Attic Wood Flooring, Complete! (and a Lego tangential)

When we started work on our attic this last summer, we made the decision to pull all of the wood flooring planks out.  But, rather than just throw them out or use them for firewood, we opted to save them for restoration and re-installation. The floor was badly in need of a solid sub-floor, so there was no question that they had to go, if only temporarily.  After a few months of hard work, I just put the last coat of finish on the wood flooring in the attic!  Refer to this post for the beginning stages of flooring work!

Lets take the tour..

Here is the “before” picture of the attic stairway.

No…. Wait a minute…  That was an in-progress photo.  There, we actually had solid new steps and a window.   Ah, this is more like it!  Creepy with bits of green outdoor carpet thrown in:

Here is a current view of our attic stairs!  While we are staining none of our flooring, but opting to leave them their natural color, we did stain the pine construction grade lumber we used for our stairs.  Turned out to be an excellent match!

Here is a view of our future school room, well, part of it anyway.

Here’s the landing at the bottom of the stairs.  This flooring came from the neighbors old barn hayloft!

How about a proper floor in our small closet that will hold the central vacuum parts while not in use.

Check!  We have just the perfect reclaimed flooring for that!

Thinking about living in a house while you remodel it?  While many shy away from this (for good reason), it does fit our lifestyle well, even if it means using spare 2x4s to block off a freshly poly’ed floor, while still maintaining access to my the childrens Legos.

With four children, remodeling a house off-site would be unfair to them.  They would miss out on time with their father and I would miss out on, the dreaded Lego organization day(s)..

Piles of foot-piercing colorful blocks…  Literally, piles.  We were finding that the kids had lost all interest in Lego building.  Sitting down with them, it was pretty easy to see why.  It was impossible to find any pieces you needed among piles.  OCD, high on polyurethane, or just plain a lover of mind numbing pain, I set about the task of helping the kids sort out the Legos… by color….  I did this one other time, when our children were younger.  Needless to say, they didn’t stay sorted as long as I had hoped!

After only about a day and a half, we had everything in its proper bin, labeled and all!

Another few hours later, they had sets built that I haven’t seen in years!!   Totally worth it!

Besides the distraction of Legos pulling me away from my many house projects, we also hosted my dysfunctional family for Christmas in our construction project we call our house. Again, totally worth it!

Warm(ish) Greetings from Minnesota!





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Quack and a Haybailer

Last year came with some hard times.  There was that trip to the ER, forking up our savings for a new septic, and the loss of our unborn baby. But, for all the bad, the blessings most definitely outweighed the bad!  This year has been off to a good start and we are only a few days in!  While not groundbreaking, we have already added two new additions to our farmstead!

We welcome our newest addition to the barnyard, Quack the duck.  Can you spot her?  She sticks out from the crowd.

A childhood neighbor and friend (big brother?) of mine stopped out on New Years to drop off this little gal at our farm.  They have a flock of chickens and Quack was their only duck.  As anyone with ducks well knows, ducks are messy!  Quack was no different.  As we already have a dedicated duck coop, separate from chickens, we gladly took her in (we would probably take in any animal, except dogs/cats/horses).  She seems to have settled in here just fine with the rest of her new duck friends!

After two years here, I suppose it is about time to start building up our arsenal of farm equipment!  Naturally, I figured we would purchase a tractor first.  Like everything else around here, the expected and most logical path from the outside looking in was not the path we selected!  Go figure 😀

When a family member decided to sell his bailer, we decided to purchase it.  I kind of feel like a little boy getting that new farm toy at Christmas, only this one isn’t fitting under our tree.

So now we have a bailer, but no tractor (or haybine) 😀

No matter, our budget is giving us hints that obtaining a tractor should be possible this Spring and maybe a haybine later in the year.  We’ll see.  Right now I can slip that frozen stem of grass in my mouth, sit in the sub-zero degree garage, and dream of pulling this bailer behind my future tractor.  Okay, enough of that.  Time to head into the warm house and poly some wood floors!

It’s a good thing we burn wood and it’s like 80 degrees in here, or I’d be cringing at the money that would be escaping out this open window into the -22 deg F Minnesota night air.  We have had to keep some fresh air flowing through the house as we apply the finish on a few of our floors.

More on the floor progress and that composting toilet installation next week!


