Sunday, June 11, 2017

House Exterior Summer 2017

This is a post to just mention some of the exterior work that I will need to tackle soon.

Over the winter or spring, I noticed that my electrical pole had come loose from the top, where it's anchored to the house. The reason: the two top plastic brackets had broken. Easy fix, but it took me about a month to pick up the supplies and actually get it done. I replaced all 4 brackets with new ones, and I did that yesterday.

In the photo below, the blue arrows show the brackets I replaced. The red arrow is another clip that had been torn out. The clip was still attached to the wire, so I only had to change the screw.


I should note that even though this was only about a 20-30min job, this was TERRIFYING for me to do, because it involved being up about 15 feet on a crappy and rickety ladder. I don't deal well with heights.

The entire top of the pole was curved away from the house. I thought I had taken a "before" photo. I looked everywhere for it, and apparently I didn't take one.


There are still a whole bunch of other small issues on the outside of the house that will eventually need attention.

There's still the hole in the fascia from the squirrels (which is blocked-up with metal mesh wire). Then there are the old grooves/tracks/brackets from previous electrical hookups. I'd love to remove all this and patch the siding. I have all the siding that was on the porch that I could use here. Currently these tracks are letting in some water into the porch. I still have the hole in the ceiling tongue and groove inside the porch. All the porch windows are also badly in need of restoration. Lots of the putty is flaking out and they need paint.


I have an oak sapling growing under the porch as well. Probably due to a squirrel, since the large oak tree is about a block away. I've sprayed it with Round-Up (poison) but it will need another application. I also still badly need to redo the porch bottom. I'm getting rid of the lattice and installing panels.


A while back I had a piece of metal fascia flashing that tore off this corner of the house. I also have a few torn-off roof shingles.


Then there are the garage/shop doors. I've hated the olive garage door since BEFORE I owned the house. It's hideous. I had planned to install folding doors, but I may just keep this door. Either way I want to paint this either white or light grey like the porch base. I also need to fix the trim around the 2 doors.


Two problems here. For some unknown reason, my exterior plug isn't working anymore. I have no idea why, but it will need to be fixed. Then there is the window. This is not high on my list, but the wood frame around the cement (that holds in the window) is pretty badly rotted. There is always water splashing on this window (it's always dirty).


On the other window, I noticed that the chip-board (installed by a previous owner) is starting to rot and flake apart. It might be nice to close this off with brick or cement, or even metal flashing rather than wood. I was also told a few years ago that the black PVC pipes for the furnace are no longer up to code. They now need to be the white PVC, since apparently there's a chemical in the off-gassing that causes the black pipes to deteriorate.


Patching & Sanding A Friend's Floor - Part 2 (Done)

Here's the rest of Devin's floor refinishing adventure. And oh the fun we had (sarcasm)!

When we last left off, I had scavenged a bunch of old flooring from the hallway to fix the main floor in the living room. That done, we needed new pieces to replace what we took. I gave Devin a cut list of the wood I needed. Basically 4 boards 5" x 40" OR 2 boards 5" x 80" of birch. He went to basically the only place in town that sells hardwood lumber, and dropped off the boards late in the evening. I think he dropped off the wood on Tue night around 11:40pm.

It was too late to start working on it, so on Wed night, I started cutting the boards. Obviously there was WAAAAY too much wood. We needed 14 feet, and I had about 32. It was also very thick (about 1 1/4" and I needed only 3/4" final thickness). Well, as I started to plane the first board, I had to stop immediately because apparently they gave us silver maple (aka soft maple) instead of birch. I was pissed. I already have a fairly low opinion of this company, and this was just typical for them. This was NOT going to work. Maple vs birch have different grain, different colour, it was a no go. I messaged Devin, and he was also NOT happy about this (because he'd have to come back to get the wood and go back to return it. I had told him he'd have to exchange the wood since it was their screw up. He was worried they might not take it back since the wood was already cut, but the pieces were large enough that they could reuse them (40" is long enough for stair treads, which they make), and I told him it was not his problem to worry about. He was able to easily exchange the wood on Thu.

He has a spare key to my place (in case I get locked out), so he just dropped off the wood while I was at work (otherwise we'd have lost another full day since he works till 11pm). I was able to cut the boards on Thu night, and then install them on Fri so that we'd be able to sand on the weekend.

Custom milled tongue-and-groove floor boards:


Installed. I had made the new boards JUST A HAIR wider than the old ones to make 100% sure that I wouldn't end up with a gap, but instead I ended up having to cut off about 1/2" from the last board.


