The Blog



now slightly past the half-way point of refinishing the floors. Monday my dad and I spent the day pulling up all the old carpet, pads, tack boards and more staples than I care to think about. Which was the easy job. I saddled my dad with the task of pulling up all the tack boards. You know, the little boards with a million little nails in them that are nailed down using bigger nails so the little nails can keep the carpet in place. The ones that splinter into a million slivers every time you try to yank it up. Thanks, dad. You deal with the sharp stuff and tetanus. Hand me the pliers. I’ll gladly go staple hunting.

I took Tuesday off from the floor to handle painting a couple ceilings. So, of course, this happened.

The master bedroom was a patchwork of various shades of white painted during various decades, so I wanted to slap on a couple of coats of paint to cover it up. And a spare bedroom had a crack in the ceiling, so I thought it was a good time to fix and paint it. Oh, and the original color was less-than-great. And, as is apparent by my self portrait, I don’t really know what I’m doing. So when what I was expecting would be a morning-long project still wasn’t finished as night fell, I called in the professional: Ben S. Just look at that technique:

Within about 30 minutes, he put on a second coat in the master bedroom (whose first coat took me a couple hours, easily).

Wednesday marked the start of the hardwood refinishing project in earnest. Some 1200 square feet of floors needed to be sanded. Again, I called in the pro: my dad. For about 13 hours, with few breaks, he stood behind this giant, vibrating machine and ground away a century of paint, stain and varnish. For half a day, he drove this beast:

Me, I used this:

And let me tell you: it ruined me. I bet I only used it for about eight hours to clean up all the edges. But it still ruined me. My knees and hips and lower back were as sore as they’ve been in years. My dad? He woke me the Thursday morning before 8:00 with a text telling me he’d returned the rented sander and was on his way to out to my parents cabin so he can continue rebuilding it. This is what my dad does.

To give you an idea of the improvement all his hard work (and what little I did) made, here’s a before-and-after look:

I took much of Thursday off to take care of some computer work. But with Ben’s encouragement, I decided to make one big push in the evening to try to finish painting the pink ceiling and paint the poorly finished ceiling in the living room. AND put down a coat of stain on all the freshly-sanded. With his and Dan J.’s help, I was able to accomplish just that. Which I’m ecstatic about.

As the stain takes 24 hours to dry, the three of us are using our downtime to build a fence in Dan’s back yard this morning. After that, I’ll snap some after-staining pictures to post with sarcastic captions later.


y very accommodating handyman father has been tricked agreed to help me for the next couple weeks as I take time off work to fix up my house. The priorities, before I move furniture into the place, are to pull up the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors, and to get the fireplace/chimney operational again. So today we started what is sure to be the very long project (which I will laboriously document here — when I feel like it) of rehabbing my house by climbing up on the flat roof to peer down the chimney and see what my home inspector meant in his report when he said it was capped and filled with sand.

Luckily, my fear of a 12″x24″ 24-foot column of sand was unfounded. Instead, apparently, the previous owners (who lived there for 43 years) had stopped using the fireplace, so a bunch of leaves and debris had fallen into the chimney. Add that to years of prior use of gas and coal (which, according to my pops, eats away at mortar), and there was some 150 pounds of sand and fine mortar and broken bricks and leaves piled up behind the flue.

After a few hours of digging and prying (and a year or two taken off our lives on account of lime inhalation), we were able to get it all cleared out. Next step: drop a liner down the chimney and start on the floors.


closed on my first house yesterday. It’s an 1890(ish), Victorian(ish) row(ish) house looking out over the north end of Hanscom Park. The east wall of the house has only one window, on the second story. Given the structure’s general aesthetic and flat roof, I suspect 120 or so years ago, the builders expected to add at least one more home to the side of the building.

I’ll post more pictures in the coming weeks and months as I fix the place up (pull up carpet, refinish floors and rip off the big refrigerator box that currently passes as an enclosed front porch). Until then, I’m knee-deep in packing up the old place.


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