Friday, March 21, 2008

Waxing on (get it?) about floor finishes

It’s very possible that, unless you are a total old house geek like me, this post will leave you scratching your head in wonderment at my complete and utter geekiness. I have become some sort of finish-testing junkie. After I yanked the carpet in my dining room, I noticed two things: 1) the floor underneath was gorgeous, and 2) the floor underneath was dry and a little dull and in need of some big-time TLC.

On hand and knee I scrubbed the entire floor with a vinegar/water solution to get rid of the carpet pad residue. Uh-oh, now they looked really dry and in need of some lovin’. First, I took a homemade paste that I use to “feed” furniture that’s getting a little dry. It’s a mineral oil/beeswax/lemon oil mix and it normally does a nice job. It did…OK….on the floor but I wasn’t wowed by it. So I tried old-fashioned paste wax—several coats. Again, just OK. That’s when I started to realize that I needed something that would really penetrate and nourish that wood all the way down. I got to thinking about my butcher block cutting board and how spiffy it looks after a fresh spa treatment of plain mineral oil and an after treatment of the beeswax/mineral oil paste. So I grabbed my bottle of mineral oil and rubbed it in, then left it sit for 24 hours and wiped the rest off—not that there was much to wipe. Those floors were thirsty! After their mineral oil treatment I gave my test spot several coats of hand-buffed paste wax. Paste waxing is not difficult work and the rewards it brings aren’t usually obvious until the finish is completely dry (sometimes a few days later). But oh, how fulfilling it is when you see a lovely waxed-shined-buffed surface gleaming back at you.

My floor finish testing methodology reminds me of those old Pepsi commercials where they had the blind test set up. I have 6 test patches, each having different finishes and/or levels of finish (all wax-based and totally removable/reversible) and they each have a little accompanying placard. The back of the card notes what finish was used.

Right now the clear winner is the mineral oil followed by paste wax (4 coats). Doing that treatment for the entire floor is going to be a lot of work, and I’m sure my shoulders will be complaining puh-lenty, but when I have these spectacular-looking floors it’ll all be worth it.

I wish I could get pictures that show the differences, but they are very difficult to see unless you’re looking at them in person. I’ll post pictures of the finished product to compare with the “just pulled up the carpet” pictures.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lincrusta! Oh Lincrusta!

The brown stuff that looks like paint two posts down is glue. I'm fairly certain of it now. I took a good close look at it with my lighted magnifier (SUCH an awesome tool) and it's definitely not paint; some scrapings of it show that it has fibers inside it, not just on top from later layers of wallpaper.

As I mentioned in a previous post, an interior designer friend who has done dozens of period interiors is pretty sure there used to be lincrusta there based on what she's seen. I've shown her pictures, wide angle and closeup, as well as my little flakings from scraping a bit of the brown off the wall.

I wish I had a million dollars--then I'd go ahead and put it back. But I don't have a million dollars, so it's getting painted. Maybe someday. :-)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mystery solved?

In an attempts to solve my brown paint mystery, I sent my wallpaper stripping pictures to a friend who specializes in historic interiors. Her theory is that I may have had a very heavily textured or flocked wallpaper on the top half of the wall at somepoint, and lincrusta at the bottom. An online friend had voiced this suspicion based on her own home restoration efforts, and it looks like she was correct!

Having heavily textured anything would have necessitated taking everything off before anyone put up "new" paper. The brown bottom could be paint mixed with an adhesive of some sort.

Even though it's not original, I'm still going to keep the little square of early paper. I will frame it as it sits on the wall. :)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday night stripping - and a mystery

I started stripping wallpaper today. I've been threatening to do it forever, and finally I just broke out the fabric softener and scraper and went to town. I got 6 feet or so stripped in a little over 2.5 hours--not so bad. Thankfully it's coming off fairly easily. Woohoo for flour paste!

Here's what I started with (Holes in wall are from electrical crew fishing new wiring--back in 2005. Yes, I've been living with holes in my walls for far too long, but that's another story.)

I took the top layer off and found just one layer underneath (oh thank GAWD).

Underneath this was bare plaster in lovely condition (oh thank GAWD again!). Now I started getting a little confused. The house is circa 1875-1880, but the original layer of wallpaper sure doesn't look like a Victorian pattern to me. I decided to save a little square of it to frame on the wall just for fun. I kept up with my scraping and the plot thickened. The bottom half of the wall was painted brown underneath the bottom layer of wallpaper. WTH?

I did a little investigating in the electrical access hole, thinking maybe they had skim-coated the wall at some point after the initial paint or something, but I found no evidence of it, and there's no difference in grade between the paint and bare plaster. I say again, WTH?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Afterglow--sweet, sweet afterglow

I decided to rip up my dining room carpet today. Anyone with an old house knows that, when you're about to embark on a project such as this, you have to hope for the best but mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the worst.
The upstairs hallway had proven to be a pleasant surprise--the floors were in great condition under the carpet--and I sure hoped the dining room would be the same. As Dirty Harry would say, I felt lucky. ;)
Here's what I started with...

And HERE'S what I found underneath. Happy, happy, happy.