12 Hours, 5 Planks, and 3 Fingers of Tequila

I finished the foyer! Well, I finished the hardwood in the foyer. There’s still trim to do, but what’s important is that I finished the foyer! There was a really intricate piece that had to be cut next to the stairs. Because of the shape of the doorway, I had to butt two boards in the middle of the doorway. It doesn’t look bad, but I just didn’t want it. Anyway, the first board I cut I took about an hour and a half measuring and shaping. When I put it in, it was absolutely perfect, and it took up most of the doorway and looked the best with the joint pattern, at 31 inches. I was so proud of myself.

So of course, the second nail I shot through the board ricochets off the head of a subfloor screw and up through the top of the board. Slightly irritated, I ripped up the board and cut it into a 13 inch piece. At least I didn’t have to re-work the detailed corner. The other two boards didn’t take that much time to put in. It was a 48″ long board and a shorter filler piece, and boom! Foyer’s done. Yay! I took a break, walked the dog, and headed off to a much anticipated trip to Lowe’s. I got a plug for the new gas line, and a vent cover for the new vent so I know how big to cut the hole.

Oh yeah, a moment on the gas line. I paid a plumber to come install a new gas line. We have always loved a gas range but hated a gas oven, so we are buying separates. We will have a gas range and an electric oven, we just don’t know which ones yet. Anyway, I have a new rule: If botching a job leads to my house exploding, I’ll pay a more experienced hand to do it. I was expecting the job to be a couple hundred bucks, but it was $450. I gawked at the plumber, but he said that a lot of that expense is in the stainless steel gas line, which runs about $7 a foot. I said OK, and when he left to go get some fittings, I ran upstairs and checked Grainger. Yep, $7 a foot, sold in $500 rolls. Turns out that I would have probably run a smaller line than I needed, so it was money well spent. 

After I got back from Lowe’s, I knew that the next board I had to work on was the footer for the stairs going down to the den, so I got home and started working on that stair.

I pulled down the carpet because I noticed a lot of junk behind it. Most of the junk was old staples and chunks of old carpet, which is why it’s always looked bumpy. I pulled out all the staples and vacuumed up all the crap, then I realized that I didn’t have any staples to nail the carpet back in place. So I went to Lowe’s (We’re at 2 trips now) and picked up some of those nails and fixed the carpet. Also, the carpet was just rough cut and stapled to the top tread during the previous installation and crammed under the stair, which explains why the tread always rocked. So I cut that carpet and went to install the top tread.

I cut the tread to size and put it in place and tried forever to get it fastened down to the floor without rocking, since there’s no tongue to shoot the floor nails into. I decided the best way to do it was to get finishing nails and nail it down through the groove, so I went again to Lowe’s (third time’s a charm) and got some finishing nails and a drill bit that I thought was big enough for a pilot hole (it wasn’t). I lined up the board, which was another monster itself, and tried to nail the finishing nails in. It took some acrobatics to brace the tread and nail the nail, but I did it and noticed that the bottom of the groove was cracking. So I went under the house and experimented for about 30 minutes on the possibility of screwing it in from the basement. There’s 2 2 x 8’s directly under that tread and there’s another set so close that you can’t put a screw in at a good enough angle, so it’s not possible. So I resorted to nailing it with the floor nailer and smashing down the nail since it didn’t go all the way down. I hope that installing the other floorboards will stiffen the tread, but if it doesn’t, I will have to screw through the top of it to secure it. I could countersink the screw and put an ebony plug over it. That might look pretty good, actually.

So now we’re at 4 boards, and I promised you a story of 5, so here we go.

The doorway into the kitchen is narrower than a board, so I either have to make a narrower filler piece to start anew in the kitchen, or continue the constant width and cut more intricate pieces to fill the first row in the kitchen. I figured that the narrow filler board would look best, but I wasn’t sold, so I machined a small tester piece from scrap and tested it. It looked really good, so I went on machining the full piece. The challenge with that filler piece is that I can’t hog out the new groove in the back with the bandsaw. I had to find out a way to do it by hand. I tried a bunch of different ways, and found that I either need to buy a new Saw Stop Tablesaw to groove the board in 3 seconds (plus delivery time, plus trying to find another couple grand to buy a saw), or hog the thing out now with a small chisel by hand. So I sat on the floor in the kitchen for three hours whittling this groove down the entire 32 inch board, just so there are no gaps. I’m pretty sure most everyone else would have cut that corner.

I also learned that I had dulled my really good Japanese saw blade sawing through the doorway trim to fit the new floor under, since there were a couple staples I had to saw through. I flush cut all the trim so there won’t be any gaps at the doorway. Replacing the blade isn’t that big of a deal; the blades are cheap ($10) and made to wear out and replace, but they’re all the way in Midtown, and probably special order. But I don’t think I’ll have that many more flooring boards to saw by hand. But maybe it’s just fine and doesn’t work well when you’re trying to lay the whole blade across a thin board to cut a continuous groove. I’m rambling. Tequila does that.

Anyway, I didn’t put the new board in because I wouldn’t be able to stand it if a nail shoots back through the top. The doorways have the most screws, since there is a thin piece of subflooring filling the gap, and it needs two rows of screws to secure it. I have learned to map out the screws before I put the board down, but I can’t line up the nailer exactly where the nailer fires the nail. And I knew I was getting frustrated, which is no mindset to do something important, like pop nails through a piece you whittled for 3 damn hours.

 Also, sometime in the middle of the day I installed some pieces of 2×4 to solidify the new refrigerator water tap (which was loose earlier) and give some place to register the drywall patches I’m going to have to put in. It was very important to make sure that the water tap register is perfectly square and doesn’t wobble in its spot, since there’s no more scrutinized wall than behind the refrigerator…

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