Lakeshore Cottage

A reno blog for a cottage just outside of Toronto
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Long weekend work – refinishing floors, paint, and more

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

I was lucky enough to have a 4 day long weekend for Easter and I spent pretty much all of it working on the cottage. I’m pretty exhausted.

Friday I sanded down what will be the dining room table that I was given and painted the ceiling in the main room. I’m not yet sure what paint or stain or colour it’ll end up being.



Ceiling paint – note the grey/darker colour of the old ceiling around the lights (I’ll pretend it’s the paint colour):

Monday a friend came up and conquered part of the hill that leads from the house down to the water while I replaced 3 stairs that had rotted out and reinforced other stairs. It was a pretty shitty day outside and I was exhausted from only 4 hours of sleep the night before (more later), but 10 yard waste bags later we had the following…

Before – the right side but this is what the entire hill looks like:

After – left side:

The majority of the weekend was essentially spent refinishing the red oak hardwood floors in the main room. Remember that countless hours have been spent sanding and mudding the walls to make them flat to remove the old drywall texture that someone thought was super rad and put everywhere in the house. The electrical was updated and 6 pot lights were added (there previously wasn’t any overhead lighting). The old urine-soaked MDF (?) floor and subfloor were ripped up (took like 2 minutes to do), we put down new 1/4″ on top of the floor planks to even out the height, and tar paper and shingles were used to make the floor as flat as possible. I purchased 400 square feet worth of red oak hardwood that had previously been torn out of a basement due to water damage and Molly spent 3 days grinding out the nails in every single board. I then nailed down the floor and finally it was ready for sanding.

This is what it looked like when I did the home inspection on it last summer:

Before hitting it with a sander – the grey boards are water damaged:

Sanding progression:

I started with 20 grit.

Progressed to 36 grit. This is about mid-way through.

Then made my way through 60 and 80:

Finally done with sanding.

After a lot of sweeping, vacuuming and then going over it on my hands and knees with cloths to get residual dust, I began applying the clear coat.

Done with the first coat:

Final coat, still wet. I think it’s blurry because it was 3am and my priority at the time was sleep:

Monday morning – totally dry floor, 3 coats:

I used¬†Diamond Wood Finish by Varathane (a Rust-oleum product) in semi-gloss, a water-based finish (I don’t want to call it polyurethane) – this is it here at Home Depot. This floor is between 200-280 sf and 3 coats used just under half a gallon. I applied it with a brush and it took me about an hour for each pass. It takes 2-3 hours to dry between coats. Water-based stain doesn’t amber the wood as much as oil-based does. I wanted the lighter look.

Here’s a decent before/after:

Ha, I just noticed that Rosie is in both of them. Anyway. It looks great, I’m really happy with it, and I love how it turned out. The lighter colour was definitely the right choice. I love it.

Random thoughts:

  • I’m impressed with how the water damaged floor came back to life and it’s not really noticeable in the final coat.
  • Even though the floor was sanded smooth, something called “grain raise” did happen which just means the floor is a bit rough in spots. It was noted on the can and they said to sand the floor with fine sandpaper before applying the final coat to fix it. I didn’t do that, I may do that eventually, but I was too tired and did not have the right sandpaper to do it even if I had the energy at 2am.
  • You can use an applicator but I preferred the 3″ brush because I could wipe away dirt and the inevitable dog hair before applying. It just meant it took longer – about an hour for each coat.
  • Use the proper sanding equipment. I was given the Clarke OBS-18 Orbital Sander by the Home Depot guy and it took me forever to do because I had more cupping than was forgiveable by the large rectangular sander/buffer. I should have rented a drum sander. However, since this was my first large-scale sanding project and this will be a highly visible and trafficked area, I’ll forgive the amount of time it took me to do it because I didn’t gouge the floor (which is a risk with the drum sander and something I was concerned about). Next time though, it’s drum sander or bust.
  • When I hit the 60 grit, I did a first pass at it with the large sander and then had to re-assess how well (badly?) it was doing. I needed to use my 5″ hand sander to get the areas of the boards where the Clarke couldn’t go. It took a few more painstaking hours to do this and was mostly focused around where the boards met up. It went faster if I tilted it a bit but you have to watch not to gouge the wood (I did in one spot where the floor meets the bedroom flooring, oops). Then I went over it with another sheet of the larger 60 and ended with the 80.
  • I was really hesitant with the more aggressive grit (20 and 36) because I’d never done this before. I was worried that with the amount of dust I was producing, it meant I was sanding too much of the wood. By the time I got to the 36 grit I had convinced myself it was going to be fine, but I feel like I should have used more of the 20 whereas I ended up using more of the 36. Maybe it doesn’t even matter, but I eventually got comfortable with the machine and all was fine. It didn’t help that it took so long for the original stain to come off, but I think that’s mostly because I was using the wrong sander. Also, I still don’t know the proper sanding technique… are you supposed to do many quicker moving passes, or is it okay to go slow? I only YouTube’d the drum sander, not this orbital sander, so I (still) don’t know what is normal.
  • Check your paper supply! I walked out with like seven sheets of 60 and only one 80 because the paper was on the wrong shelf.
  • Always wear a mask and cover everything/block off doorways! If you have a fan, put it in the window to help pull the dusty air out (I didn’t have one but it would have been nice).

