Last summer I embarked on an odyssey to replace the worn-out flooring on the ground level of my house.  Using nothing but paper, glue and varnish, I replaced the flooring in my powder room, kitchen, and the landing between my dining and living rooms.  And then I ran out of varnish.  And gumption.  It was autumn by then, and time to start knitting (thank God).

Even though the dining room floor was still un-refurbished, I tried to think of it like one does a garden:  You shouldn't expect everything to happen in one season.  That, and I also tried not to look down when in the dining room, which it turns out is harder than you might think.  Leaving the dining room floor alone has required a level of patience I didn't know I had (Thanks, Knitting!).

You can imagine my delight when, at the beginning of Spring Break, Phillip suggested that we finally finish the dining room floor.  I wasted no time in mobilizing Team Huff.  Together (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), we dragged the dining room furniture out into the back yard and demolished the old vinyl flooring:

Lindsay supervising the gentlemen

Lindsay supervising the gentlemen

There is something SO cathartic about tearing up your house.  I highly recommend it as a thrill-seeking behavior (provided the part you are tearing up is yucky).

After the demolition, things moved ahead really quickly.  Since the dining room contains a major traffic path, I papered the floor on either side of the main walkway, leaving a narrow path for the teaming hordes.  Once the areas on either side of that were dry, I was free to finish the narrow naked strip. 

At which point I ran out of paper, and bought a new roll.

Um...Notice anything different here?

Um...Notice anything different here?

Of a totally different brand of paper, from the absolutely wrong store.  I can't believe I completely forgot which store I got the first roll from, almost a year ago. 

And while I could just barely tolerate the nasty old worn-out vinyl for nearly a year, having two different colors of paper on the dining room floor was profound and exquisite torture for me.  I mean torture like wearing your 4-inch stilettos on the wrong feet.  Steel wool lingerie.  People who say "EX-presso".

But there was nothing I could do about it until I could figure out where that roll of original paper came from.  Fortunately for me, there are only a couple of places I would have found brown builders paper last year: the big home improvement stores; either the Orange one or the Blue one.  Since the wrong paper came from the Blue store, I would have to go check at the Orange one.

It took a full two weeks before I could synchronize time, money and vehicle to visit the Orange store.  During which time I'm pretty sure most of my hair fell out from the stress of my mismatched floor.  When I finally got there, the rolls of brown paper stirred no recognition.  There is a gaping hole in my recollection of last year's supply acquisition.  I stood in front of the pile of brown paper rolls, helplessly pounding on the locked door of my memory. 

And then something happened that I cannot explain:  I flinched.  What if this is still the wrong paper?  What if they've stopped making the paper from last year and I can never find it again?  I surprised myself totally by grabbing the loose edge of the nearest roll and tearing off a piece.  I stuffed it in my purse and departed apace.

Once home, I glued my ill-gotten swatch down next to the place where the right and wrong papers met.  And I waited for it to dry.  And waited.  And waited.  I wondered what circle of Hell is reserved for brown construction-paper thieves.  I felt genuinely bad about snatching that piece of paper off the roll.  I prayed to the Gods of Home Improvement, hoping they are less capricious than those of Knitting.  I promised them that if the paper would please just match, I'd go right back to the Orange store and make amends.  I prayed that the roll I had molested in my moment of panic would still be there on top of the pile, so I could purchase it and reunite it with its kidnapped swatch.

And I think they heard me, because that little stolen swatch is a dead ringer for the rest of the floor.

Which is a good thing, because my conscience overcame me in less time than it took the stolen swatch to dry.  I went tearing back to the Orange store, where the rest of the roll was still mercifully waiting for me.  I paid for the roll, matching or not.

So now I can finish putting things right in the dining room, and my conscience is clear. 

It's funny; I never would have expected to get more matching supplies later if this had been a knitting project.  I would have bought all the paper needed for the whole ground floor last year, if I had been using the knowledge I already have in place for my knitting life.  Weird how the brain partitions things.  And forgets them. 

If anybody needs me, I'll be where I so often find myself: On my hands and knees.

Paper Tiger

Some days, no matter how hard you try, your toilet just ends up in the backyard.

Oh sure, like it's never happened to you.  It started out innocently enough.  Deeply in love with our new brown paper bag flooring, the Fam and I decided that the next area to get the treatment had to be the downstairs loo.  Never has a floor been in more desperate need of help than in that room.  The same room that every guest to our home ends up visiting.  So embarrassing.  Phillip to the rescue (note the unwavering trust in his eyes):

Paper Tiger 2.JPG

He indulgently removed the commode, then tore up the ghastly old vinyl.  Observe the gag-inducing ring where the throne used to be.  Classy.  This is such a small amount of flooring that it fit into our normal trash pickup.  No removal fees!

I then filled a plethora of nail holes and gaps in the subfloor with joint compound ($4).  Smooth, baby!  While that dried, the Smallies and I tore pieces off a big roll of brown kraft construction paper ($11).  We separated the pieces into two piles: "straight edges" and "centers", depending on where they had been torn from the roll.  Then we crumpled each piece up, smoothed it out, and re-crumpled it.  This is the crucial step that gives the interesting depth and texture to the finished floor.

While the Smallies finished crumpling, I lightly sanded the joint compound.  After crumpling, each paper piece got dunked in a mixture of 3:1 water and white glue ($12), then smoothed onto the floor with a brush.  I painted more of the glue mixture onto the floor under each piece as I went along.  I used the pieces with straight edges along the walls, and the center pieces in the middle.  I decided that the more randomly-chosen and placed each piece was, the better the pattern looked.  It took about 20 minutes to cover the whole powder room floor.

Then we let it dry overnight, with a fan blowing it from each end of the room.  This was the hardest part for my weapons-grade impatience.

After that, we put on 5 coats of floor oil-modified polyurethane floor varnish ($47).  It sounds like a lot of work, but each coat only took 5 minutes to put on with a plain old 4" paintbrush.  If I were doing larger areas at a time, I'd probably look into a different tool for the varnish application, but since it's only small bits at a time, the brush is just fine. 

Since the toilet was already out of the way, we decided to go ahead and hang new baseboards while we were at it.  Aren't they sexy?  5" high and gleaming white.  I painted them with spray paint ($4) on sawhorses in the backyard between varnish coats.  Once I had them installed, I only had to fill and paint nail holes.  Another advantage of doing one small area of our floor at a time: The ridiculous cost of $20 per stick of sexy baseboards is easier to bear.  This room took 2, with some leftover.

And that's it!  If you are keeping track, the materials for this project so far add up to $118 (or so my calculator tells me *insert math joke here*).  We have enough paper, glue and varnish left to do about half the remaining ground floor.  So if we weren't upgrading the baseboards (could have re-used the old ones, if I hadn't hated them like a tent full of mosquitoes), I estimate that our whole lower level would be re-floored for under $250.

Do you have any idea how much yarn I can buy now?

P.S.  Please don't think I came up with the notion a papier-mache floor all on my own.  My sister saw one in a shop 6 years ago and told me about it.  In the interim, others have installed and blogged their own brown paper floors.  If you're interested in trying this yourself, a simple internet search will tell you all you need to know.  Or, of course, drop me a line!