This Old Erie House
By Linda Martin Community Blogger
Owners of old houses have so much in common that house talk comes easy between us. Please join in the conversation as we try to fix, restore and update our old Erie houses.  Read more about this blog.
Posts tagged ‘baseboards’
Posted: March 23rd, 2010

I’m done refinishing the baseboards for the living room.  It was a really big job.  To get the right color took about 10 coats of garnet shellac with a lot of sanding back to get the grain right.  But that’s done now.  I have boards laying on the floor, on top of furniture, boards everywhere!  Now that they have had about a minimum of 2 weeks to dry, I am rubbing them out with black wax.  I bought some Satin Waterlox that I was going to use but it looked streaky no matter how much I stirred it. There were subtle dull streaks from brush marks even after it leveled out and dried.  It’s clear but the stuff in the product to make it satin (silica, I believe) doesn’t stay mixed. It would probably be fine for chairs and floors but a wide, long expanse of the baseboard shows everything. Instead, I’m putting on black wax with 0000 steel wool. The black wax looks really good and cuts the shine to a pretty satin finish because of the fine scratch pattern of the really, really fine steel wool.  Lots of elbow grease, though, but this should be the last time in my lifetime that I’ll have to do anything to them other than touch up wax. I don’t know what ingredient in the black wax smells really good but it is wonderful.

I’ll be insulating the areas where the outlets come through the walls with fiberglass insulation stuffed back in there and I’ll be sealing any gaps in the boards where the floor and wall meet.  That’s going to take some time. 

*UPDATE (see photo below)
The baseboards are back up on the walls in the living room. I just tacked them in place for now because I’ll be painting this room a neutral beige color when I finish the dining room and it would be easier to take them off to paint rather than tape it all off and then permanently put them back up. The outlets got well insulated. Before, a lot of air was coming through and now I don’t feel any. I also added the latex white foam (DAP) around the edges where the floor boards meet the wall. There were some gaps there. When it was dried, I trimmed the foam level with the floor and wall where the foam expanded too much. With the help of my husband we got the baseboards back up and the outlets installed and the room looks so much more finished with the baseboards installed. It’s great to have the furniture back in the places they belong.

I have to cut the nails off and refinish the quarter-round moldings that go on the floor up against the baseboards to complete the finished look. I’m also going to be working on adding another couple of coats of garnet shellac to the inside sideboards of the stairs to darken them to match the baseboards and then scrape off the finish on the treads. I want the treads the same clear finish as I have on the floor. I think it will be just enough contrast to look good and the lighter color will show the dust less. The dark color on the treads now really shows even the smallest of dust. The photo looks the same as the other ones I have posted? No! Look! The baseboards are up!

Posted in: baseboards, finishes
Posted: February 9th, 2010

In my last post I said I was refinishing the baseboards…still a work in progress. This post is about getting them removed so I could refinish them.

Before finishing the other half of the living-room floor, I needed to finish removing the baseboards. I started that project long ago but because of the damage I did to the wall, I stopped, plastered the damage and never got back to it. It was now necessary to finish the job and I couldn’t do them in place because I have an injured knee. My husband volunteered to help (he actually did all the work and I filmed.)

Back when I removed some of the baseboards I remember my husband coming home and asking what I did that day and my reply was that I took off some of the baseboards. That doesn’t sound like much. It was hard to explain the amount of work it involved. Oh well. But now I think he has a new appreciation for the sweat that was involved as I removed them during the hot, humid summer without air conditioning. I damaged the wall because I didn’t put the crowbar only where the baseboard was nailed. That is where a stud is in the wall behind and it gets support. Nor did I use some kind of backing to even out the pressure on the wall. I pried the boards off all along and cracked the plaster which made a whole ‘nother project to do.

One question I kept asking myself was why did they think they needed to nail those old, wide baseboards on with so many 3-inch nails? It wasn’t likely they’d fall off if they even used those thin finishing nails like they do today. I figure the reason was probably that the boards are so wide (about 8 inches) and with high humidity where we live the baseboards would likely warp otherwise. Now there is the question of using big nails to put them back on and if I don’t, will they warp? And why is everything harder to do in an old house? The answer to the last, of course, is because they used quality, strong materials and wood. You have to love these old houses.

Here is a video the removal.

Posted: January 20th, 2010

Today my floor finish arrived by UPS. I ran out doing the living room and wasn’t able to start on the dining room. It’s taking more than I thought. In the meantime I’m working on the baseboards that are removed. The big 14ft x 8-inch oak baseboard is now in my dining room on some plastic-covered furniture being finished in garnet shellac. It’s taking a lot of coats to get the deep garnet color to match the woodwork I’ve already done. I’m having lots of problems keeping a wet edge because of the length of the board. It’s too bad I like dark woodwork because using clear would be so easy. I have to let it sit a day after several coats to sand it level to get rid of any “mistakes” that happen, then apply some careful top coats. I’ll sure be glad when this big one is done. I’ll be glad to just get this one room done. I’m not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet. But does it ever get done? I keep changing my mind of paint color and putting in more electrical outlets, maybe a new mantle because this one isn’t the original (there are ghost lines of where the original was.) I fear I’ll be too old to enjoy it when it’s done.

Posted in: baseboards
Posted: December 23rd, 2009

After all my complaining about taking that baseboard off, I got rewarded. I’m so into local history in general and the history of our house. I was sanding the floor with my orbital sander along the edge where the baseboards were and a little piece of paper came flying up through the air and landed in front of me. It was about an inch square and dirty. I picked it up and took a good look at it but couldn’t tell what it was. I took out the magnifying glass but still couldn’t read it very good. Next I put it on the flatbed scanner and scanned it at 1200 dpi and enlarged it.

