Gneiss House

Low-pressure home metamorphism


Master bedroom redesign

With a fresh coat of paint, some nice prints from art.com, and a couple purple throw pillows, the master bedroom is also ready for its before and after photos! The changes to the space (some of which I documented previously) are: refinished hardwood floors, new base shoe molding that I cut and installed, a modular recycled-materials area rug from Flor, a Dunhill queen bed frame purchased in good shape from craigslist, very affordable sheets I found by combing Amazon, and both lamps and the one tasteful duvet and pillow sham set that I could find close to my color scheme, marked down on clearance at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Before photo of the master bedroom (from the house listing), with that pervasive mint green carpet.

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After: Panoramic #1.

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After: Panoramic #2.

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After: Normal photo of painted wall and sunny window. Cat for scale.

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After: Far wall and window to front yard.

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Office redesign

I also finished my office! This is technically the third bedroom, but like with all the local houses built on this model, it’s too small unless you have a baby in a tiny crib who needs no other furniture. But it makes a cute little office.

Changes wrought (including some documented previously) are: fresh paint on the walls (I combined two different colors to achieve this almost-periwinkle, because they didn’t have quite what I wanted), once again the refinished hardwood flooring and new base shoe molding, a rug from Overstock, a loveseat and desk I was lucky enough to find in great shape at some yard sales more than five years ago, a new brown slipcover for the loveseat, curtains and lamp on clearance from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, T. Rex, and one of my most prized possessions: the original Nightmare Before Christmas movie poster I bought with my saved-up babysitting money when I was 13.

Before photo, from the listing.

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After: Panoramic #1

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After: Panoramic #2

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After: Normal photo. This is a small room so yo can’t see much, but T-rex says hello.

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After: Other side of the room.


Guest bedroom redesign

With warmer weather and open windows, I’ve been catching up on painting jobs. I’ve now finished my redesign of the guest bedroom, including furniture and decorations, paint, floors, and molding. Here is the before view:

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(from the listing)

And after:

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The panorama view makes it look bigger than it really is, but you can see more of the room this way!

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Red wall!

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Panorama-less view


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Basement Floor, Part 2

After my last post, I continued restoring my basement floor by adding a polyurethane topcoat. I used the leftover polyurethane from refinishing my hardwood floors (Zar Ultra Max brand), but I was significantly less concerned with a perfect appearance this time. The floor is already uneven and this is more for safety and utility than aesthetics. I didn’t end up using a pole applicator because the applicator cloths are meant for smooth floors and would snag on the rough areas, so instead I just used a big paintbrush and went to town. I applied the coat more liberally than I would have with a hardwood floor (since with hardwood, you want it to look very even with no milky areas or big droplets, so you want really thin, even coats), so I wouldn’t have to do more than one topcoat layer. I missed a few spots and had to go back and touch them up, but overall it was a quick job (if a little hard on my back and knees).

Due to my geology teaching profession, I may have also come into a few sets of lightly-used, vinyl orthomimid and small theropod trackways…

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(Tip: If you want to do this with any kind of floor decals, map out and lay down the decals before applying the topcoat. Then they won’t rip or peel up, no matter how much traffic the floor receives, and cleaning will be easy.)


Restoring a basement floor

My house has an unfinished basement. I use it almost every day to walk out the back door to my driveway, and slightly less often for laundry, major projects at my fabulous new workbench that I built all by myself, and storage of basementy things. I keep the cats’ food and litter down there and they can access it with a pet door.

I really like having a basement, but it had some problems when I acquired the house. Some of them are low priority problems, like the plaster walls are getting a little crumbly and need some fresh paint in a few places, and the wiring in the ceiling down there is a little haphazard (but not dangerous). The appliances are old but do their jobs reasonably well.

The high priority problem has been the floor, which has 1950s-era checkerboard black and gray tile. Typically that tile had asbestos in the adhesive lining, and while mine has never been tested it was a good bet that they were asbestos-bearing. The tile wasn’t friable (breaking under the pressure I can exert with my fingers), but in some areas the tiles had broken off and been removed by the previous owner. It seemed likely that over time, more tiles would break, because the jagged edges were exposed and nothing was protecting them. The tiles were uneven and the floor contour was gently buckled in places, suggesting the tile was going to continue to fragment.

Asbestos removal is not something I particularly want to do in my home: disturbing the fibers is the best way to get them airborne and increase acute exposure, and the price of that kind of remediation effort would be extremely high. But I also wanted to slow the process of tile loss and prevent the backing from being exposed. In the meantime, I was nervous about ever sweeping or cleaning in the basement, even in areas where the tile appeared intact, because I didn’t know if there were fibers that had been mobilized in the past and that resided between the tiles. I really didn’t want to have to mop the floor every time the cats made a mess with their litter (wetting a surface is the best way to keep asbestos fibers out of the air, so wet cleaning was really my safest option).

After some helpful internet research about how to restore a floor with breaking asbestos-lined tile, I settled on the following approach:

  1. Remove all my stuff that could be reasonably removed from the floor. The work bench is too big and heavy to be removed, so I ended up moving it out from the wall slightly to access the wall edge, and doing the final step (painting) in two stages;
  2. Move cat accoutrements upstairs and lock cats out of the basement. They were not too bright about this and kept trying to get into the basement to see what was going on down there;
  3. Wet-clean the entire surface as well as I could, understanding that this is an unfinished basement, so it may never be perfect (and indeed, it was not);
  4. Apply a latex primer to the exposed concrete (or concrete + adhesive) surfaces and the edges of broken tiles;
  5. Use a premixed floor patch filler to fill minor holes and patch the smallest broken and/or exposed tile edges;
  6. Apply a self-leveling underlayment cement layer to all exposed concrete and broken surfaces to fill all gaps; ImageImageImageImage
  7. Paint the entire floor (tile and cement alike) with an epoxy masonry paint to seal up all potential dust from tile edges. The masonry paint was recommended by hardware store employees over standard basement floor paint because they predicted it was likely to bond better with the mixed underlying floor materials (the old vinyl tiles vs. new concrete underlayment). I cut in with a brush at the wall (thickly to fill all the grooves), and then I applied as a thick single coat to the rest of the floor with a semi-rough to rough roller on a pole for easy application from a standing position.

ImageImageImageThis turned out to be a pretty easy job that I could do over the course of just three or four days, including a weekend and a couple weeknights after work. In the end I did not scarify the tile surfaces to scratch them up to accept the paint better, because they were already pretty rough and I don’t want to damage asbestos-bearing tile any more than necessary. If that means the paint needs to be touched up sometimes, so be it–it’s easy to apply and I have plenty left over for that.

The texture of the masonry paint is softer and less glossy than a typical floor paint, but it seems strong. If the softer texture becomes a problem, I plan to topcoat it with polyurethane (and I still have a lot of polyurethane left from the hardwood floor restoration project, so I’ll just need a new applicator brush pad. And to remove the cats for another couple days). Overall, it is safer and also a big aesthetic improvement!

ETA: After a couple days of walking on it, I’ve decided in favor of the poly topcoat. I’ll update with the final result sometime next week…