Monday, July 21, 2014

The first days of Fort Max

We closed on Fort Max on July 2nd. We did our final walk through in the morning, signed our papers, then went back to claim it as ours. I carried my wife over the thresh hold and we promptly went to work making it our new home. Yvonne focused on cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen and I had to go back to work. So we didn't really get any "solid" work done until the 3rd.

Our primary areas of work were the three bedrooms, the hallway (which included two closets), and the living room. The bathrooms were functional and dated but we left them alone. The kitchen was up to date but was also left alone. The basement and outside were left alone. We focused on the main living areas so we could prep for painting and flooring.

A before picture.

So off with the carpet we went. The old carpet and padding were ripped out. The best way to remove it is to use a utility knife to cut it into manageable sections and just yank. A mask may be needed if you don't want to breath in the crap left behind but I didn't care about that, I just wanted to get rid of the 20 year-old crap. Once you remove all the carpet, remove all the padding. In our case, it was that greenish, mottled stuff. There were remnants of the egg carton stuff under it but not much.

Some more before pictures.

Then comes the tack strip. A hammer and prybar work great. But be careful. Those things will stab you faster than you think is possible. Have a trashcan ready (but no bag) so you can toss them right in. I learned that breaking them in half (carefully) made them not stand up too high out of the trash can and therefore less likely to cut me.

The previous owner's name on the carpet.

After the tack strip comes the really hard work. Staples. Tons of them. Thousands of them. Seriously. It took my right hand a week and a half before it was back to normal. After a day I could barely grab anything. Needle-nose pliers work best but the prybar and hammer worked in a pinch. It's slow and painful, but necessary.

And then comes the baseboard. Take. Your. Time. We lost a day or two because we went a little too fast and ended up popping holes in the drywall. That meant patching and mud and more mud and sanding and more mud. Not fun. Go slow, take it easy, and it'll work. The best technique I found was to use a drywall putty knife, a wider one that's pretty stiff, a hammer, and a thin prybar. I call them the cat's paw type of prybar but it's a small one with a thin end that can slip between the wall and the baseboard. If you don't have a putty knife to pry against, use a small, thin piece of wood or plywood. Something to distribute the pressure of prying the boards off.

Once that was done, we were down to bare wood on the floors. And quickly noticed a few that needed to be replaced. Expect this to happen at every level of home repair. I'm sure there's a rule of thumb out there for it but everything we've done so far has come with some hidden cost of either money or time that we didn't plan for. But the key should always be to take the time and money to do it right.

As for the flooring, we had diagonal slats on top of the floor joists then glued sawdust on top of that. The glued sawdust has a special name that I don't know. But it's not the typical plywood you would find in the stores today. In fact, the thickness was not normal either. The flooring guys had to buy two sheets and sandwich them together to get the same height as the original floor. Anyway, the pets that had lived her before had peed all over the floor and it was readily visible in every room. So in a couple of spots the sawdust layer had started to dry rot and from our normal foot traffic with no carpet to protect it, it got worse. So it got replaced. We were tempted to just re-floor everything but the floors weren't squeaky and the sawdust layer was solid.

After a second day of staple removal, we walked around like people with claws instead of hands. But it was tons better. We vacuumed, looked, and looked again. We still missed a few staples, but generally speaking we got 98% of them the first time through.

Stay tuned for more adventures at Fort Max.

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