Saturday, January 31, 2009

Photo update

Here are some photos that really belong in previous posts.

I took a couple of close-ups of some of the more interesting areas of the floor. They don't show the shine but you can see why we like the floor - lots of variation. Click on them to see even bigger.
What do you think? Leave a comment below, let me know.

It's almost impossible to take a picture that show how shiny the floor is - I think I'd need professional lighting - but this in this one you can see that it's polished enough to reflect the French doors and 'eyebrow' window. It'll look even better once the weather warms up enough that I can apply the densifier - had to put off that task when I read the label that said it must be over 4 celcius to apply. the label also says that with the densifier the concrete gets even shinier with age and wear. Very cool.

Here's the hero of my blog, with his favorite solution to the "cold hands, but need my fingertips" problem: buy a bag of those cheap "magic" stretch gloves and cut the tips off some of the fingers.

By request: the 'other' side of the fireplace.

This is what it looks like from the bedroom side. And, despite the TV cable and electrical outlet that mysteriously showed up there one night, we ARE NOT going to have a TV there! TV's DO NOT BELONG in bedrooms, no matter how perfect the spot is for one. As far as I'm concerned it's an even more perfect spot for one or two of my ceramic sculptures.

So there. (putting my foot down REALLY hard)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Murphy's Law in action

Still no drywall.

I think it's just the way things go when you try to build a house as a weekend project but sometimes it feels like everything is conspiring against us.

Lately it's been building inspectors.
When an inspector gave Kim his list of deficiencies after our first (failed) framing inspection he told us they'd check that list of things at the insulation inspection. But last week when Kim called for insulation inspection, the inspector who showed up said he was there to re-inspect the framing only, no insulation. It was a different inspector so, not only did he very thoroughly check everything on the list (even making Kim rip out drywall in the mechanical room) but he failed us again and gave Kim ANOTHER list of things to do before we could pass the 3rd framing inspection, before we could call for insulation inspection.

We failed the first gas fireplace inspection so Kim had to take apart & rebuild the top of the enclosure.

He curses the fact that he builds things so well every time he has to take them apart -it's enough to drive one to drink.

Instead of merely adjusting the clearance around the vent to satisfy the inspector he decided to re-design it while he was at it so we now have some cool little cedar shelves and the niche angles to follow the line of the ceiling.

Most inspectors are very helpful. The fireplace inspector pointed out that we still needed a 'tub & shower' inspection and that we would have to waterproof the ledge & bench in our shower first. He told Kim exactly what was needed, where to get it and how to put it on.

That was fun, getting that waterproof liner over those corners. With the heater blasting to try to maintain the minimum temperature, and the windows wide open so we wouldn't pass out from the contact cement fumes.
We passed that one the first time & the inspector even wrote "nice job" on the inspection sheet.

(I'm sure that was for this tricky corner that, after a few tense & sticky
minutes, I surprised us both by managing very neatly).

Tally of inspections passed this past week: fireplace (2nd); tub & shower; gas (2nd); framing (3rd time); and insulation. Phew!

We would have been ready for the drywallers to start by Tuesday BUT.... that's when the city started chewing up the sidewalk in front of the house to put in the new driveway and curbs. No big trucks allowed to drive over it until next Thursday so that means our drywall is delayed by yet another week. They need a big truck with crane to load the drywall through the window into the second floor because WorkSafe won't allow drywallers to carry it up the stairs.

On a less whiny note, our floor is (almost) done. What I said about not wanting it too shiny - forget that, I got over-ruled. Kim kept cracking his whip and I kept grinding....
and grinding, and grinding......

all the way up to 3000 grit.
Now our floor is shiiiii-neeee. No wax or polish needed.
All that's left is to apply the densifier and then cover it up again to protect it from the drywallers.

The thing to keep in mind about concrete floors is that it isn't ever going to be a consistent, even colour. You have to look at it like natural stone: all the flaws & imperfections are considered characteristic and are to be respected for their inherent beauty.

Our floor has LOTS of character.

Blotches and splotches, lines and hairline cracks, some aggregate poking through. There are even a couple of workboot tread marks that didn't reveal themselves until I'd ground down the surface.

One of the concrete floor specialists said to us "you must honour the cracks".

I hope that also applies to the tooling marks that I couldn't get rid of.

(click on any pics to see close up)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What a grind

I think I know why one of the quotes we got for polishing our concrete floor was $17.50 a square foot - Boredom Pay.

