Archive for September, 2004

Sanding, Sanding, and More Sanding

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

John and his father showed up right at 8:00AM this morning for another day of fun with the drum sander. The floors are still in a rough state, but everything’s been rough sanded now except for the edges and the steps. The smell is just amazing, and the entire house looks like it’s been sprinkled with a creamy-colored baby powder.

Here’s a look at the dining room floor in its sanded state. Check out how dark the old finish looks around the edges (and for inconsistency, compare that to the “before” picture of the master bedroom).

Tonight we have to narrow our stain choices down to 4 or so, and they’ll put samples on the floor for us to compare. No pressure or anything… I mean, after all, if we don’t like our choice, we’ll only have to live with it for the next 20 years or so.

Love for the floors

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

John Necs and his father arrived right on time this morning at 8:00AM. They spent the day rough sanding the second floor bedrooms and hallway; our house now has the cool clean smell of a lumberyard full of freshly sawn oak. And I love the way the raw wood looks–you can’t see the beautiful grain, but you know it’s under there. Here’s the master bedroom floor rough sanded:

And they did a little patching work on the steps:

They’ve got a few more days of sanding to go, but it’s already obvious that these guys are doing their work very carefully and very thoroughly. We’ve got until Friday morning (Oct 1st) to pick a stain, and the finish goes on on Monday.

Was That Really Necessary?

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

At some point in The Past, some resident of the house decided that they wanted a telephone jack near the radiator in the living room, and this particular radiator is in the back of the living room, which is near the front of the house. You may recall that the front of the basement had a drop-ceiling in it, so noodling up between the outside walls to put a jack in wasn’t really possible without messing up the lovely basement drop ceiling. So this person decided that the right thing to do was to:

  • Drill a hole in the floor in the front of the living room a full inch from the baseboard.

  • Staple bell wire aaaaaaaaaalllllllllll the way along the baseboard to the back of the room.
  • Screw a phone jack into the baseboard using 1.5″ wood screws.

Bell wire, jack, and screws are now resting comfortably in the bottom of the garbage can.

More Estimates

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

Home Depot sent a Door Installer over to look at our door and determine how much installation’s going to cost. It turns out that the cost to install a $150 door and a $79 screen door in our non-standard breakfast room is $680 worth of labor. Ahem, no. I’ll be installing that myself (maybe with the help of a friend). The lesson here is: If your current door and wall are not the *exact* height, width, and depth of a standard pre-hung door, you’re a prime candidate for fleecing.

Lastly, The Cleaning Company came by to give us an estimate for cleaning the house top to bottom, and they charge an hourly rate, so no worries there–we know the house is filthy.

Hardwood Floors Need Love Too

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

We decided to go with Nex Flooring to refinish our floors, and they’re coming tomorrow at 8:00AM to start work. Nex Flooring is a family business run by a father and his two sons, and they got fantastic reviews on a local referral service, and their estimate seemed extremely reasonable. Before we get to redoing the floors though, a few words about the floors as they stand right now.

The downstairs wood floors were covered in carpet for an unknown duration of time, along with a runner up the center of the stairs–this travesty in all likelihood saved the floors a helluvalot of wear and tear, so it’s not All Bad. The wood floors throughout the house are red oak (except the kitchen, which is maple), and considering that the house is 92 years old, they’re remarkably level and even, although they do squeak a bit.

It appears that the previous owner pulled up the carpet and had all the wood floors refinished about four years ago, but I’m hoping that he didn’t pay very much as the refinishers did a horrible job.

First: They didn’t bother to sand all the way around the radiators, they didn’t sand all the old finish off in some places, they attempted to rectify some squeaks by pounding 8d nails into a bunch of boards, and they did a real half-assed job on the stairs (esp. the risers). Lastly, they didn’t bother to pull up the quarter-round (aka “the shoe”) between the baseboard and the floor, despite the fact that a) it was pulling away from the floors in some places, b) the floor under the shoe was dark dark dark, and c) it looked like crap with a dark line running under the shoe around the room.

They repaired a hole in the middle of the foyer by gluing in a small divot of wood (which popped out shortly thereafter, I can only imagine). The bullnose ledge leading to the basement looked like a dog had chewed half of it off. Lastly, it looked like the floor had been stained in some areas and not at all in others–the master bedroom floors looked positively white while the rest of the floors were just light.

