First of all, please enjoy this photo of mold-eliminating spray being covered in what certainly looks like mold.
Tony and I initially thought this was clever packaging, but closer inspection revealed real, actual mold. This is just one example of the many small delights you too can find if you spend the equivalent of a part-time job at Lowe’s every week.
Since my last dispatch, much house renovating work has been done to only marginal effect. Part of that is the result of my and Tony’s perfectionist tendencies, but most of it is the hard reality of renovation. I go into nearly every project expecting that minimal effort will yield dramatic pay off. Despite my unending optimism, that has never once happened. Instead, more often than not, the opposite occurs: lots and lots of hard work will move the needle from unsightly to gorgeous only slightly, and at an achingly slow rate.
For instance, you may recall that in my last post I said that, in order to finish the floors, we needed to sand the edges of the floor and put down polyurethane. That sounds like two steps, right?
In reality, we realized after sanding the edges of the floors that there were some streaks in the centers of the floors caused by the big sanders. We felt these streaks could be ameliorated by another couple passes with the drum sander in the direction of the wood grain. For several days, we attempted to convince ourselves that it was fine as is. But that weekend we rented the drum sander again and sanded every floor again, twice, from medium grain to fine grain.
After that it seemed to us that the centers of the floors were fine, but now the edges were the trouble. Weren’t they a bit uneven? Weren’t they rougher now than the smooth and streak-free centers of the floor? We again told ourselves it was fine, but within two days we had gone over all the edges with our handheld power sander.
Now all of the floors were lovely, absolutely gorgeous, except for the one in the kitchen. The kitchen floor had an old water stain and some fire damage (exclusively cosmetic) from one of the old wood stoves. Worse, it seemed to us that the very shade of the bare kitchen wood was different than that of the rest of the house. We credited this to our belief that, unlike every other floor, the kitchen floor had always been covered. Over time, our theory went, the sun and air exposure had changed the others floors in small but noticeable ways. Unlike the others floors, which had a golden hue, the kitchen wood was lighter and a bit grayer. It was beautiful, but different. Wasn’t the point of refinishing all of our floors at once to make them seamless throughout the house?
Meanwhile, throughout all of the inside floor hemming and hawing, we’d been working to refinish the porch. When the porch wood was uncovered, it was similar to that of the kitchen. We decided to stain it, and it turned out beautifully.
Wouldn’t it make sense, we asked ourselves, to stain the kitchen, too? We thought so, and we went ahead and stained. For some reason, though, the exact same stain took much faster and turned out much darker in the kitchen. Wood is a funny thing, we’ve found. We now had golden floors throughout the house, and medium-dark floors in the kitchen. Once again, we attempted to convince ourselves that this was fine. (Somehow we managed to not take any pictures of this step, but several Fawn Log readers saw it in this stage and can confirm it really happened).
Within 24 hours, though, we’d decided to take the kitchen floor in an entirely new and surprising direction. If the kitchen floors wanted to look different, they were going to be different goddamnit. White painted kitchen floor, here we come.
Even though the above examples looked great, I’d read about people painting their floors with diluted paint, to allow the wood grain to show through. I thought maybe we should do this kind of paint wash rather than a full-on paint. We attempted it and, once again, we spent 10 minutes attempting to convince ourselves it was fine. Then we brought out the full strength paint.
Meanwhile, we applied one coat of polyurethane to the other wood floors. This darkened them considerably. It darkened them enough, in fact, that we had a moment during which we wondered whether the stained kitchen floors we’d just painted over would have been a fine match. Then we put our heads down and kept poly-ing because, seriously, I was not going to sand the kitchen floor again if my life depended on it.
We’d read that, after one coat of poly, you should lightly sand out any imperfections and remove the fine sanding dust with mineral oil before applying the top coat. We started doing this in the back bedroom, but we quickly realized that there were many areas with a rough-ish texture. So many, in fact, that it seemed to make more sense to lightly sand the entire room rather than focus on any particular area. So we crawled around and lightly sanded every square inch of every room on our hands and knees then cleaned everything with mineral oil and a rag. After all that we’d been through with these floors, this seemed like a logical thing to do.
The insanity was worth it, or almost worth it, or pretty much worth it if I don’t think about it too hard; the second coat of poly went on extremely smoothly and our floors are beautiful. More beautiful than I ever could have imagined, more beautiful than any wood floors have any right to be. It’s not a trip to the house unless one of us says “Damn! These floors are gorgeous!” or some variant thereof. I would almost be okay with stopping all renovating now and just leaving the house as a museum of/tribute to these wood floors.
But back to the kitchen, because the insanity can’t stop, won’t stop. After our first coat of paint, we began to feel that the spaces between the boards looked odd. Some of the spaces had been filled with wood putty, but most were left empty. After discussing the merits of cleaning out the existing putty or filling in the holes, we bought more wood putty and I got to filling.
I had to manage a couple of work events this weekend and today I was exhausted. I tapped out after my wood puttying, but Tony continued at it. He sanded the putty and put down another coat of paint. He just texted me this slightly blurry picture and I’m excited.
In theory, we only have to do one more coat of paint and two coats of poly and we’re done with not just the kitchen floor, but every floor in our house! If history has taught me anything, though, it’s that a theoretical two step process can in reality entail 5,000 steps. We’ll see what happens.
At this point we have a tentative move-in date scheduled for next weekend. How many times have I written a tentative move-in date on this blog? Maybe Fawn Log is cursed.