Monday, November 26, 2007

This Olde House - Pre-fab corners

The corner pieces are all in place along with the crown molding. I've been caulking all the seams. Fun stuff, caulk. I usually manage to get more of it in the correct place than on my fingers. But I still had to carry an old towel on my shoulder to wipe off the excess. And every half hour I'd end up scrubbing my hands.

The first picture is in the dining room. The molding on the RIGHT side has been caulked. I also spackled the nail holes. Look along the ceiling on the LEFT side. It isn't caulked yet. When I first put up the board, I thought, "I don't need to caulk that." But the difference is very noticeable afterwards. I still have to shim the large visible gap between the molding and the corner piece.

Second picture is also in the dining room. Again, one side is caulked, the other isn't. Again, noticeable gap between the board and the ceiling. Yes, I'm nailing the board every foot, or so. But I'm putting this on a pre-sprayed ceiling. The popcorn helps create the gaps. I'm still considering scraping that popcorn off. I really hate it. It screams, "I'm old!" Of course, there's still a noticeable space by the corner piece, but it isn't too severe and I'm just going to caulk it. No shim for it.

Last picture is in the living room, with painted walls. The lesson here is: don't paint until AFTER the caulking is done. (Actually, we painted before any of the molding was up.) Much of the wall in the picture will have to be repainted. But I think it demonstrates how I went around the whole corner piece and made sure to fill in every bit of space.

The last picture is a bit fuzzy, but on the left side, it shows where I had to sand down the seam between two boards. There's some excess spackle still hardening, but I'm 95% certain the seam will be invisible once I finish sanding everything down.

Some primer in a few places, a layer of paint on everything, and I'll be done up top.

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Olde House - Part 7.5

The floor of the dining room is next. We were expecting to find a slab when we lifted up the old carpeting. Instead, we found bricks. Raw, untreated bricks. It only confirmed our suspicion that the dining room wasn't a part of the original house. Perhaps it used to be a porch or patio or something. And later they enclosed it. But they never covered it with anything other than a nappy rug. And they certainly didn't level it. The only reason I didn't put a wooden sub floor is because the area is far from level. I would have had to cut every board to a custom angle. And I mean EVERY board. So Cindy did some sweeping and I took the day off to supervise the efforts to get a solid, level floor in the dining room.

The cement truck arrived late. And instead of a front loader, it was a standard back loader. So the guy had to backup, onto my lawn, and angle a clean shot through the window. We were hoping to use a front loader and extend a couple of chutes through the window. But, as I've said, you gotta do what you gotta do. And the driver expertly damaged my yard while getting the chute in place.

It was rapidly apparent to me why I didn't want to tackle this project myself. Concrete isn't a forgiving or simple medium. The guy who worked it had a slow, mellow gait about him. He'd eyeball the pour and shout a couple of instructions to the driver. Surprisingly, the "driver" actually does a good bit of work throughout the adventure. He adds water to the mix, operates the chute, and does a good bit of cleaning. In addition to smoking endlessly and chatting it up with the guy smoothing the poured concrete.

After a while, they had the room filled and seemingly level. Then it was about an hour of smoothing. And an hour of cleaning. By the end, there was no apparent seam between the old floor (in the kitchen) and the new floor (in the dining room.) If nobody had ever seen it, they'd never know it wasn't part of the original house. And that is fine by me.

Next, on to the tiling...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

This Olde House - Part 7

Time to get back to the floors. I've been avoiding this part for a while. Part due to the work I'd have to put into it. Part due to the price. In the end, I accepted the fact: you gotta do what you gotta do. So I set to work prepping the kitchen floor.

As a recap, the floor used to have large Spanish tile with inch-wide grout lines. I put in six hours of labor to jackhammer it up (as well as having my spine surgically replaced!) And there were still maaaaany rough spots. According to my tile guys, I can't have rough spots. I have to get rid of them.

