Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Don't Like Painting Ceilings

Sorry, that's all I've got at the moment.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Pick Me Up

Although it was the weekend, I set my alarm this morning early enough that I could make the 7:30am Mass for Palm Sunday. Waiting for the next service would have cost me two hours of progess at The Einsel House. After Mass I went to McDonald's for an Egg McMuffin and a large vanilla iced coffee. As I pulled up to the first window to pay the teenage employee was counting some money in her hand with a somewhat bewildered expression on her face. She turned to me and said, "I assume you know the lady who was ahead of you?" I looked at the white minivan now stopped at the second window. It didn't look familiar. The cashier continued, "She left this money to pay your bill." I looked back to the van now pulling away from the window ahead of me. It still didn't look familiar. Feeling rather bewildered myself, I paid the 17 cents still owed for my breakfast and pulled forward to pick up my food. I had planned to splurge on the iced coffee as a pick me up, but it paled in comparison to a stanger's random act of kindness. God bless that lady, she made my whole day better by starting it with a smile.

The little dorm-sized refrigerator in the EH kitchen now has this sheet of paper on the front of it. Being able to put an "X" in another box is a good feeling at the end of the day.

Two of the most recently filled in boxes include painting the living room ceiling:

and the primer and first coat of paint in the dining room:

The basement also shows signs of recent work. Our new bat boxes have been primed and have part of their first coat of black paint:

And hanging from the ceiling are four of the house's original floor registers. We had these sandblasted and they are now primed and waiting for spraypaint:
Next up is a picture of my Aunt D, who stopped by for a few hours on Saturday and helped us prep the dining room before primer went on the walls:

Thanks, D!

And finally here is Cecilia looking quite at home in
her playhouse/jungle gym
(a.k.a. the scaffolding our contractor has in the north end of the kitchen):

(A corresponding picture of her brother would have shown him upstairs in his bright yellow bedroom in front of a small TV, Wii remote firmly in hand.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Painting Begins

Neil's room has been painted since some time in February (or was it January?) so I suppose "Painting Continues" would be a more correct title for this post. But this time, painting has commenced in earnest, one room to be followed by another, and another, and another, until every wall and ceiling in the house is fresh and clean and bright.

First up is the kitchen:

I'm loving the light blue/gray color so far. I'm contemplating painting the ceiling beams and the rest of the woodwork in this room white, but so far I'm content with just contemplating. (At the moment I've got plenty of more pressing items on my to-do list). But I am planning to paint the kitchen cupboards a deep charcoal shade of gray sometime this summer.

Tomorrow after work will be spent priming and painting ceilings, and then the coming weekend should be a mix of more painting and finishing trims.

Our general contractor is planning to be finished at the house within the next week. He has a bit more sanding to do in the back bedroom and he is also going to install the new front door. In a few weeks we will welcome back the masonry crew to continue repointing with the south side of the house. It's snowing outside at the moment, but I'm ready for spring (bats and all!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Pictures

Seems I'm chronically short on time, energy and clean laundry these days, so I'll let the pictures do the talking this time. (Seems I'm also chronically dependent on my camera's flash - sorry about the washed out color in these.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Finish the Job

Often during the long weeks spent sanding, I would day dream about what all that woodwork would look like when it was finally refinished. Long before we were ready for any finish work I began researching the options.

I freely admit that I'm no expert at finishing. My pre-Einsel experience consists of refinishing an oak dresser in high school and later building a cherry night stand in college. Neither of those jobs comes anywhere close to the scope the finishing job currently ahead of us. There was only one thing I knew from the start - that I didn't want anything too glossy.

Somewhere in my research I learned about tung oil, and I liked what I read. A warm hand-rubbed matte finish that does better than surface finishes at hiding scratches and dings, and that can be refreshed by simply applying another coat of oil (no sanding required). The downsides I read of included a more involved application process with a long drying time between coats. Still, I was intrigued enough to order an 8 oz. bottle from the Real Milk Paint Company. I applied a few coats to the back of a small scrap of walnut trim and liked what I saw. In December I went ahead and ordered 3 gallons of the 100% Pure Tung Oil.

And all through the long winter we sanded woodwork. As we went, my mom took the time to remove long pieces of trim from each window so we could do a better job sanding them clean. Sometime in February I did a trial run using tung oil on one of these trim pieces from a bedroom. And I thought it looked rather dark. Charles' response when he saw it was, "Didn't we just spend two months working so that the wood wouldn't be that color?" Although I didn't want to admit it, I agreed with him.

