Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Victorian Farmhouse - Reinstalling the Floor

This post covers days 11 to 14 (April 17, 18, May 14, 21). There was a bit of a break in the work due to Mother's Day as well as a weekend off, and scheduling and availability issues.

On days 11 and 12, not a whole lot was done on the house. We did some more demolition (removing the tongue-and-groove under the electrical panel, as well as removing some more of the non-matching mouldings). More work was done on electrical, and a lot of times was spent troubleshooting a connection in the junction box controlling the 3-way switch to the main staircase (the one in the attic).

Here are some photos of the skim-coated walls after they had dried.

Here's the old wallpaper found under the non-matching mouldings on the living room side. It's a similar hand-printed wallpaper to the pink ones on the reverse. It dates to AT LEAST the early 1920s, but it's probably much older than that.

I like the colours in this one. Off white, green, dark pink...

So after the long break (3 weeks?) I was told that there were some... developments... that happened while I was away, and that I probably wouldn't be too happy about them. Apparently while we were gone, and with NO ONE ASKING ANY OF US, the "foundation guy" convinced the parents that the boards we pulled-up from the floor should be planed down rather than be sanded in place. The guy claimed that these kinds of floors can't be sanded with a normal floor sander, which is complete b/s and makes absolutely no sense. This guy has worked on historic homes, so I guess the parents didn't question him too much, but I would NEVER EVER have run them through a planer*. So anyhow, all the boards were given a light pass through a planer, and when Angie found out what they did, she had a complete freak-out and meltdown (and I don't blame her one bit). Apparently there was a lot of screaming and cursing involved. I only found out about all of this on the car ride up to the house.

So yeah, not only did they plane the boards, but apparently all my carefully marked and numbered stickers got messed up because they started planing them not even bothering to check anything. This is the part that irritates me the most, since the floor HAD to be re-laid in exactly the same way (because of heating vents, and warped areas), and the numbers were largely the only indication of how to reinstall them correctly.

So yeah, I wasn't thrilled. They also "goofed" a few of them by passing them upside down, so a few were now too thin on the bottom, which gave us a lot of trouble.

The new roof was also installed when I saw the house after the break.

The rotted beam under the window was also patched (the one where you could see outside).

Angie's father also fixed the top of the chimney.

There were numerous different tulips in the side bed.

So yeah, the floor. I was definitely not happy about the whole numbering issue (most had thankfully been re-labeled correctly, but a few had question marks on them), and I was really not happy that the planer seems to have really raised a lot of flakes and coarse texture in the boards. It also ripped out and ate a number of the knots in the boards, leaving us with a bunch of large holes. The guy must have really messed-up his planer knives, too, because at least 3 or 4 huge nails were hit (we removed all the ones we could, but didn't worry too much about them, since they weren't supposed to be passing through a planer!)

Re-laying the floor was kind of grueling. I think we had about 3 boards out of 16 lengths that went in really easily. Most of the others went in very painstakingly. We had to use a combination of tapping with hammers (against blocks), pulling, pushing, and using large 4 foot pipe clamps that I brought for the purpose.

The whole pile of planed boards...

Here's how I squared-up the living room archway flooring. If you recall from the last post, this flooring edge was really crooked. We wanted a nice clean transition, so I screwed a piece of thin plywood along the archway (passing the screws in between floor boards to avoid making visible holes), and then I used a router with a flush-cut bit (3/4") mounted in it. The plywood serves as the straight-edge for the base plate of the router. This works really well, but it makes a LOT of dust.

The ends were cut with the multi-tool.

The flooring on this part appears to be solid maple, and 1 1/4" thick, so I had to do multiple passes. You can see what's being cut off.

Each board took at least 1/2 hour to install.

Another issue that came up was that the foundation guy was SUPPOSED to come by and fix the edge of the foundation for us. There were 2 or 3 high spots along the front wall, and holes to be filled along the side wall. Well, apparently we were told that the foundation guy came and fixed it, but it was quite apparent that it was Angie's father who did the quick fix himself using regular cement instead of lime mortar. All the holes along the side wall had also not been filled-in at all.

To add to the disappointment, the patch he hid was about an inch too high across most of the patch. The poor guy meant well, but it ended up making a lot more work for us. Pierre and I spent a good 2 hours chipping away all the top inch of cement, and then filling-in all the holes in the side wall with crushed gravel and sand (not ideal, but better than nothing).