One method is to try to use the jackhammer, again. The other method is to use a "floor grinder." My new spine didn't need to be replaced, so I thought the "grinder" would be the path of least resistance. Oh, stupid, stupid me! As far as I can tell, the "floor grinder" is really just a floor buffer with thick charcoal bricks loaded onto the buffing wheel.

While using the grinder, three facts quickly became apparent: 1) This thing kicks like a pair of pissed off pack mules. (It actually got away from me once, swung around, and plowed into my ribs, where it left a distinctly painful and apparent bruise.) After I finished, I was completely drenched in sweat and felt as I had worked out for a couple of hours! 2) While brutal to use, it is muuuuuch quicker than using a jackhammer, 3) It leaves a major mess. It was easy to see where I had ground down and where I hadn't, because there was a blanket of powdered cement on top of the finished areas.

By the end, the whole process took about four hours. One to prep. One to grind. Two to clean. I like to think that I actually learn from my mistakes. So I made sure I wouldn't get a quarter inch of dust on top of everything in the house by walling off the kitchen with a plastic barrier. And I put a layer of plastic on top of all the counters.

I think the precautions spared me another verbal assault from Lady McD. Once I shop vac'ed the floors and carefully extracted all the plastic, there was almost nothing left to clean. Almost.

So it is on to the next stage...

Monday, November 12, 2007

This Olde House - Part 6.50

Three weeks of downtime due to Cindy's lack of faith in my abilities to install the boards. Mostly she objected to my use of corner pieces. Since Cheryl (her best friend and our interior designer) didn't approve of them, Cindy didn't want to accept my decision to make use of them. To be honest, their aesthetics come second to their ease of use. If I put them in the corners, I only have to cut the boards to length (to go flush against the corner pieces.) I don't have to cut the angles and I don't have to cope anything. It is much much much easier to use corner pieces. And it actually looks pretty good, even in my opinion. But Cindy wouldn't let me do it without her Dad helping and approving of everything. Thus, a thousand bucks worth of boards sat untouched for almost a month.

Eventually, however, my father-in-law (Robert) came to my rescue, blessed the operation, and we got down to it. He put in the corners, while I started to cut the boards to length. It really isn't rocket science. The process is just a repetition of the following: measure the distance twice, measure the board twice, cut the board cleanly, try to put it in place. If it fits, nail it. If it doesn't fit, cut it down until it fits, then nail it.

The first photo is me, cutting a couple of boards, with my brand new mitre saw. Absolutely luuuuv that monster. Dual bevel. Compound. 12" slider. Even a laser sight on it! It's an early xmas present, from my parents. Love it. Love it. Love it. It made this whole adventure eighteen times more exciting.

Second shot is an example of the corner pieces. They aren't primed, like the crown. Just raw wood. Notice that we didn't paint up to the top of the wall? Would have been a wasted effort, since the crown covers it. Anyway, Robert nailed them into place and then I'd get the boards cut to length. They butt right up against the corner pieces. Flush. No complex angles involved.

Cutting angles suckdiddlyucks. A lot of boards and time get wasted by cutting the angles wrong. Time and boards are worth money. I hate wasting time. And hate wasting money even more. Corner pieces to the rescue!

Couple of action shots. Next on my "to purchase list" is a nailer. Robert has a nice finishing nailer, but I'm inclined to get a cordless one from Dewalt. The cost of buying my own is about the same as renting one twice. I've little doubt I'll need a nailer more than twice in the next year, so I'm going to let my credit card cool off a bit, then buy one.

Today, we only had Robert's. I've used a finishing gun before. And now, forever more, I'll never do it without a finishing gun. Much much much much much muuuuuuch easier with the nailer. It cuts the time and effort down by an order of magnitude. Without it, we would have been hammering for hours, and likely doing a lot more damage to the wood. With it, we did almost all of the crown and floorboards in the living room in half a day.

The dining room is next, but I have to get the floors settled. And in the meanwhile, I'm going to crank out the casings on my own. But I think we've made plenty of progress, and I couldn't be happier.

Onward and upward.