Monday, April 30, 2012

How I Refurbished My Floors For Less Than $100

My refinished staircase.  $5 plus an hour or so of labor.
(Sorry, I don't have a 'before' pic of the stairs.)

Bedroom One "Before"

Bedroom One "After", turned out way better than I thought!
Not bad for $10 worth of paint and an hour or so of work (minus drying time).

Bedroom Two "Before"
(Look at that plywood!  Aaaah!)

Bedroom Two "After", $10ish dollars worth of floor paint later.

The landing before.  Horrible.  Just horrible.

The landing after, my paper bag floor!! ($62 in supplies, and I have leftovers!)

My new house has hardwood floors.  Original, installed in the 1920's hardwood floors.  And they're gorgeous. But they don't go throughout the home.  The addition that was built in the 1960's was built with an unfortunate tile flooring, which has since been covered up by carpet in the living room and sheet laminate in the dining room.  But the kitchen, the "middle room" as I currently call it, the master bedroom, and the long hallway leading to the newly remodeled bathroom all have gorgeous mahogany floors.

The stairs, the upstairs hallway/landing, and the two bedrooms upstairs were all carpeted because, according to my landlord, all of that was part of the addition.  But the more I cleaned, measured, planned, and started getting ready to move in, the more I came to the realization that there was no way the upstairs was an addition.  It had to be part of the original house.  Which meant that underneath all that worn, bleach stained, 20-something year old carpet, there had to be hardwood floors.  And I wanted them.  I wanted them bad.

At first I told myself that "someday" I would tear up all the carpet upstairs.  But I know for a fact that any big projects I don't get done before I move won't ever get done, realistically.  I was already pushing it logistically and financially with the move, and couldn't afford to take on another big project, but still....mahogany floors.  Hundreds and hundreds of square feet of beautiful, eighty year old hardwood flooring that just needed to be freed from underneath the confines of that horrendous carpet.  I was sure all it needed was a little TLC.

But I didn't have time for TLC...I just needed to do what absolutely needed to be done, and get moved.  One day, out of morbid curiosity, I asked my landlord during casual conversation if he would be okay with me tearing up the carpet if there were, in fact, hardwood floors underneath.  (He, at this point, still wasn't convinced that the upstairs was part of the original house.)  He said he didn't care.

That sealed the deal.  What was at first a thought in the back of my mind became an obsession.  The hardwood floors underneath that grimy carpet that was somehow becoming more disgusting by the day were calling to me.  It was like something out of Poe's Telltale Heart.  No matter where I was in the house, or what I was doing, I could hear them, just begging for me to save them.  "Help us.... free us..."

I had to do it.  I started in one of the bedrooms, where the carpet was already starting to peel away from the wall a little.  I pulled it far enough back to see what was underneath.  And what I found was....HARDWOOD FLOORS!!  Sure, they'd need to be cleaned and polished, but I was up for the task. What would that take, a couple of hours?

I pulled more and more of the carpet away from the tack board, ripping up the rotting padding underneath it.   The floors weren't in as good a shape as I'd hoped, lots of splattered and spilled paint, but they weren't horrible.  They were definitely fixable.  When I was done with one bedroom, I moved onto the next.  The floors were in pretty much the same shape, beaten up but repairable.

I spent the next hour or so blindly pulling up carpet and padding, not really paying attention to the floors underneath until I was done.  When I finally did step back to look at my finished product, I was....horrified.  Why, oh why did I tear up the carpet?!  There was a reason it had been put down, and the reason was that the floor underneath them had been abused and beaten beyond recognition.  They had been worn, stained, splattered with paint, and even butchered!  On the landing and in the bigger of the two bedrooms, the hardwood floor had been cut out for some unknown reason and replaced with plywood.  Plywood!  Right in the middle of the landing, in a long, narrow, unhideable strip.

(Update: I have since learned from a previous owner that the original flooring was cut out in places and replaced with plywood when they redid the duct work upstairs.)

