The skirting boards that used to be around the lounge room (and the rest of downstairs) were quite narrow and cheap-looking. We wanted something a bit more lush going forward, and came up with a taller board with a simple, elegant angle on top.
Modern skirting seems to be made out of MDF. Which just doesn’t seem hard enough for something that’s going to be banged into. We saved some of the old hardwood floorboards from the lounge to get turned into new skirting.
We had to remove the old varnish and trim off the tongue and groove. Some of the boards were warped, so across all seven 135mm pieces we had we were able to salvage a final height of 100mm. We did a tester board first, cutting the angle at the top with the plane in increments and then setting it against the wall to see how it looked. We settled on a 30mm deep angle and made up a jig for the plane to make sure they were all consistent.
The floor is not perfectly flat, particularly where the slate tiles are, so we put some effort into preferentially shaving bits off the bottom of the boards to reduce any gaps between the board and the floor. Some gaps remain, but we will fill those later.
We’ve left them raw for now; we’re waiting another 5 weeks for the floor finish to harden before painting (walls and skirting) and affixing the boards.
Finally it’s time to put the oil on the floor. We have enough oil for two coats. It was painted on with a brush, left for a bit and then rubbed back with an old pillowcase from the rags bin.
In hindsight it would have been better to have more oil, apply it with a roller, and use a squeegee to remove the excess. There was only just enough oil to cover the floor, and I ended up using it more sparingly that I would have liked. Doing it in the middle of winter is also a bad time. The wax in the oil can precipitate out when it’s too cold, leaving a sort of fog in the finish. There’s a few spots on the floor where this can be seen if you bend right down. We tried leaving the heater on in the room but obviously it wasn’t up to scratch.
The floor will want another couple of coats of oil to be truly finished, but we think it’s best to wait for warmer weather, so we’ll leave it as is for the moment and return to it in spring.
The floorboards we got for the lounge room are what’s called “utility grade”. Which is pretty much the lowest grade, full of knots and sap lines and holes here and there and quite a few with machine marks in them. We wanted the sap lines and knots for interest, but not the ones that were graded as such just because they were crappy or damaged in some way. Quite a few boards went into a reject pile, and we’ll use them for the shed floor which will be going in down by the orchard.
At any rate, we don’t want to spend the rest of our lives digging dust out of knot holes, so all those imperfections have to be filled so that the floor can present a smooth surface to our feet and broom.
We’ll be using a Livos oil to finish the floor, and the lady at the shop recommended just putting black putty in the holes, since she was certain my suggestion of using epoxy would result in black features anyway. This was all a bit confusing, so I got 1 black putty, one “hardwood” putty which looked to be around about a matching colour and a small amount of epoxy in one of those double-syringe setups. I got a couple of spare boards and filled some holes on each one using different methods, then finished them with a couple of coats of the oil.
The epoxy was far and away the best solution, so we went ahead and got a larger 1L container of the stuff. This involved a special trip to a sailor’s shop in the city. The holes did go quite dark, but there was still detail visible under the epoxy which was the effect we were after. The black putty just ended up looking pasted on, and the wood-coloured putty made it look like a mistake had been made.
It took a whole day in the end to epoxy up all the cracks. Some of them went all the way through the board and the epoxy just kept leaking through. Some holes needed 3 applications with drying time in between before the holes closed up. I’ll be taping the underside of any boards we do in the future before they’re laid.
The epoxy is by West Systems, and doesn’t smell or shrink upon drying. It went hard in 24 (cold) hours and sanded easily. 1.2L (1L of resin and 0.2L of hardener) was $54. We found that using a 10mL syringe was a quick and neat way of applying the epoxy to the holes, although it wouldn’t go into some of the smaller wormholes. We used a slow hardener that has a working time of around 45 minutes, and did 3 batches of about 200mL. I went wandering off while doing the first batch, rummaging in the shed for something, and I actually left it too long. It went hot in its container and then hardened up over the course of a few minutes. It must have been something to do with the amount that was in there, and the heat of the chemical reaction. The little bits on the floor stayed liquid for much longer. The next couple of batches went well, but the syringe and container can’t be re-used.
We came back the next day and sanded the epoxy back, then refilled any holes that weren’t flush with the top of the wood.
When the epoxy is being mixed it tends to get full of air bubbles. It’s best, when applying it to the wood, to pop the bubbles as you go. I was a bit lax and a couple of the holes end up with bubbles inside them, which catch the light and give a “cloudy” effect. Others that migrate to the surface leave a small indentation behind once the blob has been sanded back. It’s not a big deal, but it’s easy enough to circumvent.
Our floor guy spent four days doing the lounge room floor. Day 1 was a lot of laying out of lines and the addition of some shims to even up the wonky subfloor. About 1 metre of it was done by the end of the day.
Each board is screwed into the joist with long screws that have a small square-drive head. No glue or nails and, should someone wish it in the future, it will come back up again without too much fuss. One of the things we learned when we pulled up the last set of boards was that the below-surface nails are terribly hard to get out, and the boards can be ruined while trying to retrieve them. That doesn’t help anyone.
Day 2 and day 3 were spent filling in the rest of the boards. Day 4 was dedicated to sanding.
One of the guys we had in to quote assured us he could do it in a day, and gave a pretty cheap price. He would really have to have slapped those boards down to get it done in that time. We’re glad we went with someone a little more measured.
