Gneiss House

Low-pressure home metamorphism


Living and dining room redesign

I have painted the final two rooms of the house, at long last! These were the last ones because they are my most heavily used living spaces, so it was more disruptive to paint them. There were also a lot of walls to do, so it took three separate painting sessions. The changes here (some of which are also listed here) include: refinished hardwood floors, new base shoe molding, two rugs from Overstock, a cherry dining table and chairs from craigslist, a hand-built tv stand, shelving from Ikea, an old, sturdy sewing table converted to fishtank stand, restored coffee table and end tables from yard sales, prints mostly from art.com (Brain Salt!), lamps from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and a nice, hand-me-down couch set donated by family. The living room is in a yellow and blue color scheme, and the dining room in warmer yellows and browns. I also replaced the old, grandmothery light covers on the dining room ceiling fan with cleaner-looking new ones from Home Depot (a little change that you don’t notice much but that makes a big difference in atmosphere). Before and after pictures below!

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Listing photo, looking into the dining room from the kitchen (living room to the right).

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Listing photo, looking from the living room into the dining room.

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Looking towards the back of the house from inside the dining room.

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Looking back towards the living room from the dining room.

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Full dining room view.

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Another full dining room view, slightly different angle.

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Listing photo of the living room, looking from the front door area towards the stairs and coat closet.

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Listing photo of the living room, looking from the stairs into the room.

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List photo of the living room, looking from the stairs towards the front door.

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List photo of the living room, looking from the dining room towards the front of the house.

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Panorama view of the living room, from the front door.

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Normal view of the living room from the front door.

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Living room, from the stairs towards the front door.

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Living room, from the stairs into the room.

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And one last view, from the dining room towards the front of the room.

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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.


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…


Update: Baseboard molding

I never posted about my other winter project: installing base shoe molding throughout the house! So here is a quick overview:

The previous owners had ripped out (in some cases, apparently violently) the baseboard shoe molding through the entire house. This did make it relatively easy to refinish the floors, because there was a little border around the edges of all the rooms where the floor did not have to look perfect. But I did eventually need to replace that molding for a finished look that did not include big gaps under my walls.

I ended up deciding that I do not need to be a pure DIYer: painting 300′ of molding by hand would have taken me forever and barely saved me any money. So I bought prepainted base shoe molding at Home Depot. The price was reasonable and that meant all I had to do was measure it, cut it, and install it in the house.

Measuring: I started with a measuring tape and writing things down on a piece of paper, but ended up just lining up the molding around the whole house and marking it with a pencil. Easier to keep track of where all the pieces had to go, and very easy to mark them correctly that way.

Cutting: I did not have a miter box, and when I borrowed one from my parents, I discovered that it was very difficult to anchor the box firmly enough to use it properly (since it wasn’t mine to install anywhere permanently). I did not at this point have the workbench constructed, so I did the next best thing: mount my little portable table vise to my dining room table (with padding to prevent scratches), cover the surrounding area with newsprint, and go to town with a hacksaw. I lined up a protractor with the pieces that needed to be cut on an angle (like in the corners) and carefully marked the angles, and tried (with reasonable success) to keep the hacksaw on those marks. I was able to cut all the molding for the whole house in two nights.

Installing: I rented a nail gun from Home Depot. Nail guns are really fun for humans, but they terrify dogs, so maybe wait for a nice day and put the dog outside while you do this. Overall this was really, really easy, but 1) use a knee pad, and 2) it is a little tricky if the baseboard molding behind the shoe molding isn’t flush with the floor, such that you are nailing into a gap. It takes some practice to angle the gun correctly to nail the shoe molding in that circumstance.

When I have a chance to refinish the replacement floorboards, I’ll have to do this again for the few areas that need those floorboards (I couldn’t install the molding without floorboards). More fun with nail guns in my future!