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August 9, 2010

Three years ago this summer, we moved into a little old house/a big new project. It had leaks, cracks, a pack rat and no air conditioning. We considered it a home improvement adventure. We were eager to begin our communion with sawdust.

We started with walls and pipes and wires and ducts, but what I remember most are the wood floors. Having grown up in a house with below-grade cement floors, I’d dreamed of having floors that would creak and stay at room temperature. And I had them – or I would, after the excavation.

First, there were joists and subfloors to be replaced and repaired.

The original pine floors were dark with decades-old dust and varnish, and we decided to sand and refinish them ourselves. We rented the machines, and a neighbor friend from up the road came down to demonstrate. Then we sanded – not quite as much as we should have, maybe – and added layer after layer of clear polyurethane. Don took care of most of the floor with a big wool mop while I brushed in the edges.

It took a week of working all day and after dark. We noticed too late the thin spots, the rough patches, the one can of Gloss among all the other cans of Satin, and the insects that are now forever preserved in our floor finish. (And that I had worked face-to-fumes for days, recently and obliviously pregnant. Evidently we didn’t know what we were doing in more ways than one.)

But those floors  – and that baby – turned out fine. And now we’re glad to have had the practice.

Because three years later, that baby is old enough to say “floor sander,” and we’ve been living with my mother long enough to see our “adventure” in for what it really is. (Use your imagination; I’m keeping it PG.)

On the agenda: a thousand or more square feet of wood floors new and [mostly] old, ready for sanding and sealing.

Twice in the last two weeks, we’ve found ourselves moving floorboards from the back of a pickup into our kitchen-to-be, after 10 p.m. – when Jack is asleep in his car seat, and temperatures have fallen into the 80s.

Some came from another nearby old house, the family homestead of a local historian. Some were a pleasant discovery when we kicked off this project and demolished a leaky, rotting sleeping porch from the back of the house.  The last batch, which saved us from a hallway transition to tile, came from an old school building – my old school building. This house, when it’s finished, will have floors that I’ve known since the sixth grade and floors that haven’t seen life in decades.

They’re curved, cupped and warped, just as old and imperfect as the house we started with. They’re recycled and reclaimed. But reincarnated is more like it.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2010 5:35 pm

    Wow, you guys are troopers! What a project! And how meaningful and special to have floors in your home that are so many years old and some actually from your old school. That is amazing. Keep up the great work!

  2. Elizabeth permalink
    August 9, 2010 6:23 pm

    This is so exciting, L! When I saw the title of the post, I hoped it would mean your floors were coming along. You are inching every so close to completion. Congratulations!

  3. August 9, 2010 7:13 pm

    Just reading this exhausts me! I am envious of handy DIY folks like you because I’m so not that person. Kudos to you on your hard work. Looks like it’s coming along nicely. Can’t wait to see the “After” pictures 🙂

  4. August 9, 2010 8:34 pm

    What a mess! But oh, how you’ll love it when it’s all done! Yay! It’s looking good!

  5. August 10, 2010 12:27 am

    Leslie, only you can write like that about wood floors. I can just imagine how excited you are to be almost finished.

  6. August 10, 2010 4:16 am

    I love that–how great that you found all those wonderful, meaningful sources for reclaimed wood. So exciting.

  7. August 10, 2010 12:17 pm

    I’ve camped out in the midst of renovations 4 times – twice with babies/toddlers. Actually, I love it. OK. I love it for about 6 weeks – then, however long it takes to complete gets more and more tiring and inconvenient.

    I think it’s wonderful that you’ve included these old boards, “repurposed” and filled with meaning. I come from a part of the country where old wood is considered something beautiful (though I live in a part of the country that seems to prefer everything new). You’ll love every bit of it when you’re done – and glad it’s over.

  8. August 10, 2010 1:41 pm

    Oh I love the pictures of your work in progress. I love love love it.

  9. August 11, 2010 4:23 am

    Impressive. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

  10. August 11, 2010 11:50 pm

    Spectacular and wonderful and so full of love. And I know this to be true since I’ve been a similar place myself. Your home will just be YOU when you are done. I wish I had been a blogger when we built our home, I wish I had done a better job of capturing it all. You’ll cherish what you accomplish and this memory of it for years to come.

  11. August 12, 2010 2:12 pm

    I can’t imagine camping out in the midst of major renovations with kids – we had some work done putting in some new doors and windows last summer and the dust and mess and noise almost drove me crazy. But I am sure when this is finished you will have such wonderful memories of all you have created together in your new home.


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