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Floor is finished

September 7, 2010

As a follow-up to the last post – about the concrete floor stain & sealant samples:
the concrete floor is finished!

Instead of the usual drama of building up the story first and THEN seeing the final photos, I’m going to put the finished photos first. Then if you’re still interested you can continue reading for the “pain in the ass” stories because nothing is ever as easy as you think it will be.

Here it is: we love it! What do you think?!

Let the sun shine in!

A funny thing about the above photo – it’s really hard to tell the “scale” of the room because there’s nothing human-sized as a reference. The top of each window is around twelve feet high – I can stand on the window sill and STILL not reach the top! They’re HUGE!

North by Northwest view

The door on the left is 7' tall...

Since I had scheduled the concrete floor guys for last Thursday and Friday, it meant all of the prep work had to be done over Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – which was NIGHTS for me cuz of the day job.

We had just completed the window rebuilds the previous weekend (see this post) so it seemed like there was no stopping to take a breath. When I met with the guy that did the samples, we walked the room to see what needed to be removed, ground down or whatever. He was pretty comfortable with all of it, so it was really up to me & Sue and how we wanted things to look.

If you’ve been following this blog for the last few months, you know that we’ve been doing a lot of work above AND below this floor, and there are lots of holes through the floor where pipes used to go through. And some of those holes were large and gnarly.

Grinding smoothing and filling was in order.

I originally thought I could prep and fill all the holes Monday night. Wrong.

This room, originally constructed in 1923, was renovated five years later. And one method of adding electrical circuits was to channel out parts of the wall and floor and run electrical conduit from the basement, then patch it all up. But for reasons unknown, they didn’t quite conceal all of the conduit. There are several places where the metal tube is visible where the floor and wall come together – so the conduit is essentially sticking out of the floor and going into the wall base at a 45-degree angle.

The areas that the metal is just barely visible, we were okay with. But one conduit was about 3″ above the floor, and we thought it might be a tripping hazard, dust and dog hair gatherer, etc. And we have access to the circuit below so I knew it would be easy to disconnect. There was a another hunk-o-conduit that had rusted, and the concrete surrounding it was popping away. But it only rose above the floor about an inch, AND we had no idea where it went in the basement, so I was going to just clean up the rust and pour concrete patch to smooth out the floor.

THAT’S when the trouble began.

As soon as my wire brush hit the conduit, WATER started leaking out.

What the what?! Water?

Now, I know some of you are thinking “Tom, you idiot, can’t you tell an electrical conduit from a water line?”  And, I agree that sometimes I’ve BEEN an idiot, but trust me, this was an electrical conduit. (And no, it was NOT an electrical conduit used as a water line.) You’ll see in later pictures that this conduit goes to a junction box in the wall directly above this location.

So I got the wet shop vac out and put it over the broken conduit. Sure enough, I could suck water out of this line. Quite the puzzle.

After some investigation of the receptacle box above, it appeared water was coming from either this box, or above, because the box itself was rusting away inside of the wall. It seemed pretty dry now, so there’s no telling when this damage happened over the last eighty-something years. It also explained how the concrete popped away – most likely due to the rust expanded the metal, then popping the concrete off.

So I had to remove all of this conduit.  I had to get out some cold chisels and the sawzall.

Trying to remove the electrical wires.

Once I opened up the metal tube, I wanted to get the wires out. But the tube was FULL of rust, dirt and rotting wire insulation. Everything was compacted together in one big tube-o-crap.

I looked in the junction box – maybe I could pull the wires out from above. But the bottom of the box was just layers of sediment. Even after cutting the connector nut away (only a cold chisel would do it) there was still no budging of the wires. They were practically cemented together.

I figured I would just break a wire if I just tugged & pulled on it, so you can see in the last pic that I braided all four wires together. I grabbed all four with the lineman pliers and pulled all I could with my feet against the wall. They all broke at once.

Same story with the wires from above. I guess I’ll just have to leave the wires inside. That left the task of cutting away as much old crap as possible before I could patch it up. I stayed until 11:30pm working on this little turdball. And I thought I’d be DONE in one night.

Rusty conduit removed

I also ground out some of the concrete to make the patch stick better. While I cut away all of the visible metal, there was still some water there and I didn’t want that to cause a future problem – there is still metal further down in the slab. Also in the last photo – you can see what looks like another “layer” of concrete. Our concrete floors were made in two steps. First, the “structural” concrete was poured, and less care was taken with making it smooth and perfect. After the first slab, a “topping” slab was poured, of about 1″ thick. This was the concrete that was worked until it was really smooth. But in this area, where metal and water combined to make rust, the decay encouraged the separation between the two layers.

