Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Refinishing a pine floor...

I Am Floored!!!
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Finally time to do an entry. With the wallpapering done, it was time to start on refinishing the pine floor. It is all too typical to bring in a floor company to sand floors down when they need refinishing. Unfortunately, old tongue and groove floors can only be sanded so many times. It is the finish that is shabby, not the wood itself. The small dings and scratches in the wood I can live with…they add to the character. My technique to redo these old floors is just like refinishing a piece of furniture. This is a labor intensive job that I have done too much of. If anything, previous experience has taken away a lot of the surprises that pop up during the job. The weather is holding so I can have the doors and windows open to air out the nasty paint stripper fumes. It is on Monday morning November 27, 2006 I begin this chore.

I have two full gallons of paint stripper which should be enough. Lowe’s recently brought back Savogran Strypeeze paint stripper. This is stuff I have been using for over 40 years. They are always out of this stripper, which to me proves its superiority. I have a one gallon of this brand (the last one on the shelf!)and one gallon of another brand stripper called Crown. The Crown brand stripper is what I start the floor with.

I “divide” the floor into sections about ten boards wide and 8 foot long. The first section has stripper applied. Then a second section has stripper applied. These sections are usually on each side of me, leaving a center section I can maneuver from. The new gel knee pads make such a difference doing this. It is like Louis always said: “Be nice to your knees, you will miss them when they are gone!”

The first area to receive stripper pass has the goop removed with a wide bladed putty knife. This mess is deposited into a plastic shopping bag. More stripper is applied to this scraped off area, and the goop is removed from the second area. When that is removed more stripper is applied.

Now I go back to the first area and sprinkle sawdust over the wet striper. The sawdust soaks up the excess striper and helps to amalgamate all the mess together when I rub it off with coarse steel wool. By doing this the steel wool does not fill up with gunk so fast greatly cutting down on the steel wool used. Once this is cleaned down to the bare wood, paint stripper is again applied to a fresh area of flooring.

This is a lot like working in the factory…you divide the job into steps and just work in a circle. I have never stripped a floor using this paint remover; it is not easy to work with. To get the entire residue removed from the wood is very time consuming. After nearly eight hours I only have half the floor stripped. That area used up the entire gallon of Crown Stripper….I’ll see how the Strypeeze works tomorrow.

Early Tuesday morning I’m back with my paint scrapers, putty knives, steel wool and stripper. The Strypeeze paint stripper works just like I remember: Fast and efficient. It is so easy to clean up compared to the other stuff. It is so much faster; I have this second part of the floor done in less than four hours and I only used half the amount of steel wool that I used for the first half.

The entire floor is cleaned down with mineral spirits to remove any remaining stripper. Again, today is a glorious sunny warm day. The fan in the window sucks out the nasty fumes. I have all afternoon for the floor to dry while I do much needed yard work.

Tuesday night the first coat of polyurethane is applied. Personally I prefer to use an oil finish: It leaves a beautiful sheen. It does not wear well in high traffic areas, but it is easy to touch up. The last time the floors in this house were sanded they were never finished off with a fine grit sanding paper for a nice smooth finish. I can feel the small grooves in the wood left from the sandpaper that was used. To get a really nice sheen from an oil finish the floor has to be really smooth. There is not enough body in the oil finish to fill the tiny grooves giving you a dull and lifeless finish.

To be continued…..

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Plumbing Story From 2005

Another Plumbing Nightmare
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Friday I decide to take it easy on my bathroom restoration and do the “simple job” of changing out the faucet set for the bathtub. This tub is not a “claw foot” but some form of early built in unit. It still uses the hardware an earlier type of tub would use. I have seen ads for this particular model in my 1928 Home Builders Catalogue. The supply pipes are all exposed; this should be an easy job. Famous last words…….

My original plan is to just remove the existing faucet assembly, and replace it with a new faucet that I had bought years ago on sale at Historic House Parts located in Rochester, NY. All the connections are identical; I can use the existing supply pipes. The hot water supply separates easily enough. I don’t see any of the usual compression gaskets, just the remnants of fossilized string. This is not a good sign. The cold water connection will not separate no matter what I do. I am going to have to remove the water supply pipe and remove the entire mess. Normally this would be an easy job. In my case, when the bathroom was redone years ago the copper pipe fittings the tub supplys to attach to were cemented into the tile floor. The threads of the fittings are all that peep above the floor tile. The compression nut is removed and I try to remove the supply pipe. Again I feel like I’m in a Three Stooges short. There is about a foot of supply pipe shoved into the water line wound up with more string. By the time I get this supply line separated from the main pipe it is destroyed. Now the fun starts.

The supply pipes I need are not standard Homo Depot items that are carried in stock. It would take a week to special order the beasts if they even had them. I try the plumbing supply place not far from my house. I’m in luck; they have a set for $25.00. This is a “universal” set that can cover many different faucet sizes by using different gaskets and compression nuts. I get the right gasket and compression nut to get a rough fit. The new compression nut does not have the same thread pitch to match the new faucet set. The old compression nuts will fit the new set, so I will use them. There is only one problem: on the new supply pipes, a shoulder is attached for the gasket to fit against. The compression nut fits against the other side of this shoulder. When you tighten the compression nut to the faucet, this makes for a watertight seal. The openings in the old compression nuts are too large to accurately fit the shoulders on the new supply pipes,

If I was annoyed before, I’m really pissed now. It would be impossible to find the right compression nuts anywhere. There are no water shutoffs for the bathtub: The main shut-off valve has my house without running water. I must get this mess taken care of today.

This is where my watchmaking training comes into play. If I can make an insert to fit tight against the shoulder and fit snug into the compression nut that should work. Sorting through my washer assortment I find a pretty close fit. Using a large “vise grip” to hold the washers steady, I drill out the inside hole of the washers. Then using the file I file down the outside washer diameters to make a tight fit into the compression nuts. This should work.

There are a series of bends in the supply pipe that must be made to get the pipe to line up to the faucets and main water fittings. This is so much easier said than done. That is the main reason I wanted to reuse the original supply pipes. There is a tool I use to bend up this supply pipe that slides over the pipe when putting in bends. It stops the pipe from kinking. After a lot of aggravation and cuss words I get the pipes all bent up.

Thank God the pipe fittings hold tight in the cement so I can get the new compression fittings watertight.

Testing the new faucets, I find water is leaking out of the cold water handle. Here we go again: After much fussing this problem is remedied. So long as no water is leaking out when the faucets are off is all I should really worry about. I can’t remember the last time I used this bathtub for bathing. Since I installed my outside shower, that is pretty much all I ever use. I guess it is just my obsessive-compulsive tendencies showing through!

My First Post

This will be my first blog post here. I have been keeping an online journal for many years: this will be reserved for my house restoration stories. Believe me I have a lot of them. I have been restoring this bungalow home in Alabama for the past eight years. I plan on culling old stories from the past two years of my journal as well as chronicling the new projects as they unfold.
For the record: Bricks are a big part of my life, hence the title of this blog....