Cost of project:

$400 – reclaimed flooring
$144 – sander rental and paper
$90 – misc supplies/shingles/tar paper
$70 – clear coat

Total: $704-ish

Hours: an insane amount

It took a long time to do and was a lot of work, but the experience and final product is worth it to me. Would I do it again? Maybe… I would probably try to find new flooring that I like and skip the refinishing part of it. I do need to sand down the rest of the cottage though since the existing hardwood is in very rough shape but it’ll be a drum sander for that job. I’m really looking forward to moving furniture into the main room next weekend.

New floor and windows

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

There have been some fun developments in the “helps the place look polished” department. My final 3 windows arrived and Steve and I installed them. This makes 4 windows of the same size in the main room and bedrooms, and one in the bathroom. I’m not sure if I posted it before, but they were all bought through Discount Door. The prices are great and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from them again.

Before – old windows (1955-ish?):


Outside side shot… and you can also see the pellet stove piping. Steve fabricated a metal support post for it and put that in place (as difficult as driving it into the ground, ha, probably the easiest thing ever done to the cottage). This is the most unattractive side of the house, mostly because of the large hole in the ground for the septic tank access. It’s hideous and I feel sorry for my neighbours on this side because they were trying to sell their place for months. I think I’ve added “some sort of wood deck structure to cover the hole” to the list of things to do to improve the area. Also, check out the support post that is propping up covering over the deck. It’s maybe supporting the roof covering with an inch or two of that angled piece of wood, which isn’t even attached directly to the post. I need a new 4×4 post to properly support it. Also need to sort out all the water that is managing to fall on that side of the deck/house.

And then there was this. The hardwood flooring I scored off kijiji was laid. I still need to face nail the last 3 rows (that pains me). I wish the nailer could get in there. It looks amazing, though, and went together much better than the old stuff I reclaimed/reused in the main living area. However, I do have to agree with Molly’s dad (hello Charles!) that there seems to be a big difference in quality of the wood in the new vs. old. The old stuff is oak and hard and feels durable, even if the boards were a bit warped/rough and needed more massaging to fit in place. This new stuff fits together easier than lego but feels really light and cheap. Maybe it’s just the wood itself (it’s maple) but the oak felt more substantial. Regardless, it’s awesome, and now hardwood covers the entire cottage floor.

So the eco audit deadline has officially passed. Due to the inspector having a life, I won’t be able to get the return audit done until May 5th or 6th or something. I ended up replacing all the windows but didn’t get to finishing off the crawlspace in a way that would allow for the $250 floor insulating rebate. I can live with it though.

It’s a short week this week and next (for me) and I’m tossing around the idea of renting a drum sander and finishing off the floors in the main room over the long weekend. Must research more, though!

Flooring and stove update

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I’m really only posting to say that I can’t even believe these two different stains/coats are on the same wood because they’re so different. We’re going from what appears to be Varathane’s 230 Provincial oil stain to Varathane’s water-based Diamond Wood Finish in semi-gloss. Basically, we’re ending up with naked or natural red oak flooring, no stain, just a water-based clearcoat protectant overtop the bare wood. If you want a clearcoat without colouring the wood, you want to use a water-based poly/clear coat. If you use an oil-based polyurethene it will add an amber or yellow hue to the wood.