The new beam repair (to replace the rotted section) was also not deep enough, and not the same height, so we had to redo all of our shims and blocks along the edge, which ate-up even more time.

Installing 3/4 of the floor (what you see below) took the entire day. Because of all the screwed-up boards, several of them had to be shimmed on the bottom, and a bunch were very difficult to slip back into their grooves.

You will also note that several of the boards had cracked (either from age, or from us removing them), so each of those had to be carefully reglued. We also had to trim all the boards to length. This was either because the "nice edge" was crooked, or because they were now too long to slip back under the edge of the wall.

In the end, however, the floor turned out looking really good. The majority of all the gaps are now either tight, or with a maximum gap of around 1/8" (with most being no more than 1/16").

Here's the transition edge. The line looks great, the only problem is that now there's about a 1/16" to 1/8" drop between the two floors because of the planing. This will be difficult to fix, especially with the other floor being solid hardwood.

While I was away, Pierre also did a bit of work himself, namely all the sanding in the hallway to remove all the textured gesso work on the wall going up the stairs. He did this using a power sander and 80 grit paper. This made a LOT of dust and he worked on this while no one else was in the house (and obviously wearing a mask).

He also patched all the holes in the wall and smoothed everything out.

EDIT: Forgot the last photo. Pierre & Angie after a long day's work.

* For those who might want more details about my reasoning VS his in regards to the floor, here's a bit more of my thoughts. First of all, this is an antique floor. It's old wood, it's very dry, it's damaged, and it has nails in it. It's also warped and bent in a lot of places because of how it's been installed and in place for about 140-150 years. One of the boards had bend in it that was about a 2" curve over a 2 foot span. When you pass something this fragile through a machine like a planer, there's a good amount of risk involved. The wood could chip badly, the wood could jam in the machine and leave a deep mark, and there are other issues like the loose knots being yanked out of their holes and chewed up by the machine. One of the other major problems with planing a floor like this is that the boards might not be the same thickness across the surface. The boards could be thicker near the edges of the room, and thinner in the centre, they were sanded in place, so it's impossible to tell exactly how everything will line up after it's laid back down. One of the problems we had when we reinstalled it was that come of the boards seemed to now have a sort of trapezoidal profile (one edge seemed thicker or higher than the other. In several spots this left us with the entire edge of a board being about 1/16" higher than the board next to it. The only way to fix this now is to sand down the floor even more. Before the boards were planed, they were around 1 3/16" to 1 1/4" and after that, they came out barely being 1 1/8" on most of them, which means we lost about 1/8" in thickness, which is quite a lot. Now we need to lose another 1/16" to get rid of all the fuck-ups.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Victorian Farmhouse - Days 10 & 11

This post covers days 10 and 11, which was April 16th and 17th.

A few major projects were started on these days, and some exciting things are starting to happen around the house. These include ripping-up the office floor (in order to re-lay it) and skim coating the raw plaster walls.

Upon our arrival, something that caught my eye were a whole bunch of randomly dispersed crocus across the front lawn. They were so pretty that I had to snap a few photos.

I've only ever seen purple crocuses so I didn't know they came in yellow. Apparently there are also white ones.

Since I was already across the lawn, and I knew that the roof would be replaced, I took some photos of the house from a distance. Angie really REALLY hates having the propane tanks visible, so they are going to be relocated to the other side of the house, and closer to the road (apparently they can be placed pretty much anywhere, even 100 feet from the house).

Note all the trees crowded near the barn (these are now cut down). None of the healthy trees in "good" spots were cut, but there were many trees growing right up against the buildings (house, attached barn, and barn).

This is around the other side of the house, facing towards the separate barn (not visible). All the stuff on the right are piles of branches from the removed trees.

This was a large (and nice) tree that came down recently in a storm, so the rest of it was cut down.

Looking back towards the road. Angie's father in the foreground, and the tree cutters in the back at their truck.

Some of the trees around the detached barn.

The barn door. I may make this into a watercolour.

On the inside, the decisions were made to replace all the non-matching mouldings in the old part of the house, so since we were also going to rip-up the floor, we decided to take off the casings from the archway into the living room. I found some really beautiful antique wallpaper under them. This is VERY old hand-printed (wood block printed) wallpaper. This would have been done with multiple patterns for each different colour, and printed by hand. The metallic paint was gold on the lower paper, and copper on the top border paper. I took quite a few photos of the wallpaper.

