we had was when some pop dribbled from a leaky garbage bag. If you want your floors darker, apparently a mixture of sugar water will do it, because those drips were slightly darker than the areas around them. Those also were sanded out before re-staining.

        Here are the current results...The office is a small room, so the picture is not that great.

        Here is the floors before.

        Here is the living room in progress...

        This is a finished picture of the living room, but it isn't the best quality.

        All in all, I was very happy with the way the floors look so far. I was hoping for something darker, but we attempted a second coat in a hidden spot and saw no changes in the color. It appears that this is as dark as that stain will get on oak. I thought that the color was a little "eighties" looking. It reminded me of the dark wood doors and trim that my current apartment has. However, I think once the rest of the house is painted it will be more up to date. If not, Brice thinks we can find a big-haired, permed, leg-warmer-wearing, Camero-driving women who might want to purchase the house.


        Where Are We Now?

        This weekend we started stripping the floors. Huzzah!

        I say "started" because it took us three VERY FULL days to strip the old floors bare.

        It all began when we decided that dark floors would look nice, and new floors were out of the question for this house (the only way I could afford real walnut would be to become a tree rustler ). Since that day, it has been nothing but discouraging comments from people we know and trust.

        Tell someone that you are finishing your hardwood floors and you will probably get a look of incredulous pity. Follow that with a story about "so-and-so" who has done every imaginable DIY project, but would not attempt to re-finish their floors or a well-intentioned newbie that accidentally sanded a hole into their floor and you have our last five months.

        Needless to say all these comments were very discouraging. I certainly can't afford to have someone do it for me, but I also refuse to forgo something just because there is a clandestine community of floor professionals that create some myth about refinishing your own floors.

        So like every project that we have attempted, we researched it on the internet. The information was consistent; rent a drum sander (or orbital sander, more on that later) and an edge sander, remove old polyurethane, continue to sand with a finer grit, stain if desired, and coat generously with polyurethane. The only confusing choice was selecting an oil-based versus water-based stain.

        We called a local rental shop (actually located in the same town as the house) and reserved the drum sander and edger. Naturally when we got there, the drum sander had been accidentally checked out and would be returned the next morning. So much for making a reservation. I am reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry attempts to reserve a rental car:


        Agent: I'm sorry, we have no mid-size available at the moment.

        Jerry: I don't understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?

        Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.

        Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That's why you have the

        Agent: I know why we have reservations.

        Jerry: I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a car. See, you know how to
        take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation and
        that's really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody
        can just take them.


        Anyway, as luck would have it, they did have an orbital sander in stock. We had read in several articles that an orbital sander is much kinder on your floors than the drum sander and good for beginners. So we rented the orbital sander instead.

        Bright and early Saturday morning, we tossed our first piece of 30 grit sand paper (30! Like a piece of paper with a single rock attached to it) on the orbital sander and took it into the office. When you first start the sander you feel as though the sander and you are like two magnets repelling each other. It is always trying to get away from you. It did not help that the floors throughout the house are sloped and you are constantly trying to drag it uphill.

        Like people that have been threatened by "holes" in our floors, we nervously sanded a small stretch of floor. The polyurethane was only slightly scratched. Perhaps we were not moving slow enough. We tried again. No change. They did say the orbital sander could take more time than the drum sander. I set to work sanding for the next hour. No change. It looked as though I had drug a piece of paper with a single rock attached to it around the room, but the polyurethane still clung on to the floor.

        After a few more futile attempts, we decided that the orbital sander was for wussies. The only way you could sand a hole in your floor would be to let the orbital sander bounce around the room by itself for a couple of hours while you ran a few errands around town. Even then, I am not sure there would be any change.

        So back to the rental shop, where the drum sander had been returned. There we were once again warned that the drum sander was a little more "aggressive" than the orbital sander. All I can say is thank God to that!

        Home again, where we attempted once again to sand the office floor. The drum sander has a nice rhythm and is surprisingly easy to operate despite it's massive weight.

        Basic Instructions for the drum sander:

        Start walking about 1/3 the length of the entire room (with the grain of course).

        Lower the drum onto the floor with a lever.

        Walk to wall.

        Drag the sander back to the start.

        Raise the drum from the floor.

        Reposition the sander about four inches to the side.

        Begin again.


        It was boring and slow, but the polyurethane started to come off the floor. Initially we assumed that the sanding would be completed in one day. Not a chance. Even for a house that is only ~1000 square feet, the sanding is a slow and laborious procedure. One handy tip when using the drum sander is to lift up when pulling backwards. This seemed to remove the small spots of very reluctant poly. Unfortunately, this is one time when I wish I was stronger, since I tired of lifting the hundred pound machine very quickly.

        The edge sander was a powerful machine that took material off very quickly where the drum sander could not reach. Since Brice was in charge of the edging, he described the process as "wrestling a angry pig" (the sander looked a lot like a pig from the front). You are on your knees a lot, and knee pads could have been very useful. Brice used rags and duct tape. He knees were very nearly bloody before the days were over.

        So here is the floor today... Two days of sanding (until four in the morning).

        So why haven't we applied stain yet? Good question. Most articles said that you should apply the stain and/or polyurethane as soon as possible, as the wood is unprotected. However, we noticed small swirl marks that were left from the edge sander. When we tested the stain, the swirl marks were even more apparent. After more research it appears that the nature of the edger is to leave these marks. A very good professional can probably minimize them, but most people have to hand sand or buff these marks out before they can stain or polyurethane. Since the work week started once again, we are hoping that tomorrow we can start and possibly finish sanding those marks out.