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Attic Flooring

I love before/in-progress/after pictures!  There is just something about seeing where a project started and where it has gone that really makes one appreciate the effort and thought that went into the project.  It is always fun to see something that is so disgusting and trashed turn into a surprising gem, that was always there, just hidden and out of sight.

Well, I think our attic floor may finally be reaching that “non-trashed” point, but I will be honest, I had many, many doubts along the way.

Here is a “before” shot of the floor.  If you look close, you may be able to see the loose boards and extreme spacing between each board.  There were many spots that were just completely missing boards altogether (not in the picture of course).

The plan was to remove the old floor boards for refinishing outdoors (in fresh air), lay down subflooring, then re-install the flooring on top of the new subflooring.  This would eliminate the holes, loose boards, gaps, and would just plain solidify everything.

After pulling up the first few boards, I was about ready to cry.  Maybe I could leave them on and just throw the subflooring over it?  We could then find flooring to install on craigslist or something…

I couldn’t give up that easy, but Lord knows I wanted to!  Well, a few boards into it, I started to discover the trick to pulling the boards off in a somewhat efficient manner.  This was tricky, considering the boards were fairly brittle, as they are nearing 100 years of age.  In addition, they have been in an unfinished attic, enduring temperature extremes of over 100 degrees F in the summer to well below 0 degrees F in the winter.  I will admit, some of the boards still split on occasion, but between my hammer,three pry-bars, and a 2×4, I was able to prevent it for the most part.

The moment I laid down the last bit of subflooring was a joyous occasion.  Finally, our attic had a solid floor!  No longer did we have to walk with caution over each hole or loose board.

Myself and the kids then went to the project of laying floor underlayment in preparation for the wood flooring.

Once the subflooring and underlayment was in place, my attention turned to the flooring that I had moved to the garage. Again, we were left unable to park our vehicles in the garage.  The goal was to completely strip them down, cut them, and get them installed up stairs before the cooler fall temperatures set in. Thankfully, our summer temperatures were below average and our fall temps have made up for our cooler summer.  This evening was beautiful, somewhere in the mid 60’s!

Last weekend and most every evening this week, I have spent my time pulling out old staples and nails, scraping paint, and sanding the flooring.

I wasn’t alone.  Between my kids, our kitten, and the ducks, I had plenty of company.


Unfortunately, some of the boards did split while pulling them up or were just in bad shape to start with, so I had to square up and trim off the edges in some cases.  Those scraps will make good starter firewood this winter.

I think prior house tenants did all their painting up in the attic, as the boards required quite a bit of scraping to clean them up.  Thankfully, the boards were unfinished from the start, so I did not have to worry about stripping off any additional finishes.

And, here is the, not quite finished product, two coats of polyurethane left.  What the picture doesn’t show is the other room up there, that still needs wood filler and its first coat of poly.  Oh, well, I’ll get to it soon enough!

If it wasn’t for my mother’s eye, I probably would not have gone through the effort of saving this flooring.  But her annoying insistence that it would come out looking good planted that seed.  Thankfully, I listened to her.  Don’t you hate it when mom is right!


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Wood Flooring, All Ready for Installation

Over this last weekend, I was able to churn out the last of the flooring through my planer (now it is time to order new blades).   Once planing was complete, we put in a long night Saturday and finished applying the first coat of polyurethane on those boards.  Nearly a year after starting work on this flooring, we now have all of the flooring stripped and ready for installation!!!  Oh, how I am hoping it does not take me a year to get it installed.

Relishing the moment we applied the coat of finish to the last board!

The final set of finished boards, drying on the garage floor.


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Bee Swarm Trap and Finally Some House Progress

After a few weeks of taking care of business outdoors, we are starting to again refocus our efforts on the house.  But before heading indoors, a few remaining items needed to be taken care of outside.

First up, bee traps..

After assembly, I placed an old clean sock soaked with lemongrass oil in the top bucket to act as an attractant.    The idea is that wild bees or bees that have decided to swarm will be attracted to the inside of the dry bucket at the top, with the help of the lemongrass oil, and set up home in there, rather than in the barn or some other inconvenient location.  Once bees are spotted living in the bucket, it can be lowered and the bees can be transferred to my conventional hive boxes (Langstroth Hives).

