Wednesday, May 31, 2006

So You Want to Sand Your Floors?

Do you want to sand your floors but don't know what to do? Well here is what you need to know but were unwilling to ask! This task is not for the whimpy ones who are afraid to get blisters, sore knees or aching backs. Girly men should pay real men (or women) if this is the case but consider this; the last time I looked into getting a floor sanded (1998) it was $800 just to sand the floor. No stain or varnish! I have no idea what it would cost now. The material cost to sand a floor with a rental would be around $250 assuming you keep the equipment for two days and use a floor sander, an edger and you buy the sandpaper from the rental company. You could cut the time to one day but you will have to do good preparation.

First, you should consider stripping any molding smoothing any walls and at least getting the walls painted with primer BEFORE you sand the floors because it would be such a shame to ruin the floors after you spent so much time making them look good. Anything falling on the floor or paint spills will be sanded out so make the mess before sanding.

Pull out any nails or carpet tacks that you can and those that won't come out need to be sunk below the surface of the wood with a hammer and nail punch. Nails will rip through sand paper and can damage the pad of your sanding machine.

If your floors are painted or covered in glue or shellac you should consider trying to strip much of stuff off with a heat gun. This will take many hours to do. The other option is to sand the stuff off but it will gum up the sandpaper and you will spend as many hours stripping off more depth of wood than necessary and changing paper. Preparation is really the key to good looking wood floors.

There are three types of sanders. For refinishing an existing decent floor that has a few scratches you want one of those giant flat palm sanders they rent at Lowes or Home Depot. You can't do too much damage with one of these but you can't get a smooth level floor either if the boards are curved or warped.
There are rotary or disc sanders. I have never seen one but some of them double up as floor polishers. These sand with a circular motion and are a little more aggressive. Edgers are rotary sanders. I have never used a disc floor sander, only an edger and an angle grinder.
The most aggressive are drum sanders. This is a giant belt sander. You have to keep moving with one of these otherwise it will gauge your floor.

If you have more than one floor to sand and don't want to worry about pulling all-nighters to get the job done so you can return the rental equipment then you should seriously consider buying a used floor sander. We did that. The drum sander cost $650 from a rental shop. Paper for it can be bought online in packs of ten averaging around $1.50 a sheet for the coarse paper and $.95 for the fine papers. We can always sell the sander when we are done and get our money back. I also have a variable speed grinder/polisher that I bought to polish my concrete counters. I use it instead of an edger. I cut 7 inch discs from the spent drum sander paper to maximise my use of the paper and save money. I also use a palm sander for some of those hard to sand spots. Here is a picture of my arsenal.

Here is a floor that I am currently working on. The left side has had a single pass with 36 grit paper.

The grit size or # indicates how many "grits" there are per square inch. The higher the # the finer the paper. This floor is mostly unfinished and requires a #36, #60 and a #100 respectfully. You shouldn't need anything finer than a #100 or #120 grit for your final pass.

You should sand with the grain of the wood but you may want to make a couple of diagonal first passes if the floor is really rough or uneven. The diagonal passes cut the wood more and make levelling a much quicker process.

One end of this floor has shellac or some kind of lac paint on it. It was common to put shellac down arond the edges of area rugs. This makes sanding a messy process because it gums up the sandpaper. When this happens I get out the heat gun and start scraping. The stuff has to come off the floor and will either come off with the scraper or on the paper as a result of heat friction. Either way, the volume of goop is the same and the time taken to remove the stuff is about the same if you count the time it takes to change the sandpaper or scrape it off the sandpaper after it has cooled and hardened. In this particular case, I used the variable speed grinder to sand the remaining shellac after using the heat gun. The stuff is removed quicker if you actually allow the disc to gum up because the stuff on the floor is lifted off by sticking to the hot gooey stuff on the rotating disc. When most of the shellac was removed, I then went back to using the drum sander to do the job properly and thus reduced the amount of clogging on the drum sandpaper. Here is a picture of the problem area. The upper part is the shellac covered portion. The lower part has been sanded with both the grinder and then the drum sander with #36 grit paper.

If you are using rental equipment, this kind of unforeseen hang-up will slow you down and cause much stress. The frustration could add a day to your project or make you want to pack it in altogether and put down carpet.

