Sunday, September 18, 2015
Last Wednesday, I left work early, drove over to Home Depot and spent a while trying to figure out what to buy to finish the inside of the house. I was originally thinking about using some Watco Danish oil. Luckily, I asked Tumbleweed what they thought about this idea and they wrote back yesterday morning to say that the fumes from Danish oil are pretty toxic and it is not safe to use large quantities of that stuff on the inside of the house. I had no idea. I think Tumbleweed pretty much saved me from asphyxiating myself, Sheila and our neighbors kids who are planning to come over and help me finish the inside of the house this weekend. After much thought and a few calls to Sheila, I eventually decided to try a water-based polyurethane since it sounded like the odors are fairly low, it dries quickly, it cleans up easily and it should protect the surface without changing the color. That all sounded like exactly what I wanted.
I spent the rest of the afternoon on Wednesday preparing the house for the polyurethane. I started by sanding the loft, the surface of which was made out of the rough cut side of the ¾” pine tongue and groove planks that also formed my kitchen ceiling. Last weekend, I sanded about half of the loft with a rotary sander using 60 grit paper. I finished the 60 grit paper on Wednesday and then moved up to 120 grit and 220 grit. I probably should have used 150 grit in between, but I didn’t have it and I think it still turned out pretty well. The loft boards were very rough when I started last weekend and now they are mostly smooth with a few imperfections that I have decided just add character.
After I finished sanding, I began the kind of time-consuming process of cleaning up the whole house from the incredible amount of sawdust that had settled everywhere as a result of the sanding. To do this, I pretty much took a vacuum cleaner to every single surface in the house. I vacuumed the ceilings, the walls, the windowsills, the window screens, every piece of interior trim and finally the floor. It took a while, but wow, the house looked good when I was done. I think it was the cleanest it had ever been.
On Friday, I carefully added masking tape to all of the windows so we could easily polyurethane the pine interiors of those windows. Then, I covered the entire kitchen counter with plastic and covered the entire floor with cardboard. It took me about six hours to get all of that done and I wondered whether it was worth it only until I started actually applying the polyurethane to the house. I was amazed at how much polyurethane dripped onto the cardboard and plastic. Also, having the tape on the windows made adding the polyurethane to the windows a lot easier. Even if I only had to do the one coat, I think all the prep work would have been worth the effort. It was definitely worth it for the three coats I was planning to apply. Plus, I think the blue tape on the windows looked kind of cool.
I did have some help on Friday and I was happy to have it. At about 2:00 PM, just after I finished the tape and cardboard, my friend, Alan, arrived to lend a hand. For the next two hours, he and I set about applying first coat of polyurethane. After he left, I continued until about 6:00 PM when Sheila came out to help. We both continued for the next couple of hours until we finally got the first coat done. In the end, I think it took about 10 man-hours to add a single coat of polyurethane to the entire interior.
We planned to add the two remaining coats on Saturday which I figured would take about 20 more man hours. Luckily, our neighbors, Tudor, Han and their kids volunteered to to help and with five or six people working, I was hoping that might only take four or five hours of time to get it all done. I figured that if we had extra time, we might also add another coat of exterior stain to the outside of the house.
Saturday turned out to be even more productive than I expected. I think my neighbors, Sheila and I put in nearly 40 man hours. In that time, we all applied two more coats of polyurethane to the inside of the house and all of the baseboards, one coat of oil-based polyurethane to the ladder and the floor of the loft and also added a fresh coat of Penofin stain to the entire outside of the house (the outside of the house looks REALLY good with that fresh coat of stain). Even more incredibly, we actually finished all of that by 3:00 PM, despite taking reasonably long breaks for muffins, juice and coffee in the morning and sloppy joes for lunch.
After our neighbors left, I spent the rest of my afternoon pulling tape off the windows, removing the plastic and cardboard that I had used to cover the counters and floor, installing baseboards and reinstalling all of the wall plates for the outlets and switches. I’m still amazed by everything we got done yesterday and so grateful to my neighbors for being willing to come over and help with all that. Working by myself, I think it would have taken me two weeks worth of weekends to accomplish what we got done in a little over half a day.
My neighbors not only saved me a huge amount of time, I think they saved my sanity as well. I can’t imagine having to do three coats of polyurethane over every interior surface of the tiny house all by myself. Applying polyurethane is kind of unrewarding. The polyurethane is completely clear and when you’re done, you almost can’t tell that you did anything. It’s even pretty hard to tell where you have been and where you have not been. If I had had to repeat the same invisible process three times in a row by myself it would have been pretty unpleasant.
That said, I’m still really, really glad we decided to do it and that we decided to use a water-based polyurethane. It really made the cleanup much, much easier (just needed soap and water). Plus, it really didn’t smell at all and despite being invisible as it went on, it does add a nice shine to the walls when dry. If it protects the wood as well as the can and the internet says it will, I think it will end up being the perfect choice.