The Einsel House has walnut woodwork throughout, but there are various shades of walnut in the different rooms. The lightest wood was clearly saved for the living room (where the trim for my initial tung oil trial was taken from). The darkest wood was used in the bedrooms upstairs. While a tung oil finish would look lovely in the living room, we decided it was simply too dark for the trim in most of the rest of the house.

So I went back to the internet and began researching other options. And when it comes to finishing wood there are a lot of options. I admit it was rather overwhelming.

Shellac was the first option I considered. It would be historically accurate and there seems to be an almost uniform agreement on all the woodworking forums that I visited that shellac does a beautiful job of bringing out the depth and color of walnut. Somewhere I read a post in which walnut and shellac were declared "a match made in heaven". And like tung oil, damange to a shellac finish is apparently easy to repair. However, shellac is naturally glossy, and getting the matte finish I prefer would require the added steps of buffing and waxing the final layer of shellac. I also came across frequent warnings that shellac does not hold up as well as other finishes. It's natural nemisis is denatured alcohol, and it is prone to white marks when exposed to water. Given that we have two young children, and given that we have windowsills over a foot deep (which I know will be tempting to use to place drinks or plants on), I want a finish that isn't known for being easier than others to mar.

One day at work as I was contemplating the tung oil v. shellac v. something else debate, I noticed that the woodwork in the office had a nice flat finish on it. The building that houses the law firm I work for was built in the early 1900's by the local Eagles club and restored in the early 1990's. The next time the owner stopped by I asked what finish he and his dad used on the woodwork. "Satin urethane," he replied with hardly a pause, "two coats, and steel wool it between them." But at the local hardware store I could not find anything labeled "satin urethane". (Admittedly, having a preschooler and kindergardner with just-out-of-school rambunctiousness in the aisle with me didn't help.)

A couple days later my mom brought to the EH a few cans of various finish options from the shop where she works. One was Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane Clear Satin. It took me a minute to realize that this was perhaps the "satin urethane" I had been unsuccessfully looking for. From what I could find with Google's help, this spar urethane would be a very durable finish. It can hold up to water, doesn't discolor with sunlight, and was even designed for use on wooden boats. So I tried the urethane on our test piece of walnut. It was much lighter than the tung oil and the satin finish was still flat enough to please me, but something was lacking. Next to the tung oil, the urethane just looked sort of dull. It covered the wood with a nice flat finish that didn't darken, but it didn't do anything to highlight the color or grain of the walnut. It was okay, but it just didn't have any "pop".

We kept experimenting, using various stains under the urethane, but nothing really stood out. Eventually we had five boards we had various test finishes on. As usual, I don't have any great pictures, but the one at left will give you some idea.

Then I found this article. Way down in the last paragraph was the part that particularly caught my attention. It mentioned that Zinsser Sealcoat (which is a dewaxed shellac) can be used under a satin topcoat. A little more time with Google and I found several other references to using Sealcoat under another finish. Every reference I found spoke quite highly of this finishing process.

So I went back to my trim pieces of walnut and this time I applied a coat of Zinsser Sealcoat and then over it a coat of the Helmsman spar urethane. The sealcoat's difference was subtle, but there. It evened out the red tone in the walnut and it added some depth to the grain. In short, it gave the walnut some "pop" before it was covered with the protective urethane. I presented that walnut trim piece to several Einsel House visitors, and (without knowing what they were looking at) the sealcoat under urethane section was the unanimous favorite. In the picture above the sealcoat under urethane is at the bottom left.

So - that's what we're using to finish most of the wood we sanded at the Einsel House. Zinsser Sealcoat under 2 coats of satin urethane. I hope time will show it is the right choice.

Below is a (blurry) picture of me applying Sealcoat to the stairs:

I was quite surprised by how nervous I felt while putting on that initial coat. The decision wasn't made lightly, but in the back of my head I kept thinking, "All that work, and you could mess it up real quick now." But uncontrollable excitement kept bubbling up above that anxiety, because dang if those steps don't look amazing. : )

Before closing this post I have to add that spar urethane is not recommended for use on floors. In its place on both the floors and stairs at the EH we are using a product called Zip Guard, also in a satin finish.

With that, here's one last picture for today. It's yours truly sanding the first coat of finish on the dining room floor. (It's still waiting for its second coat as I write.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

We're getting to the fun part now!