Tuesday morning, I thought of a good way to evaporate the water. So at lunch I went down to BAB (took some workmates for a tour too) and I got a cotton rag, put it in the hole, and jammed a screwdriver into the hole to force it further down the hole and to keep it in place. Then I set up a fan. The fan plan was that the rag would wick out the moisture deeper in the hole, and the fan would evaporate the water from the part of the rag that stuck out of the hole. I spread out the rag as much as possible to increase the surface area.

So Tuesday night, time to pour the patch. First thing I looked at – my fan plan worked great – the bottom of the conduit hole was dry!

I mixed up the concrete patch and filled up most of the holes. I say most because I ran out of time; both with it getting late in the evening and also with the patching material starting to set up. I didn’t want to mix up more, cuz it was pretty obvious I was coming back the next night to grind/sand the patches smooth.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is that some areas of the concrete base needed to be patched too – you can see in the above photo that there is a hole in the vertical material. If you’ve poured any kind of material like this patch stuff, it’s stiff but will still sag. So in the base repair areas, I had to rig up some “formwork”, which I did by employing some plastic sheets left from the previous owner. A quick spray of WD-40 kept the patch from sticking to the board.

The holes from radiator pipes were pretty easy to fill. The task that surprised me was part of the instructions that said “with a stiff brush, rub the patch material into the existing concrete to make the patch adhere.” It made sense, so I used an old toothbrush. But this stuff was like brushing your teeth with baking soda (what? you didn’t do that?) because it wasn’t very “paste-like” and really just rolled around at first. But I got the hang of it. I was confident the patches would stick.

First layer of patch down and ground.

The next pic is from Wednesday night. Since I had some really thick areas (holes of several inches) and some thin areas (this area around the conduit), I had to use two different kinds of patch materials. So I had to grind smooth all of the other areas, and prepare the nasty conduit area for the “feather patch” material. (That’s what it’s called…)

I used a concrete grinding disc – and maybe I overfilled the holes by a bit, cuz the room was full of concrete dust within seconds. Fortunately the respirator mask kept me safe. (Yes mom, I wear safety gear.)

The finish guys were coming Thursday, and they told me that they could do a final sand/grind on the feather patch, so that was the last task for me for Wednesday night. I had to make it smooth as possible to minimize their prep work so they could concentrate on the sealing.

And this is the pic from Friday evening, after all the project is complete… compare it with the first pic of the conduit with the rustiness.

Rust no more in the floor.

The color difference doesn’t bother us at all. Our space is going to have an industrial look to it, and what’s most important is that the new construction and repairs are done well the first time. Maybe a better way to say that is that it’s “done right in OUR time”, i.e. we won’t have to ever worry about it again.

So that’s it for a little while – we are currently on vacation.

Last Thursday I was in our favorite coffee shop (Park Avenue Cafe). Sue & I go there a lot but separately, and it took the guys a few times of seeing us on weekends to figure out that we’re a couple. So for the past two months, we’ve gone there every Saturday & Sunday morning before heading to BAB. They’re very friendly so we talk about what we’re doing. We’re usually dressed in dirty t-shirts and shorts (well, CLEAN but meant for getting dirty) so it constrast how we look dressed for work during the week.

On this particular day, Jeffrey asked “So what’s on the agenda this weekend for you guys?” I had to pause and think of the project tasks… Hmmm… I couldn’t think of it… Wait! Yes! “Oh my gosh – I totally brain-farted; we’re going to Hilton Head on Saturday morning!”

But Franco is holding down the fort – he is first going to totally cover and protect the floor, so if you didn’t get to see it, you’ll have to wait until the unveiling later on. He’s also got some prep work on the existing plaster walls where new ledgers will be attached, and he’s gathering up framing materials. So pretty soon, our big room will start looking like a loft!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Patrick Kelly permalink
    September 27, 2010 11:46 am

    Looking at this blogs only reinforces my initail thought that Tom & Sue both need serious counseling.

    • Sue permalink
      September 27, 2010 5:20 pm

      As soon as we have some spare time, we’ll consider your recommendation. 2012 sounds about right.

  2. rick permalink
    September 7, 2010 7:37 pm

    WOW, the floor looks AWESOME !!
    Tom, if I haven’t told you before, I have some concrete cutting blades all different sizes, if you are interested. I’ll ship them to you.
    Enjoy the vacation in HH.

    • Tom permalink*
      September 7, 2010 8:59 pm

      Thanks Rick – but we’ve redesigned the HVAC system so we no longer need to saw cut any openings, all we need now are some small drilled holes.

  3. Darcy permalink
    September 7, 2010 11:40 am

    Beautiful! (I just KNEW I would be able to use that word in reference to the BAB someday!) The difference the windows and floors made is jaw-dropping. Have a great time on vacation – enjoy every minute of it.

    • Tom permalink*
      September 7, 2010 9:00 pm

      Thanks Darcy! Just wait until we get those ugly walls painted!

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