I get by with a little help from my “friends”

“One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more.”

–Washington Irving

As dear husband and I rushed to ready our home for move-in, we knew one big thing had to be completed beforehand:  floors.  It felt like it was now or never.  Sure, we had plenty of electrical, plumbing, gas lines, and HVAC work to do.  That was the expensive part.  The part of me that loves to nest winced a little at having to spend money on things I couldn’t really touch or see, but the sensible side of me knew that our home had to be safe and efficient.  With those items finally completed, I jumped for joy at the prospect of moving on to…….pretty things!

We had researched all the flooring options.  Carpet would not do for the dear ones who have asthma in our family.  Real hardwood was way beyond our budget.  Laminate looked nice, but it was almost as expensive as some of the engineered hardwood or bamboo.  I considered just painting the plywood that was under the carpet we pulled out; unfortunately, there was a large area covered by a thin layer of vinyl that we could *not* remove no matter how hard we tried.  We also thought about doing new plywood floors that look like hardwood plank…..really!  (Take a look here at the incredible work others are doing!  http://www.layers-of-learning.com/real-wood-floors-made-from-plywood/)

However, after seeing http://www.theshabbycreekcottage.com/2011/05/making-your-own-flooring-with-pine.html, I began to think I really could do these pine floors myself while hubby was working.  It looked time consuming but not difficult.  I read everything I could on how others had done it:  nails vs. screws, oil or water based stains, tung oil vs. polyurethane.  In the end, we decided to use number 1 and 2 grade 1×6 pine boards from our local Home Depot cut to various lengths .  We had roughly 800 square feet to cover.  Pine is cheaper than just about any wood, which fit our budget.  (In all, we spent about a dollar per square foot, including stain and polyurethane.)  Also, the rustic, worn look of pine would suit our little farmhouse very well.

When we knew we only had a few weeks until go time, hubby had to leave town on a business trip for a few days.  Before he departed, he introduced me to my new friends:  miter saw, jig saw, nail gun, and sander.  He then gave me a crash course on the use of the tools and how not to hurt myself with them.  I know it sounds crazy, but I felt quite….ahem….. empowered to have these power tools at my disposal!  Moreover, I felt lucky that my husband took the time to teach me new skills that would help me make a home for our family.

First we laid down red rosin paper over the existing plywood to cut down on squeaky floors.  Then David laid the first few boards and showed me how to keep going.  We left 1/8 inch between wall and floor edge to allow for expansion.

photo (51)     photo (52)

I loved how airy the pine made everything feel; I seriously pondered not staining it and only giving it coats of polyurethane.  However, it felt a little too beachy like that, which seemed out of place in our Kansas cottage.  Dear husband helped me immensely by doing some of the more advanced woodworking needed, such as thresholds and pieces requiring the table saw.  Once the boards were face-nailed down using the floor nailer, I swept and vacuumed them.  Next came sanding; I did it with my handy dandy orbital sander using 150 grit sandpaper.  More sweeping and vacuuming followed by a cleaning with odorless mineral spirits and it was time for stain.

I had really wanted to use tung oil, which is more environmentally friendly and hardens the wood from the inside.  This would have been a plus considering that pine is pretty soft and distresses with age.  Unfortunately, tung oil isn’t readily available in my area, so stain it would have to be.  After trying no less than 10 different stains on some of my wood scraps, I chose the color “Early American” by Varathane.  It had a medium brown tone that I liked and wasn’t too red or too yellow.  I also liked that they had a variety that dried in one hour.  In the first bedroom I painted it on with a brush, only letting it set for two or three minutes (the can advises 5-10 minutes) before wiping it off.  I didn’t want the floors to get too dark.  This method took two and a half hours in that first room!  I decided that the next room would be done using a different tool:  a lambswool mop applicator.  The second room took less than half the time, which thrilled me!  After staining two bedrooms, a hallway, and a combined kitchen/dining/living room, I only had to wait an hour to apply the water-based Varathane.  It would take four coats of this sealer, allowing 2 hours between coats for drying time.  I applied it with a mop as well, which was very efficient.  In order to avoid sanding between coats of Varathane, you must not go more than 24 hours between applications.  It took 2 and a half days to apply 4 coats, and here are the results:

photo (46)  photo (53)

Start to finish, the floors took 8 days plus 4 days to let the Varathane cure.  I love the pattern variations in the wood and the color.  It feels like a new old house, elegant yet “make-yourself-at-home” comfortable.  This floor project taught me many lessons.  You never know what you can do until you try it.  The right tools can make the difference between success and failure.  Don’t get in a hurry.  Sometimes beauty is unconventional.  Having the right person beside you can make you feel like you can conquer mountains.

Now that we have been in the house a week, I can at least show you how the living room looks with our stuff in it:

photo (48)

I’ve even managed to hang curtains in this room, which is my own litmus test for successful unpacking!  I reused my old master bedroom curtains (Bori panels in charcoal gray from World Market, on clearance for $13 last year).  To spruce them up, I used leftover paint to stencil a bird pattern onto the fabric.  I hung the panels on a branch from our old city house that I spray painted silver.  It feels good to have at least one little corner of the house somewhat done!

photo (47)   photo (49)

Who knew that a city girl could do all this?  I guess my husband did.  🙂

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One thought on “I get by with a little help from my “friends”

  1. Love this idea, Dawna. We’re doing up an old house and had to take up the original boards to redo the plumbing and put in better insulation. I want a rustic look and don’t want to spend a fortune, so will definitely look into this further. Your floor looks amazing – well done!

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