Hardwood, Hardwork

I bought a house.  It had white carpet (except for the stains), white walls, white ceilings – a blank canvas.

I set about to change that. I bit off more than I could chew. I thought about giving up.

I’m glad I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I loved the process.

It began with an exploratory phone call to my good friend Brandon Martinez. He and his wife bought a house the year before and therefore became the person in my contact list with the most expertise on the subject.

He made it sound easy. Rent a sander. Set a couple of days aside. Don’t expect it to be easy.

“Easy” is so damn relative.

I’m sure he didn’t mean for it to come off that way. It’s just how the words sounded in the dreamworld I was inhabiting at the time.

So I ripped up carpet with the help of some friends from work. I removed staples from carpet padding and tacking strips, again with the help of friends from work.

The demolition of the dining room revealed a layer of pressed laminate flooring beneath the carpet and 1/8″ particle board beneath that. Careful application of a pry-bar and rhythmic thrusts toward the sky, where the Gods of beginner home renovation sit and watch, proved to be most effective. I filled the bed of a borrowed pick-up truck and took what couldn’t be given away for free on the curb to the dump.

I rented a sander of the random orbiting variety and set to work inhaling century-old wood particles. A mask just fogged up my glasses when I exhaled. It turns out, century-old wood floors don’t really want to be sanded. If they did, they would stay even and flat. They wouldn’t cup or bow. They would let go of the gummy stain in their grain. Those DIY-ers on YouTube made it look the way Brandon made it sound. Easy. Chris Jones, a writer-at-large for Esquire magazine and occasional Twitter responder told me it would be “a pig of a job.”He was right.

With the advisement and help of yet another co-worker and friend we set to finish what the random orbital couldn’t, using palm sanders and belt sanders.

These boards had flaws. But we chose to think of them not as blemishes, but as character. The floors have integrity.

I opted not to stain the floors, despite the can of Bombay Mahogany I purchased. I’d like to say I changed my mind after I saw the natural beauty of the floors. No. I’m fundamentally lazy and I was fed up with this nonsense.

Three coats of clear gloss polyurethane on all 776 square-feet.

I like my floors. I like them more than other people, specifically my co-workers, like hearing about them.

It was a good experience. One I don’t plan to repeat any time soon and in the time that these floors have been “lived” on, I’ve learned a few things.

Wood floors don’t age gently. The scratches from the dog’s nails, the furniture feet dent into the once thought to be protective coating – they are wrinkles, laugh lines. Gaps between the floorboards like gaps in a toothy smile, of a time worn with memories of actions. This floor will be cared for, not coddled.

These floors are more than just floors, they’re part of the first step of every day.