We also got our weekend barn cleaning done.  Part of that involved moving barn waste, straw, and cardboard to our garden, our first attempt at a no-till/dig, weed-free garden.  This method is also know as sheet mulching.  Almost one row complete.  The idea here is that the cardboard will act as a weed barrier and the manure will decompose and feed nutrients into the soil, feeding life in the soil and in turn creating happy and healthy plants.

Well, we have turned into “those people”…  Those people that have a nice garage but don’t park their cars in it (my bike would be the exception).  Instead, the interior of our garage currently looks like this:

It is mostly filled with stacks of flooring that we are in the process of refinishing.   It is a combination of the hayloft flooring we pulled out of our neighbors barn and flooring we were able to salvage from our house.

We are getting closer to getting our vehicles back in there, maybe next week?

The wood above still looks a little rough.  Once I get it installed, I will follow up with another two rounds of sanding and poly.

I think I found the key to getting these boards processed quickly!  I broke down and bought a wood planer at the suggestion of one of my brothers.  Putting aside the problem of the blades constantly “gumming” up with grime and old finish, this has turned out to be a much more efficient way to strip down old flooring, versus running them through the band sander.   The flooring is still a work in progress, sorted into three piles:

  1. Boards that have received their first coat of polyurethane.
  2. Boards that have been run through the planer and are ready for poly.
  3. Unprocessed boards.

Thankfully, the unprocessed boards pile has shrunk significantly!

So, what to do with the piles of wood shavings produced from the wood planer?  They raked up fairly easily and I placed them around our apple trees over the wood chips.

I had set out with a goal of getting the metal ceiling tile up in our mudroom/laundry room over the weekend.  Success!  No more popcorn ceiling to welcome us as we step into our home!

The ceiling now matches our walls 😛

Up next, appropriately sized windows for our living room and bedroom.  And.. what do we have going on here?!



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Mission: Move in Ready Bedroom

If you have been following our blog, you may know we are on a mission to finish our “master” bedroom and move in by the end of the day this Sunday. If all goes well, the room will be fully complete with the exception of new windows and window trim.  To get there, lets take a look at what is complete and what is yet to be completed.

I finished the last few floor boards last week and put the last coat of drywall mud on Sunday evening.  I had some time Monday evening to sand the walls down.  Shelly immediately primed the walls and put on the first coat of paint today.

I cannot be more happy with the bedroom floor and am looking forward to seeing more floors like this throughout the house!

Now, what is left? A lot.  One more coat of paint to go.  We will be ordering windows and picking up trim later this week.  Once the wood is on-site, I need to construct two door frames.  We will also have to construct the wood trim from scratch and attempt to create something that goes with the early 1900’s style we are going for.  This will include wider baseboard trim, crown molding, and possibly some picture railing.  We also need to cut down and refinish two antique doors, one for the main bedroom entrance and one for the closet.  The doors will need to be poly’ed and the trim painted white.

Our bedroom trim will be a test run for the rest of the house, so if we can master the look we are going for here, the rest should be a bit easier when we get to it.

Looking for a kitten?  How about four 🙂  We ended up with two white ones that look just like their father, along with an orange and dark grey.  The kids have been enjoying them!  But seriously, if you want one, let us know on Facebook!

Okay, back to the house… While the bedroom walls dried over the weekend, I had some time to work on the basement stairway.  We are attempting to maximize all the space we have.  As the stairway was already pretty tight, I had to measure and re-measure several times to reassure myself there would be enough space to move a fridge or freezer up or down the stairway.

This area became even more of a challenge due to the way the concrete had to be poured (hard to explain, but trust me).  After having a year to figure out what we wanted to do here, I think we found a design that utilizes the space efficiently.  We will end up turning that space to the right into a built-in book shelf or storage for weights (fitness), we haven’t quite decided yet.  That is one of the advantages to living in a house as you remodel, you can figure out what works as you go.  At least the frame of it is in place and ready to go.

To give you an idea of how far this portion of the house has come, here it is about a year ago after we spray-foamed the basement (but before concrete):

Yes, that is a dirt (rather, clay and sand) floor with a pile of trash and broken plaster strewn about.  Those are also some one-of-a-kind steps I will not miss!

Besides projects and kittens, we started our second run of chicken eggs, our last for this year.  This time, we are going for a slightly larger batch.  A little over a week before hatching starts!

