Friday, October 15, 2010

Well, THAT was fun.

After much deliberation and time spent with a surly Home Depot employee discussing our options (oddly, she wasn't amused by our, "So, which step can we skip to save time and money?" type questions), we decided on a stain for our flooring. And then we had to choose which color, which of course I would have happily 'agonized' over for hours or weeks, flipping through samples and taping them to the floor to view them in different lights and at different times of day.

But. If you've met my husband, I'm sure you know how that went. He said, "Pick a color. Just nothing crazy." I suggested a lovely gray-blue.

He laughed at it. Then I pointed to a color called Limestone (looks like this, though this is not it exactly):


Finally, we narrowed it down to 3 tan colors, with the idea being we want to eventually graduate to wood/laminate/Pergo floors which will probably be a light honey oak sort of color. We wanted to choose a floor stain that would eventually be able to translate into a wood color, so that when we choose wall colors that 'go' with the floors, they will still 'go' with wood.  So we narrowed it down to:

Classic Taupe

Light Rattan

Inviting Veranda

And then, um....we didn't get any of those. Instead, I found a color between Inviting Veranda and Light Rattan as we were waiting for someone to mix our two gallons, and we made the split-second decision to switch.

A word about switching colors in the store: it's risky. The light is different than at home, and you're seeing the color in the context of ALL the other colors on that wall, as opposed to in the context of your own home. And so the color we chose (whose name now alludes me) ended up being almost a perfect monochromatic match for this flooring sample right here (this sample is darker than our floor, but the color values are similar and we think that means it's more likely whatever paint we choose for the current floor would look great with this type of floor as well):

The stain is lighter than this, and - to my surprise - matte finish. I wish it was a touch darker than it is, and had some sheen to it, but word on the street is I can add a topcoat if I am so inspired and it will shine that sucker right up.

Before I reveal how the color looked after its second coat, here are some pictures of the process itself. For early demo pictures, check out this post.

 We left off with the sledging of the old tile, and once it was all removed and hauled away and we used a shop vac to clean the dust, we had areas where the thin set was adhered too firmly to the concrete for us to break it off easily. A shop vac can be rented from Home Depot (ours was $17 for 4 hours or $25 for 24 horus), and is your best friend when it comes to cleaning up the mess saltillo tiles leaves. There was so much dust, and we didn't rent the shop vac until day 2 of the demo. We wished we'd spent the money to rent that on day 1, rather than renting the demolition hammer I'll talk about below. Shop vac = excellence.

 Rohan was worried we wouldn't be able to make this work....

This area had a lot of thin set really adhered to the concrete. It seemed that certain areas of the rooms were applied with a heavier hand than others. Additionally, the most trafficked spots seemed to be the ones with the most thin set left, which had us thinking perhaps whomever installed it forgot to back themselves out of the room.

 We're getting there....We rented a tool from Home Depot called the demolition hammer to help us scrape the thin set off the concrete. The tool has an optional scraper attachment you screw in which is about 4-5 inches wide and can be placed at a 60 degree angle to the floor to remove the thin set without damaging the concrete. This angle is really important, as several of the patches you'll see we filled below were made by the tool being used to help break up tiles, and being held at too open an angle. You don't want the end of that sucker to make a direct hit onto your concrete, or it will create a divet. Our dining room area actually has several divets now that we wish we'd have patched with a concrete patch kit before staining. Consider these Lessons Learned.

This cutie passed us the concrete hole-filler, which you use a caulking gun to pipe into cracks, chips, and other areas in need of some love. Supposedly, it's 'self-leveling', but the areas we didn't sweep over with a straight edge are a bit bubbled rather than flush with the rest of the floor. Another Lesson Learned, but not one we feel the need to go back and 'fix' since the stain is a temporary fix until the wood flooring of our dreams is a reality.This filler stays tacky to the touch for about a day, but is waterproof and ok to clean, prime, paint, etc within 3 hours of application.

 Those shiny areas are the spots we 'filled'. As you can see, when we pulled the baseboards out, there was lots of grossness to be found behind them. Ew. We had to use a chisel and mallet to remove a lot of very thick grout that was layed in between the tiles and the drywall, so the edges of our foundation don't exactly look picture perfect. We opted not to worry about it, as the plan is to paint the walls and reposition the baseboards once we give them a fresh coat of paint. We did wash down the baseboard area and vacuum out all the loose particles we could.