So then came Saturday. Ughhh. So based on some internet research I had done (brief research, I should mention), and based on one post I had seen, a few people had suggested using the square/rectangular orbital sander to sand the floor. This seemed like a perfect option because the floor was pretty flat, HOWEVER, this was not the case. In my mind an orbital sander should have worked fine. Slower than a belt, but because of how it sands, you have little or no risk of gouging the floor.

We rented the rectangular orbital sander, with various grit papers, and started the rough sanding with 20 grit paper. If you're not familiar with sanding grits, the lower the number, the rougher it is. 150 to 180 is usually about the finish you want to sand down to when making furniture in hardwood or softwood, but for rough sanding, I generally use something like 80 grit or 100 grit (on tools like a belt sander). So with 20 grit, it's rough like an ASPHALT ROOF SHINGLE. With paper this rough, I thought it would sand pretty quickly. I expected the sander to carve deep scratchy swirls through the floor in no time.

Again, not the case. Learn from our mistakes here. We sanded with the 20 grit for about SIX HOURS (three of us - Dev, myself, and Devin's father) and it had barely taken down the varnish!



At this rate, we'd be sanding for DAYS. We gave up around 9pm. This was just NOT going to work. It sucked because we wasted the rental and the paper, and also an entire day. On Sunday we rented a belt sander (a smaller one than the 240Lb beast that they had used at the Victorian Farmhouse, see here: and with the belt (and using 40 grit paper) we took down the wood to bare floor in just minutes. The belt sander is much harder to control, but it was so much faster, and we REALLY needed it to level-out the patched areas (which needed lots more sanding).

This was after maybe 40 minutes of work (Sunday May 28th around noon):


We took turns sanding, first at a 45, then with the grain. I think we did 40 grit, then 60, then 80? Or maybe only 40 and 80? They only had a few grits for this sander.


All the belt sanding done (edges left) and a sample of the stain in the top right corner. Devin and Gen wanted the floor to be close to the original colour it was (shellac) so we found a stain that was VERY close. Varathane Ultimate Wood Stain in the colour Golden Pecan.

Devin Living Room Done 12

Patched area:

Devin Living Room Done 10

The finished sanding with the belt was done with 80 grit (they didn't have a finer grit). I tried my best to smooth out as many bumps as possible, but there were still several of them. I used the hand held belt sander with 80 grit belts to fix most of the small divots and grooves near vents and corners. I used oblique lighting (with a lamp on the floor) for this. The edge sander was rented on Mon or Tue night and I did that alone (Dev was at work, and Gen is pregnant). It did not take very long, and the edge sander is fairly easy to use. They had lots of different grits for the edge sander, but I only used 40, 60, and 80 again.

The ideal would be to then use that first orbital (rectangular) sander and finish-sand the floor to remove any leftover bumps, but we left the floor at this stage (sanded up to 80 grit). Devin did all the staining and varnishing himself during the week (with Gen sleeping over at her in-laws' house away from the toxic fumes).

The floor turned out pretty good. I like the final colour. I haven't seen it in person yet, but I have photos from Devin & Gen.

Devin Living Room Done 04

Devin Living Room Done 07

That one darker board is actually cherry (not birch). It must have gotten mixed-in at the factory.

Devin Living Room Done 08

So yeah. This was a back-breaking and labour intensive job. Days of work. Sore for days afterwards. Yes it's much cheaper than hiring professionals, and you have a lot more control over finishing touches, like where we did patch/putty a bunch of gaps, nail holes, etc, and we sunk-in several nails that we missed while we sanded. A lot of floor refinishers won't bother to do these little extra things (like at the farmhouse).

HOWEVER, on the flip side, the roughly 1200$ to 2000$ that most flooring guys will charge is well worth the time and effort involved if you're not too physically fit, not too DIY savvy, or if you just don't want to deal with the overall stress and pressure of possibly messing-up and gouging the floor, then hiring people might be the better option for you.

For those who are curious, the breakdown was something like this:
- About 150$ for the useless rectangular sander rental + sand papers + pads (which would have been better for final sanding)
- About 150$ to rent the belt sander for the day (including sand paper)
- About 30$ for the edge sander for a few hours + papers (I think I used 4 discs total)
- 45$ in stain (two 20$ quart cans +tax)
- 180$ in varnish (two 80$ gallon cans for 3 coats +tax)
- 15$ for a package of 80 grit belts for the hand held belt sander
- Paint brushes or rollers, painter's tape and other supplies (about 20$ ish)

Total: About 400-600$ depending how many sanding sheets/pads you need, and whether or not you bother to rent the rectangular orbital sander. Prices are in Canadian dollars. The rental places will refund any unused sand paper sheets so just take a bunch and return what you don't use.