Monday, January 30, 2017

Tackling the dining room

The last time I showed any of the progress in our dining room, things were looking (and smelling) pretty grim.

You may recall this was the area I referred to as the cat pee corner. A charming name for a space to eat, right?

Here is the dining room when I first bought the house. As you can see, it isn't really a separate room, just a space between the living room and kitchen. the different flooring material makes it feel less like a part of the kitchen, but it is kind of just a continuation of that room. (Apologies for the very blurry before picture.)

 When I posted about removing the carpet, I also showed the hidden truth about this corner...It was cat pee central! The wood floors were damaged pretty significantly beneath the carpets.


I tried my best to get the area clean. The powdery substance you can see in that picture is actually dried solids from the cat pee- eek! I tried everything from white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, Murphy's oil soap, baking soda, diluted ammonia (each of these products used individually, never combined) and plain old hands and knees scrubbing and scraping. In general, most of these products (besides Murphy's, that is) are far too harsh to use on a wood floor without risking damage. We were so beyond that worry.

The dark areas you can see in the picture above are permanent, those areas are where cat pee has sunk into the wood over time, and no amount of cleaning will change that discoloration. Also, as cat urine contains natural ammonia, the finish on the floor had been eaten away in the worst places over time.

After working so hard on the wood, and seeing that it would just never really look clean (or feel clean thanks to areas where the finish is disintegrated) I started looking into refinishing the wood floor. before deciding if we wanted to DIY it or hire a professional, I wanted to know the likely cost of each option, and how they would impact our ability to live in the home during the process.

I had quotes from three wood floor refinishing specialists. I did discover that hiring for the work would be more expensive than I could budget at the time, and each of the specialists made a point to note to me that even once refinished, the dark areas would remain very obvious. The ways around this were 1. to sand down the entire wood floor including the living room and hall areas that are not damaged, and stain the entire space very dark to camouflage the damage, or 2. To replace the wood in the areas that are most damaged before refinishing, which could be pretty expensive and add to the amount of time we would not be able to be in the house.

We ended up deciding to table our options, hoping that there may be a week in the future where we want to take on the repair/refinish ourselves. So as much as I hate to admit it, all I did was mop one more time (futile, it still looked dirty) and then place and area rug over it.

The other issue that has been tabled for the time being is the wood trim. The baseboard trim was so saturated, that even after cleaning with TSP, painting with two coats of lacquer based primer, and 3 coats of high gloss paint, after a few days the dark staining started to show through again. Within a month, the fresh white trim instead looked like trim that was painted white long before it was exposed to decades of cat pee. It was clear it was not savable.

We have yet to find an exact match for our trim for this space. I keep crossing my fingers when I visit the Rebuilding Center or the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, both of which sell used building supplies and often can be the perfect answer to finding a piece of wood that is just right for this or that project. I'm still just hoping to find enough trim in the same size and shape to finish out our dining space baseboard. Someday. For now, it's not that noticeable with the furniture in place (though of course it really bugs me anyway, ha).

See what I mean? You eyes really focus more on the formica table and plants than on the lack of baseboards, and the rug that had been in my living room in my last apartment manages to cover most of the floor damage while also looking decorative.

In another update in that area, I switched out my chairs recently. I loved my old chairs, but they were pretty uncomfortable to sit in for a length of time- due to the angle of the seat, and that the seats were intended to be padded. When I first bought them, (off craigslist, from the same seller who sold me the table) they were upholstered with orange vinyl. I took off the vinyl to reupholster them, and when I saw the pretty wood I couldn't help but keep them naked.

I also spray painted the metal frames (which used to be almond) a light mint shade, and honestly, I loved the way those chairs looked.

While my proper before photos are gone thanks to a missing memory card, you can see the original orange vinyl going on here on one chair I had yet to uncover:

Oh, and you can also see a kind of funny early set up of my SE apartment, complete with pukey-beige walls I wrote about how much I hated here. 

But really, look how pretty the wood turned out to be under all that orange:

So yes, I was sad to see them go. I sent them off to a new home (via craigslist) with someone who hopefully will love them as much as I did, and maybe will reupholster the seat with some padding. 

In their place, I bought some pink metal chairs. They are the same as the chairs we have out front of the house, and so I already know that they are surprisingly comfortable and sturdy. Also, they're pink!

So that's what happened with the cat-pee corner. I actually have another project in this area in the works right now, so keep your eyes peeled for another update soon. It's a change I am really stoked on!

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