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.


Rent to Own

Yesterday I delivered my final rent check, which sort of brings home how quickly move-in day is approaching. As fate would have it, the check was late, which is the only time in my life that I have been late with the rent check. Go figure.

I think I will miss this place.


Tiling the Days Away

Looking back, I have not been surprised by the amount of things that needed to be fixed in this house. However, I am surprised by the amount of time everything seems to take. Take tiling, it has taken me almost two weeks to get those tiles put up and I still haven't started the grout. Nonetheless, today was a big day, because I finally put the last tile in place.

Here is the before with that awful almond, scissor cut, tub surround.

And here is where I am currently. What a difference some white ceramic tiles make. I will start to grout tomorrow (hopefully) and then the lines will be nearly hidden(especially all those less-than-straight ones).