before/after: ewash bath

I think my sister and I developed a taste for cool, toned down colors in reaction to Mom’s tastes (although my tastes are a lot more eclectic than my sister). Our mom loved bold, warm colors like red and brown and purple. My sister likes everything in neutral/soft palettes. Houzz calls it Transitional. It’s not quite contemporary and definitely not modern – which sort of evolved into a modern farmhouse vibe (thank you Joanna Gaines). I think the house she owns lends itself to that style. E.Wash is what I call my sister’s house. Like me, my sister owns a home that had never truly been updated. For most of the homes in my area, an update means you paint the wood paneling. In 2017, when I was living with my sister, she decided to rip out the bathroom and refinish it. I forgot to take photos before we started demolition. I apologize, but as you can gather even from the demo photos, this bathroom was very hopeless. The tiles were plastic and glued on. The tub was super small and shallow. The walls were a combination of paneling and wallpaper. It’s a good-sized bathroom, but it was not a welcoming place.

We assume that people in these small houses (over the course of a hundred years), rather than investing in quality products, did what they could with the money they had. A lot of the time this meant doing things yourself and doing what was cost efficient, ie. drop ceilings, wood paneling, roll out linoleum, etc. Instead of taking things out and replacing them, a lot of the time everything is layered on top of each other. In this case, there were three layers of linoleum floor that we had to peel away.

There are always layers upon layers.

I was in the tile industry for almost three and a half years. In that time, I learned so much about tile standards and ceramics in general. Glazed tile and brick are truly pieces of art. From mixing the materials to laying the tile, a lot of care and attention goes into making the tile and making it work. I’ve seen badly made tile and photographic evidence of under-qualified tile setters, and neither are very pretty.

A big part of my job was making sample boards for showroom displays. I built hundreds of mini-installs. I played with color combinations, sizes, and patterns to give dealers something with which to sell our tile. Tile is amazing. If you’ve ever done a tile project, you know the satisfaction of wiping away that last bit of grout haze.

After making hundreds of tile boards, I was eager to install tiles in a home. My Dad found ceramic floor planks with the wood grain finish at auction which we installed in the kitchen and bathroom. The subway tile was rejected development tile that was cut improperly and glazed at different weights. You can see the variation in color that turned out so beautifully when blended together.

I cannot wait to redo my kitchen and bathroom – if I get the chance. Not to toot my own horn, but the tile work in E.wash is fantastic.

I sometimes joke that I wish I was there the first time someone grouted their tiles and realized what they had just done. Could they perceive the endless capabilities and scope of what they just created? It was an ancient civilization, so some ruler probably said, “Hey this is beautiful. Now cover the entire building in it.”

Tiling is back-breaking work and really an art. Measurements seem to be constantly changing as you go and keeping lines straight is so important to the overall finished quality. I learned that tiling vertically is entirely different from tiling on a flat surface. Also, a tile cracker is an excellent investment if you are cutting subway tiles. The cracker made it so easy to salvage cut pieces and use them elsewhere. Not running outside to the wet saw was nice too.

I think we did a good job. What do you think?

Bonus: Niece in the tub.

house projects list 01

The infinite list every home owner dreads – or really appreciates because you’re a weirdo like me.

I was reading this post and found a list of things I was working on in my house. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are mostly done. I have some amendments to add to this list though.

List 01 With Amendments

  1. Sand and finish the hardwood floors. DONE: But I need to post the full B/A photos.
  2. Take measurements of the kitchen and attempt to design my “dream floor plan. DONE: Need to start considering the details of this project.
  3. Remove/throw away the old furniture and junk that the previous owner left in the house.
  4. Get the workout/studio room in a functional state. DONE: Sister #2 helped me with this. Now, I just need to sit and paint more.
  5. Put shades or curtains on the kitchen windows. DONE: Gma Sandy hooked me up.
  6. Buy a couch and chairs. DONE: Salvation Army couch FTW.
  7. Clean the upstairs. NOT DONE: I think I’ll leave the attic as it is for now. It’s a perfect storage space.
  8. Remove linoleum from sun porch. DONE: Now I need to scrape the remnants and pull out the remaining nails.
  9. Get the algae filtered out of the fish tank. DONE: Cotton T-shirts added to the filter system works!

