Archive for the ‘quartersawn oak’ Category

Flooring Letter

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Dearest Reader,

I will try not to worry about catching you up on all that has happened since I last wrote five months ago except to say we have drywall, primed walls, color on more than half the walls (including ceilings), one flush toilet, one cold water sink, at least one electric outlet on each floor, switched lights in some places, and no heat. And Daddy is still dead. I will also not wait to post until I get new batteries in my camera. The Little One is asleep and I want to post before she wakes up.

We have no heat because the city won’t let the gas be turned on until we have passed our final inspection. Or until the weather gets real cold. Whichever comes first. The city claims to be concerned about people clogging their furnace filters with construction dust and burning out their furnace. We are grateful for the soy insulation since it keeps the house fairly warm, even with the single-glaze windows (which Don has rebuilt so they are much tighter than they were). And we are grateful for the working windows and good cross-ventilation since they let the house warm up quickly when we open them during the day.

So, we’ve been dealing with the floors since they are a dust source. We pulled and denailed most of the floors last year, but were planning to leave the living room alone. Were. Then we decided we should pull them while we’re at it so that we could install a border around the whole dining room/foyer/living room. It turned out most of the living room floors had dry-rotted, so it was good we had lots of Dallas flooring. We barely had enough Fayetteville salvage from four bedrooms, the kitchen, foyer, hall, dining room and living room to reinstall in the family room, kitchen, hall, and laundry room. We put down roofing felt which I hope will deal with the dry-rot. Previously, there was no moisture barrier between the downstairs rooms and the basement. (The Fayetteville floors are red oak, and the Dallas floors are a mix of red and white oak.)

We installed a nice log-cabin border, and learned how to fit pieces in between the borders. Much slower than straight laying of floors. Although the Dallas salvage floors were cleaner than the floors we pulled, they had more bad ends. (We had to pause while Don’s floor nailer spent a week in the shop, so he painted for a while. I was fairly picky about which pieces we used for the border, which also slowed us down.)

We’re refinishing the pine floors upstairs. They have no subfloor (or else they are the subfloor), but they’re old pine and they’re sanding out pretty. We laid a new floor in my sewing room, too, of mostly quartersawn oak because its subfloor was plywood and new. It turned out to be a good thing that I racked most of it before I got bifocals (progressive lenses, actually) because bifocals make all the growth rings and edges of the floor curve up around my peripheral vision. I was seasick after racking for about an hour with bifocals.

Don drove to Alma, Arkansas to pick up a U-Sander a week ago Thursday. It is supposed to be very safe for novice floor sanders to use. It is indeed safe, but very, very slow on newly laid salvage floors. After an afternoon of using it, we rented a drum sander as well. Our neighbor (who also helped us get started on laying floors and laying borders) uses the drum sander to take the edges and top layer of finish off the floors, and Don goes along behind with the U-Sander and palm sander to do the finish work.

We paused Saturday a week ago to go to south Arkansas to bury Daddy’s cremains. Or Don paused on Saturday – the Little One and I took Friday off, too, for a 15 hours in the car, touring Arkansas with my mother, brother, and niece. We missed the NE quadrant, but saw everything else: from Fayetteville, to La Hacienda in Conway, through Little Rock, to Monticello for the night. Then on to Fountain Hill, Crossett, Hamburg, Magnolia, Wickes, Duckett, Old Potter, and home. Deer season opened Saturday, so we saw a lot of dead deer and pickups on the side of the road and a lot of people wearing blaze. I wished we’d been wearing blaze at the cemetery – it was late in the afternoon, and I was a bit worried. However, nobody got shot. Always a good day when nobody gets shot at the cemetery.

Since then, Don and the neighbor have been sanding all day and into the night. We’re fortunate that the neighbor comes with one of the Little One’s best friends, so the Little One plays all afternoon and into the night. Don has just left (7:30 a.m.) for what we hope is the last push to finish the drum and U-sanding so we can return the rental sanders tomorrow and enjoy Thanksgiving without dust. I spent a while yesterday filling nail holes where we face nailed. I have some more to do today after the Little One wakes up.