Here you can see that there is a second paper with a different print at the top. This might have been a large 2 foot high ceiling border paper, or just a contrasting band roughly at the height of the casings. Only part of it is left, so it's impossible to sell.

You can kind of make out the copper vs gold effect here (not much of the gold is visible).

Some of the floor boards around this vent in the living room were very damaged (insect-eaten and partially rotted). This whole area will need to be patched.

The original floor in this room is ONE AND A QUARTER INCH thick solid hardwood (I believe it's maple). This is a full half inch thicker than the "good" hardwood floors on the market today. This floor could literally be sanded down and refinished about a dozen times and still be good. It's just slightly thinner than "2x4" material if that helps you visualize it better.

So now this floor. This floor is more of a rough barn wood floor, HOWEVER, it's still gorgeous antique wood, and we wanted to see if we could save it. As discussed earlier, some of the gaps were crazy (like half an inch), so the plan was to pull it up carefully and then reinstall it. The wall luckily passes over a pair of boards with an acceptable 1/8" or less gap. Everything beyond this would need to come up.

Last "before" shots...

All the boards were carefully numbered so we could lay it all back exactly the same (in case of any buckles, floor thickness variations, and to maintain the patterns for vents and openings).

Pulling up these boards was a lot harder than expected. We tried getting into the spots with the largest gaps, but in the end, we had to be a little bit more rough than I'd have liked in order to pry out the first board. Once we had one out, it was SLIGHTLY easier after that.

The edge of the foundation and beams were in slightly rough shape.

The few photos I took of the process represent HOURS of work. Even though the floor is only nailed across 5 beams, those damned square nails (which I love, BTW) grip VERY tightly. In addition to this, we also had a very hard time due to huge 4" framing nails that had been driven down through the top of the boards along the right hand beam and randomly in a few other places.

During a break... Trees around the barn are finally gone.

I discovered this problem spot, and a likely area where mice are getting into the house. This is a whole section of the outer beam (about a 7" square beam) that has rotted due to a leak in the base of the window frame of the front window. Years of water has rotted the wood.

Some areas were a complete nightmare, like this spot with THREE large square nails.

The north-facing wall. Note that the outer beam has drifted down slightly and away from the other beams. It's all perfectly solid, but it's a shame the foundation hadn't been maintained better. This could have been avoided.

Finally all done.

This will need to be patched and filled-in.

With the floor gone (read: set aside) we can now see the problem spots (like that one rock on the upper right, which was causing a HUGE bump), and we can start installing the additional floor joists.

Another thing to do will be to square-up this transition.

Braces installed. These were just across two of the spans. One across the third span would have been nice, but there were too many heating ducts in the way.

All the short cross beams had to be shaped to contour the beams. Cardboard templates were cut out very quickly with scissors to get the patterns. The one in the upper left also had to be notched for duct work.

This is the sample of the new (nearly identical) mouldings to replace the missing ones. The excess width will be trimmed, so the outer edge won't be 100% match. Luckily this trim is an existing one in the company's collection of knives, so it will only cost around 2$/foot plus a small setup fee. If not, it would have been several hundred dollars extra for a custom set of knives to be made.

More trees around the barn gone. You can see the chicken coop in this shot.

Next day. We were SO SORE from tearing out the floor that we decided to do a few easy jobs. I decided to start the skim coat on the walls. This might seem like it will be time consuming, messy, difficult, and not worth it (just rip everything out and install drywall), but it was surprisingly quick and easy. We had tackled all the deep holes and gouges (all the patch areas visible in prior photos), and this just went on with a big 12" trowel. I did the entire room (with a bit of help) in about 2 hours?

It does take a certain amount of practice to get the hang of it, but once you do it's quick, easy, and quite relaxing.

Since it's a pretty thin coat, it starts to dry pretty fast.

The room already looks so much more amazing with this simple change.

Another quick job I did was to install the new door jamb in the office/front hall.

The last shot shows a dry area after a very quick sanding to knock off the bumps and high spots. It looks SO GOOD! Pierre and Angie were very impressed with the results. So much easier (and cheaper) than ripping everything down and installing new drywall.

It's very late, so I haven't proof-read this, so hopefully there aren't too many mistakes.