Once you get passed the initial removal of crud and move on to the medium and fine sandpapers it gets much easier. When using a drum sander you can lift the handle, pushing the machine into the floor to apply pressure to hard to sand patches. You can also walk very slowly almost pulling back on the machine which wants to move forward. You must keep moving though and when you get to the edge of the floor you must push down on the handle to lift the drum off the floor otherwise you will get a ridge forming along the edges of the room that will have to be sanded out with the edger or grinder. I should have this floor done in a couple of hours on Thursday now that I have scraped up the shellac and have most of that portion finished with the grinder already.

Other tips;
If you have a window fan, use it. It will get much of the finest dust out of the air and stop it from settling in your house. If all else fails, there is always laminate flooring or wall to wall carpet....

After you have done a couple of floors this process won't phase you one bit. This is my 9th floor so I get quite bored with it any more. I figured it was time to divulge the information and "spread the love" so all you folks who haven't done this yet can get down and dirty and feel my pain!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Anyone Interested?

We are thinking about going to Brimfield in July. Anyone else thinking about going there?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Did Not Know This Either!

We stopped at the infamous "Home Depot" on Monday evening to buy their top of the line Paloma tankless water heater (12 months same as cash AND a $300 tax credit) and enough beadboard to seal the balcony ceiling (hopefully) from any more invasive pigeons!
While wandering around I picked up the "Hampton Bay" ceiling fan catalogue because we need a flush mount outdoor ceiling fan for the aforementioned balcony. Upon reviewing it, I saw THIS!
What is it? A ceiling fan with a built in heater. Neat concept. We have a room on the 2nd floor that might just get one of these in about 2 years when they expand the line and the price drops a bit! At least when they expand the line because this one is a little too modern for our taste!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Did Not Know That!

If you have received your latest copy of "This Old House Magazine" then you already know this because it was featured as their trivia question. I was surprised to learn that plywood was invented by the ancient Egyptians and patented in the United States in 1865.
Here are the papers to prove it!

It wasn't until 1934 when waterproof adhesives were developed that the invention really took off. I know that plywood began to appear in furniture in the 1930s. Much of the depression era and waterfall styles of the 30s were constructed from plywood. So I was amazed to see that the stuff was around 70 years before. Who'd-a-thunk-it? Maybe I should show this to people on the Landmark Commission.........

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ask and You Shall Receive!

I have been asked for an update on the progress at the "Old Crackhouse". This was not the first request. Some people don't have the computer skills to spend two hours going through 1 year of "Blog" entries and the "Website" documenting the 5 years of progress on this place. I have been asked to do a summary to make quick viewing of the rooms we have done work on. So, before I give you the link, know this;

This place effectively has 11 rooms. They consist of 2 living rooms, 2 dining rooms, 1 parlor, 1 kitchen, 1 huge bathroom and 4 bedrooms. There is also a large entry hall or "vestibule", two powder rooms, a laundry room, Elizabeth's closet room, the entire third floor which will have a kitchen, bathroom, living room and studio/ work room and there are 5 rooms in the basement that will become 4 rooms when I remove a beadboard partition.

Besides replacing the shingle roof I have completely rewired the place and re-plumbed it. The first floor of the main house is almost finished. I hope to have the parlor primed and the floor sanded this month. This is the last room on the first floor to have the floor finished.
Once done, I have to work on getting a toilet installed on the first floor, getting a laundry room functional on the second floor of the "cottage side", a tankless hot water heater put in the basement and a 90% efficient furnace put in the basement and several of the chimneys lined so that we have some heat if we move in.

Once in, I have the second floor of the "cottage" side to work on and the entire third floor which will require a whole different heating system. Then there is the porch and balcony as well as the front porch and the rebuilding of the small side porch. I have to replace the box gutters and put slate on the mansard part of the roof. Then there is the basement and the garden as well as the garage I have to build..... so this adventure will continue for another two or three years! Sorry, but I have always said it was an ambitious first project! I will say it is certainly alot of work for one person to do (or at least 90% was done by one person) but think of all the money I saved AND some people pay others a whole lot of money to learn the skills that I now have!
The thing that amazes me more than anything else is that I haven't given up yet!