I think we’ll sweep the floors and dust down the walls tomorrow morning so the dust can settle over Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, we will finish cleaning sawdust out of the house and apply a low VOC finish. (Hard oil, followed by wax, followed by a wax finisher.) We’ve decided not to stain the floors, although the hard oil packaging says it may add a hint of amber color.I hope it turns out as nice as I expect. Don keeps saying how much better the floors (and the house) are coming out than he expected. He’s right. A father-daughter house-hunting pair was walking through the neighborhood yesterday, and stopped to discuss housing prospects. (She’s a Vendorville transfer.) Our front door was open, and they both commented on how beautiful the floors were.

Perhaps I will post again soon. Hope all is well with you and yours this Thanksgiving.

All my best, Lisa

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Adventures in Salvaging, Part 5: Dallas Craig’s List

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

We missed out on salvaged quartersawn oak floors on Don’s pre-Thanksgiving Chicago salvage run (at $3 or $4/square foot) or plainsawn oak for $2.50 plus $300 for delivery. Fear not, we wound up with 1800 square feet of clear grade salvage oak for $1.60/square foot from Dallas instead.  We bought the flooring Saturday after Thanksgiving when we were visiting family there. Some largish amount is quartersawn, although his picture (left, below) is of plainsawn. (I think I will be picking out quartersawn for the living room.) Denailed and bundled. (Sanded once.) We don’t need* it all, but I bet we can find homes for it.

dallasflooring.jpg oak flooring pb240083.JPG

In fact, our gardening neighbor has already said he could use some of it during his kitchen remodel, and our painter has a place for some of it, too. We did have to ask the current owners if we could store it at the house that we don’t yet own since the salvage came in Monday — we would have (owned the house, that is), but for the delay in closing.

Plus, the Dallas guy delivered it to Fayetteville for the price of gas (and without sales tax). Woo-hoo! Like the floor guy in Chicago, this guy usually only salvages if he has a client waiting to buy. (Mini trend: The big market in salvage floors is for maple, these days.) I think he is watching for oak trim for us now.

We’re also getting a short pedestal tub and 130 feet of marble baseboard with plinth blocks. Why? Because we can.

pb240084.JPG pb240085.JPGpb240087.JPG

I think the marble is rojo alicante, and Don thinks it may be a good match for an Eastlake marble fireplace surround we salvaged from a Chicago north suburb — it was intended for our Kensington house, but we didn’t get that far. The tub is intended for one of our downstairs bathrooms, and the marble probably is, too. Unless it goes in the foyer with the marble surround. Or maybe the fireplace goes in the bathroom.

I think a good floor might perhaps look like this, but we’d have to deal with slipperiness, whether in the foyer or the bathroom:

Rojo Alicante and Breccia Oniciata Floor

*Heck, we don’t probably need any of it, since the house we think hope we are buying already has floors of some sort. However, wouldn’t quartersawn be gorgeous? And warm, and unusual, and likely we will need to patch floors anyway, so why not pull up 1000+ square feet of flooring from some of our house and move it to other parts of our house? (Besides the labor and all that mess, I mean.) Clearly, renovation amnesia** has set in and we are in that weird phase where we make up things to do.*** How are we going to get this house done in time for a house walk 5.5 years from now? (That’s our unofficial goal: to get in the school fundraiser/housewalk when the Little One is in her last year in the school, namely, fifth grade.)

** Renovation amnesia must be like labor amnesia, where you forget how hard the work was because you’re looking forward to the outcome when you’re getting ready to do it all over again. (Not sure, having not actually ever reached labor, and still having a fairly clear recollection of how hard a c-section was.)

*** I spent a while over the last week trying to persuade Don that we should take out the perfectly good staircase, and replace it with a beautiful one from Indiana. I wonder if he’d go for it if our Kensington house ever becomes available for salvage.

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Adventures in Salvaging, Part 3: Craig’s List

Monday, November 19th, 2007

So the Little One is out of school this week, we don’t own a house (yet — maybe next week), and we need to do something, anything.  What to do, what to do? 

