Floor project exhausting, frustrating and worth it
I’m happy to report that my kitchen is almost done. Almost.
Between other commitments this week, Rob finished up the hardwood patching (more about that later) and sanded them, and I smoothed them out with some wood putty around the edges.
I stained the floor late last night, and coated it with the first two coats of polyurethane this morning, the first at an ungodly hour.
I realized with my last floor-refinishing project that it’s worth it to set an alarm for either the middle of the night or early in the morning to apply the finish. It’s an easy process: It goes on milky but dries clear. It’s easy to see where you’re applying it and hard to notice imperfections.
I’d rather go back to bed after a quick coating than do it in the middle of the day when I’m up and around, trying to avoid a certain room. Lucky for me, the finish only takes two hours to dry, so if I time it right, I can do several coats in one day if I’ve started early enough. I’m hoping to finish five today.
When I woke up the second time this morning, ready to apply the second coat, I was really pleased by how it looked. (Check out the photo below.) It’s a little ruddy, probably because it spent at least half a century under gummy, black linoleum. But it has character, and it’s a reflection of my hard work. (It’s also a whole lot better than it looked when I first started. I included a before photo below so you can compare.)
It’s been an exhausting, frustrating process, but that’s how home-improvement projects work.
Probably one of the most aggravating aspects was the process of patching the hardwood where both a wall and a radiator once stood. Rob and I tackled this Saturday.
We were lucky enough to have the help of PACA’s salvage guy, Darrel Foste. I know many people appreciate salvaged materials, but I have a whole new respect for Foste, PACA and the art of salvaging.
Turns out, the hardwood slats I needed (two inches wide and 3/8 of an inch thick) weren’t exactly common. Foste showed Rob and me to a house near Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana slated for demolition, where we found exactly what I needed.
He gave us some tips on taking up the floor and let us work on it ourselves.
Salvaging hardwood is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s a delicate process: you have to use enough force with a pry bar loosen the slat, but you can't yank too hard or you'll break off the tongue or groove. These things are critical to making slats fit together in their next use.
The slats had been nailed next to each other for who knows how long, and everything was covered in a healthy layer of grime and dust. Foste also reminded me that some areas of the floor have sustained serious traffic, so they’re worn down and are more susceptible to breaking. I'm sad to say that Rob and I broke several (or maybe a few more than several) slats while gathering what I needed. I don't know how people have the patience to put salvaged hardwood in entire rooms or buildings.
I didn’t take any pictures while we tearing them up, but we felt like organ harvesters, pulling out the useful materials from the rasping shell of a dying building.
That reverent feeling didn’t last long, because as soon as we got back to my house, I yanked up that plywood patch I’d been avoiding ... and saw straight down to the basement, where Rob was trimming hardwood slats with a mitre box. (See the photo below.)
It doesn’t seem so bad, now that it’s fixed, but at the time, I panicked. One should not see her basement through her kitchen floor. I was too upset even to blog about it.
After Rob and I realized we couldn’t patch the floor that day, I put a cookbook over the hole so the cat didn’t fall through and was happy to head to someone else’s house to dog-sit.
Rob was able to cut and screw in a patch the same width as the floor joists, and we worked together early this week to trim and place the wood slats. That part felt like we were working on a puzzle. I worried they’d stick out, but they turned out beautifully after some sanding. They’re actually a little nicer than most of the floor, probably because they never found themselves underneath linoleum. (You can see a photo of the patch below.)
From there, this floor business has been a breeze, and I’m relieved to say it’s almost done. And that means I’m closer to being able to install my new range. I had a chat with my fridge painter this morning, and it could be done next week. He said he’s confident it’s going to look great, and so am I.
I love the results and feel like my hard work has been worth it. I can't help but thinking, though, that if I'd known what was ahead, I probably would’ve left the nasty vinyl floor right where it is. But, as my mom likes to say, it was a character-building experience.
Although, honestly, it makes me want to never sell my house and give someone else the chance to cover it up again. How do people ever leave a home after sinking an incredible amount of time into it?