So, for the Quick Tour, go HERE and follow the quick tour links!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Everything you needed to know about Plaster

Now that I know that plaster is basically slaked lime, gypsum and sand, and that I can repair stucco fairly rapidly, I have been doing some research because eventually I would like to finish some of the rooms in the basement. I read somewhere that basement walls in old houses were plastered to stop moisture from passing up to the upper floors. Lime plaster absorbs moisture it seems.

Today I was applying a 3rd coat of joint compound on my parlor walls to smooth them so that I can finish them up later in the week with a thin application of "topcoat". While I was doing this I got to pondering on the ingredients of the stuff. Well, HERE they are in case you just had to know.
Then I found THIS information. If you are hell bent on destroying plaster walls because they are cracked, you should read it. Then there is THIS site to read for additional information.

I do what is practical since I always find that there are several ways to do the same thing.

I have noticed that the longer it takes to get this place fixed up the better I get at doing it though!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Preparing for the Inevitable

We have to line several chimneys this year if we want our woodstoves to work. There are a total of 7 chimneys in this place. Some will be lined with flexible stainless steel liners while two of them will be lined with tile liners if I can lower them down without too much hassel. One room that gets a woodstove is the parlor, which is the room I am currently working on.
On Thursday I marked an area on the wall where the stovepipe would enter. I then looked up the chimney and had to move it 4 inches to the right and draw a 7" circle. Being the precise person that I am, I used a coffee can lid (6 1/2 inches) and a carpenters pencil. I then chisled a hole into the brick that would be slightly larger than 7" because I have to make a galvanized steel thimble to line the hole. You can't find a thimble for a 7" hole anywhere only ones for 6" and 8" holes. I would have to make one out of a strip of galvanised sheet metal and seal it good with refractory cement.

I also need to buy black stovepipe for the woodstove. In order to figure out what I would need, I fumbled through my pile of duct fittings removed in previous years and stored in the basement and found some 7" pipe and fittings. I rigged them up on the stove and everything lines up. Maybe I should have done this before putting the hole in the wall!

I also have to brick up the hole that I made where a fireplace used to be. I had to penetrate the wall in order to clean out the debris. I can't brick up the whole thing yet because I plan to feed the liner up this chimney and I need an opening for that. I want to put a cleanout door in this wall to make chimney sweeping more convienient so I have bricked up the lower portion and formed a floor for my cleanout. So here is a picture of the area as of Friday night. There is a piece of 7" pipe in the wall holding the thimble while the cement dries in case you wondered and I used my newly acquired stucco skills to apply a "Brown coat" to the brick work that I have already done.

Now if I would just clean up the tools and all the crap I have on floor, maybe I can finish smoothing the walls and get the floor sanded!

Friday, May 12, 2006

50 years ago......

This article from "Better Homes and Gardens" printed in October 1955 says that it cost $15,000 to build this 3 bedroom house in the Seattle area. It also states that it wouldn't cost more than $20,000 to build this in an area where building materials are more costly!

I think everyone should read one of these old magazines. The advertisements certainly provide an evenings entertainment!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Into the Abyss: Call Your Local Privy Digger!

Our house had a well back in 1845 when it was built. We thought we could identify it's location from this photograph taken in 1929.

We have a description of the well from 1936; it was described as "hand dug and deep". We also know that there was a limestone trough in front of the pump and that the well supplied many people with potable water after the 1913 flood as it was one of the few wells that had not been condemned by city ordinances.

As the years have passed, the location was revealed when the soil used to fill in the well subsided leaving a deepening hole in the back yard. We have discussed the fact that it would be cool to dig out the well and use it as a source of water for the garden. We could always move the huge limestone slab that covered it back over the hole and attach a pump or we could run a water line from the house to the well an make a faucet to resemble a pump. We could also build an old fashioned brick or stone well with a roof and a bucket and put a cover over the opening. The problem was, you guessed it, digging out the dirt.

We have a guy in the neighborhood who is a "Privy Digger". Basically he is a bottle collector who finds much of his treasure by digging up former outhouse locations. Since bottles were not combustible or biodegradable, they were often thrown into the backyard outhouse hole opening. Some of these cesspits were stone lined and dropped 15 to 30 feet. Some of the older bottles are quite valuable. I had asked our Privy Digger if he would like to investigate our well sometime. He came over on Saturday with a collector of pre 1900s bottles. They probed around the property for our former outhouse location first but found nothing of interest. Right now the back yard is overgrown so much of it is not accessible. As we clear the bushes and weeds he will come back and probe some more.

