Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Finishing the Green Room

I rarely get projects done. Wait--that sounds bad, or lazy . . . but it's true. My projects usually fall victim to Zeno's paradox: as they approach completion, the parts of the project left to do get smaller and smaller; I have less motivation to get going on these small details; so the smallest, last details take forever to finish. Since they won't take long, I figure I'll get around to them eventually.

But this week we (for I cannot take sole credit for this one) have outsmarted Zeno's tortoise and outshot his bow. We have finished the Green Room.

Let me remind you of what the Junk Room-cum-Candle Room-cum-Green Room looked like as we prepared to put new flooring in, first before painting:
Then after painting, before complete junk removal:
One of the most visually atrocious elements of the Green Room was the door. All the doors in our house seem to have been reclaimed from industrial accident sites, but this one may have been through flood, earthquake, and industrial demolition before our homebuilder repurposed it:
I, however, am blessed to have two expert door refinishers in my life. One is handy with a power belt sander, and the other is good at looking stylish while brushing away sawdust:
With floor installed, trim finished, and TV hung, we're ready for playtime, Netflix, and Pandora galore:
 Thanks to the Amalfitanos for helping us keep up the tradition of red velvet couches (we got one from the Stanleys in Pasadena):

 I hope you noticed two photos up that the doorway lacked a door. After three rounds of Polyvinyl acrylic, the industrial rescue has a shiny new surface that we hope will stay lustrous until the cockroaches are extinct.
And at last I get to declare the Green Room complete!

Well, except for replacing an end cap on one of the radiators. But that's a small thing. I'll get around to it eventually.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Trial and Error

Right about here is where I made the worst mistake one can make while installing laminate flooring:
But before my confession: some introduction. Here's what the floor of our addition looked like when we got it back from the construction workers. Note the sea-green tile on the right, the sickly color that had darkened our kitchen for the last five years.
 To put in new flooring, the subfloor must be level. The cost of concrete leveler was prohibitive, so I chose to install strips of wood to bring the new section up to level.
 One of the persistent challenges of this project was all the nooks and crannies that had to be taken care of. The coat closet needed carpet to come up and leveling strips placed. I discovered in this phase that the carpet in the closet was contiguous with the carpet in the room behind it. Apparently our hobbyist homebuilder completed the kitchen and adjacent room before deciding he needed to install a closet. Typical.
 Before I forget: Thanks to Russ for the use of his hammer drill, which made this method of leveling possible.
 Speaking of nooks and crannies, the botched repair of a termite-demolished floor left a soft spot that needed shoring up and leveling:

The first step in putting down flooring is removing as much furniture as possible. Here's our living room with a kitchen dumped into it:

Laminate flooring is a genius invention. Tongue and groove planks press together and lock in place. Most of the planks' thickness is fiberboard--a bunch of wood dust pressed into a solid board. A thin veneer of aluminum-impregnated stuff is glued to the top surface. The top surface is waterproof, as is the whole surface of the floor as long as the planks are snapped together tightly.
Flooring bought, concrete leveled, sea-green tile definitively out of style, and we're ready to give the kitchen a face lift.
Since our first floor was built right on the slab, we needed a 6-mil moisture barrier under the new flooring. Here's the soon-to-be mud room with the first few courses of new floor over the blue moisture barrier.
Sara and Gwendolyn supervised the project. Gwendolyn learned the definitions of "long," "medium," and "short" as she carried planks to Jay and me. Just out the window you can see the back of Jay's car. Without Jay, I would have botched the job--even more than I did.
The smell of blue polyvinyl and duct tape meant that the new floor was coming. It didn't come quite as quickly as our in-house expert thought, however. We thought six hours would see the job done. But here we are, ready to start the main section, and it's already dark outside.
Even before we started the main section of the kitchen, we could get a feel for how the whole thing would look. Here's a glance at the new-and-improved mud room floor:
 Here's an example of what I would have done wrong. Jay directed me to finish the floor between the pantry and the living room, in order to keep the remaining courses straight.

With that section done, we could run flooring from the window to the refrigerator, moving course by course toward the sink. Doesn't it look beautiful, even only halfway done?

Which brings us back to this point:

In order to install flooring under the dishwasher, we pulled out the appliance--oh, but let's do one more load of dishes before we lose the convenience, right? When we did that last load of dishes, the machine leaked onto the floor. I sopped up water from that sea-green tile and saw that it had seeped under the moisture barrier. (That's all right--that's why the barrier is there . . . heh, heh.) What I hadn't seen was how the water had slipped between the moisture barrier and the last three courses of flooring.

