Friday, July 29, 2016

My Old House Renovation -- Refinishing Floors

Here we go again!!

Floor Scrapers 

As I embark upon another home renovation, focussing first on the floors, I am reminded of this back-breaking image (above) from one of my favorite but lesser known impressionists -- Gustave Caillebotte.  We've come a long way from this, with modern floor sanding machines and all; but, as I discovered just this week in my home renovation, sanding the stairs is still done the same as it was 100 years ago -- mostly by hand!

Years back, I renovated this Brooklyn townhouse...

...and then we moved to this Brooklyn limestone...

...which I renovated, and sold...
and then last week we moved to this Brooklyn Heights house...

...which I clearly haven't renovated yet!!!

We went from this garden...

 ...which I designed (inspired by a trip to Tuscany)...
to this garden...

...yet to be designed!!

Oh dear!  What have I done??

In all seriousness, I love renovations. I love the process of bringing a home back to life, of resurrecting it, of breathing new life into it.  In New York City, and in Brooklyn in particular, opportunities to do this are everywhere. There is incredible and historic housing stock here.  Most of the houses in brownstone Brooklyn still have century old details. Most, that is, except mine!  Sadly, a former owner must have stripped the priceless detail out of the house, to save on construction cost. So, I have a formidable challenge for my new/old house renovation -- putting the detail back into the rooms.  It's a big project, but I am up for it.  After all, I have made a job out of it.

Kitchen I renovated over 10 years ago in Brooklyn

When working with architects and contractors, the most important responsibility for the homeowner, from a financial and a practical standpoint, is to be clear and concise. Knowing what you want saves time and saves money.  Making changes after work commences causes more work for the crew, which costs more money for the homeowner. My contractor tells me almost every day that he appreciates that I know what I want, that I make firm decisions, and that I am clear.  Everyone's life is easier.

As I start this old house renovation, my first priority is to refinish the floors.  On the parlor level,  where the living room, dining room and kitchen areas are located, I am re-doing all the floors. I have chosen a herringbone pattern (below). And while I will keep the wood width to the standard 2 1/4" (to keep costs down), I chose a slightly longer plank, to give a bit more length to the rooms.

In the entrance way, I am using a whimsical marble (Arabesque Mosaic, from Waterworks). It's a small space (40"x40"), but it is sure to have a substantial impact.  It will also give a knowing wink to the past with it's classical pattern. I cannot wait to see how this looks, once installed.

For the upper floors of the townhouse, I not replacing the floors, but rather refinishing them.  The plank is more narrow than I would have chosen, but it is durable -- red oak.  Originally, it was done in a natural finish, but the heavy polyurethane finish has yellowed and looks a bit drab, if not down right dated.  I have instructed my floor experts to refinish the floors in a solid brown, without any hints of yellow or orange.  I chose Special Walnut stain (224 by Minwax) and we are using a flat, water-based sealant to prevent discoloration and yellowing.

A portion of my red oak floors just after they were sanded.  I rather like the natural color. 
Above is a portion of the the floor that was just stripped.  The area along the edges is not yet sanded and still looks very orange.  The natural, post-sanded color is gorgeous. I am keeping my daughter's room in this natural color because it is light and airy and clean.  But, it reads a bit modern for the whole house, so I am going with a brown stain (Special Walnut) everywhere else.

The stairs in this photo have not been sanded or stained, but the floor in the foreground has refinished.  All the orange tones are gone, thankfully! 
Refinished floor in Special Walnut and coated with a flat sealant. 
So all of the floor decisions have been made.  And most of the sanding, staining and sealing work on the upper 2 floors is complete.  I am pleased with the results and I am moving to the next phase of the project -- the stairs! Stay tuned...

Despite all this renovating, I am still trying
 to get out and enjoy summer in the city!