The slow grind

I love going go to bed on a Friday night, knowing we have something exciting and transformative to do on the weekend. Last Friday was one of those nights. (That doesn’t mean we didn’t loll around the house drinking lattes and munching biscotti for a good hour on Saturday before we busted a move … but we were motivated!!) This was the day that Eric was going to sand the spare room floor!! Off to Home Depot to rent a sander …

The guy in the tool rental department recommended a buff sander (a flat pad) rather than the monster drum sander I’d used on the living and dining room ten years ago. “A drum sander’s too aggressive for fir floors,” he proclaimed. Never mind that I’d used one quite successfully all on my own … what do I know? So we came home with the buff sander. The first thing we noticed was that it was a lot lighter than a drum sander. Eric went to work, and the first pass results were promising. Much of the dark varnish came right off. Hey—piece of cake!

the floor after first saning pass

Or, that’s what we thought … until Eric vacuumed the floor and we saw that the “bare wood” was mostly just sanding dust! The perimeter of the room lightened up fairly fast, but the middle has a distinct shadow of a long-ago rug. Whatever type of finish is soaked into this old floor, it doesn’t want to give up anytime soon.

boxer lying on dark shadow

mark of rug on floor boards

Checkers and Duke volunteered as smoothness testers.

Cat and boxer lying on the floor

Along the edges of the room are lots of dark blemishes. If they don’t sand out, that’s okay. The floor is 101 years old, and it’s entitled to its character marks! I can relate. (No, I am not 101.)

dark spots along edge of floor

In addition to the stubborn shadow rug, sanding revealed just how uneven the floor is. I had thought it was in good shape−it didn’t feel bad, but sanding hit the high spots and showed that many of the boards are badly cupped. What had happened in here?

boxer lying on cupped floorboards

It took me an entire day to remember that before I had the ceiling Sheetrocked … before the rainstorm that caused a water feature to pour onto the bed … before I had the new roof put on in 2005 … before any of this, there was a cottage cheese ceiling with an old water stain. The attic dormer above this room had evidently caused problems before I bought the house. (As long as I’ve owned the house, it never leaked before my own roofing disaster—a topic for another day). There must have been a flood in here at some point.

Eric sanded and sanded and sanded … but nothing would take the floor down smooth enough to get the dark stain out of the low spots. Next weekend we’ll go back for that drum sander. Sigh …

Want to see something other than pix of floorboards? While Eric was kickin’ up dust, I was doing some filling and sanding in the kitchen, prepping for tiling the backsplashes (more on that soon). My mind was turning over possible finishes for the spare room. Toward my lighter and brighter goal, I envisioned pale, honey-colored walls and a neutral, traditionally patterned area rug.

In fact, a rug we’d seen at Lowe’s had caught our eye … well, my eye, anyway, and Eric seemed agreeable. I wanted a second look, so that evening Eric took me on a date to Lowe’s. Is he a lucky guy or what? His wife wants to go to the home improvement store for a date!

Here is rug candidate No. 1. (Sounds like the announcer at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.) This phone photo washes out the color … the rug isn’t gray, but cream, tan, gold and greenish. An 8 x 10 = $300.

light neutral oriental rug

Then I spied a completely different and more colorful rug. “This isn’t what I’m looking for, but it sure is pretty,” I said. Eric took a look. “That’s the kind of rug I’ve always wanted in my office!” And so it shall be! For $500. Again, the phone picture is washed out, but the web photo is too dark. The real thing is somewhere in between. Here is rug candidate No. 2:

orange and blue oriental rug

orange and blue oriental rug

We walked over to the paint department, where my eyes kept landing on one shade: Woodrow Wilson Maize. But when I brought the swatches home, I favored Belle Grove Light Amber. Eric vetoed amber as too dark (which he says about every paint shade I pick). These screen captures aren’t super accurate …but, what do you think?

Light amber vs Maize


The corny shade will brighten the room in the daylight and create a nice warm glow at night. I think it will be perfect with our future rug and the room’s fir trim. It is, after all, Eric’s room.

I have a surprise detail planned for the walls, but I won’t reveal it quite yet.


8 thoughts on “The slow grind

  1. Angela M. de Grillet

    You know if you want the Belle Grove Light Amber kind of color, then I would buy the Woodrow Wilson Maze to achieve it. Why? Once a whole room – all four walls – are painted in one color, the overall impression will look a good shade darker than the small sample. At least thats what I found out painting our rooms…. 🙂

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      You are right, Angela. The reason I’m attracted to the amber is because I used a similar color years ago in my parents’ house, and found I really liked it … but this is a darker room with the fir trim. Maize it is!

  2. Karen B.

    I had hardwood refinishing flash backs for a minute there…keep your eye on the prize, right? Our floors were cupped in many places before our recent refinishing. The not so great installer of the dining room and reading room floors assured us the cupping was due to the concrete foundation he couldn’t explain why the kitchen and entry didn’t/hadn’t cupped (they were installed by Cooper Floors). I love the rug Eric choose, it resembles some of the great antique rugs Ralph Lauren uses in lots of his rooms. My vote would have been for the darker paint color, but maybe the light color is better for lighting up the room day or night.
    The supervising doggie and cat cracked me up. Our dogs do the same thing.
    I’ve always pointed out to Mr. B. that he is lucky I would rather have French doors over diamonds!

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      I am getting more excited as we discover what we want to do. I want to attack the walls but I have to finish the kitchen first!! Focus, focus!! 🙂

  3. Jessica@CapeofDreams

    Even with its old-age blemishes, the floor is going to be beautiful. I really like the second rug. I hope you paid Duke and Checkers well for all their help. It seems that they really wore themselves out in your service, 😉

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      We are going through all this work and then we’ll cover the floor with another rug! We visited Rug No. 2 for the third time today, and decided we just can’t leave it behind. It will be the one!


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