"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Thursday, July 24, 2014

trading carpet, part 1

I wrote here about our cat problems and how I had plans to rip up the carpet on the stair landing and replace it with hardwood. I'm sure you've all been waiting on the edges of your seats since then, eagerly anticipating the post where I would share that adventure. Well, you can relax because that post is finally here. However, a word of warning: this is a pretty long post; there was a lot to do! I'll actually split it into two posts, one for pre-floor installation activities and one for floor installation and finishing.

There are a couple of reasons why this project was so long in coming. One was that I decided it would be best to have my dad come help me, since he is really good at house stuff and has some experience laying hardwoods at his house. Another reason was that I was trying to train the cats to dislike the landing before installing the nice new floor in the hope that, once the new floor was in, they would not return to their previous behavior. 

Back in April, I ripped up the carpet and padding. That was the easy part. Then I had to pull off all the tack strips, which was less easy. For that I used a variety of tools, including a flat-head screwdriver and hammer claw. Then I pulled all the staples out of the subfloor, which was not difficult, but was time-consuming and tedious. For this I primarily used needle-nose pliers, with the occasional use of the flat-head screwdriver to help pry up staples that were too flat against the floor to get a good initial grip with the pliers. 

At this point, we learned the extent of the cat damage. Under blacklight, there was definite staining of the subfloor. Luckily, the damage was not so extreme as to have warped the subfloor. I treated the area with Anti-Icky-Poo, an enzymatic cleaner. Later on in the process, I would treat it with a different enzymatic cleaner, Nature's Miracle, and a home-made solution of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. In the end, there still seemed to be some visible staining under blacklight, but we just painted it with stain-blocking Kilz oil-based primer and hoped for the best. However, that's getting a little ahead of ourselves.

I also pried off part of the baseboard, which had also sustained some liquid damage. For this, I used a pry-bar. I read online the importance of putting a thin piece of scrap wood behind the pry-bar, so you don't accidentally bust through your drywall when you pry back. I had intended to replace this piece of baseboard, but instead we ended up slicing off the bottom inch or so and installing it back in on top of the hardwood (more on this later).

I then covered the landing, other than a small strip to walk through, with boxes. We buy a lot of things on the Internet, so we have a lot of boxes. This made it more difficult and less desirable for the cats to go on the landing. Oliver still seemed to find some areas for bad behavior, though, so next I added a Glade Sense & Spray. This is a motion-activated air freshener, so when the cats (or we) walked by, it would make a little motor-whirring sound and poof some Hawaiian breeze into the air. The sound definitely startled Dodger, making him very cautious of the landing and not want to linger there. I think the smell and the addition of more boxes helped deter Oliver. However, once the boxes were removed to prepare for installing the new floor, Oliver did pee on the subfloor again. That dampened our spirits, delayed our getting started a bit, and earned both cats a prolonged stay in their cat room until the new floors were completely installed, plus a day or two after.

My dad arrived on a Thursday night in June. We examined the subfloor under blacklight and painted it with my dad's home-brew solution: 0.5 cups of 3% hydrogen peroxide, a drop of liquid dish soap, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed together until dissolved. Whether this destroyed the odors or not, Oliver still peed there Friday, resulting in liberal use of Nature's Miracle by my dad. I had planned to prime the subfloor Friday night, but it had to wait until Saturday, as the subfloor was now quite damp. I put a fan blowing on it all night and still had to finish up with a hair dryer the next day.

While I was at work on Friday, Dad got started on the stairs. The first thing to do was cut off the nose on the existing treads. Since we were going to put the new floor and stair noses on top of the existing treads, the new noses wouldn't sit on there properly with the existing noses still in place. I watched a video online about using a circular saw, but I think my dad used a reciprocating saw. The cut didn't have to be pretty since we'd be covering it up with the new nose anyway. 

Dad also did some checking of the squareness of our stairs. If they weren't square, we'd have to do a bunch of crazy angled cuts to make everything fit in nice and flush. Luckily, our stairs were done well and haven't had much time to settle or warp or whatever, so they are square enough :-)

We also had several emails and texts back and forth about how to do the treads. I had initially planned to do them with the stair planks going horizontally across the tread. However, this would be the opposite direction of the planks on the floor below and the landing above. My dad thought it would be better to either use a solid tread or put the planks vertically on the tread to match the direction on the floor and landing. The reason I originally nixed the idea of a solid tread is that it can be harder to get it to match the hardwoods, since you generally have to just buy an unfinished tread and stain it to match. Rethinking that plan, I did find one that claimed to be the same finish as our floors. However, the solid tread comes with a nose as part of it, but we'd have a different nose for the landing, so we were worried that it might not match that well and would look weird. Given all these possibilities for not quite matching, we decided to stick with the idea of using the planks, but go with my dad's plan of putting the planks the same direction as the floor and landing.

Lastly, Dad cut the stair risers to size. When I got home from work, we installed them. The existing risers weren't at exactly 90 degrees from the treads or perfectly straight across, so we used shims to get the new risers as level as possible. We used my 18-gauge brad nailer to nail the new risers to the shims and original risers. 

The risers were pre-primed, so once they were installed, I painted them. I used leftover white gloss paint the builders had left us that matches all the trim in the house. I also touched up the trim where we had banged it up during riser installation.

Bright and early Saturday morning, Dad and I went to a local equipment rental store and rented a pneumatic flooring nailer. This is a different kind of nailer from the usual brad or finish nail gun, specially designed for nailing tongue and groove flooring. 

We didn't actually get started nailing right away, though. There was a lot of prep work. First, we took the door off the powder room. This gave us better access to the entire landing, including the threshold into the powder room.

I painted the landing with Kilz oil-based stain-blocking primer. I had read that oil-based would work better for sealing in the odors than water-based. I painted it on pretty thick since we didn't want anything coming through.

And that finishes up the pre-flooring-installation fun. Stay tuned... coming soon, floor, baseboard, and shoe moulding installation!