Archive for December, 2006

[Pretty much] done!

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Sunday, December 10th, 2006 at 4:24 pm

I’m sure there will be more pictures to follow as we fill in some of the furniture / decor gaps in the basement, but here’s the very latest look at things.  I was up early Saturday morning to keep working on the molding and door trim – it was slow and steady work, not too hard, but took time to get it all fitting right.  We knew we were going to be painting it so we saved a few bucks and got "paint grade" molding instead of the "stain grade".  12-9-2006-10-19-36-am_0001.JPGIn the store I thought it was something like MDF or a wood composite – it wasn’t until I started cutting that I realized it was plastic.  Weird.  I had a few pieces crack a bit on some of the less-than-straight bits of wall, but after I started pre-drilling everything went well.  Finally got to use my saw horses, and they totally saved the day…

12-9-2006-3-50-49-pm_0006.JPGHere’s a closeup of one of the pillar bases, you can see the profile of the molding.  The very bottom bit is actually a separate piece of quarter-round wood.  I wasn’t going to put it on but I’m really glad it’s there – it catches more of the light on the curve and just visually makes the base molding stronger to help delineate the floor and the wall.  That pillar in the pic is the level one – the other one by the drain was an enormous pain to get framed.  Lots of cheating, but it looked good in the end.

12-9-2006-5-57-20-pm_0009.JPGFinally, two pics of the room as we threw furniture together for the party.  Karen had gotten the grass from her old work, and on a whim added it to the room – and I totally love it!  Of course I put my Belgian beer glasses front and center under a light, and dart board is sort of behind where I took those pics from.  Not sure about that orange chair, but the green one actually works well…  We’re going to look at Target or Craigslist for a rug, and we’re keeping our eyes open for a futon.  Whoa.

12-9-2006-5-57-47-pm_0010.JPGI can’t believe where it was the night before – sawdust and plastic everywhere – but it looked so damn good at the party it made it all worth it.  Awesome.

Hopefully Sierra or Karen will post about the party.  Good times, great people, and the best piñata action of the year…  :)

Home stretch

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Wednesday, December 6th, 2006 at 5:47 pm

12-6-2006-7-47-03-am_0002.JPGWell, it’s done – but for the waiting.  The two coats of the gloss sealer are down, and we can walk on it tomorrow morning (or tonight in socks).  I’m hoping to buy base and crown molding tonight so I can prime and paint them and be ready to start installing Thursday or Friday.

12-6-2006-7-47-32-am_0004.JPGIt might be too early, but for the sake of anybody who finds this page in the future while researching a similar project, here’s a little floor post-mortem:

First, here are the previous posts about the floor staining: 1, 2.

On the advice of my mom, who recently tore up carpet, etched, and stained three (or four?) awesome new floors in their house, I went with Mason’s Select transparent concrete stain from Duckback Products, Inc..  My initial dream was acid stain, but my research made me think a floor this old wouldn’t have enough free lime available to react with the acid to create nice colors.  Older concrete is supposed to have more open "pores" which will accept the stain.  Finally, the acrylic stain is available in more colors, and is more repeatable in those colors.  The downside, maybe, is that the natural marbling and variation you get with the acid stain is somewhat lacking in the acrylic, hence my labor-intensive patterning.

The application technique we ended up with went something like this: tape, mask, spray, dab, dry, dab.

  • Tape.  Get good quality masking tape, at least an inch wide, and make sure to press it down on the edge you’re going to paint.  I ran out of the original tape and got a cheap brand from Ace for the final charcoal squares, and it ended up bleeding on most of the edges…  Damn.
  • Mask.  I was lucky enough to have a computer box laying around that had one side coated in plastic.  I cut this up into strips and used it to extend the masking tape while spraying.  Two things: make sure to spray from behind the mask and over it, never towards it, or you’ll get some stain under the mask.  Also, be sure to (carefully!) wipe down the cardboard masking every so often or it will start dripping and dragging stain.
  • Spray.  I used a quart sized handheld sprayer filled with stain, and it worked great for the small areas we did at a time.  One tendency everyone had was to start to overspray after we’d been working for a while – this ended up producing some puddling, which would have been trouble if we were looking for an even color, but actually produced some great texture for us.  On the whole a light, even coat is best and most "workable" afterwards.
  • Dab.  Immediately after spraying, while the stain was still wet, I would come in with a rag dipped in black stain and dab / sponge / stipple some patterns.  This was generally pretty random, but eventually started becoming granite "veins".  The dabbing had the side benefit of removing a bit of the stain as it went, creating more variety.  Next I would do the same with white stain, trying to go "next to" the black for more contrast.
  • Dry.  Let it wait.  You can do some touchup on the puddles if there are any, but mostly just wait 4 hours.
  • Dab.  Go back and add more pattern – you can do much more controlled effects (but with harder edges) once the base stain is dry.  I used the same rag for the black and rolled it in the pattern of the vein, then stippled, dabbed, etc, anything to start to get the texture I wanted.  It was hard because the black doesn’t really show up until it starts to try, so there’s a tendency to overdo it – I ended up doing a quick round on one block and moving on to the next, so by the time I came back it was drying and I could see what was what.  Finally I used a sea sponge to add flecks of white – again, the visual contrast is what we’re after, it really helps the texture seem more "believable". (for lack of a better word)

