Monday, August 18, 2014

The painted house

Two Fridays ago our painters started working on the house.  And I was so nervous that I made the wrong choice picking SW Muddled Basil right up until they were putting it on.  
And then I was so happy, because it was exactly what I wanted.  Gray, not too green...and moody, but neutral.  I don't know, I'm just making this crap up.  I just wanted it to look awesome and it does!
Oh, I'm so happy to see the burgundy go.  We still have some trim and windows to paint, but at least it looks pretty finished at this point.  Like our grass, that looks pretty finished, too. 
The chunky trim around the top windows looks so much better painted the body color.  I like a monochromatic look, and huge cream trim and cream boards on all the corners was not working for me.  The lower window trim will look skinnier once I get the screens back on there. 
I spent a lot of time painting the aluminum exterior of this window last week, and even though I was very careful, they still got stuck.  I hate painting windows!  The difference between the old cream and the new Clarksville Gray isn't huge, but it is noticeable. 
I still have to paint the garage door.  You can really see how much darker the new trim color is around the door. 
The back is still a hot mess, but if you notice we got rid of the lava rock!  It was quite a debacle, too.  We still have the little row of river rock, though.  Apparently the previous owners had a fountain there.  More on that another day...for now, let's admire the new paint!  I'm definitely picking a different orange for the doors.  I think I know what it will be, but I'm still hemming and hawing as usual. 
You really sharp people might also notice I only got half the French door painted the new trim color.  I've still got a lot to do.  Here's the list:
Put a second coat on all trim in the front and patio area
Paint kitchen window - two coats
Paint downstairs walkout window - two coats
Paint master bedroom window - 1.5 coats (because one poorly-applied coat was already done by our painter)
Replace or spray paint icky storm door on basement walkout door.  I've never photographed it because it's so damn ugly and rusty.  But, I don't really want to buy a new one since we hardly ever use that door.
Remove this wretched hunter green storm door and buy a normal colored one that actually has a screen, probably 'sandstone' or some other appropriately named tan.  It still blows my mind that the previous owners painted the house red and kept this green door. 
I also have to purchase and install new exterior lights, house numbers, and clean up some old red paint left on our stoop.  So, that might be done before we get snow.  I'm not sure.  What do you think?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Finishing the floors

Before we started the floor project, I had a freak out about the stain color.  I knew we needed something much darker than what we had, due to the dark casing that I was not going to change. 
I love that Varathane has tiny little sample packets at Menards, just 30 cents each...a lot better than buying 5 or 6 small cans.  Especially because I ended up picking a color I didn't think I would want.  Here are my five choices on a brand new oak baseboard. 
At first I thought we liked the third one the best (Early American) but then when I brought the board inside, the second color from the end was clearly the best. 
That color was Dark Walnut, which looked so dark and blah on the baseboard.  But I knew that when the oil poly went on top, it would warm the color up quite a bit.  I also went to a fancy paint place that carries Old Masters stain, I thought the American Walnut I used for our kitchen shelves would be nice, but it turned out super red!  I was pretty pissed I wasted 15 bucks on that.  Here is the Dark Walnut going on. 
I just loved that it was dark enough that only one coat is needed.  You can do multiple coats, but once the first coat is absorbed, the subsequent coats don't sink in as well.  We also wipe the stain off immediately, using a lot of elbow grease, that cuts down on drying time and ensures that you don't have blotches.  When we stain, we use cut up t shirts as rags and we wear pants and socks.  We also avoid putting our hands right on the floor.  The oils from your skin can create marks (and foot prints!) that show in your stain.  This happened to me when we did Ashford's room two years ago, a foot print right in the middle of the doorway! 
It became apparent to us while refinishing these floors that the quality of the oak was pretty low compared to the red oak floors in our previous house.  Since this place was built in 1973, I'm not necessarily surprised the wood is not top quality, but it still sucked.  It didn't sand as well, and didn't accept the stain as well, either.  But it still looked pretty good when I busted out the poly.  We went with Varathane again, because I am familiar with it and it worked out good in our last house.
Ever since our awesome floor guy clued me in to this tip, I've used a regular Shur-Line 9-inch paint pad to put on poly.  I only buy one, then I wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it until I'm ready to do the second and third coats. It works really well!  I alternate between using a pole attached to the applicator, and holding it by hand, depending on where I'm at in the room. 
We found just how difficult it is to see where you have already coated in this house.  With a limited amount of windows, there is a very small area of floor with light shining directly on it.  By the FOURTH coat (yep, there is a story behind that) we finally realized we needed some help and Shaun hovered over me with one of my photography studio lights!  It worked very well to prevent more issues like this....
I still can't believe I totally missed those sections, and also...we got a severe wake-up call about how often you have to stir satin poly to maintain the satin finish.  The matte particles will settle at the bottom of the can if you don't stir constantly, and on our third - what we thought was final - coat, most of the upstairs was full gloss!  You can see in the above pic the satin below the gloss.  I was so disgusted.  
In the above photo, the gloss started where the window reflection ends.  What the heck.  Luckily (not luckily, but you know...) I had straight up FALLEN in the third coat of poly in the dining room, so I knew we would have to do a fourth coat, anyway.  It was so embarrassing.  I flailed around like a fish out of water and Shaun just laughed and laughed about it.  Needless to say, we couldn't fix it all the way and had to redo. 
In between each coat, we waited 24 hours then sanded with 220 grit on a pole sander.  It looks scary to scuff it so much, but it's totally necessary for proper adhesion.  We always use a tack cloth on the Swiffer to get up all the dust. After our fourth coat, we saw that we had some issues.  Apparently 24 hours drying time was not enough by the time we got three coats on, because the fourth coat had a lot of what they call 'alligator skin'...caused by the previous coat not being dry enough.  This picture also highlights a nice brush hair, Shaun had brushed on the first coat before we switched to the pad.  Note to self, don't use cheap stain and poly brushes!
 Drips and some dust. 
 Ugh, a really bad drip and some weird skips. 
 Random hair.  Hard to say what part of the body that one came from....
Trapped particles created these little crosses in some areas, I'm assuming the previous coat wasn't dry enough and the new coat couldn't adhere around these little devils. 
Back to my point about the sub-par wood, when we sanded the steps we realized they were just cheap pine treads.  Why they would put oak everywhere and then install pine treads, I have no idea...but we just stained it the same and of course the soft wood came out much darker because I didn't have time to go get (or apply) wood conditioner.  Maybe one day we will put in good treads, but for now this is ok. 
Overall, Ashford's room is the worst with the scaling and I'm just thanking my lucky stars that these floors will mostly be covered by rugs!  I am much happier with the way the house looks, though.  New flooring can make such a huge difference!  I love how the floors totally match the window now, I'm not planning to paint any windows in this house. 
We waited an entire week to replace the furniture, and will wait about four weeks to put down the rugs.  I've learned my lesson with the rugs, in our last house I had a grid pattern from the rug pad all over the upstairs even when I waited 3 weeks to replace them!  Oil just takes so much longer to cure.  
One good thing about waiting so long to put back the furniture is Ashford's antics.  He just loves running around in there! 
All in all, we ended up spending $180 on the sander rental, $10 on the paint pad, $10 on tack cloths, $15 on two quarts of stain, $240 on 6, count 'em, 6 gallons of poly.  After spending $450 on this project and a week of Shaun's vacation, I'm not sure we made the best choice.  I would've rather paid 3k to have someone else do it, frankly.  This go around was super stressful, I think I'm losing my mojo sometimes.  Oh well, it's done and we're moving on! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sanding our floors