I started checking out Craig’s List, got bored with Fayetteville, and moved on to Chicago (and Dallas and, well, anywhere in between).  In Chicago, I found:  (1) a mess of salvaged divided glass cabinet doors  (11 doors plus for $120), (2) two Rejuvenation craftsman sconces for $120 (list $174 each), and (3) salvaged quartersawn oak hardwood flooring for $4/square foot.

An advantage of having a SAHD is that he can go to Chicago if the fancy takes him.  An advantage of the fancy taking him this week is that the Little One is out of school and can go see Grandma and cousins with him.  So, a few emails and phone calls later (plus 12 hours on the road to get there), we now possess a mess of doors and two sconces, and the promise of plainsawn oak flooring, delivered, in December, and the Little One has had a good time at Grandma’s.  Now to get them home again.  (Salvage and family, both.)

Quartersawn is sold out.   The flooring guy salvages floors for a living and has to come to Arkansas in December anyway, which would save us a trip with a trailer.  $3/square foot for plainsawn, I think, plus whatever we negotiate for delivery.  (When we pulled the quartersawn ourselves, I think we paid a dollar a square — that was hard work, and not exactly convenient to Arkansas.)  We’re thinking we’ll pull the downstairs floors out of our house, and use them upstairs, and install oak in the living room (or perhaps throughout downstairs) to cover up/resize the huge floor grate.  Anyone else in Arkansas want some salvaged hardwood flooring?  We could probably work out a deal for volume.  (And the turn-of-the-century stuff is pretty easy to work with — it’s much longer than what you get now, and the flow is so much nicer.)

I can’t wait to see the salvage — Don says the cabinet doors were rescued via dumpster diving from a condo conversion, and the un-installed (NIB!) Rejuvenation sconces came from a beautiful Victorian, whose owners are going to Thailand to do something for the Department of Justice (I think).  He says the finish is nicer on the sconces than in the picture (below).  I don’t seem to have saved the Craig’s List photo of the doors, so we will have to make a separate post later.  (The doors are destined for either our pantry or kitchen, depending.)


And the Little One was so exhausted last night that she missed me and wanted to come home.  (I miss her, too.)  She played with her cousins from 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., when they had to go home.

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Adventures in Salvaging, Part 1

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Today is about our very first professional salvaging experience (besides amateur events like salvaging materials from our own remodel).

Over the last four years, we have developed a reputation for having some skills in salvaging materials. Our best score was never-painted oak window and door trim, baseboard, and a beveled glass door that fit our front door space almost perfectly, although I still regret that we couldn’t pull an all-nighter and gotten more trim and Don regrets that we didn’t take the second door. (The house was torn down at 8:30 a.m. the day after we were invited to salvage it.) But, that’s a story for another day — a day when I can find the pictures I took of the house (a Dutch Colonial) before/while it went down.

The first successful salvaging I remember was 400 sq ft of quartersawn oak flooring (and a sink or two). We’d been working our nerve up to do salvage for a while. I’d stalk the Murco web site for good salvage, and I think we’d been to one or two auctions, but hadn’t bid. I guess it was in late summer 2003 — I would have been out of commission in summer 2002, and I was back into it by fall, but it was too hot to be fall 2002.

One Saturday, we drove up to Highland Park, hoping we’d score some bluestone. As it turned out, the bluestone was mortared in place and it bid up too high anyways, so we passed. However, as long as we were in the ritzy suburbs, we thought we’d go through Kenilworth.** While we were there, I saw a house salvage sign. We followed the signs, and found a Queen Anne mansion waiting for us. I went in — we had the baby and didn’t want to take her in so Don stayed with her — and discovered the mother lode of quartersawn oak flooring. We had narrow quartersawn in our Kensington house, and needed more for our addition to flow seamlessly. I asked the price ($1/square foot, cash) and went out to tell Don. (I’d gotten a quote for having it milled new at $9/square foot so we were living on subfloors until we had the money.) He agreed it was a great match.

