PAINTER: Remodeling takes perseverance, learning from mistakes

Jun 27, 2012


We had been noticing that the vinyl flooring near the toilet was becoming spongy. The time had come to address this problem.

My wife, Marilyn, and I are not very handy around the house, so we sought help.

Our son, Casey, had the answer. His friend, Adam Schenk, works in construction and was willing to help us out.

Adam discovered that the seal attached to the bottom of the toilet had deteriorated to the point that water was leaking into the floorboards. He replaced all of the boards and fixed the toilet.

Casey thought it would be a good idea to tile the bathroom floor instead of using vinyl flooring. Adam was good at tiling as well, so we went that route.

Everything went according to plan. We didn’t mind (too much) with having to go without a bathroom for two days.

With the bathroom project completed, we decided to expand our laundry list of things that needed to be done in our house. When you have a house that is 100 years old, there are a lot of things that need to be done.

Casey suggested that we refinish the floors in our kitchen, dining, living rooms and downstairs bedroom. We thought that that would be a great idea since we had already pulled the worn-out carpeting in our living room and bedroom. We also decided to paint the bathroom and kitchen.

Our original intent was to pull the vinyl flooring in our kitchen and refinish the wooden floor. But after we removed the vinyl flooring, we discovered another layer of vinyl flooring that looked like it was from the 1930s. We did some research and found out that flooring that old was often made with asbestos, so we came up with an alternative plan: We would have Adam tile our kitchen floor.

So that meant moving the refrigerator and stove into the living room for the next two weeks, as Adam helped us out on weekends. We ate a lot of fast-food those weeks.

After the tiling was completed, Casey and I began plans to refinish the floors in the dining and living rooms and bedroom. Casey was able to borrow sanders from his generous landlord, and we were ready to turn the floors into shiny finished products.
Neither of us had had much experience in operating floor sanders, so we were prepared for some long days.

We began in the morning with the bedroom. While Casey and I struggled at first with the sander, we managed to get the floor done in the afternoon.

In my eagerness to get our bedroom done, I put on the first layer of stain. I wanted to surprise Marilyn when she came home from work. But I didn’t follow the directions and put the stain on too thickly. There were dark splotches in several areas, including the front entrance.

Marilyn was surprised all right when she got home. She gasped and asked what happened? I mumbled something about how we could buy some area rugs to cover up the bad spots.

But Casey saved the day — and perhaps my marriage (just kidding). He agreed to re-sand the floor.

It looked great after a second sanding. This time, I let Marilyn and Casey put on the stain.
After two coats of polyurethane, I have to say that the floor looks pretty good.

We then turned our attention to the dining and living rooms. We thought this phase would be pretty easy. I had stained the dining room years ago, and the living room looked like it would be easy to remove old coats of stains.

We were wrong.

The stain in the living room wouldn’t come off with the sander. We finally bought a chemical to remove the stain, and bought coarser sandpaper. That finally did the trick.

But there was another glitch. I had used a very light-colored stain in the dining room and it was difficult to see if it was removed after sanding.

When we put the first coat of darker stain in the dining room, some of the lighter stain could still be seen. We didn’t want to repeat our bedroom fiasco, so I got on my hands and knees and used sandpaper to rub out the light spots. It worked. The second coat of stain went much better.

Casey then put down four coats of polyurethane, and the floors turned out nicely.

In fact, the floors looked so good that we decided the walls of the dining and living rooms and bedrooms needed to be painted. Marilyn and I worked day and night, but we finally got all of the rooms painted.
Our lives are becoming normal again.

We learned a lot about remodeling. The next time, we’re confident everything will go without a hitch. I just hope it isn’t too soon.



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