  10. Find a place for the excess heater.
  11. Clean the screens on the front porch.
  12. Clean up the bathroom window situation and repaint
  13. Apply decorative/privacy film to bathroom window and front door
  14. Sand quarter round trim in the bathroom and repaint
  15. Contact local glass worker to fix front window
  16. Get rid of bats
  17. Find piece of trim to finish bedroom trim
  18. Photograph bedrooms

before/after: wood floors

It only took me four months, but I finally did it.

The first thing I did when I bought my house was move the original furniture out of the way and paint. The next thing I did was tear up the horrible carpet pictured below.

Is it just me or does that chair look like it has a face?

It’s very weird looking at this photo now because I am so used to – and in love with – the finished room that I cannot believe it looked like this.

After ripping up the carpet, I spent several months with it looking like the below photo. I kept shifting the furniture around, trying not to scrape the floor or spill anything on it. I put off doing it for too long because I wanted to make sure I was ready to do it myself. I’m like my Dad – or maybe I learned it from my Dad. If I’m going to do something on my own, I want to do it right, and I want to know what to expect. So I watched dozens of YouTube videos about sanding wood floors, both old and new, to make sure I didn’t screw it up.

before: post-carpet, pre-sanding

The before of one half of the living room.

The before in the office room.

The before of one half of the living room.

The first place I looked to rent the sanders no longer rents equipment so I had to find another place – and a day when I could ditch work. The company that offered rentals had the drum sander (pictured) and an orbital edge sander. I started with 60 grit paper on the drum and did the outer edges of the room. Underneath the carpet, I had found a linoleum “rug,” and the wood around the edges of the “rug” had been stained. So there was a thick sticky layer on those sections.

The outer edge was heavily treated.

Another reason I waited so long to finish this project was that the boards had shifted away from each other. A lot of old homes sink and shift. In the photo above, you can see where there is a big gap in the floor boards. Looking at the floor from the basement, Dad realized there was no sub-floor under the wood. They had installed the wood directly on the floor beams. This was probably why some of the boards were so uneven and warped. Also, the one side of the house wasn’t level with the other. I bought a floor jack from my uncle, and Dad had been turning it a little every week for me. It still isn’t flush, but I was careful with the sanders near that lip. It’s close enough now that someone can’t trip over it. As for some of the warped and uneven boards, I hand-sanded some of them and left the others. I liked the dimension they added to the color and texture.

Obviously ended up with more dog hair in the stain than I wanted. The boards with dark spots are those that are uneven and warped.

I had watched a video that suggested that uneven floors should be done with a really low grit paper, like 36. After going through way too many 60 grit papers – and driving 100 miles back and forth to get more paper – I decided to go over the whole floor with 24 grit and work back up to the 60, 80, and 100. Sandpaper starts in the low numbers as course and as you increase the grit, the paper becomes finer and smoother.

I should have started with 24.

The edger I rented was powerful but not powerful enough to get through the gummy stain that was on the edges of the floor. I did a few edges with this sander (below) before running out of paper and deciding that I was either going to do it by hand or have to ignore the edges under the baseboard heaters.

This edger was powerful but not for long.

Luckily, my dad had a selection of sanders for me to try, and I, additionally, bought a Black and Decker mouse sander for the finishing touches. Turns out, the Makita belt sander was the best to do under the baseboard heating. You can see in the photos below how the long, narrow nose could get right up to the edge of the wall. It is a really powerful sander that made my life so much easier. I even recorded a video.

All the sanders. The one pictured at top was the most helpful one for the edges. That thing was powerful. I’m so glad I had one available to me. I wish I had it when I started!

All the paper before I took the leftovers back.

So I had the floor finished before my trip to Atlanta in early May. I didn’t have time to put the first coat on, but I vacuumed it and had it ready to go. The second I got home on the tenth, I ran to Lowe’s to buy the Poly for wood floors in a satin finish. It was at this moment I should have vacuumed again, but I was too excited and tired.

after: sanded and treated

First coat!

Second coat!

Final coat!

There’s a lot of dog hair in the threshold between the living room and the kitchen. Apparently, it had got caught in and around the plastic. I really should have vacuumed again. Also there are a few spots that aren’t quite even, but with the furniture in the rooms, no one will notice. Also, I think the dog hair will wear away after awhile.

The floor is imperfect. It has dark spots and uneven spots and dog hair in it.

BUT LOOK AT IT. It’s beautiful.

I can’t believe there was wood under that carpet. I lucked out. Here’s another reminder of what it looked like when I bought it – in case you forgot already like me: