Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Feeling Floored

And just when I think the various jobs involved in making New Bog arise from the ruins of Bog cannot possibly get any worse, I have my "bad" horizons widened dramatically.

Saturday was spent respackling the spots on the wall where I had vigourously sanded the finish back to the underlying tape, rendering the joint both ugly and non-functional. I also did some fancy textured spackling on the ceiling/wall joint to emulate the textured paint on the rest of it. This proved to be quite challenging. Stippling the brush in a few millimetres of joint compound either left no discernable pattern or left peaks worthy of a 1:50 000 scale model of the Himalayas. I needed something in between, but I got to this late on Saturday afternoon1 and my tolerance for the job was low. Everest is particularly realistic in my opinion.

My spirits had lifted by the next day, however, and I decided that The Time Of The Laying Of The Vinyl Non-Slip No-Wax Floor was upon me. Accordingly I retrieved the roll of floor material we had had to special order because all we needed was a 6 foot square and it comes on 9 foot wide rolls3 from the corner of the front bedroom, where it had leaned accusingly for lo these three months or thereabouts. It took me a while to find it, because for lo these three months or so I've been evolving a blind spot on my retina that coincides with the shape of that roll of floor in that corner.

Challenge number 1 was getting the roll of vinyl out of the shrink-wrap it came in. It had been rolled around a cardboard tube, with a lamination of thick poly sheet wound in for the last two turns or so, then cunningly tucked in somehow. It took ten minutes, a steak knife, aluminum shears, teeth and some of my very best swear words to get the floor out of its protective packing.

Challenge number 2 was putting the floor down in the bathroom without getting any folds or creases in it. Folds and creases cause the felt backing to crack. And crack it did, until I became convinced that it would have to be trimmed closer to size than the 6x6 blank. In point of fact, the area to be covered was a tad short of 5x4, with a tongue of material under the door jamb. The issue at hand was how much to trim by, since the canonical method of fitting a floor like this requires a 6 inch overlap at the edges that gets cut progressively shorter (after the glue has been applied and the floor re-positioned) while the floor is compressed into the floor/wall corner tighter and tighter. I settled for 5 foot by 5 foot 8 inches.

Challenge number 3 was finding somewhere inside the house with a 36 square foot space of the right shape (square) so I could lay out the vinyl for cutting. The kitchen turned out to be the only place that much space was available. Chatea├║ Stevie is a snug little place, and most of it is full of junk to boot.

Challenge number 4 was getting the newly created floor blank back into New Bog and laid down ready for glueing. This was helped by me remembering at the last possible moment to draw a center line on the cement floor and put matching line-up indicators on the vinyl. It was hindered by the need to cut for corners.

The instruction books, pamphlets, web sites and annectdotes do not address this issue. The visual media presentations show a smiling couple laying rolls of floor in a vast kitchen (usually), only having to cope with walls and the odd island appliance. Nowhere does it say "When you get to the corners, be prepared to lose varying amounts of sanity because it is impossible to fold the flooring into a corner with overlap on both walls without cutting away the fold, and it is impossible to gauge the cut without the fold nestling into the corner. A technique of guessing, cutting, folding, cursing, guessing, cutting a bit more, folding, cursing and so on must be used until the corner is formed. It was somewhere during the process of doing this on the four inside corners (two wall-wall corners and two wall-bathtub ones) and the two outside corners (where the floor goes under the door) that my hook-shaped linoleum blade somehow got blunted. Lino knives are like something out of a Quentin Tarrentino movie: Razor sharp, wickedly hooked and big. I bought one of these blades years ago for when I did the laundry room floor and it lasted a good while after the job was done. They are nice because the beak can be driven through the lino in restricted spaces, but this one suddenly, just as the precision work started, decided to start tearing the floor rather than cutting it. The pointy end of the blade must have gone blunt, and if I had to assign blame fo rthat I would probably pick the cement-board floor. I must have grazed it while cutting. The edge would have come right off, as several of my beloved tools can attest. I eventually got the floor down with overlaps 4 inches or so up the walls. The only fairly easy bit was cutting the hole for the toilet flange to poke through.

Challenge number 5 was pulling up the floor, applying the glue and getting the floor back down in the same place it came from. I resolved to glue it in two phases, starting with the bit next to the bath and working back to a point just beyond the flange, then doing the bit from there to the door. I peeled up the floor and with a few precautionary swear words spread the glue over the floor, checking first to see that no rocks, stones or tools were on the floor surface. Nothing is more infuriating than feeling the tell-tale bump on the floor that means a small piece of hardened spackle fell on the floor after the glue was applied but before the floor went back down. Then I walked the floor carefully back into place and rolled it flat with my trusty rolling pin.

The instructions had called for the floor to be rolled out with a 100lb roller, and at first I had been concerned that finding such a roller, then hauling it up the stairs would be problematical. Then I recalled that I weigh about 250lbs. A spot of 'O' level physics convinced me that this would translate to 100lbs on any roller capable of taking the weight on the handles and Mrs Stevie was dispatched to find a wooden rolling pin of sufficient sturdiness. I reasoned that if anyone could find a kitchen tool with such solidity, it would be her.

The floor had to be pressed into the corners with a straight edge, then cut progressively closer to the final fit, then the whole process repeated until it fitted snugly. It was at this point the lino blade began to malfunction badly, and so I had to take time out to swap in a conventional triangular utility knife blade, which solved the problem. Eventually I had the first half glued down and was able to repeat the process with the second half, then fit the little tongue that goes under the door. Of course, all the pressing takes a toll on the old fingers and by the time I was done I was also done-in. The fingers of both hands were totally dead, and I suspect there is some minor nerve damage involved, probably building on that inflicted during the hammering phase of last year's landscaping effort and the year before that's halloween hammering.

Memo to self: next time put the floor in first, then tape the corners, then finish off the rest of the taping. Astute readers will note this is the exact reverse of the technique used by yours truly this time around. In fact, I think if it weren't for the possibility of damaging the floor after installation, I would vote for putting in the wall board after the floor too.

It's begining to look like a bathroom again4.

  1. Breaking off work during the day to engage the enemy2 in playful and increasingly violent vocal exchanges sucked up a good deal of my intra-spackling beverage consumation breaks and ate into intra-beverage spackling time as a result
  2. Mrs Stevie
  3. Or something. We bought the stuff at Blowes where the flooring department was manned by a particularly unhelpful young gorilla. Mrs Stevie deployed her camoflage and asked sweetly for a six foot square of the flooring, only to be snarlingly told that they didn't sell it in those dimensions. I tried to defuse the situation but Bonzo was oblivious to my frantic hand signals. Naturally, Mrs Stevie's demeanour changed in an eyeblink as she dropped her cloaking field. I'm not sure what happened next as I instinctively sought refuge behind a display of white economy commodes, but when the dust had settled the gorilla had faded into the mist and a more senior member of staff was explaining that although the knuckle-dragger was correct in stating that Blowes did not sell the flooring in the desired dimensions, it could be special ordered with that geometry with no trouble at all
  4. Pictures here

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