Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What Lies Beneath

Most of the (fifty-year-old!) hardwood floors in my new house look like this:

(Cue choir of angels).

(Yes, that is a Queen-Anne-style bookcase and a floral rug. No, I am not somebody's grandma. I am just . . . sophisticated . . . for my age. Shut up).

So, though I expected that the hardwood floor beneath the ugly, cheap, smelly carpet in my living room and hallway would probably have a few scuffs and stains, as hardwood floors trapped under cheap carpet generally tend to, given the condition of the floors in the rest of the house, I had hope that the floor beneath the carpet might be, well, passable.

I was wrong.

That is what the hallway looked like AFTER I swept it twice.

That's not glue you're seeing there on the floor. Oh, no.

That's about seven years of dust.

Seven-year-old dust congeals into quite a tenacious sort of paste when mixed with seven years of cat urine.

Oh yes, yes it does.

So, this is what the hallway looked like after I removed the urine-and-dust paste:

And this is what the living room floor looks like, everywhere the previous occupants didn't have furniture:

As you can see, before they put the carpet down, they apparently thought it would be fun to test some white wall paint out on the floor. On the fifty-year-old, still-in-pretty-good-condition, genuine-hardwood-of-a-quality-that-would-cost-a-
frillion-dollars-to-install-throughout-a-house-these-days floor.

Look, even the two-year-old thinks this is such a tragedy he wants to help:

So, I figure I have four options:

1.) Pay someone several hundred dollars to sand the floor and refinish it. In a dark, dried cat urine color to cover up the stains. Only we won't call the color dried cat urine. We'll call it Rich Espresso.

2.) Attempt to sand and refinish the floor myself. With expensive rental equipment that I have never used before. Using chemicals that require ventilation-- i.e., open windows. In the dead of winter.

3.) Cover the hardwood with laminate (sacrilege). Because (see above) I cannot afford to replace the hardwood with hardwood.

4.) Run over it a couple of times with my hand sander, paint the whole floor some unobtrusive color with porch paint (SACRILEGE!), toss around some really big area rugs, and wait five years until I CAN afford to replace the hardwood with hardwood.

Opinions? Suggestions, Internets?

(I know I've been doin' you wrong lately, Internets, by rushing past you with little more than a tip of my hat when I see you on the street, not even bothering to say hello, or ask you how your day has been.

But I know you still love me, Internets.


Don't you?)


Bea said...

Suffer until spring, and then refinish it yourself? You know you're not doing the two sacrilege options, after all, so it's just a matter of what will take longer to come: the money to pay for the refinishing, or the conditions that will make it possible to do yourself.

Anonymous said...

I love you but if you cover those floors with laminate we will have to throw down.

I also go with refinishing them yourself. It's not as difficult as it seems and it's worth it. If there are some flaws that refinishing doesn't erase you can always stain them a few shades darker, which helps. It did in the house that we put a contract on.

Anonymous said...

I say throw rugs down until the weather warms up and then rent the equipment and try it yourself. If that fails, cover it until you can afford to replace the hardwoods.

Anything more than a temporary cover up is SACRILEGE! And whatever you do, don't go near it with paint of any kind. If you do that, you might as well, um... let a cat pee in piles of dust, making a dust paste which you let sit on the floor for seven years. Or take white wall paint to it. Hee.

Jaelithe said...

Waiting until spring poses a bit of a problem because the finish is so scuffed/eroded. There are places where the cat pee seems to have just totally dissolved it. Unfinished hardwood is very, very difficult to protect and keep clean for any length of time, and with a small person who likes to spill things running around, I am afraid if I don't put some sort of finish or something down on the floor soon, we may wind up damaging the exposed areas beyond repair.

Has anyone commenting/reading here refinished their own wood floor before? Can you give me a first-person account of the difficulty level? I have done some research about it on the internet, and just about everything I have read has said it is a very messy, very time-consuming project for an individual. I've read that you have to sand the floor three times using three different grits with a heavy drum sander (they can weigh up to 100 lbs), stopping to sweep and vacuum the floor thoroughly between each sanding session, and then you have to go over rough spots with a hand sander, and do all the edges with an edge sander, and all of this is said to create huge amounts of dust, necessitating the rental of a shop vacuum on top of the sanding machines . . . It would probably have to be me doing the sanding and cleaning mostly by myself, since my husband has bad allergies, and would not react well to a ton of wood dust. And I don't see how I could accomplish this while my son is in the house, but I don't know ANYONE who would be willing to watch him for whole days at a time.

I am having a guy from a refinishing company give me an estimate tomorrow, just to see what the cost would be compared to the cost of renting the equipment . . .

Awesome Mom said...