Ignorant of the future, we finished the rest of the kitchen area. How sweet does this look?

We moved the furniture back in, set up the kitchen appliances (except the dishwasher), and started our daily routine. Forty-eight hours later, the corners of twelve planks began to lift up, making ridges and bumps smack in the center of the kitchen. I went through all the stages of grief ("Aaaaargh!" "No, it's just an optical illusion." "Maybe if I just press down hard enough on this corner . . ." *sigh* "I'm going to have to replace this floor.")

Two weeks later, when I had finally accepted that the fiberboard of ten square feet of planks had irreversibly absorbed that errant water, I stayed up past midnight replacing the floor. In order to replace ten square feet, I had to tear up forty or fifty, since the floor must be picked up and laid down one course at a time. While Sara slept upstairs, I dealt with this:
 To my dismay, I learned that the waterproofing glue worked really well. It took a hammer to get some planks to separate. Ironically, this glue is meant to keep water out--from the top surface, not the bottom. But now that I was putting the floor in for the second time, I felt like an expert. This time I made sure that the floor was bone-dry under every plank. And the kitchen was finally, really, floored.

Before moving into the next room, I began the trim around the kitchen. With the shoe in place, it actually looks like a pro did the job.
 Then there was the Junk Room. Well, that name is not entirely apropos. It has been Sara's Candle Room for a couple of years. We haven't been able to decide quite what to do with it over the long run, so it got the nickname The Wonky Room. Right before we floored it, Sara painted it green. This was the last change before its rebirth into bamboo glory, so we now call it The Green Room.

 Last Friday, I cut and locked in this thin little plank, the Last Plank:
Now, with only six hours and about one hundred dollars invested in correcting a basic mistake, we've got a fully functional kitchen and Green Room. All that's left is some trim and re-hanging a couple of doors.
 Many thanks to Jay for helping us make the dream kitchen floor come true. We're looking forward to the day when we can replace the carpet in our living room with another style of laminate flooring. And we're planning on getting a dishwasher tray, which will show it as soon as the appliance begins to leak.

~ emrys

Monday, March 12, 2012

What's Gonna Happen Next?

I now have three years' experience in reading children's books to my daughter. Some of them my daughter chooses night after night for their cadence and cuteness (such as Gossie by Olivier Dunrea). Some of them I think my daughter chooses because she senses that I think they're important to read (such as A Children's Bible).

A select few I choose whenever I get the chance.

Through the blessing of a multi-county interlibrary loan system, we had Adam Rex's Tree Ring Circus for about six weeks. Rex's brilliant focal point (a single tree) in which a fantastical menagerie comes to roost (including two tigers, three chipmunks, and a runaway clown named Pogo) provides the content for an expert piece of poetry. Tree Ring Circus sets the poem against a backdrop of illustrations that remind me of Tim Burton's works. Its off-kilter realism delivers to the eyes what a Moroccan tajine does to the palate: succulent satisfaction with layers of exotic spice.

The best part: the poetry and the illustrations together bring the story to a climax (when the elephant climbs the tree) which causes my daughter to ask in a gleeful voice, every time, "What's gonna happen next?"

Would you like to find out?

Adam Rex, Tree Ring Circus. You'll want to be three again.

~ emrys

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Understanding the Basics

Today we were blessed with a gorgeous spring day with temperatures in the upper 50s and low 60s, the sun was shining and all thoughts of winter were a mere memory as we looked excitedly towards spring.  I was doubly blessed that the Favorite Sitter wanted to come play and took on the task of running Gwen around in the back yard.  They played hard for over two hours and Gwen was pretty worn out by the time they came in and we were getting ready to take the Favorite Sitter home.  Gwen was near tears a the thought of Favorite Sitter having to leave.  I pulled Gwen into my lap for a moment before we left.

"Gwen", I said, "are you tired?"
"No."  Ok, I really didn't expect for my active three-year-old to admit she was tired.
"Are you lying to us?" Favorite Sitter asked.
"No." Gwen replied.
"Are you sure?" Favorite Sitter continued
"No." So we're in the answer "no" to everything point, ok.
"Gwendolyn," I asked gently, "do you know what lying is?"
"Bad." she matter-of-factly answered.