Reluctantly they decided to dig our well. Within a few feet he was turning out all kinds of jars and bottles, lipstick containers, toothbrushes, batteries, lightbulbs, some plastic items and broken china. After a few hours and about 8 feet down he stopped. The items coming out of the well were likely dumped there around 1945. He did recover a plastic advertising calendar from 1944. Some of the items were interesting enough for him to want to take home but the bulk of it was of little interest to him. He left us with most of the days haul. He was back on Sunday morning with a helper who is new to the hobby and left fewer items for us to admire. Here is what I saw;

Then I had to go off to work on the old theater building down the street.
If they were able to find as much as they did on Saturday I suspect the new guy was interested in many of the bottles. The bottles are interesting but not valuable or exceptionally old. Many have design patent numbers on the bottom that were issued in the 1930s and are very art deco in design. One Revlon nail polish bottle has a design patent issued in 1936. A tube of Ipana toothpaste was also recovered and based on its design indicates a pre 1947 disposal date. To us, all this stuff is interesting because it adds to the history of the house. To a collector who digs many holes, our well seems quite plain.
They are down about 15 feet and there is no water yet and at least another 7 feet of debris.
We speculate that at some time between 1929 and 1945 the well was condemned by the city. After that it became the backyard garbage dump. There seem to be layers of ash in it which would have come from the coal furnace and the fireplaces.
What the Privy Digger is hoping to find is an "Early dump". When the well was first used as a garbage pit, he is hoping that they cleaned house and threw all kinds of bottles out. I know he found the top of an 1800s bottle so his interest has been maintained. The thing that helps with our well is that I don't want it filled back in. So he can take his time with the project. I just have to cover the hole with sheets of OSB board. I'm happy he is finding stuff. I certainly didn't expect there to be as much as there actually is.
When I stopped back at the house after working on the theater I took this picture;

And so that you have an idea of what they are finding, here is a picture of what they left for us;

We can clean these up and display them on a shelf in the glass case we have for the parlor. If all this is in our well, I wonder what could be in the privy hole!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

We're No. 1! But not for long....

Just in case anyone is interested....
This is NOT something to be proud of.
And that "Real Estate Bubble" that you heard about, it won't even put a ripple in the Dayton market!

Montgomery County No. 2 in Ohio foreclosures
State leads nation in percentage of people losing homes; predatory lending cited
By Jim DeBrosse

Dayton Daily News

DAYTON Ohio continues to lead the nation in the percentage of people losing their homes to mortgage foreclosures, with Montgomery County ranked second in Ohio, a new study shows.

The new numbers come as Ohio lawmakers consider legislation to curb predatory mortgage lending, cited by one recent survey as the leading cause of foreclosures in Ohio.

Montgomery ranked second among Ohio's 88 counties in the number and rate of new foreclosure filings — a total of 4,050, or one for every 135 residents, according to a study released Thursday by Policy Matters Ohio, a nonprofit, non-partisan policy research institute focusing on issues that affect working families.

Only Cuyahoga ranked higher, with 10,935 new filings, or one for every 122 residents. It displaced Montgomery County, which had been ranked first the previous year.

Montgomery County hit another record high last month, with 505 foreclosure filings — 80 more than February's previous record of 425.

"It could have been even higher. We had some come in on that Friday (March 31) that we didn't process until the following Monday," said Jim Knight, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts office. The office has been keeping foreclosure data for nine years.

For the state as a whole, foreclosure filings have quadrupled over the last decade, with an 8.5 percent increase in 2005 alone, the study found.

The fastest growth in filings last year was in largely rural counties, with Erie, Belmont and Fulton topping the list. "This really is a statewide problem, not just one affecting large urban counties," said Zach Schiller, research director of Policy Matters Ohio.

Ohio had more than 3.2 percent of its mortgages in foreclosure at the end of 2005 — more than any other state, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The national average was just under 1 percent.

Asked by Policy Matters Ohio to rank the causes for foreclosures, 20 of 35 sheriff's departments in Ohio cited predatory lending as number one, while nine departments cited job losses and the weak economy.

The Ohio House and Senate have passed different anti-predatory lending bills that will be worked out in conference committee when the legislature reconvenes in May.

Contact Jim DeBrosse at (937) 225-2437.