So, our house is not painted yet but should be in the next week.  We did go with the color 'Muddled Basil,' in case that is keeping you up at night!  It is the darker one on the right window.  I think it will be very dramatic and different when it's all done, rather than the lighter and more 'safe' Gloucester Sage on the left. 
We just had a week of hell completing a floor refinishing project while Ashford was away at grandma's house.  Our existing floors were in rough shape.  Deep gouges, scratches, bare spots with no finish that were gray from water damage, even some writing with Sharpie! 
There was also some creative trim work in the living room.  At some point, someone added ceramic tile on top of the original vinyl and then trimmed out the tiles, which is all fine and good - even though I wouldn't have picked this tile, or extended it this far into the room.  It's fine, I'm not worried about changing it.  I do, however, have an issue with the yahoo who put baseboard right on top and then left a big space underneath.  It looked ridiculous!
The trim in the living room is completely different from the rest of the house.  The majority of the house has typical 70's dark stained ranch casing and baseboard, while this room has 'builder special' prefinished oak in the little colonial profile that is not even 3 inches tall.  All of it was ripped out, and I spent some quality time walking this little piece around the house marveling at how it matched almost nothing.   
Oh, except these ugly bifold doors on our coat closet, which I'm sure were put in at the same time!
Well, the base trim was all ripped out (along with a lot of drywall, thanks to Shaun's lack of finesse) and we got ready to sand.
We have always used an orbital sander, because they are easier to use, easier to change the paper and there is less potential for damage to the floor.  We tried to get a drum sander this time around because we are fairy experienced and wanted the job done asap.  It didn't work out.  We couldn't even get the very first piece of sandpaper to firmly attach to the drum, and since the rental place didn't give much insight to the problem, Shaun took it back and got the orbital pad sander seen below.  So, the sanding took TWO FULL DAYS. 
It is easy, but takes a very long time and is horrible work.  And we made a lot of mistakes because we were in a big hurry....like changing grits too soon on the big sander, and only edging with 40 and then 60 grit.  I also made the mistake of going in after Shaun finished the 100 grit and taking care of little areas we missed in the middle of the floor with 40 grit, creating extra dark spots in the stain.  Don't do that! 
Use 36 grit until you are darn sure you got all the finish off.  Then 60, then 80 (optional) then 100.  If you go back down in grit, your finish will suffer because you will create swirls.  You have to vacuum with a shop vac constantly, the dust hides everything you are trying to remove.  This is the most annoying problem.  I suggest you put clear or regular masking tape on the end of your shop vac, or you will leave black marks all over your nice sanded floor! 
Oh, and a tip....when you think you have the finish off, you don't.  When you think a couple-hours-of-sanding later you have the finish off, you don't.  Just know that you as a DIYer will probably never get the finish off completely and will realize this when you are putting on your stain!  Little strips of old finish will be shining through on the edges of some boards that have cupped over the years.  Of course, this problem is more prevalent with the stupid orbital sander we used, but we just couldn't make the drum happen.  I also tried to get fancy this time and make my own filler for holes in the floor using sanding dust and wood glue.
Meh, it's not worth it.  It looks exactly the same as purchased 'stainable' wood filler when you stain it, and store bought is so much easier to work with! 
This did turn out pretty nice when it was sanded down and stained, but it was very sticky and hard to get into the hole.  Not a fan. 
During this process, we realized how lucky we are to have so many entrances to the living area, and house in general.  It made it much easier to live here while the project was going on.  There is also the added benefit of a great excuse to clean your vents.  Seriously, no wonder my allergies are outrageous here!
I will post later with the stain and poly steps...picking a stain color for this floor won me an award for 'Best Drama,' so you have that to look forward to!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A gale force