Future stove placement with basically finished hearth:

It’s been an annoying past couple days trying to figure out how we’re going to vent this pellet stove. I bought a 3″ pellet stove pipe venting kit from Canadian Tire last week because it was on sale from $379 to $265 and was the only one I could find in the city that I could buy immediately. They hadn’t seen it since 2010 when it first arrived in their store and they had to pull it from the warehouse.

There are all kinds of requirements/guidelines thrown at you just when searching the internet for info on how to install/vent pellet stoves, from the stove manufacturer’s manual, the venting manual, ULC requirements for insurance and just about every pellet stove installer has a site with their own take on it too. A lot of the info on the internet is generally helpful but may not apply to where you live, which is what I got stressed about — too much information. So basically it boiled down to me looking at the stove manufacturer for the proper distance from the walls and the hearth requirements, which then told me to follow the directions of the pipe venting company for proper vent requirements, and the ULC/vent manual for proper distances from various structures.

The big issue is the fact that the stove is going right next to a window. In the US you have to be at least 4′ away from any opening (window/door) and that was the only information written in the stove manual. However in Canada, the ULC requirement is that the pipe must “terminate” at least 3′ away from any opening… which means I can do the most basic horizontal straight-out-the-wall installation and I just have to bring it out far enough that it terminates at least 3′ away from the window. The alternative is the most costly install which would be to use pretty much every pipe in the kit that I bought, along with additional piping ($$$) and bring it out far enough to clear the gutters (they’re not really deep enough to go through them) and end a foot above the roof line. At that point, if I were to go with this method, I might not even be able to use the 3″ pipe because 4″ pipe is required after a certain run length and I’d have to source new pipe.

So… after my roommates schooled me in pythagorean theorem, it turns out that I only need to bring the pipe out about 2′ from the wall to get the needed 3′ clearance. This is also great because for a horizontal install, you’re not supposed to have a horizontal run exceed 48″ (4′). The horizontal install, although not the most ideal install for various reasons, should be fine because the area it’s venting into is not exactly a high traffic side of the house and there is the access hatch to the septic tank nearby, which means there’s a 2′ or more pit dug out of the ground in the middle of the lawn. I probably should section it off somehow so it doesn’t look like I tried to bury someone there and got lazy with my digging.

Anyway… with that stuff sorted out, I’ve placed the order for the three remaining windows in the same size/style as the bedroom window we replaced over the weekend. I’ve got two friends potentially lined up to help me on Sunday and I’ll probably stick them with the task of finishing off the mudding/sanding/painting on the walls while I get lost in the damn crawl space.

Main room improvements

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Saturday was a short day because we needed to be back in time for an amazing show (Blue Dragon / Robert Lepage), but we had a friend come with us. This weekend was basically more mudding to make the texture on the walls less offensive, and more flooring. I pulled up the ugly marble tile that had been placed in the space between the bathroom and bedroom. A piece of the floor was sanded down to the bare wood and various sample stains applied. Molly and I also combed through paint colours to come up with a combination we think we’ll like. The plan has always been to sand down the hardwood, and now we’re aiming at just putting the polyurethene clear coat down and keeping the floor a natural or naked red oak. We think we’re going with these colours from CIL:

The electrical work our friend did is amazing. I can’t believe how much of a difference it actually makes. I’m really impressed by it all and happy with his work.

The hardwood flooring is nearly complete, but I wasn’t in the mood to use the tablesaw last night at 8pm so the last couple rows will need to go in this weekend. Turns out the flooring I bought was basically the exact right amount for the main room and small “hallway” area after ditching the pieces too shitty to use and the end pieces that they already cut. I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel now to find pieces for the last couple rows and there is no way it could have been used for the bedroom like I originally hoped. The floor is also not totally perfect. I now see that I could have done a better job at flattening/leveling the floor but I’m hoping the sander will help out in that area. Also, the wood had already acclimatized to the house it used to be in, some of them are water damaged (which is probably why they tore it out), and just warped — all of which is to be expected with reused/recycled/reclaimed hardwood flooring, I guess. It just means that in some areas, there are larger cracks between boards where I wasn’t able to pull the boards totally straight. This of course means in some areas, it adds larger gaps between boards after that.