The challenge, though, would be in removing it. The house was coming down on Monday, we’d never pulled flooring before, and here it was Saturday afternoon already. So, we did what any sensible couple would do. We stopped at HD, found a helpful employee who introduced us to bullnose pliers*, and told us we’d just need prybars to get the flooring out, and then went to visit Don’s folks. His mom agreed to watch the baby on Sunday, and his dad offered to cut church and go with us to pull floor. (He was a trustee of the church — cutting church was not in his nature.) We spent the night, borrowed Don’s brother-in-law’s truck, and drove north Sunday morning, with me hoping all the way that the flooring hadn’t been sold.

Of course, it hadn’t. It was the hottest weekend of the year. The house had no electricity, and had never had air conditioning. (In fact, even if it had had power, central a/c had never been installed. In hindsight, the house was in only moderately worse shape than our orphan Italianate. But the Italianate was a couple of years in our future.) Being near Lake Michigan didn’t help one tiny bit. It was not cooler by the lake that day. The flooring had been under carpet for years, so there was rotting carpet (and rusty tacks) to remove before we could get to the good stuff.

It turns out I am totally lacking in floor pulling skills/muscle, but I can pull nails and organize flooring pretty well. The three of us spent the day pulling flooring or pulling nails. It was early evening, and we still hadn’t pulled all the flooring we’d bought, when Don’s brother showed up. He was fresher, and we got the full four hundred square feet plus we’d bought out of the house and onto the truck.

While the rest of us were collapsed in a heap under a shade tree, Don’s brother was making friends with Frank the salvage guy. (Frank had lent us his specialized floor-pulling tools — prybars that had been bent into an L-shape — so I think he was already fond of us.) He bought the washer and dryer (for a rental apartment), and discussed the fate of the two very early 20th century pedestal sinks in the house. Now, on Saturday, Frank was asking more than a grand each, so I’d put them out of my mind. By Sunday evening, he had no buyers and they were going to be crushed by bulldozers in the morning, so he sold them for all the cash we had left ($100 each). Don’s brother bought one and we bought the other. We haven’t found the right house for ours yet, but my dad saved it from the local contractor recently, who (with good intentions) offered to pitch the sink into the dumpster with the other construction junk. Gack.

I later checked what the Queen Anne had sold for. $1.3 million as a tear-down. The new construction that took its place went for at least triple that or, in local lingo, “upper brackets.”

After we got home, we spent the next week or so pulling nails whenever we had the chance. I sorted the wood by length. I wish I would have further sorted it by whether both ends, the left end, or the right end was missing the tongue or the groove as that would have helped installation go faster, but I was years from installation as it turned out. (Tongue in groove flooring comes with tongue on one long end, groove on the other long end, and a tongue on a short end and a groove on a short end, which makes for an ever tighter installation. However, during installation, one of the ends is cut off when you reach a wall. And, during removal, one of the ends may be damaged and require removal.)

We wound up moving from our Eastlake/Stick house before we installed the flooring in the addition. Instead, we put it into our kitchen and had professionals install it in the front hall in the orphan Italianate. If you click through, you can see that it refinished beautifully. (Dusty, too. Will try to take an undusty picture of it before/if we sell the house.)


I suppose the post on installing it is for another day, but, in brief, we relied heavily on the Taunton Press books and video on wood floors. (The book and video were a Father’s Day present one year.) We had very little waste from our installation. Probably less than 5% (two grocery sacks) for the kitchen, but I took my time to find just the right pieces and we had very long lengths to choose from (up to fourteen feet). I don’t know how it was for the professional installation since I wasn’t there. I would expect more waste, but more haste, too. We didn’t end up doing the refinishing ourselves, due to the rush to get out of the house.

* Well, I’m sure that’s what they were called, but I couldn’t find a good link to illustrate and ours are still at the orphan house. They’re pliers with a rounded bit (like a claw hammer) so you can use some leverage to pull the nail on through the wood and out the back.

** Kenilworth is the ritziest of the ritzy suburbs of Chicago, a small planned community (2500 people, planned in 1889). The median price for houses there has been above a million for years and its median household income is $200,000. (For you non-tech people, that means that more than half the households gross $200k each year.)

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