Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Project.....

The Finished Product
 (I originally wrote this post in November, been waiting for time to add pics.)

Back in the mists of time my dear wife and I were thinking of things to do to the house. We’d just moved in and we went cheap on the carpet since we knew we’d replace it “soon”. Four years and a baby later was last July. The oldest was leaving the country for a month, and it was summer vacation. We decided the 4th of July weekend was the perfect time to put this plan into action.

I am apparently the one who came up with the idea. Though, since we came up with it so long ago I don’t really remember anymore, but it does sound like something I’d come up with. I said, “Let’s stain the concrete!”, “It looks pretty easy to do and the result is pretty damn cool!”

I was half right.

We got back from the airport and started cutting up and removing the carpet. We found a slight stumbling block. When the builder built the house they didn’t cover the concrete when they painted the walls, no real reason to since they were putting carpet down, so of course step one in staining concrete is a spotless surface. Many tears were shed. The entire floor was painted white, in some areas by the walls the paint appeared to be a quarter inch thick.

We bought “earth friendly” stripper and scrapers. An hour of work could clear a couple square feet…..

Despair set in, and then we realized, a week into this project now, that we wouldn’t get this done in a couple weekends. We also realized that we had destroyed the bottom floor of our house, which was the “adult” space. We had crammed all the furniture into the breakfast room, and crammed all the crap into the dining room. The room we were working on was our entryway and our living room. The sanctum sanctorum, the place where my wife and I could sit and relax and eat cheese and drink wine, or sit and stare at the walls while all the chaos was upstairs. This was now replaced by an empty void and our other two escape rooms being smooshed full of furniture.

The evil edge!!!
A month later, after trying a couple more strippers and staring at the floor real hard to try to boil off the paint with my x-ray vision, I decide we can fix this with a buffer, which we don’t rent for another two weeks. At the point where my darling wife is about to strangle me I finally get my butt to the hardware store and rent a buffer, get it home, and realize they didn’t give me the part the pad goes on. So I go back, and then they let me rent it “for as long as I need it”… heh heh heh. (BTW, this is one of the reasons I utilize my local hardware store. You won’t get that kind of service from a big box store as a rule. Plus they are twice as close for that odd part or tool, I’d hate for them to close so I go there when I can afford it.)

Two days later we return the buffer and 90% of the paint is gone. It took a ton of water and three scrubby pads, but the paint except for the edges is gone. Home stretch!!! But it’s now the end of August. So school starts, and chaos happens, and my wife and I both work in an industry where the 4th quarter is the busy one. Over the next month we draft the girls into helping scrape and strip the paint. It’s the middle of October now and we have about 10 feet of wall left. We are both sick and tired of the mess and the lack of our comfort room and decide the weekend of the 8th is the end of the road. We spend all week cleaning and scrubbing the floor, but don’t get to put the stain down until Saturday afternoon, 6 or so hours behind schedule.
Goes on white, ends up clear

This is actually a lot better looking than it was

Daisy's Feet!!!, during the scrubbing.
Let me pause and explain the process. You clean the floor, you clean it again, then you use TSP on it to make sure it’s really clean. The second step is an acid application that reacts with the lime in your concrete, so if you have dirt or paint or who knows what on your floor it won’t stain. The acid is sprayed on the concrete in a nice even coat and start bubbling, you leave now. After the acid is done with it’s magic you scrub up the residue and let it dry. The penultimate step is a epoxy coat to protect the concrete, the final step is a nice wax on top of the epoxy to protect that. You should end up with a nice shiny marble like surface.

So, we put the stain down Saturday afternoon, and then have to stay off the floor for 4 hours. The floor happens to include the bottom of the stairs, and our house happens to include two dogs. Dogs get thrown outside and everyone else gets kicked upstairs. After a couple hours we decide it might be a better idea to go somewhere than to sit above a chemical reaction. Our youngest was with her Grandmother, the oldest was with a friend, the rest of us make a run for it. We come back at the 4.5 hour mark or so and the floor has done this really weird transformation and we can start to see what we’ll end up with, and I can see all the spots I missed. Another hour or so to let it sit and we start scrubbing. Over the next 24 hours we scrubbed the floor 4 or 5 times and mopped it about 15 times.

Finally time for the Epoxy! That goes on pretty well, though I learn that keeping a wet edge is harder than using modern wall paint, and we also learn that next time we do this we buy a better roller. There are times when the cheapest, or even middle priced, item is really not good enough. It goes on white and dries clear and we see what we have been working for. We let that dry for 24 hours, carrying the dogs over the floor, and then put on another coat. Again letting it dry for 24 hours, once that was done we opened it up for business and it wasn’t for several hours that I noticed the scrapes, and smudges, and dog tracks all over the floor.

Long story short, the wax took those out and we have a beautiful floor that requires just a dust mop and a wet mop every once in a while. We’ll need to wax about once every 6 months or so and maybe a new coat of epoxy in 5 years.

The dining room is next and we’ll get it done much quicker and with much less heartache now that we know what the heck we are doing.

Another couple months down the road and the floor isn't quite as easy to maintain as I had thought it would be. Dust mopping is no big deal, but the glass like surface is too much hassle to keep up with. We've settled on something shiny but not totally reflective as our baseline we try to maintain. I love it, and we've half uncovered the dining room so this spring we can knock it out.

If anyone has any questions about the process I'd love to answer them. A lot of the sites out there disagree with each other and the products instructions don't even agree with themselves. I'll try to remember to add a link to a site that really helped us, if I can remember which computer it's on.
Second coat... Don't do this barefoot, or in work pants

Slave Labor Made Mopping Easier

Final view at night. The TV is on a temporary table.

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