However, no matter how well you do the above, I cannot overemphasize the importance of prep work on the concrete.  You must get it ready to receive the stain or you’ll end up with a floor that looks nice but the stain either wipes right off or scratches at the slightest touch.  (don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got one tiny section behaving like the latter.  I’m hoping the sealer helped…)

That’s it!

Floor teaser

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Long night of staining last night – thanks to Sierra’s help we managed to get down the whole second layer, the red lines.  The tape was incredibly fiddly to get right, and the gap ended up varying from around 1/8" to 3/8", but the overall effect is fantastic.  It make the sections seem distinct and intentional, and I think to the unknowing eye it will look like grout lines!

12-5-2006-8-53-33-am_0002.JPGThis morning I did some quick touchup trying to even out the color intensity a bit and add some accents, and finally took up the tape.  I was running late, but couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures of the progress, so here you go…

12-5-2006-8-53-19-am_0001.JPGWhat’s left?  Taping a border for the intersection squares, and staining them black.  Hoping to get that done early tonight.  Once that’s dry (3-4 hours) I hope to slap down a quick coat of the glossy sealer, so I can do the second coat tomorrow morning.  The sealer says it needs 72 hours before furniture can go back on it, and by my math that puts us at Saturday morning — just in time to set up for Sierra’s birthday party that evening!  Down to the wire…

Now we’re talking

Posted by Nate in Home Improvements.
Sunday, December 3rd, 2006 at 7:42 pm

Well, the tide has turned in the battle against the basement floor: I’m winning.  In fact, it’s a route.  I am so happy with how it’s turning out so far I really can’t wait to finish it and see the whole thing.  And I know Karen really can’t wait to have the laundry room back – it’s currently full of everything that used to be in our basement, and has been for the last… oh, two months.  Way too long.

So here’s the rundown:  Tuesday after work I rented a 5" hand grinder.  11-30-2006-9-03-49-pm_0027.JPGI’d decided to grind the parts of the edges and corners I’d missed with the previous (second) rental of the walk-behind grinder, and then chemically remove the last bits of pain.  (the second time I used grinding stones which worked pretty well but again couldn’t negotiate the bumps and curves of the floor)  After doing the edges and seeing how good it looked, I had to do the whole thing: 7 hours of horrible hands and knees grinding, shaking out and emptying the shop vac every 10 minutes, etc, etc.  But it looked great by Wednesday morning!!  It also removed the whole top layer of discolors cement and roughened up the surface enough it would take the stain really well.

12-2-2006-1-36-21-pm_0001.JPGVarious busy-ness and mishaps kept me from getting back to it until the weekend, and early Saturday I was off to buy the stain and some masking tape.  The taping actually took a lot of the day (see at right), but I wanted to get it right and have an even pattern.

12-2-2006-5-10-38-pm_0004.JPGBy Saturday evening I had about a third of the main pattern in place, and it was looking very good.  I was tempted to press on, but my back was killing me from all the bent over work and spraying and taping, so I called it a night.

12-3-2006-12-35-49-pm_0001.JPGSunday Karen had off work so she came down to help and it started going much quicker.  She would use the cardboard masks to shield the edges up to the tape, spray a base coat using a hand-sprayer, reposition the masks, etc, until the square was filled.  Then I’d come in with my accent colors – dark and light – and rag roll / blot in some texture and pattern.  12-3-2006-6-29-48-pm_0003.JPGAs the afternoon progressed I started doing some touchup on the last night’s work and found a really nice "vein" pattern that looks sort of like granite or marble.  Really sweet.

At left is where things stand tonight.  I’ve still got to go down and tape the edging for the next round – we’re filling in the grey with a really nice deep red, "Terra Cotta" it’s called.  I’m going to leave a 1/4" overlap of unstained cement, which should look like a grout line in tile, I think that will help the pattern pop a little more.  12-3-2006-6-29-36-pm_0002.JPGFinally the intersections will be stained a dark grey or black, which will also help provide some visual contrast.

Did I mention I love it so far?  I love it.  I’m going to make out with the floor when it’s done.  You can come watch.  $5 at the door.