I would pay someone to do it. It may seem costly now but having nice wood flooring will help bring up the value of the house when you want to eventually sell it. I think doing it own your own may be a bigger hassle than you are ready for especially with a little helper around.

Debbie said...

The internets is your humble, shivering puppy, Jaelithe. It waits quietly in a dark corner, paws crossed, until you summon it to come to you and kiss your face with its long, pink tongue.

The internets most definitely still adores you.

Also, I got nothin' on the floor dilemma. (Well, aside from a heaping plate of jealousy for your conundrum. Oh, to have a wood floor problem of any kind on my hands.)

bren j. said...

Wow, Jaelithe, I feel your pain! We discovered the same nonsense in our house. The hardwood upstairs was only installed in the late 80s, so in theory, it SHOULD be in good condition. But then, whoever owned this house between then and now, was overcome by the same 'let's try out paint on the floor' syndrome as your house's former owners. ARGH!!!

Here's what I can tell you, though. As time-consuming as it will be, it's still the better option to refinish the floor yourself. Or for Husband to do it! You can get low-odour stain to re-finish the floor. I should look for the page Husband bookmarked. It's got all the info you'll ever need.

In the meantime, happy cleaning of the cat paste...

Lisa said...

Of course we love ya...

Wow. That right there is a good reason NOT to get a cat? huh? I didn't know that's what cat pee can do to hardwood.

I have NO CLUE what to do. Am so not handy with that thing...

Nancy R said...

My sister and brother-in-law paid someone to refinish the hardwood in their home before they moved in, and they're pretty handy people. However, they didn't have the time and my sister was banned from fumes and such.

Their home was built in the 30's, I think, and they're only the second owners. The previous owner made all the hardwood flooring himself - for the main floor and upstairs! Only the bathroom was tile. It looks rockin', and the workers were able to knock out the job much quicker than sis and bil could have.

the mad momma said...

That sounds and looks terrible... Now I know why you were so upset. In India labour is so cheap that we would never have done it ourself. Plus because we never have to do it ourselves, my husband can just about change a bulb! All the best. Wish I could offer words of wisdom but all I can do is give sympathy.

Linlee said...

Wow! Looks like a project. When we moved into our house we tore up the carpet in the sunroom only to find that the pad had turned into dust. It was nasty and all over the place.
Good luck!

Mom101 said...

Pay someone to refinish them.

And my vote counts 47 times.

Unknown said...

Hi. Did you do the sanding yet? I'm an ex-carpenter. I did a major floor refinishing, once before on a friend's house-boat. The floor only had warn out varnish, and a couple stains, like your floor -- I've seen much much worse, in which case you would definitely want to install new or pay someone to refinish it, but yours looks alright. Anyway, 3 rooms. Maybe 900 square feet total, took us three days to sand. Two guys. We used an upright belt sander, an upright radial sander, small belt sander, and palm sander. Hint #1: use sand paper liberally -- buy lots of extra sandpaper, more than you think you need, and ask them if you can return extra.

The biggest task is preperation. You want to move everything out. Make it a completely empty space beforehand. Really. Don't move big pieces of furniture around while you're working. It'll just get in the way, causing a poorer quality job, and get completely dustified.

If you can seperate the area from the rest of your living area all the better. Big sheets of plastic with tape down the edges can make false walls to section off areas of the house. Then, open the appropriate windows at the appropriate times for the proper ventilation -- control your air environment with cross-winds -- sometimes this is not intuitive and you have to open some window in some other part of house to get air flowing out that window, but do the lick your finger hold it to the wind test and make sure you have air flow going out that window in the room you're working in and not into the rest of your house. Prepartion, prepartion.

The sanding is by far the hardest part. Like I said, we had two guys, medium build in our twenties and we worked three days straight. We kind of tag-teamed the different equipment and while one person was in one room another would be sanding in the other. Really, this is the worst of it -- really tiring, hard work. But the results were really phenomenal!

As for the sealing, again, control the flow of air, however possible. Create big cross drafts and don't paint on rainy or really humid days if you can avoid it. (I'm talking about results.) Buy a big floor fan and point it out the nearest window to where you are working, blowing the fumes out of the building. Painting the floor isn't anywhere near as much *work* as sanding. But again, it's totally worth it when you're all done, and you can say "I redid my floors". It's a big project, but if you can get some friends or family to help you out, you can do it.

Now, my problem, what do you do when you're a renter and your floors need to be redone?
a. Beg the landlord to refinish
b. Offer to split the cost w/ ll
c. move
d. try to restore? clean?

Unknown said...

Oh, in my comment I said "painting" a hole lot, and I meant that synonymously with "sealing, and finishing". It's all painting viscous liquid with brushes.

Unknown said...

And then I had a grammatical error in that last comment. "Hole" should be "whole".