The next step was cleaning and etching.The purpose of etching is to create the ideal environment for staining or painting. I was confused, then, that etching was a process using chemicals as opposed to a method of physically making etch marks in the concrete surface. Who knew? We bought a product at Home Depot made by Behr. It worked, I think, though I found myself frustrated by the disconnect between the directions and the reality. You're supposed to apply it to dry concrete with either a plastic watering can or a hard bristled brush. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes without drying, then scrub like hell with said brush, then rinse until there is no product left. First...nothing sits in Arizona on dry concrete for even 5 minutes without starting to dry. Second, they recommend a power washer to spray it down, which is impossible inside. So what happens is we run around like crazy people wetting and scrubbing and re-applying and then dousing with a wet mop we have to rinse after every swipe because if we don't, the residue stays on the mop. Either way, the goal is to get concrete that is porous, rough like sandpaper, and neutral in pH. We don't test the pH and there are two sections we don't even fully etch, but when I get to the step where the primer is applied I can tell where it was etched and where it was not. The difference isn't noticeable now that all is said and done, but those areas just felt different to stain.

After the etched floor was dry (about 8 hours later), I applied a concrete primer. We used one bottle of the etching solution and one can of primer for the whole floor. The primer also dries tacky, but once covered with stain the tackiness is not there. To make staining easier, I let the primer dry for 10 hours, then sweep gently to remove surface debris, all in a pair of clean cotton socks. I have read in several places that cotton socks are the best thing to wear so you don't get shoes stuck to the primer and you don't walk on all this stuff barefoot, and the socks seem to do the trick.
With everyone out of the house, I use a small brush to edge the entire floor, paying special attention to under the cabinets, the edges of the foundation that are exposed but will be covered by baseboards, and anything near doors or carpet. Then, using the same long wooden handle we used to brush on the etching solution, I attach a paint roller and roll the stain onto the floor. I leave a path by the stairs to the front door, go take a hot shower, and come back down an hour later to apply a second thin coat.

Again...with the Arizona's HOT today and we have dry air, so the first thin coat is already dry, even though the can tells me to wait 4-8 hours to reapply. I live on the wild side and reapply anyhow, and the results are perfect.

Before leaving the house for several hours to let this dry without any traffic, I took this picture. The floor dried a bit darker and not as glossy. We came back in 4 hours, and after 8 hours, we moved our couch, a chair, and the TV back inside. Technically, you are supposed to avoid foot traffic for 24 hours and leave furniture off for 72, but this is real life and this is our main living area. Knowing that this stain is our temporary solution, I'm not too concerned about possible damage to the stain that will be hidden by furniture anyhow.

There's still a lot to be done before this transformation can be labeled 'complete' but so far it's really made a huge difference in the whole feel of our house. Our next steps are to paint the walls and baseboards and put the baseboards back in. We will also be sealing the gaps behind the baseboard with silicon to keep out bugs and make sure there isn't moisture (ha ha ha) seeping in through the foundation.

Eventually, the cabinets in the kitchen will be refinished to look a little more up-to-date and bright, and I also want to refinish the countertops. I learned that there is a 'paint' you can use on cheap, crappy countertops like we have, which is much more reasonable than redoing the counters considering we want to sell the house some day and we'd never make back the amount we'd invest on whole new cabinets and counters. As we finish the walls and baseboards, I will update more.

The total cost for this project was much less than I'd feared it would be. We did the demo and hauling of waste ourselves, as well as all the prep and staining, which saved us easily $1-2k.

Sledgehammer, mallet, chisel, etc.: free
Rental demolition hammer: $50/ day x 1 and $30/4 hours x 1 = $80
Scraper tool for demo hammer: $20/4 hours = $20
Three trips to the dump with tiles: $30/each x 2 + 1 free = $60
Rental of shop vac for 24 hours = $25
New mop, extender handle, scrub brush = $24
Paint tray and 2 liners, 1 roller, 2 roller brushes = $17
Clean and Etch Solution = $20
Concrete Primer = $21
Stain: $24/each x 2 = $48

Total: $315

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