Wait, are those dinosaur eggs in the corners?  Okay, it nearly worked on the kids 🙂  My brother sent four goose eggs home with me after our last visit to their homestead (thanks bro!).  I never really planned or thought about raising geese, but we had the room, so why not?  If we don’t like them, we can always eat them..



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House Progress Update

It has been a few weeks since I have posted any updates on our house progress.  Things are still moving forward, but you still cannot tell from the outside.

Before we started on the house, last weekend we cut and stacked wood.   Our property came with an old corn crib, perfect for seasoning firewood.  Keeps it dry while at the same time letting the breeze through.  We are sitting at about a years worth of cut wood.  With all the fallen trees in the woods, we have a long way to go.

This weekend we started nailing down flooring in our bedroom, only a few more boards to go.  As a reminder, this was the hayloft wood floor that came out of a neighbors barn that was getting demolished.  Here is a picture from last summer (and a video of us restoring the floor last fall).

Hard to believe it is the same wood!  We still have to sand it in place and put on another coat or two of poly, but it is fun to finally see some nearly finished product!!  Our goal is to move back into our bedroom in two weeks.  That might be wishful thinking, but not if we can help it.

I was able to install the header and frame in our dining room wall to accommodate a french-style patio door set.  This will eventually look out into a four-season porch we will be adding next summer.  We plan to install the doors in April or May, along with a few new windows.  Oh what a joy it will be to have natural lighting in our living and dining rooms!!

We also managed to finish sealing up the bathroom and install our antique medicine cabinet.

This wall hides some open space inside to allow me to run ductwork to the future living space in the attic.  I was able to prepare that and then get this wall sealed up too!

The bathroom is now officially cleaner than it was when we moved in.  Between the ceiling light (which the old bathroom lacked) and foiled walls (which will be ‘rocked soon enough) it is also much brighter.  For reference….

Besides work on the main floor, we also got our temporary grow room in place.  We started our peppers, several flowers, and some herbs.  More will go in the dirt in the next few weeks as spring approaches.  For now, we are running 2 of our 4 LED grow lights on a timer.

Nearly everything planted is starting to come up!

Not everything always goes to plan, however, at least this weekend there were no stitches involved (although I did get to remove three of the five).  And here are parts for several of the projects I planned to work on but never got around to completing yet…  By the way, I do have a few of these Lutron Occupany sensors installed in a few other rooms.  They are amazing and highly recommended!

Ending on a light note, Shelly accidentally captured this moment with Mr Rooster and one of the hens over the weekend and I couldn’t resist sharing.  You cannot tell me you didn’t wonder…




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House Remodel – Part 1


We spent much of Thanksgiving weekend salvaging wood flooring in our old farmhouse and repairing the subflooring.  Our house was about as messy as it has ever been, one disadvantage to living in the house as your remodel it.  Everything had to be taken out of its place to get to the floor.  One hundred years worth of dust trapped in between the flooring and subflooring was released as we pried up fur flooring for salvage.



By Thursday, Shelly and I were ready to cry because of the daunting task and the mess this project was becoming.


Friday, we pressed on.  By Saturday, hope started setting in that our house will one day shine.  Our house started to transform from a run-down old house to a house under remodel.  We have never been so excited to see plywood floors and counter tops!


By Sunday evening, we had the kitchen plumbing complete and the kitchen sink set in its new home.  We also had the dishwasher back up and running, wahoo!

A quick tour of the process and progress:


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Barn Wood Flooring Update

Earlier this summer we collected old hayloft flooring from a neighbors barn that was getting demolished.  Due to other higher priority projects, the wood has been sitting in our garage all summer.  We are finally getting around to reclaiming and refinishing this old lumber for use as flooring in our home.  Amazingly, this flooring matching some flooring that we still need to pull out of our house to restore.  Here is a quick glimpse into the restoration process on the old barn wood flooring:

Update (2016.11.14):

I took a “vacation” day on Monday to attempt to get though as much of the flooring as possible before the snow storm hits this Friday.  It is nice to keep as much of the dust and fumes outdoors!  We are about 3 hours worth of sanding / polying away from completing the layloft flooring.  Then we’ll start removing the flooring in our house to refinish it in the garage (which, btw, is not heated or insulated).  Here is about 1/8 of the flooring sanded and one coat of polyurethane complete.



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