Add to that the fact that the house was rented out for the last few years, and you wind up with some pretty darned trashed floors. The northwest bedroom was gouged so badly that it looks like someone had been dragging boat anchors around in there.

So in preparation for the Floor Guys coming tomorrow, I pulled all of the quarter-round up in all of the rooms where we’re going to be having the floors refinished (which comes down to every room except the kitchen and the sun room). They offered to do this, but I figured that it was a good way to get to know the house and how it all goes together. In the process of doing this, I discovered that the northwest bedroom appears to have had a fair amount of its oak trim replaced at some point–with pine trim. And for an encore, pulling the quarter round off in some areas really highlighted just how badly the previous refinishers had gouged the floor in some places.

Think I’m exaggerating? See for yourself.

Here’s the master bedroom floor:

And the lovely finishing job they did around the radiator in the master bedroom:

Some beautiful gouges from the northwest bedroom:

One of the better looking steps:

And lastly, the wonderful hole in the middle of the foyer:

Plumbing the Depths

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

This morning, The Plumber came to take a look at our catchbasin and sewer infrastructure. He referred us to another company who can come and pump out the catchbasin (’cause who knows what’s in there), and went into the basement to take a look at our sewer line.

When our inspector went into our basement, he spotted a small (12″ x 14″) steel trap door which was painted shut and remarked that “It looks like you’ve got an FCS, but it’s not working. I found out that FCS stands for “Flood Control System” which I suppose would have been nice to have working, I guess.

Well, The Plumber tried to crowbar this door open, unsuccessfully, so went back to his truck and came back with a 5 pound maul and started banging on that door like it had run over his dog. Eventually, the door loosened up, and he pulled it open to discover what I thought was just a bunch of dirt

He scraped away the dirt to find the end of a piece of 6″ ceramic sewer pipe with some sort of plug in it. When he pulled the plug out, I looked down about 4 feet of pipe to see the main sewer line that goes from the catch basin (behind the house) to the city sewer under the street. No FCS anywhere in sight… just an access pipe to the sewer. Real exciting stuff, I know, but it was all new to me as I had no clue that anything was going on that far under my basement.

So The Plumber got his sewer rodding machine out and rodded out the sewers, sending a 4″ cutter back to the catch basin, and a 6″ cutter out to the city sewer, pulling back several handfuls of tree roots that had found their way into the pipe junctions at several places.

So we’ve got a clean sewer now. Isn’t that exciting? I think so too.

Architectural Style

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

Our house is a little unusual as far as architectural style goes. From the outside, it looks like a four square at first glance, but inside it’s nothing at all like a four square.

We got word from J. (the Architect) today about the style of our house. She did a little research and told us that it’s an American Four Square with Prairie influences, and Arts & Crafts influences on the inside.

She also gave us some pointers on where to start looking to find information about our house’s history: Original architect, building permits, and possibly plans. Unfortunately, we need a copy of the deed or a water bill to initiate a lot of this research, and currently we have neither.

Not to worry… we’ve got years to find out all about our house’s history.

The Great Radiator Reef

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

Our radiators look like they haven’t been cleaned in 30 years. In fact, there’s a good chance that they haven’t been cleaned in 50 years. Cleaning radiators this dirty is a four step process:

  • M. Sweeps under radiator and removes any large items (i.e. non-dust/dirt). M. Grabs a large shopping bag for this–what I’m sure is total overkill for the job at hand.

  • I don a particle mask and safety glasses and blow all the dust out of the radiators using the Shop Vac (in reverse).
  • M. Sweeps dirt and dust into small pile
  • I vacuum up small piles with Shop Vac (not in reverse).

Turns out that the large shopping bag was appropriately sized for the job at hand. M. discovered enough toys for us to open our own daycare center. She also found keys, a fake plant, half a dozen cat toys, a resume, a cough drop (stuck to the floor-ew ew ew) and a few pennies.

I managed to blow hundreds of golf-ball sized dust bunnies out of the radiators themselves, and I even found remnants of the green shag carpet that graced the floors downstairs for who-knows how many years.

In the living room I found a phone cord that went nowhere (Snip-snip gone) along with a pair of wires that had been cut in the basement (thank goodness–they were AC power wires that were cased in nothing but paper), but apparently used to provide juice to the outlets in the sun room. Snip-snip gone. Then on to the old doorbell wires. Snip-snip gone. Makes me kind of wish I had a holster for my diagonal cutters.