Hole Filling

The factory-second oak flooring we laid in Bob’s living room is full of holes. Or at least it was, until Mark and I filled them in with epoxy. The imperfections vary from pinholes to cracks to half-inch-wide knots… which look cool, but they pose practical problems when you’re walking on a floor every day and dragging furniture across it.

Our epoxy is a two-part solution, the resin and the hardener; when they combine they produce a heat reaction and harden uniformly (as opposed to glue which hardens from the outside in due to air exposure). We mixed a little at a time. The two bottles came with instructions to combine in perfectly equal measure, but the stuff clings to the side of any container so you really can’t achieve a precise measurement. Mark got as close as possible by comparing the remaining volume in each bottle.

Mark carefully mixes epoxy.
Mark carefully mixes epoxy.

Getting the epoxy to stay in the holes (without draining out the bottom) proved a major challenge. Our first idea was to stuff the holes tight with cedar shavings from the master closet, but the epoxy soaked right through. I then tried plugging the holes with clear-drying wood glue. That worked a little better, but in many cases the wood glue dripped through before it got tacky, just like the epoxy.

Hole-filling tactics on display. The light-colored stuff is wood putty.
Hole-filling tactics on display. The light-colored stuff is wood putty.

I had the most success spreading some fast-drying wood putty in the open spots and pouring epoxy over that. The epoxy needs 24 hours to become dry to the touch (and 72 hours to set up completely), so for a week I checked the floor every morning and puttied+epoxied all the holes that had drained. As of Friday I’m satisfied that I have plugged them all.

We want a smooth floor with no tripping or splintering hazards. To do that we need to buff out the surface epoxy so only the filled-in holes remain. Soon (perhaps next week) Mark will rent a floor sander and bring everything down to a uniform level.

Living room floor - the latest & greatest.
Living room floor – the latest & greatest.

Shelf-ish

Mark and I finished the laundry-room counter and the shelf behind it. We took a spare 1×6 tongue-and-groove ceiling board and cut it to make a 5-inch upright, choosing this height so the shelf covers the plumbing boxout for the washer but not the electrical outlet just above. For the shelf itself, we needed 6½ inches of width… so we made it out of TWO spare ceiling boards. Mark ripped a new groove by passing a board edgewise through the table saw a couple times, and then we glued it up, fit it into the tongue of the other board, and clamped it until the glue set. A couple blocks underneath stiffened the shelf and also acted as a guide for the upright.

Once the glue was dry and we confirmed that the pieces fit nicely above the counter, I screwed’n’glued the shelf to the upright. Mark painted the assembly white to match the other trim in the room. The shelf sits on a couple of ledgers on the back wall, with no permanent connection for easy removal and access to the utilities behind.

Counter with shelf, all done!
Counter with shelf, all done!

Elsewhere in Bob’s house, Mark has made tons of progress. It’s pretty exciting to see the upstairs come together as a finished space. Here’s a gallery of the latest details we’ve completed. (Hover for picture captions.)


Next project: the living room floor. Our new floorboards are full of holes, and we have a few neat ideas to fill them in. More on that next time!

Counter Strike

Today, Mark and I installed a butcher-block countertop. We had to cut it to the right shape, first. As expected for Bob’s house, this project was anything but straightforward.

The counter goes not in the kitchen but in the laundry room, which is also the upstairs bathroom. It provides a work surface over the washer and dryer for folding clothes and so on. We endeavored to run the counter the entire length of the room, wall to wall… and the walls are weird. One of them is actually the sloping ceiling; the other follows a funky angle. How could we measure the dimensions to cut our counter? With the sloping ceiling, measuring an inch too high or low would give us the wrong length, and with the odd wall, we couldn’t hold a tape measure straight.

My solution was to make a template. Mark got a big piece of cardboard (from the box our counter arrived in) and held it (with a level on top) where the counter would go. I marked endpoints, cut the cardboard to size with a utility knife, and checked my work by holding it up again. Once we were satisfied, we traced the shape onto our counter. Three passes with the circular saw and we carried the counter from our cut station in the barn to the laundry room in the house. It was slightly too long, so we carried it back to the barn, cut off a sliver, and carried it back to the laundry room. This time it fit like a glove.

Mark cuts the counter, very carefully. (The cardboard template leans right of our saw table.)
Mark cuts the counter, very carefully. (The cardboard template leans right of our saw table.)

While the counter is 25 inches wide (which covers a standard-depth kitchen cabinet with a 1-inch overhang), the appliances are deeper than that, so Mark envisioned a removable shelf to span the remaining 6 inches or so to the back wall. That’s a work in progress. But more pressing, we needed to secure the counter without any support from the back. Mark installed a ledger on the odd wall and built a sort of leg to support the center. On the other end, he screwed directly through the counter to the ceiling rafters. The result: a beautiful, functional maple surface with no visible nails or screws!

Screwing through the ledger.
Screwing through the ledger.