I was beside myself.  I had two options.  Recarpet, or refinish the floors completely, neither of which I had the money for.  I scoured the internet and sought opinions.  I thought and thought.  And I finally came up with a plan.  The stairs, which had endured the least amount of abuse, I would sand and refinish.  That couldn't take too long, and wouldn't cost too much if I did it myself.  The landing, I would try a technique called "paperbag flooring" that a Facebook friend had mentioned.  And in the bedrooms, I would paint with wood floor paint, since most of the floor space would be covered with furniture anyway.

COST: I spent less than $100 on supplies....a gallon of Cocoa Brown Wood Floor Paint ($30), a gallon of Elmer's glue ($12), two rolls of brown craft paper ($10), three quarts of water based polyeurathane ($40), and a tin of some sort of stain/polish called Restore-A-Floor ($5).

STAIRS: For the stairs, I skipped the sanding step and went straight to refinishing.  I used Goof Off to remove the larger paint splatters, but left the small ones.  They added character.  I applied two coats of Restore-A-Floor, allowing two days of drying time in between.

BEDROOMS: For the bedrooms, we put up blue tape to protect the trim, and applied two coats of Dutch Boy wood floor paint.  After two coats in each room, I still had about 1/8th of a gallon of paint left that I can use for touch-ups.

PAPER BAG FLOOR: My biggest dilemma was over what to do with the landing, which had a ginormous plywood plank down the center.  A friend suggested "paperbag flooring", which I'd never heard of before.  After a good amount of research, I decided it was my best option.  I ripped brown craft paper into 6-12 inch sections, wadded them into balls, and dipped them into a glue mixture (3 parts water, 1 part Elmer's glue).  The process was easy enough: dunk, squeeze, flatten out on the floor, overlapping the pieces.  But it was very, I repeat, VERY time consuming.  After about five hours, I was to the "let it dry" stage, which is an overnight process.  The following day, I began the process of applying multiple layers of water-based polyeurathane.  I allowed a couple hours between coats, and decided today that I want to add a few more coats for good measure.  I applied coat number five earlier this evening, and will do coats six and seven tomorrow.  It's not perfect, there are a few ripples and you can still see the texture of the floor underneath.  I could have done better prep work to prevent that.  I could have stained the floors once I was done laying the paper.  And I could have sanded the polyeurathane between coats, but I didn't.  I like my floor anyway.  I think it has character.

All in all, the amount of time I spent working on the floors was the hardest part.  Lots of aches and pains, lots of late nights, but totally worth it in the end.  And the fact that I can say I did it all for less than $100 is pretty stinkin' awesome if you ask me.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Well Wishes

Today, I totally let the magnitude of my city girl-ness be known to my landlord.  I've started the process of switching over utilities and all that other fun technical stuff that goes along with moving.  But when I called the city to have the water and sewer account at the new house transferred into my name, the clerk informed me that they don't provide water service to my address.  So I called my landlord.  Our conversation went like this:

Me: "I called the city to switch the water over today.  They said they don't provide service to this address."

Him: "Right, because the house has well water."

Me:  "Oh, okay.  So who do I call?"

Him: "Nobody, it's just a well."

Me: "Right, I get that.  But who services the well?"

Him: "Nobody.  It's a well."

Me: "So the water's free?!?!  That's so cool!"

My landlord chuckled as we said goodbye, but I got the feeling I'd done irreparable damage to his opinion of me.  How the heck was I supposed to know how well water works?  My water has always, always, been a utility I pay for, just like gas, electricity, and the internet.  I mean, this is the 21st century.  It seems almost archaeic to think that our water comes out of a big, Mother-Nature-serviced hole in the ground.  That's crazy talk.  I wanted to call my landlord back and asked him where this "well" of mine is.  I've been over every inch of the property, and I've never seen anything that looks like it belongs in a Mother Goose nursery rhyme.  I want to find this well.  I want to decorate it and make it pretty and throw pennies in it and make wishes.  But my landlord already thinks I'm a crazypants.  So maybe I'll save that question for another day.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Neighbors

I met one of my new neighbors yesterday.  I was out in the back yard admiring it's awesomeness when I heard footsteps behind me.  I turned around and there he was, just a few feet away.  He didn't bother introducing himself.  But that's probably because I took off screaming and running in the opposite direction as soon as we made eye contact.  Why?  Because my new neighbor, who seems to think it's acceptable to come and go from my yard as he pleases, is a WILD TURKEY.  A wild turkey?!?!  I was so not prepared for that.  Gang members, drug addicts and prostitutes I'm used to....but a bird that's almost as tall as I am?  Terrifying. This country living is way scarier than "urban life" ever was....