About a week ago, I started the process of painting the bathroom.  I started with the ceiling, like a good little homeowner.  Even when you think the ceiling is in good shape, you realize it's not when fresh paint goes on.  In our case, the color I put on the ceiling was a little more cream than what was recently painted, but cream works better in here.  Let's just not talk about the awful popcorn I will not be removing any time soon!  
Oh, and this thing.  
I'm pretty sure this fan and cover have NEVER been cleaned,even though the house was just repainted for the sale. 
A little wash and spray paint took care of the almond cover, and yours truly picked all the gunk out of the fan with my fingers and a paper towel.  As it rained down on my head and face.  Gross.  It looks good now, though.  Please ignore the shadows on the ceiling from the light. 
You know when you start painting a room, and you say 'OH CRAP' (or something less PG) when you step back to look at what you've done so far?  That happened to me when I was painting the walls with Sherwin Williams Gale Force.  This is the finished color:
It was dark, which I was expecting...but knowing it beforehand and actually seeing it are two different things.  I also used eggshell because I thought a little sheen would be nice to reflect light in a dark room.  I always use flat, always.  And even though I knew darker paints look even shinier, I was still shocked by the gloss.  The worst part is seeing all the roller and brush strokes.  But after two coats, I was pleased.  And I set about installing the new sconces I got for the room.     
I rarely ever turn off the power to a room when I'm changing a light, usually I turn off the switch and call it good, and YES I sometimes get shocked.  In fact, I did while installing the left sconce because I forgot I had the switch on while messing around with it.  I'm an electrical superhero.  Or super idiot, depending on how you look at it.  
I have to say, having a newer home is like heaven when you are replacing light fixtures.  New wiring!  No cloth!  Standard size junction box!  The only thing I wish is that I hadn't painted around the old sconces, that created a bunch of sanding and scraping to remove the paint ovals from around the new square fixture base.  Dumb.
I know this bathroom was added to the house sometime in the 80s, so I was interested to see this light was from 2008.  I wonder if whoever put up these boring sconces took out some awesome polished brass beauties and threw them out.  Would not surprise me.  
When I'm putting up new lights alone (ahem, which is every time) I have a little trick if you are installing a light light.  I mean, a light that isn't heavy.  I usually wrap the ground wire around the screw to hold it up while I do all the connecting of the wires.  Works great on wall sconces!  Less great on ceiling fixtures.  I usually sweat much more profusely while installing ceiling lights.  FYI - my electrical advice is probably not good.  Don't listen to me.  
You guys, I was so happy when I got these both up...then I stepped back and noticed the right sconce was a full half inch lower than the left one!  The junction boxes were not level with each other.  I was so pissed and spent the next 20 minutes mucking around with the adjustable portions of the mounting strap trying to cheat the fixture up on that side.  The right side box is also not flush with the wall but I can't seem to get it flush no matter what I do - so the fixture sticks out at the top.  Ugh, new electrical was supposed to be easy!  But, they are up and level.  And we both LOVE them!
Here is the fixture I got, a George Kovacs 2 Light wall sconce from Lighting Direct in Honey Gold.  
I knew it would class up the joint, and I liked that I could put two 60 watt bulbs in each light.  I also like that the light will be thrown mostly UP, which is more flattering than down lights.  It reflects off the white ceiling and just feels so much nicer. 
Love, love, love!  This is a photo at night, the wall color looks more teal and the lights are so gorgeous. 
 So, you can see the eyesore in the photo above, the 80s country cabinet that I haven't decided what to do with yet.  
I know it has to go, no amount of paint or hardware could bring it into the present day...but we do love the extra storage.  Open shelves would modernize the space, but I don't know if I want to throw all my toiletries and things in baskets.  I'm extremely lazy about putting away toiletries, as you can see from my little table.  What do you think so far?