A hard day’s night
After all that seemingly endless sanding (during which Eric listened to six Beatles albums on his iPod), the weekend finally arrived when we would stain and polyurethane the spare room floor. We auditioned two shades of Minwax stain: One matched the room’s fir woodwork, but we didn’t want the floor to be that dark because one of our main objectives is to lighten up the room. The other shade, Gunstock, had a reddish tone that was similar to the living room floor, so Gunstock it was. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to take a picture when we tested the colors in the closet. We were focused and excited about getting color on the floor.
Eric began in the closet, and I on the other side of the room, painting the stain on with foam brushes. We worked in areas about three feet square, wiping the stain off with rags almost as soon as we applied it because the porous, naked fir soaked up color immediately. After I’d stained my first couple of squares, I lamented to Eric, “I don’t think I like this color.” It seemed awfully red … but we were committed, and there would be no more sanding in this room! We would only go forward!
We moved so fast, it took hardly any time at all to cover the entire floor. Then we let it dry overnight. I kept peeking into the room, fretting about the red color. That night, I tossed and turned, unable to sleep as I lay there hating the floor, which glowed orange-red in my imagination. The next morning, I got up and immediately opened the spare room’s door to face down the redness.
Well. It wasn’t that red. In fact, it was kind of … pretty. Our friend Cathy came by to go to breakfast with us and she said it was beautiful. By afternoon I was actually liking the color. Was this real, or was I just convincing myself to accept what I knew I could not change?
I didn’t have time to ponder it too deeply because I was excited to apply our first coat of polyurethane. I carefully mopped it on with a Shureline pad on a pole. I had my back to the windows, so lack of reflection on the wood made it difficult to see what I had coated. The can said it would dry in three to four hours (“super fast-drying!”), but we had picked the wettest Seattle day we could find. Six hours later, it wasn’t even thinking about drying. We went to bed assuming that it would be dry by morning, but, because more than 12 hours elapsed between coats (“no sanding between coats!”), we’d have to … yes, dammit, sand it before applying more (“complete project in one day!”).
But timing wasn’t the only reason it needed sanding. Once the poly was finally dry, I was horrified at what a lousy job I did applying it. The coat was uneven, with blank spots here and visible drips there. You can see the crappy coverage in this photo. It looked worse in person. I was NOT HAPPY.
Because it was a work day and golf league night, Eric worked late into the evening sanding the entire floor with a mouse sander. We went to bed that night thinking not about the stain color, but about the next day’s task of cleaning away all that sanding dust.
I was hell-bent on tackling the dust situation as soon as I got home from work the following day. So hell-bent that I forgot to take a photo of the dustbowl. I attacked the floor with a vacuum and then a wet sponge mop. When it dried, all I saw was dried puddles of murky residue. This dust was thick and stubborn. When the second mopping made little difference, I adjourned to the living room to pout while Eric tried his hand at cleaning. After four moppings, the floor was finally clean and ready to be recoated. I had developed polyurethanephobia, so I let Eric do the application this time. I can paint the heck out of a wall, but a floor? Evidently not so much. Eric’s poly coat was far more uniform, and only slightly imperfect. Although we’d blocked off the heat vent, when the furnace turned on, a little flurry of pet hair poufed under the door and is now embedded for posterity in polyurethane. Kind of like our pets’ footprints in wet cement.
The next day Eric applied the final coat. Wouldn’t you know it, he ran out of poly as he was working his way to the door! What else could go wrong with this job?? I’ll tell you what. We made the trip to Home Depot for another $43 gallon. At last Eric finished the final coat. Except … when it dried, this is what we saw:
We couldn’t believe our eyes! We had two identically labeled cans of Minwax oil-based semi-gloss polyurethane … only, one was satin finish and the other was semi-gloss!
We got our money back for the mismarked gallon, but our only solution was to recoat the entire floor to get a uniform finish. I was enormously relieved the next day when I opened the door and saw a dry and semi-shiny, beautiful reddish-brown floor. It might not have been love at first sight, but it definitely grew on me. I can honestly say I LOVE our floor now! (Because it’s done?)
What did I learn from this process? Two things, mainly: 1. It’s hard to fall asleep when you’re busy hating, and 2. I will never, ever DIY another floor!!