After closing on the house, we knew we had to get two big projects out of the way before we could move in – the floors, and painting the living room and bedroom. The biggest and longest project was, of course, the floors – it took us three weekends and two weekday evenings to complete, but probably wouldn’t have taken so long if we didn’t spend so much time messing around!
Our first day working on the floors, I got to the house and found this friend on the back door:
I’m pretty sure he got eaten by a bird after we knocked him to the ground. My sheer terror when I first saw him was pretty big though!
The first thing we did was remove all of the quarter-round in the whole house. Some people remove all of the molding, but we knew that we’d be painting it eventually, so the quarter-round was all we needed to remove. As it turns out, about half of the stuff was labeled, and half of the labeled pieces were in places that they were’t originally in. We saved every piece and labeled everything that wasn’t already labeled – I found this piece on the longest wall in the dining room and giggled because it was about 4 inches long!
And here’s what they looked like after removing the shoe. I’m sure you can figure out why we decided to re-do the floors. At one point I found myself peeling up the old finish like sunburn! I’m pretty sure whoever did the most recent coat had either not buffed the floor before putting down the finish, or they had put water-based finish over the original oil-based poly that had been put on 60 years ago.
One of the projects that we didn’t even think about was removing the bedroom and closet doors. There were some surprises and stuck doors at one point, but with some effort, and removing the tracks, we got them all removed…
And discovered this on the back of one in the spare room, which explained why they were stuck. One of them had somehow fallen off the upper track and jammed into the one behind it and it was all downhill from there. When we got them unstuck and removed, we were able to solve the problem so it won’t happen again.
Speaking of the bottom “track”, here it is! Two eye screws that sit in a groove cut into the bottom of the doors. I’m pretty sure my entire house was cobbled together by a handyman.
After an entire weekend of removing quarter-round, vents, and doors, it was finally time to
become a stripper rent a sander. After watching hours of YouTube videos, I had determined that I was going to rent a square random orbital sander – the cheaper and less aggressive sanding option. I read that it had a few downfalls, but we really just had to take the top layer off, and didn’t have to get all the way down to bare wood. I thought it was going to be a quick (three day) weekend project and we’d be able to move on and paint the whole house. And boy, was I wrong!
When we got to Home Depot (2 hours later than we had intended), they told us that all of the orbital sanders were broken and our only option was the belt sander. The guy told us how to use it, and gave us bad instructions, saying that you could only go backwards, and going forwards would cause it to skip across the floor. While that is the case, if your guy tells you that HE IS WRONG. The sander actually cuts on the front stroke, but you have to pull it back while you push it forward so it doesn’t skip across the floor.
We learned this by trial and error, but after learning what we were doing, we were able to get through the first grit in less than a day. And it was beautiful. The oak floors weren’t perfect, they had some flaws and places that were stained deeply that couldn’t be sanded out. My theory is that the floors have been there as long as the house, and they’re bound to have flaws. The only way to get perfect floors is to buy brand new wood and rip out the old – which I would never do. You’ll never be able to find floors that have this grain and this character in a brand new house, so a few stains and weird spots are someone’s memories.
This was nowhere more apparent than in the living room where a carpeter had driven huge nails into the floors about 8 inches apart all the way around the room. I fought it at first, trying to set them in or get the heads off, but after putting in a ton of effort, I realized that it was futile – the wood had become too hard, and the nails were too big, so I just left them.
Stay tuned for part two where we finish the floors and I complain some more about my errors!