Last night I stayed up late wiring recessed lighting for the kitchen. I wanted to complete the wiring so that the suspended panel job could move forward in the morning. Once the suspended panels are done, my real burning passion is to get the pine flooring down, sanded and varnished. This will get the whole place one giant step closer to being liveable. The top floor is done and now furniture can find it’s place. Finish mouldings can be installed without moving too much stuff around, so I am thinking that it can be done over the winter with weekend puttering and cutting in the basement. The kitchen counter will be the next big project along with the base cabinets. I will likely do the upper cabinets in pieces although the cabinet above the stove will have to be done before the base cabinets just to get the microwave out of the way. It is like a set of dominos. In most cases, one part is dependent on another part. When it comes to plumbing, wiring and finishing, this is a reality that cannot be overlooked. Planning and forethought are absolutely necessary. I guess that is often why I lose sleep thinking about what comes next and how I will do it. Add to this the daily problem solving in my work environment and suddenly there are many unresolved puzzles and projects. Staying awake becomes a bit of a heath issue. We all need sleep. A restful eight hours each night would likely make Teddy a happy boy. Getting the pattern down and sticking with it is not so easy when there seem to be so many things to do. It seems that by the time I realize I can’t function any more, it is well after midnight and the pattern has already been messed up. Getting under the covers when the sun goes down would be a little more logical. If I was living out of my canoe, the dependence on artificial light could go away and the sun would manage circadian rhythms. In the meantime, there are things to be done. The sun is shining and things are warming up out there. I hope to have the rest of the ceiling panels cut and in place today and the dining floor area prepared for pine. This is my goal.
Last summer I picked up some pine for the second floor ceiling from David Halland at his sawmill near Love Saskatchewan. That is when I was really in Love. When I stepped out of the truck, that is when I fell in Love. It was a short trip through Love, but it was nice being in Love if only for a brief time. The next time I am in Love I will keep my eyes open for new signs. We followed google maps and our noses until we arrived at the Halland Farm and found Dave and his wife. We had a chat about the recent patio addition to his home. As we sat in the airy sun room with high log beams I asked about siding finish and he suggested I use a product called “Superdeck Log Home Oil Finish”. I told him I was thinking about floor finishes and he invited us into their kitchen to have a look at the pine floor. It was absolutely beautiful and I wondered aloud about the durability. Dave said that the floor had been there for twenty years. I think at that moment I was convinced to put down the same floor. One of the things that struck me was David’s proud comment that all of the materials in their house came from the forest nearby. This floor was Northern Saskatchewan pine at it’s finest with knots, red streaks, dark lines and straight grain. The other great thing about the floor was the cost. At just over a dollar a square foot, nothing I had seen in the flooring stores could come close.
This spring I received a call from David to confirm how much flooring I needed. A few weeks later I hooked up my trailer and found myself briefly in Love and then out of Love again on the way to his farm. David was not there, but his son Alison had a crew at the mill and his son loaded the trailer with our flooring and some siding for a neighbour near La Ronge. It was a great day for a drive, although the weather forecast was for rain most of the day. I wrapped the load completely and used a cargo net to secure the covering and once again found myself in and out of Love. We arrived home later that evening and I dropped off the siding the next morning and headed off to the House by The River. I had the good fortune to have Sonny, my stepson help unloading the pine into the house onto both floors. It was a bit of a dance with angles each time we negotiated our way up the stairs, but two people made quick work of the load and in the end I had pine positioned on both floors and ready to go. I as anxious to get going with the flooring but allowed three weeks for the wood to acclimatize in the house before tackling the upstairs. I had already done the office floor with maple that I bought from someone who had done their whole house and had about two hundred and fifty square feet left over. I was able to buy the maple at 2.50 a square foot, which was a bargain I couldn’t pass up. I shopped around for a flooring nailer and did a bit of research online about laying hardwood flooring. The commercial grade maple was really easy to work with and went down perfectly. I felt pretty confident about working with the raw pine, but realized that it would be at least twice as much work, as I would be selecting and tightening boards and then sanding and varnishing. When I finally got started on the second floor pine, I was in my element. I loved working with the raw wood, looking at the grain and curves in the boards, making decisions where to cut to make the best use of the material, balancing the pattern of joints, using screws and wooden plugs where the floor needed to be tightened, and watching the pattern unfold . This is an organic process. I covered the floor with brown paper as I worked to protect the surface as I moved tools and material around. When I got to the point of filling in knot holes and depressions in the surface, I took particular pride in removing the paper to see the beautiful natural story of the trees on the floor. There is something about sitting in the middle of something you have created and fine tuning it. I used a mixture of fine pine sawdust and wood glue to make a past and apply to the knots and “catching” spots. I cut 3/8” dowel to use a plugs for the countersunk screw holes I had made for securing and floor boards that showed signs of movement and the starter boards along the wall. After a few weekends of getting the floor to the sanding stage I rented a commercial sander for the weekend and started the final finishing process. The sander was like a large heavy palm sander and worked like a charm. I was a little apprehensive at first about taking off too much material and bought only the finest grit paper they had at the rental store which was 180 grit. I found that I had to work the sander back and forth over the high spots to get them level. I worked in my sock feet to get a feel for the degree of smoothness. As the sander generates considerable dust, I used a vacuum along with the sander. I kept the intake for the vacuum down by the base of the sander and operated each with one hand. The nice thing about the sander was that it seemed to float and work like a polisher or buffer. I was able to easily steer it in any direction with one hand. I went over the floor until I was satisfied with the surface and was able to slide along and dance around in my sock feet with absolutely no fear of picking up a sliver.
When I had vacuumed dust mopped the floor to get it perfectly clean, I was ready for varnish. I used Fletco Varathane Nano Defence hardwood floor finish. This was recommended to my by David Halland as the finish of choice. I was $80.00 a gallon, but well worth the price. I had seen a few different ways of applying the finish coat online and Allison had talked about pouring it onto the floor. I started by pouring the varnish out of the can and using a pad on a sanding pole. I wasn’t entirely happy with the process and found it a little difficult to move things around with the pad, so I defaulted to what I know best, a good old fashioned paint brush. After brushing on the first coat and allowing sufficient drying time, I sanded again, dust mopped the floor and did the second coat. I sanded between all of the coats, using a 220 grit sanding pad on a sanding pole for sanding between final coats. This generates a very fine dust that can easily be picked up with a shop cloth attached to a sanding pole, or a dust mop. I also used a vacuum to ensure that the floor was completely free of dust between coats.
Now I am halfway through the process of laying the pine on the main floor. I am already thinking ahead to the final stairway treatment in a combination of maple and pine. I know that the pine is a softer wood, but I am confident with five or six coats of varnish it will stand up very well. I expect the floor to develop “character” over the years and I am completely comfortable knowing that there will be new bumps and depressions in the floor over time that will only add to it’s charm.
If I were to recommend flooring to anyone at this point, it would without question be pine. If someone asked me if I would like to install their pine floor in the future, I would likely jump at the chance to do this again.