It was a 1933 canceled stamp from Chicago celebrating 1833 to 1933, Century of Progress, Fort Dearborn . These are little treasures that make all the work a little easier to deal with. I also found a little scrap of wallpaper that I hadn’t previously known was on the wall. It is a light tan color with a tiny cream-colored heart on it. It’s a small piece so I don’t know what the rest of the pattern was.

Finding the little stamp put a halt to my day’s work and put me into search mode. I took a needle-nose pliers and a tweezers to pick up stuff that was down in the cracks at the end of the floorboards that was previously hidden by the baseboards. Lots of lint debris, a hairpin, a stick pin, some blue paint chips, a tiny piece of newspaper that read, 1924, and a partial piece of what looks like part of a greeting card.

Because of the delays I’m not even going to try and finish the living-room floor before Christmas. What does it matter if I’m a week later, it’s still going to get done. The floor is totally ready to finish (sanded and vacuumed) but I don’t want the smell in the house for Christmas. So tomorrow will just be putting my tools and supplies away, cleaning the house from all the dust I created again and wrapping presents.

Posted: December 21st, 2009

We have half the floor finished and today I’m working on detail sanding the rest of the floor prepping it for the Waterlox. I didn’t want to remove the baseboards because the ones I had removed already (they have been off for a few years) were so much work and some plaster came off the walls, too. I couldn’t make up my mind. The thought of stripping, sanding and brushing on several layers of garnet shellac on a vertical surface and then the rub out down on my painful knees finally made the decision clear, I’d remove the baseboards. That is until I started to take the first baseboard off. The darned electrical outlet was mounted in the middle of the baseboard. I unscrewed the top plate of the outlet and took a look. NOOooooo. This wasn’t going to be easy. Why can’t at least one thing be easy? They were nailed and screwed into the baseboard and to remove them I was going to have to take the insides of the outlet apart to get to the nails that were holding the box onto the wood. That would require shutting off the electricity and I’m one that won’t work on the electrical stuff unless I have the main switch shut off because I am just scared to death of a mistake. I even test it after it is off. I can only think I got this way from being shocked too many times on an electric fence I had when raising horses in the past. I hate when we have to reset all the clocks, electronics and my landscape lights. So I decided to forget it. Then I decided I couldn’t forget it. I was driving my husband nuts. He didn’t know what I had decided on as I kept changing my mind. He was going to help me but was only willing to wait around so long.

Ok, remove them, and do it right. So off went the electricity and the flashlight came out. It was late in the afternoon and we didn’t have much light left in the day and it was kind of dark in there anyway even when the sun is out. After working on getting the electrical boxes free from the baseboards there was another problem. The boxes wouldn’t fit back through the hole in the baseboard. There wasn’t enough loose wire to turn the box sideways to get it to fit back through. Disgusted, I had to remove the ears on the electrical box that I found out by “accident” will come off. Using up important daylight I finally got two outlets separated from the baseboards. The flashlight was starting to go dim.

I took spatulas and started to pry between the baseboards and wall and my husband took the crowbar behind me and started to loosen ever so slightly along the 14ft span of the baseboard (all one piece.) We didn’t want to split the wood or ruin the plaster. We found out the baseboard was locked in from another baseboard that ran behind the radiator. I was hoping to not have to remove that one as it is hidden. These baseboards were nailed on at every stud top and bottom and sometimes with 2 nails at each place. Big, long nails, not the cheap bendable nails of today. I don’t understand why. Why would you need to use that big of nails and that many? It’s not like it was holding the house up (or were they?) It may have been easier if we had a longer crowbar. The nails squealed when they were pried out they were in there so tight. My husband has banged up knuckles from prying the baseboard off from behind the radiator.

We got the shorter behind-the-radiator baseboard off and that let us get the really long baseboard off. We actually celebrated (well I did) when it broke loose. Now what to do with the 8-inch wide and 14 ft long piece of solid petrified oak baseboard? I wanted it in the basement to refinish. After scratching up some doorways (more work) it was clear it is not going to fit anywhere. It’s too long to get it through the doorways into the basement. It may have been able to go through a basement window before the deck was added but not now. It’s subfreezing outside so that’s out. I’ll have to work around it on the main level of the house on some sawhorses later. I went ahead and put the electrical boxes back into working order and put the faceplates back on and pushed them back in the hole in the exposed plaster and got the power back on just as it got dark.

The good thing (always trying to find the positives in life) is we discovered that one of the outlets is letting a lot of air in. We’ll fill around the outlet with insulation before we put the baseboards back on. I’ll also use some latex foam insulation where the floorboards end and meet the wall because there are gaps. This should keep a lot of drafts out of the main living area.

Well, back to work.

Posted in: baseboards
Posted: April 17th, 2009

As I showed you in the previous post, I was left with quite a mess.  The excitement of having the new door was gone. I wished I hadn’t told the contractor I would finish the inside. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: April 2nd, 2009

Wide baseboards, as much as I like them, just make for more work. I’m still working on them. Mine are 7-inch wide white oak. I have some baseboards that are all one piece that run the whole length of the room. At the time I started them, I had good knees. But after a year of working on the stairs, floor, stripping the floors by hand, my knees turned to putty and I needed to take the baseboards off of the wall and put them up on a work table. Read the rest of this entry »