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T minus one week

Next week we make the jump to the new house.

I’ve been practicing showering in the yard to get ready ’cause barring a miracle, we won’t have a tub or shower. While some may see this as a privation, I like to put things in perspective. When I moved in to the house we are living in now, we didn’t even have a toilet. Not because we live in West Virginia — just because my plumber was a moron. But that is another story from another time. At least the tub is near the bathroom.

Claw Foot Tub in the Hall

For me, today was all about floors. Surprising I know.

This morning I put the first finish coat of tung oil on the upstairs bathroom floor. Unlike the varnish debacle in the music room, this time the oil went down nicely and the results look great. This picture doesn’t really capture it because I took it while the oil was still wet. But the oil penetrated deeply into the wood and the finish looks great.

first coat of tung oil on bathroom floor

Tomorrow I will put down another coat of tung oil and that should be it for the oil. K and I talked today about waxing this floor since it will be a bathroom and we are both a bit curious about what the wax and oil combination will look like. No decision yet.

While I was oiling the bathroom floor, K was floating sheet rock in the kitchen. When she finished her first pass, I started working on refinishing the kitchen floor. This time, I started right in with the belt sander. No screwing around this time.

The floors had a fair amount of tar paper on them that even the vinegar treatment didn’t get off. The result was that the sandpaper would gum up fairly quickly so the rough cut took longer than it otherwise would have. I never got past the 24 grit today so the floors are still very rough but I think tomorrow will go much quicker now that the heavy lifting has been done. Here is a before and after pic.

pre-sanding picture of the kitchen floor

initial sanding of the kitchen floor

The floors certainly will not be pristine but I love the story that the wear and tear tells. Even the old powder post beetle trails which have been buried for decades are part of the story of the house to me. Removing the layers of additions — sticky tile, luan, floor covering, tar paper, old finishes — and then touching the raw wood set in place by unknown craftsmen in 1903 using square-cut nails; that is a connection with the past that many people never get to make. Another reminder of the slow movement of time in this city and the fact that we are part of a chain of being.  I used to feel this in Europe when I walked down a street that people used hundreds of years ago or touched a bar that someone else had touched 3oo years prior. But we are a young country and so our connections with the past are much shallower. Our house is relatively new . . . 1903. Nevertheless, it has a soul. You can feel it when you run your hand across the freshly exposed wood of the old floor.

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Hot. Itchy.

Yep. We’re talking installing insulation in New Orleans in July. Not too much of it at this point but needed to get the exterior wall of the upstairs bathroom ready to be closed. K installed the tar paper and I started in on the insulation.

A lot has been going on — or at least it seems that way — but I’ve been too busy to post up any photos. By the time I get home, the idea of writing and uploading images just seems like too much to take on. So I will try and do a quick recap of the events since the shoring of the house.

Floor Sanding. Lots of floor sanding.

Most of it unnecessary as it turns out, but I didn’t know that at the time. I started in what will become the music room because a) the floors were in the worst condition, and b) K says this will be “my” room and so she doesn’t care if I screw up the floors in here — so long as I learn how to get it right before moving on to any other rooms.

unsanded wood floor

There are so many horror stories of rookies ruining old wood floors with the old belt style sanders that I opted for the new random orbital floor sander. These are nice for Harry Homeowners because they don’t remove as much wood and therefore it is harder to screw up your floor. However, as with all efforts to protect us from ourselves, there is a trade-off. Did I mention it doesn’t remove much wood? That is the catch. And because this floor was in rough shape I really needed a belt sander to do the initial rough cut and get me to the point where I could work on the finish. But I didn’t know that and I was chicken so I spent several long nights after work following this sander around the room as it did very little. In the end, I had an amazing pain in my neck — literally — and a floor that looked decent.

K and I knew we didn’t want to polyurethane the floors since they had never had a coat of plastic on them. After a bit of research I decided on doing a pure tung oil finish. I could do a whole post on this subject but I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say that in actuality you don’t use pure tung oil — you have to thin it a bit so that it penetrates deep into the wood. That being the case, we bought a pre-mixed tung oil varnish. It went on ok but seemed a bit odd to me given what I knew about refinishing the floors.

It wasn’t until I put the second coat on and got really suspicious that I got serious about reading the label of the can. Somehow the fact that it said Tung Oil varnish on the label hadn’t really sunk in with me that perhaps there was — varnish in the mix. Not a full-on screw up but definitely a ‘learning moment’ — and a fair amount of cussing.

When I moved on to do the floor in the bath room, I started in again with Baby’s First Floor Sander. About an hour in I decided — well it wasn’t so much a decision as it was f – this. I went out and got a grown-up guy belt floor sander. I won’t kid you, there is much greater potential to screw up your floors with the belt sander. But then again, if you need to do a serious rough cut and remove some wood to get back to a level finish, this is the tool you need. 15 minutes in and voila!

First pass with a belt sander

As you can see, there are still some places I need to address with a smaller (hand held) belt sander but that floor sander really took the boards back down to level. And this time, I mixed my own pure tung oil with mineral spirits. Because the room is small, I just quickly put the tung oil on a rag and gave the floor a light coating. That beautiful amber tone came right out. The floor sanding isn’t done yet — I just needed to get the rough cut done so the plumber can rough-in — but even so I could almost live with this as-is.

My uncle, Bruce, was in town over the weekend. This was a great excuse to eat at some fantastic New Orleans restaurants including Cafe Degas, Crepe Nanou, and the venerable Tujague’s.

Door of Tujague's restaurant in New Orleans

Sunday was the 6th Annual Tour de Pants mid-city bicycle pub crawl. Yes two great things that go great together: drinking and biking. I wrote about the 2006 Tour de Pants and what that meant for those of us rebuilding after the devastation of the Federal Flood. Once again it was time to put renovation on hold and connect with the wonderful friends here that keeps us doing all this crazy renovating. The first stop as always was Pal’s Lounge — soon to be our neighborhood bar once we move in.

Bicycles in front of Pal's Lounge in New Orleans

The new stop this year was the Bayou Beer Garden which is located just off the Lafitte Greenway at the end of Bayou St. John. By the time we rolled in there bikes pretty much owned the place.

Meanwhile, back at the house, an old friend returned. Turns out the tub refinishing place was legit and the claw foot tub is back in the house awaiting installation!

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Scraping By

Renovating after working the day gig is always tricky for me. I need to recharge a bit after the workday — but too much relaxing and I loose lose momentum. And Friday happy hour is right out.

Tonight it was back to the kitchen floor. K and I made good, if slow, progress. Feeling like we are 95% done and almost ready to start sanding.

When we called it quits we took Stanley and T-Bone for a walk around the Bayou. Ran into Ian and Antonia on their bikes headed downtown with some friends. Stopped into Pal’s for two beers in go cups to help with the summer heat. The warm night air just humid enough to ensure we knew we are in New Orleans.

Almost forgot to mention dinner: paprika chicken with three sides: potato salad, dirty rice, and macaroni & cheese from the corner store next to the house. $6.99. Fed both of us and we still have lunch for tomorrow.

How lucky we are to have fallen in love in this city and with this city.

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