Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What's Cooking? or One In The Oven

 Ed wanted to get the front columns shingled before family arrived on Thanksgiving. Neither rain, sleet, snow nor hail...well ok..rain and snow, but he did meet his goal. We're expecting good weather this week and Ed's hoping to get the back columns done too.
   All the kids flew in Tuesday night for Thanksgiving. I was so happy to have them here. Dan and Ellen, Aimee and Elicia made for a house full.
    Wednesday morning Ed and Dan started working on finishing the stairs by installing the banister and newel posts. I had to cringe because we had made sure the house was squeeky clean for the Big Weekend and then there were hoses and power tools, saws and tape everywhere.  I should have known better. Soon enough, the whole project was complete, tools put away and floor vacuumed.
   I was so worried that the banister and newel posts wouldn't look good. The maple didn't stain like I expected and I was afraid that it just wouldn't blend in. But the acacia floors have such a varied color pattern that one more color variation isn't a problem. There is still a little trim work to be done, but I couldn't be happier with how the stairs turned out.

 Thanksgiving Day, Ellen's friend Tiffany and her friend Josh drove down from Portland to celebrate with us. It was everything Thanksgiving should be ...good food, family, friends, warm house..so many things to be thankful for.
   Sister Brigit lived up to her name and was the center of hearth and harvest. Ham in one oven, sweet potatoes and rolls in the other. The cooktop was in full swing, and the turkey was out on the BBQ.
    As we sat down for dinner Ellen announced that Elicia had a school project where every person should say what they were thankful for. I should have known something was up. We went around the table with the usual pronouncements... family, good friends, being together. Finally it was Ellen's turn.
   "I'm grateful for my husband Dan, for my family, and for the new little one that will be here in May."
   Pandemonium at the table!
   After much crying, hugging and kissing Thanksgiving dinner is under way. What a happy, happy day.
   Sunday evening the kids flew home and life went back to it's quiet normal self. It's always hard to send them home, but this time more than most.
   Monday morning, just when I needed it, my new washer and dryer were delivered. There was even enough room for the delivery guy to get back behind and hook it up. It's so nice not to have to go outside then to the garage to do the laundry.

   Today I'm hoping to get started on the stained glass piece for the front door transom. I've had it set up and ready to start for several weeks. Now I finally have the time to begin.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Who's Counting?

   Putting the finishing wax coats on the basement floor is on hold. The wax that was recommended to us has become an elusive item. We might be able to get it this next week...or not. Ed was hoping to get the floor done before family arrived for Thanksgiving, but I don't have any hopes for that happening. We need to put down five coats, then burnish it.
   Ed has shifted gears and began working on the front columns. We really wanted to have these rocked, but the cost was prohibitive. If Ed uses shingles, it will be about 10% of the cost of having rock installed. There are four columns in front of the house, four in front of the garage, and the same number at the back of the house. Like so many things, it starts one little shingle at a time.

   I have had the tile for the kitchen and bathroom backsplashes for several weeks, but just stalled out on getting anything done. I finally stopped procrastinating and broke out the trowel. My favorite part about the backsplash tile for our bedroom is that they sit very tightly together and don't have to be grouted! Once I managed some forward motion, it took very little time to do. The floor tile in this bathroom is silver travertine, and I like the way the grays in the backsplash tie the countertop granite and the floor together.

  Ed continued to work on the columns as weather permitted. The porch overhang gives him some cover, but if the wind is blowing and the rain is coming down hard, it's not worth the aggravation. He's finding he can get about a column per day completed.

    I got the upstairs bathroom backsplash finished so quickly, I thought I'd do the kitchen while I had some forward movement going. It wasn't until I got the first section up that I realized the plan was for the kitchen backsplash to be two tiles high, not three. I had to quickly pry them off the wall. Did I know where the scraper was? No...but I was in the kitchen, and I did know where a spatula was. Hey...it worked.

Fortunately the mastic was easily wiped off the wall with a wet sponge and I started over. This time, two rows high and with a 1" pencil trim to top it off. The honey onyx is a good match for the stove, and is the same color as the yellow flecks in the countertop. I'll grout it next week.

   Ed had one rain delay and one day lost to a trip into town, but he has finished the shingles on two of the four front columns. When they are done, he'll put a row of green trim at the top of the shingles, a capstone, and encase the upper part of the column in a wood sleeve painted white. Only six more columns in the front and eight in the back. If we're lucky we might actually get that many sunny days before spring.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Acid Test

   We stained the concrete floor of the basement this week. This is not a project for the faint of heart. Or lungs. If someone has health issues...especially respiratory problems, this is not the DIY project for you. In fact, I'd recommend a week-long vacation someplace far far away.
   We decided we would do the labor, but we hired a pro to be the head of the project and lead us through the process. You only get one shot with this stuff. Once it's down, it's permanent.  Greg gave us a list of chores to have completed prior to staining day, and a list of items to have on hand.
    Ed had the surface sufficiently sanded and vacuumed, and we taped protective paper along the painted walls. Greg put the acid stain in a  plastic sprayer. As he sprayed, we scrubbed it in with plastic scrub brushes attached to pushbroom handles.
    This stain is acid based. It uses muratic acid which reacts to the calcium and lime in the concrete to etch the color into the surface. This, like many chemical reactions, causes very nasty fumes to accumulate rather quickly. There are no windows in the basement, only a roll up door at the other end of the building. By the time we got finished spraying and scrubbing the gym area, we were coughing and sucking air. We took a break, located several box fans and shouldered on.  Once you start, you can't stop until it's done.

   By afternoon we had the whole basement (except the woodpile room) stained. The chemical process takes several hours, so we waited until the next morning to apply the neutralizing solution.
   That was a good thing because it took that long to clear our lungs and start feeling normal. I was a little concerned about the neutralizing process because it requires a mixture of household ammonia and water, applied liberally, then mopped up, in several applications. Was this going to cause a repeat of yesterday's gasping and coughing? I was pleasantly surprised. It was a bit of an aerobic workout however. We mopped the whole thing with big heavy cotton string mops, over and over.  After the last rinse, Ed had the room heaters, several fans, and two dehumidifiers running for several days to thoroughly dry the floor.
    Yesterday, Greg returned to start sealing the finish. The sealer went into a new plastic garden sprayer,was misted on the floor, then mopped in with a new microfiber string mop. That way there aren't little pieces of cotton lint permanently left in the finish.  Two coats of the first sealer, five coats of the second sealer..sprayed and mopped.
   We've ordered the high-solids wax which finished the project. It should be here mid-week. That will be five more coats mopped in, then burnished for hardness. So far, we're really happy with the end result..and that we lived through the process.