The machine is a dream to work with, but it's a tad tedious going back&forth, back&forth, verrrrry slooooowwwwly - all day long.

It's so light & easy to manoeuvre that when I first started I was zooming across the floor thinking "this is easy, I'll be finished in no time" - until I looked at the ground I'd covered & realized that I wasn't doing anything - no difference at all. M u s t g o s l o o o o w.

It's slow going but not difficult, you just have to make sure that the machine NEVER stops moving for more than a second. I know this because we now have some interesting marks resembling crop circles engraved in the floor.
Then there's the power cord, the vacuum hose, the extension cord and the large canister dust-collector, all trying hard to trip me and stop the werkmaster in it's tracks. At least I'm getting a little exercise & stretching by kicking and pushing them out of the way while keeping the machine always moving.

The process is very much like sanding polymer clay.
You start with coarse grits (metal diamond-tipped grinding pads) to remove any nasty bumps and then progress through finer & finer grits (diamond pads) until you achieve the level of smoothness & shininess you want. The diamond pads go from 30 grit all the way to 3000, which gives you a high-gloss glassy finish (that's what the $17.50 quote was for). I don't think we'll be going all the way up to 3000, I don't really want a high-gloss floor (it's slippery) & it took me two full days to do the grinding step and first polishing step. With each grit you have to go over the floor in 4 directions: lengthwise, widthwise, diagonally & then diagonally in the other direction so I did a lot of walking.

I was able to start with the finest of the grinding pads because our floor was already very smooth and in fact, we could have skipped the ginding and started with the polishing pads if it hadn't been for those ........ oh dear, I haven't told the story of how I RUINED OUR FLOOR. So embarassing.

Confession time.
In my zeal to protect the floor and have the best surface for staining or polishing (we hadn't decided which) I covered it a few days after the pouring with some 'floor-protecting paper' that has adhesive strips along each edge to keep it in place. The label promised that it was easy-release adhesive and would leave no residue. Sort-of true. No sticky residue left once we finally got it to release, but that label didn't warn us about the properties of freshly-poured concrete: the parts smothered with the sticky stuff cured at a different rate so when we unwrapped our floor to get ready for the finishing we had dark lines, runways, racing stripes, alien landing strips, whatever you want to call them.

I was devastated.

It did make our finishing decision easy though. We had been waffling between staining the floor a warm colour or polishing the original gray. Acid staining would have emphasized the stripes; and grinding, while not completely removing them, is at least softening the effect. And after I getting over my initial guilt, I don't mind them so much. At least they're straight, evenly spaced and running in the right direction. In our TV nook they create a pattern sort of like an area rug.

There, that's my big(-gest) blunder. I wrecked our floors.
For penance I will spend at least 5 full days pushing a Werkmaster machine back&forth, back&forth, back&forth, verrrrry slowly while trying not to get too tangled up in cords & hoses.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My weekend's booked

Just found out the 'Werkmaster' has been fixed and is on its way to our house.
I'm really looking forward to grinding and polishing our concrete floors even though it'll probably take me the whole weekend.

If you see any elves hanging around with nothing to do this weekend, please send them to my home to do the laundry, cooking and cleaning for my family while I'm occupied elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Marshmallow walls

Shhhhhhhh.... it's so quiet in here now.

The first thing we noticed after the first day of insulation was a huge difference in the way the house sounds. Everything sounds muffled, like when walking at night right after a heavy snowfall. That's something we're familiar with now, although this week its more of a 'splashy' sound, wading through slush and puddles.

The rooms seem more defined, even though it's only the ceilings and exterior walls that are filled in.

It's nice to finally SEE what looks like real progress, after a 3-week delay because nobody wanted to work in the cold or drive in the snow.
Next is the floor, which I'm grinding & polishing this weekend. Turns out it wasn't operator stupidity making the machine refuse to turn on, but a broken switch that they weren't able to fix until Jan 5th. (after the end of my holidays that I took just to do the floor) Then, fingers crossed, the drywallers start Monday.

For now we have nice padded rooms, which I'm afraid Kim might feel comfortable in after all the agony he's gone through with my fireplace.

Every step of the way has had a hitch, right from the ordering (dealing with picky, picky manufacturer), delivery (it got lost for a while), venting, installation (unclear manual) and framing. He had to take apart & rebuild each component at least once.

I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to say the word 'Fireplace' without seeing a maniacal, murderous gleam in his eye.