Pardon the glare from the shop light.
It was 10 o'clock at night, but I just had to take some pictures.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Einsel House

I'll be leaving for the Einsel House soon, but wanted to put up a few pictures showing some of the other work that's been going on at the house recently. (Although my entries here are sometimes one-track, work at the house is always proceeding on several fronts simultaneously.)

First up, remember the cracks in the walls that I've mentioned here a few times? (Part the natural result of old plaster walls, and part the result of four new jacks in the basement.) They are being filled in preparation for painting:

Second, the dining room ceiling is finished (minus primer and paint). There is a light texture on the new ceiling, similar to what is in the kitchen. This was a concession on my part (ideal would have been a perfectly flat ceiling) but because of the size of the room and the fact that the south end of the ceiling still has a slight bow, our contractor encouraged some texture.

Third, the book nook is taking shape. I loved my mom's idea of using boards to make plank walls. The back stairway at Old Winchester had plank walls and I'm thrilled to be able to use that idea at the Einsel House, even in a small way.

Fourth, below is a picture of one of the original basement windows modified to be a two pane window instead of three:
We will be reusing all the other basement windows in their original size, but the extra width was taken off of this window so that there would be room for lots of "stuff" - the drier vent, gas line to the furnace, two electric lines (one to the septic system, and one a 'someday' line for the springhouse), and I think something else that I'm forgetting right now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sanding Floors

Sorry for the lack of posts here. Last weekend we sanded the wood floors in the living room, dining room and office (former laundry room). Monday we all took a break from the house to recover. This was hands down the most physically exhausting work we have done at the house to date.

We spent most of last week preparing for sanding by pulling staples from the office floor. These suckers had heads barely 1/4 inch wide and legs (is that what they're called on staples?) over an inch long. Thankfully the office was the only room with staples.

Right at noon on Saturday we picked up the floor sander and edger. Here's my dad with the sander, just a few minutes after starting in the living room:

A very long 32 hours later that same floor looked like this:

And the office floor like this:

I actually never ran the sander or edger; Charles and my parents did all of the actual sanding. Charles tackled much of the edging each day, and thus had perhaps the most difficult job of the weekend. The edger was louder than the sander, and much more difficult on the back and arms because it required you to stoop or crouch the entire time you inched around each room.

As you can see in the picture with my dad above, the living room floor had been painted with some type of white primer. Even after the boards were sanded clean, narrow white lines remained between each board. I spent the weekend addressing this problem. Specifically, I spent both days on the living room floor picking out crud from between the floorboards with a dental pick:

I was back at the house after work today, but I think it will take me two more evenings after work this week before I have the entire living room floor picked clean. There are also a few places that would benefit from some attention with the random orbital sander.

So, that was our weekend. My mom was back at work on the book nook today, and I've been conducting various experiments on the back sides of some walnut trim to determine what route we'll use for finishing. My Uncle J has been very busy at the house as well. So there's lots of fodder for future blog posts whenever I find the time to write them!

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Sign of Spring

I'm not talking about the bright sunshine coming through the window, the approaching time change, or even about anything green poking through the melting snow.

Nope, I'm talking about the call we just got from our general contractor. He's working upstairs and can hear our bats waking up in the attic. Yipes.

I just ordered two of these. Somehow I doubt two will be enough, but it's at least a starting point. I suspect we have enough bats to justify this. I really hope we don't have enough bats to need this though.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Compliment

Last night my mom and I depleted our supply of painter’s tape wrapping all the woodwork in the dining room in plastic. (At one point my mom stated, “This room has a lot of woodwork.” Of course I reminded her that that was a good thing.) Then, just before Charles primed the room’s ceiling, we spread cardboard over the entire floor.

This cardboard was generously given to us by a local appliance store. As soon as we got off work yesterday Charles and I met at this store and loaded six refrigerator boxes into the back of the Ford Ranger. Charles carried each box from the back of the store out to the truck while I stayed in the store, taking wire cutters to the straps around each box and breaking it down so we could fit as many boxes in the truck’s bed as possible. After taking a phone call the store’s owner came back to check on us. Charles was on his way out to the truck and I was attacking the next box. The owner watched for about a minute and then commented, “You’re quite a worker.” There was noticeable awe in his voice. I looked up from stamping down the next box, still wearing heels and slacks from my day job, and said, “Thanks!” It was one of the best compliments I’ve received in quite a while.