If I had any advice for others who are considering reusing hardwood flooring, buy more than you think you’ll need, since it was suited for the project before yours. I still think it was the best way to go for the cottage, but I am not so sure I would do it for my main house.

And with that said, here are some before and after shots:

This weekend is the Family Day long weekend and I need to make a plan for what that will look like, work-wise. I’m starting to feel a bit stressed at running out of time to make the return eco-audit.

Hardwood flooring success

Monday, February 6th, 2012

This past weekend was all about hardwood flooring. We drove up Friday night to get an early start on Saturday, which meant that it was our first official night spent in the cottage. One of my roommates moved in recently with a hardcore heater that actually made us overheat through the night and we shared the couch together while the dog got a bed on the floor. It was actually pretty nice. After a Home Depot trip Saturday morning, some cleaning/rearranging/sorting through another package of shingles, we began nailing down the oak flooring.

To recap the floor, I bought it second hand off a guy from kijiji. It still had nails in it and its condition wasn’t the most consistent. Molly became the master grinder and ground off all the nails. Since we’re planning on sanding it down and re-staining/painting it, I didn’t care what colour it was. It was supposed to be about 400 sf and I thought I only needed about 300sf. After being somewhat happy with the subfloor preparation, I spent some time checking out youtube and the web for flooring videos/tips, bought myself a Porta-Nailer, and decided to just get it done.

I went with the Porta-Nailer 402 model after swaying back and forth between buying or renting something from HD. Considering the age and condition of the flooring I was installing, I figured it was better to buy a manual nailer instead of renting an air or pneumatic nailer. Basically, I figured I would be slow at doing it (this was my first nailed flooring install), I have a bedroom to do as well as the main room, the manual nailers pull the wood tighter together than pneumatic ones since you’re actually hitting the nail into the board, and the cost of buying a manual model would have worked out the same or cheaper than renting an air model. The part that clinched it was finding a ratcheting manual nailer (the Porta-Nailer) that allowed you to take multiple swings at it until the nail was totally driven into place. If it wasn’t in totally, the ram (part you hit) didn’t return and you knew to hit it again. I love the nailer, it was totally the right decision, and although I planned on selling it after, I might find myself keeping it for future renos (another house, another time)… we’ll see.

Molly did a great job of finding appropriate boards and it was really helpful having a second person while I was able to just nail away.

We only did enough on the first day to be able to move the hearth into place (temporarily) because I needed to add more shingles to the other half of the room, and we had a friends birthday party to come back to in the city.

I basically finished it the next day and now have some more decisions to make before continuing the next time I go up. The space where the pellet stove is currently sitting in the photo above has tile from the bathroom on the floor. I hate the tile and hate the idea of walking out of the bedroom onto cold tile. Turns out that with all the end pieces (they were already chopped off) and the rejects and existing cut pieces, there’s not enough to finish the small bedroom like I had wanted. There is enough though, to extend the wood into that small area and I think I will.

Next small steps:
1. Move the pellet stove from that spot
2. Tear up the tile
3. Sort out whatever subfloor is under it and try to match height to the main room
4. Extend the flooring into that area and finish the rest of the floor

Next larger steps:
1. Sand the floor
2. Stain or paint it

Originally I had wanted to paint the floors but after some discussion about resale value, we’re not sure anymore. Need to find an appropriate stain and test it out on some of the excess wood.

If I had any words of advice to offer people new to the world of hardwood flooring:
– It’s not as daunting once you get started
– The subfloor really makes a difference, so spend the time to get it flat and right
– The racheting part of this nailer was great and I would recommend the Porta-Nailer to anyone
– Make sure to measure your width properly so your chalk line is proper… the walls in my place are definitely not perfect

I’m pretty happy overall with how it turned out.

Next up… an electrical friend is on his way to the cottage now to sort out the rest of the electrical gremlins in the place, add some new pot lights to the main room, a bedroom light, hopefully restore power throughout the entire place, and light up the boathouse. I’m pretty excited to go up on the weekend just to be able to see his work.

Getting to lay the floor really feels like a significant project was completed and means more fun, cosmetic type stuff will get a chance to happen this coming weekend. Not to mention being able to soon move furniture into the space and have it start looking like a cottage. Pretty excited about progress so far.

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