I meant to take a photo so that we could memorialize pulling up the paper on the floors at the house. For months it has been “too soon” and when soon came it still felt too. Deciding today was the day to pull the paper up was not the happy occasion that I exceeded it to be. We pulled the paper up sooner than we wanted because we had to see what was under it and how much trouble we were in with the floors.
I had planned to finish the floors upstairs and then proceed downstairs. I did not want to start in the living room and then discover by the time I arrived at the closet in the back bedroom that I had finally gotten good at finishing floors. I started in the Master bedroom since I wanted to leave my learning under the bed. Because of the dumbwaiter needing to traversing three floors, the wall where the bed will be is inset about 3 feet. My reasoning was that I could start there and encounter any manner of problems to learn on and if it was not so good it would be hidden from view by the bed.
I learned a lot and not all of it good. I stayed up very late last night worrying and when I did sleep it seemed I tossed and turned about like the orbital sander I had used on the floors all afternoon. My heart was lying on the floor. Against the advice of a lot of people, we chose wide board pine flooring. We knew it would scar. We knew it could cup. The character of the pine, with its marks of life, fit our desire for a new, “old” house. We looked at some truly gorgeous flooring but it would have been more than $20,000 for the wood without installation and finishing. From other wide board pine flooring options, I picked as best I could. The sample boards of the flooring we picked looked good but samples are always better than the wood itself. I don’t think there is any intention for the sample to be better but it is shorter so the risk for cupping or twisting or warping is nil compared to an 8, 12 or 16 foot board.
I spent hours on my hands and knees yesterday trying to figure out what my boards had to tell me in the intimate dance between hands, wood and sander. I learned that the floors overall are very level. I learned that there were gaps, crushed and splintered edges, broken knot holes, cupped end boards and gouges in the floor that were disconcerting. I learned that I cannot stain the floor boards without either taping or staining the same color the nearly 300 feet of baseboards. I learned that things got stuck between the wide boards. I even pulled out a bit of plastic wrapped electrical wire that had worked itself into the gap. I was feeling despondent. After working nearly all day on one room, and not a big room, I had to reassess my schedule for finishing the floors.
After arising this morning, still feeling queasy over the impending 2 year anniversary of the fire and my strong need to be completely moved into this house before 4:24 pm on June 28, the exact time that our house blew up and was burned in the wildfire in 2012, I asked my spouse for help. There is a reason for long-term relationships. The shared history imbues seemingly simple conversations with their true meaning. When I started out with a task list and ended up confessing that I felt responsible for wasting thousands of dollars on the floors that were going to be perfectly awful, my spouse understood. He also knew what needed to be done.
Together we revamped our approach and made a plan. We bucked me up and I felt a lot better. I needed supplies I had not expected to need and I needed help with cleaning. Sanding and cleaning up the sanding remains were trivial. Cleaning and preparing the boards to be sanded was going to take a lot more time than I expected. As if to represent the confusion I had tools scattered about. I had stuff piled around too. There were three vacuum cleaners and a floor machine along with three bags of sanding papers and screens. There are four types of electric sanders and two hand sanders. The cleaning process also included organizing my tools to do the job. I was not organizing, just standing in the room staring trying to get oriented.
After placing an online order with Lowes to be picked up by my spouse, I went upstairs to survey the damage. My spouse came with me and commiserated with me over the end-of-board reverse cupping. There was no way to fix it with sandpaper and wood filler. I did not have the tools to fix it properly. We decided to soldier on today and talk with our contractor to figure out how to survive my mess. In the mean time I could start cleaning and sanding and preparing for staining the floors upstairs.
After my spouse left I started cleaning and pulling up paper. What I found underneath brought me to my knees in thankfulness. Underneath the paper were floors I had not seen in months and they were beautiful. The gaps between the boards varied gently laying out patterns akin to how the wood exists in trees with its variable tree rings. The knots were mostly whole and few had missing pieces of wood. A few boards had reverse cupping at the end-on-end seams but mostly they were flat. Our poor bedroom was an anomaly. Because it afforded the only access to the north side of the house on the upper floor, the door to the deck was opened and shut often, and at times stayed partially open during the winter and spring months.
The cruel cold wind, sometimes bringing moisture, drove into the room and hovered over the floors reshaping the wood as it passed by. The problems can be healed and the floors will be beautiful. We can move in before the anniversary of the cruelest wind that picked up the hot fire and drove it through the dry brush of our drought-ridden high mountain desert taking with it our home and 65 others in the Charlotte/Mink Creek Fire June 2012. The wind shaped our loss and has shaped our floor in the room where we will sleep. The loss was shaped by a hot, dry, angry wind. The wind that shaped our floors was cold and seeking warmth in our bedroom. The wind will blow where it may but it book-ends our lives. It book-ends our home that was and our home soon to be.