My new neighbor....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It Begins.....

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu

Today was a big day.  Today, I got the keys to our new house.  And I use the term “our new house” loosely. 

By “our”, I mean my family of six that is currently spread across the country.  Myself and my two boys, thirteen and nine, of whom I share joint custody with my ex-husband and only have about 60% of the time; my husband, who is a soldier in the U.S. Army and is currently stationed at Fort Hood, Texas; and my two step-sons, eight and four, who live with their mother and are only allowed to have contact with us when my husband comes home, which is usually only every two or three months for a couple weeks at a time.  So, essentially, “our” house is really “my” house for the time being, as I will be the only one living in it 100% of the time.  Well, me and our two ankle-biting fluff balls, Sammy and Sophie.

By “new”, I mean built in 1929.  And by “house”, I mean farmhouse.  Complete with a gigantic back yard, an old carriage house, and a dilapidated barn out at the end of the property.

Since my husband is 1,200 miles away, I will be doing all the renovating, decorating, packing, moving, and unpacking by myself.  (Here’s where the fact that I have incredible friends and family comes in handy.)  No big deal.  Moving and starting over is a part of life, especially for military families.  We’re not even going that far, just a few miles down the road.  It won’t be too big of a change, right?  Wrong.

I am a city girl to the core.  I grew up in the same house my father lived in during the 1950’s.  Over the years, the neighborhood surrounding the house that has been owned by our family since it was built has deteriorated badly.  By the time I was in high school, gunshots and police sirens were as much a part of my summer soundtrack as crickets and thunderstorms.  My dad kept his pistol handy at all times, because all the area crackheads seemed to think our house looked like a good place to come seeking rides, handouts, and a phone to borrow…especially at 2 am.

When I turned 18, I was ready to get as far from Lansing as possible, as fast as I could.  Unfortunately, due to the fact that I relied heavily on my parents to watch my son while I worked, I didn’t make it far.  The first house I bought was a three bedroom ranch in a quiet little neighborhood a few miles from my childhood home.  The thing about quiet little neighborhoods, I learned the hard way, is that it doesn’t matter how nice your neighbors are.  If you live in a crime-riddled city, crime will find you eventually.  After multiple vehicle break-ins, the theft of our mini-van right out of our driveway, and even a mid-day home invasion, I was beyond ready to get the heck out of dodge.

So when my husband and I decided to divorce, I was more than happy to let him keep the house.  I moved to a small town just outside the city limit, into a two bedroom townhome with my two little boys.  New friends, new school, and a sense of safety and security I’d never had growing up.  We probably would have stayed there forever if our family hadn’t doubled in size.  But over the past five years, we’ve added two dogs, a husband/step-dad, and two more little boys to the mix.  We’ve simply outgrown the place.

I spent months scouring the internet for rental homes in our area.  The final decision came down to two houses that were polar opposites.  One was a newly renovated three bedroom ranch with a big, open yard.  The other was an old farmhouse with a creepy Michigan basement, a forest in the back yard, and quirkiness oozing from the walls.  I’ve always wanted to live in an old house, so even though the ranch would have been a safer bet, my husband and I decided on the farmhouse.  We’re just renting for the time being, so it’s sort of a sneak peek at country living for us, to see if it’s something our family can adapt to. 

Less than two hours into our twelve month lease, I can tell it’s going to be a wild ride. It’s quite possible that I bit off a little more than I can chew.  But it’s also quite possible that this could be one of the greatest adventures the C Family ever embarks on.  Only time will tell….

Our new casa.  Cute, no?