Creating kitchens and baths for finicky customers since 1993

backsplash features inset metal tiles for accent and texture

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our refinished oak plank floor...

Oh how it shines!

refinished oak plank wood floor, the glare makes me squint!
Why relax on the weekend, when you can tarp off your dining room and refinish the ratty old oak planks? We started this project late last fall, then realized it had gotten too cold to continue. An unusual stretch of warm days for late September gave us the push we needed to complete the job.

Last year we ripped up the carpet we inherited from the previous owner. Once we finished removing about 500 padding staples, we understood why the "lovely oak floor" had been covered up. We had to fix loose boards, heavy wear and water damage, and learn to live with quite a lot of face nails. We filled, sanded, and stained the floor and moved the furniture back in.

Phase II, "apply really stinky polyurethane finish," began on Saturday. With priceless help from my oldest son, we sanded and stained all over again. (A year's worth of use takes its toll.)

Then, with every door and window wide open, we worked together to lay down the first of three coats. The finish was one I've used before, Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane clear semi-gloss. Note that "fast-drying" translates into "dangerous fumes." Even with all that fresh air coming in I ended up with a headache.

The glaring shine you can so plainly see in the picture comes from adding two more topcoats (per the manufacturer's recommendations). That meant two more rounds of full tarping to seal off the doorways for re-sanding with 220-grit. Applying those two extra layers of finish was almost fun, by comparison, despite the resulting headache. Now I can be fairly sure that our refurbished dining room floor can handle some heavy traffic.

We'll move the furniture back in after letting the new finish harden up for a day. I'll stop back and post another picture then.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

If you think it's tile, but it's not...'s linoleum!

linoleum looks like tile in powder room remodel
Not every customer wants a new tile floor, and it isn't always about budget.

This week's powder room makeover called for an Armstrong vinyl floor that the homeowner had carefully selected after much consideration. Her kitchen floor was linoleum, too, and had held up beautifully over time. Since the powder room is right across the hall from the kitchen, it made perfect sense to match and compliment the existing surface.

There was a glitch in the process, when my customer's selected floor wasn't available immediately (one-day order time), but we worked it out. I had to do some serious advance work to make sure that everything was ready to go. Usually the floor goes in right after lunch on Day One. This time, it didn't get installed until the middle of Day Two.

Day Two was also the final day! How often can you do a powder room makeover in just two days? Well, please don't ask me to do it again any time soon. I didn't spend much time sitting around, and the second day lasted until almost dark.

Despite the glitch, this room was ready for fresh paint just in time. Have you ever tried to reschedule a professional painter on one day's notice? Don't bother. We stayed on schedule and got the job done in the end. I'll stop back next week to install a couple missing fixtures; other than that, it's a wrap!

Sorry, that flash-picture doesn't do the job justice. Too much glare off the vinyl floor. But you get the idea. With fresh paint all around (not pictured), this little room looks very nice indeed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My kingdom for a stud finder?

Today's powder room tear-out involved removing all the baseboard. This is usually an easy task, but I couldn't get these pieces out without breaking some. This surprised me until I got them all the way out. Can you count the nails?

wood baseboard filled with finish nails

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

...and the Tile goes on...diagonally this time

Here's the finished product for a new ceramic tile bathroom floor, mentioned in the last post:
new ceramic tile bathroom floor in diagonal 12 by 12's

The antique-look vanity and Kohler one-piece toilet are brand new, too.

diagonal ceramic tile with new vanity and Kohler toilet

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Has it been ten weeks of ceramic tile?

Floor tile, wall tile, kitchen backsplash tile -- seems like that's all I've been doing for more than two months now. When you do kitchens and baths for a living, you have to be prepared to do some serious ceramic tile work. Lately, however, it feels like I spend more time trowelling thinset, cutting tile, and floating mortar than anything else.

full bath with tile floor and walls
It started way back in July with a major bathroom overhaul. Everything went into the dumpster, including the drywall. After about two weeks of prep (and some serious help from my son!), I added a full-height ceramic tile tub surround and a new tile floor. The floor was interesting because the tiles didn't "match." They varied in shade from very pale to an earthy brown speckle.

I'd had a nice break before that with a full kitchen for a very nice family. The big bath job was done during the delay while the kitchen cabinets were measured for granite countertops. After those tops were installed, I returned to add in a fancy tile backsplash with glass insets in a Rubik's Cube pattern (sans the colors). fancy backsplash tile with glass insertsThat was a few weeks ago, and it was the last time I can recall installing tile on my feet.

For a great change of pace, I had a tiny bath makeover. It was only a powder room, but that small space got a whole new look with a modern tile floor laid over the original mosaic-over-concrete. This half-bath originally featured a wall-to-wall vanity that seemed to fill the whole room. After the new tile floor, a tidy pedestal sink and new toilet made the small room feel much larger and look decades newer. My customers were so pleased with the results that they've started planning for a similar re-do for their upstairs bathroom. Since that tile is laid over a wood floor, the install for new tile there will use more typical methods.

new bath tile laid over old bath tile I'd never done tile-over-tile before, and was pleased with the results. Oddly enough, the very next job required the same approach. This was a big old house in a very nice neighborhood. It was a lovely home, but in many ways hopelessly dated.

The homeowner was on a tight budget, but wanted a new look for his two 40-year-old bathrooms. Leaving the original tile floors in place and using them as "subfloors" saved a lot of money. With some solid help from my youngest son, we transformed those dreary old rooms in less than three days. My son must have done a good job -- the customer gave him a tip!

master bath tile makeover Somewhere in between all that I spent a day kneeling on a kitchen floor installing 12x12 tiles as fast as my brother-in-law could cut them. It was hot that day and I was sweating from the humidity, so some of that job is just a blur to me. Since he did all the grouting himself, I'd almost forgotten about that job. My poor knees remember it well, though. I also remember tiling inside a pantry closet that was shaped like something you'd find in the video game Tetris. I did that one mostly by feel.

This week started with a new ceramic tile floor in a 70's-era sublet condominium. The tear-out was easy because the toilet had apparently been leaking for years, so the original concrete-base tile floor had almost completely lost its bond with the wood subfloor. I think I set some kind of re-do record on that job, just because everything went right.

That job really set me up for a fall on the next bathroom, started on Thursday. Man, was I over-confident! The old floor was every bit as strong as it was Year One, and the new tile floor was designed on a diagonal. So the tear-out was incredibly exhausting, and the new work involved at least twice as much cutting. I have to admit, however, that the results are pretty impressive. With luck, I'll finish that bathroom on Monday. Maybe I'll be able to put away the tile tools for a few days after that. We'll see.