We had a couple of days before the floor guy came, so we did our best to tape and stop up some of the gaps in the lounge room ceiling. We won’t get it all done, and it will have to wait a while for the floor to be ready to receive ladders and dust again.
Had to finish up just doing first tape and bog on the north-south joins between boards.
Furring channel: check. Light sockets: check. Flue shroud: check. Insulation: check. Now we can finally get onto lifting the plasterboard!
We did a “pre-back blocking” where we glued one half of the back blocks onto each piece while they were on the floor. I think this made it a lot easier to put up piece after piece, knowing that the back blocks weren’t going to move behind the board where you can’t see them.
The first board to be lifted the next day was the trickiest. It wasn’t clear that the lifter was able to tilt to the angle of the roof in the direction we needed it to, and attempts were made to prop it up at one end. The board was bending, too, and popping its screws. What a mission!
For the next one we just kept on turning the wheel, even when it became quite hard, and the lifter did indeed just make the angle. So the next lot went on a lot easier. Bottom row first and then we cracked out the extended boom to reach the top row.
The top ones where tricky. While the board is relatively horizontal it’s longer than the distance between the beam and the lower row of boards, so it had to be finangled around the beam then pushed or pulled “uphill” to get it to slot in, all while turning the wheel to increase the angle. As it happened, the angle of the roof is just the angle where the board wants to start slipping down hill. A couple of the board were very frustrating indeed.
The last board went in and we were straight back to Richard’s to give him his lifter back. We had to wait for the next day to get the last slim bits stuck on at the end.
Work continues apace on the lounge room ceiling; we had some sockets installed for the two lights, so that we could come by later and just plug and unplug the light itself as needed. With that done we could go ahead and put in the rest of the insulation.
We’ve also go the two bits of plasterboard around the flue shroud screwed on. Pretty happy with how that turned out.
Putting a ceiling on the lounge room presents an interesting problem. The flue currently disappears into a ragged hole in the roof, and there is a metal collar thingy in the shed that looks like it’s supposed to cover the hole, but the slope turns the circular flue into an elliptical problem.
We’re not quite sure where the plasterboard is going to go in this picture. It might be above the shroud bit, below it, or it might cut through half way.
So after the furring channel went on we made a bit of a guide with some string.
It looks like a half way through kind of thing. At any rate, we need some kind of transition between the plasterboard, which will go at an angle, and the flue, which is straight up and down.
We decided after some discussion that the best idea would be an additional shroud that extends below the one that is there, and below the level of the plasterboard. We won’t try to make it flush with the plasterboard in any place, as it’s going to look like a bit of a hatchet job that way. Instead we’ll have a white tube extending out of the ceiling, and have it black inside so that the flue disappears into a ‘hole’. It should be dark enough inside so that the flue looks like it’s unsupported by anything, though the tube will sit snugly around the outside of the existing shroud.
We can go ahead and do the plasterboard as well. It needs an ellipse cut into it at the same angle as the roof.
With a bit of calculating (the roof is 24.5º from horizontal) and looking up how to use a compass and a piece of string to find the foci of an ellipse and draw it onto the board, we were able to get a mock-up going.
The idea was to put the plasterboard onto a little ramp thingy to get the angle right, then bandsaw the hole out. So a bit more trigonometry yielded some measurements, and we cut a piece of offcut hardwood to length and then across the diagonal.
It’s pretty good: we couldn’t really get the protractor to confirm the angle to within half a degree, but it’s surely close enough.
It quickly became apparent that the bandsaw was way too small to cut the whole thing at once, so we sliced the hole down the middle and did half at a time.
The first side went OK, but then doing the other side the hole was on the high end of the ramp and it wouldn’t go into the bandsaw. We had to flip it over and do it from the back. But then it turned out the hole wasn’t central on the piece of plasterboard, so it was offset by about 1cm when it was turned over again! Doh. We sliced a centimetre off one side of each piece to tidy it up, making sure it would still line up with the wall.
It’s also apparent that there’s no way we’re going to cut a hole out of a piece of plasterboard that’s any bigger than the one we were working with, so the mock-up became the actual piece we’ll use.
After that it was time to sort out the flue’s new shroud. We measured around the flue (83.9cm circumference) and bought a piece of galvanised sheet steel that was big enough. It was painted with pot belly black paint (mainly for the matte finish as opposed to its heat resistance, since the present flue shroud only gets warm with the fire going full pelt) then cut to size. We bent it around into a tube, clamped it and drilled and riveted along the length of the join. All that wrangling scratched up the paint so we gave the inside another coat.
We had to wait a few days for dry weather, since we have to take the flue cap off the outside in order to lift the flue out of the fireplace. During that process we discovered that the existing flue cap was totally rusted out – it fell to pieces in my hands as I took it off.
Setting that aside as a problem for later, we went back in and lifted the flue out of the fireplace, slipped the new shroud under it and let it all fall back into place. Up on the ladder we tested the new shroud around the old … and perfect fit! That never happens. Bonus.
Now we just need to fit the plasterboard pieces around it, select a height for the bottom of the tube to sit at, and lock it all in with a couple of screws.
Back outside, we can’t leave the top of the flue without a cap, so we rushed down to the pot belly shop for a new one. Easy as pie and watertight again.
The plan for the lower level of the house is to remove the wall between the lounge room and the master bedroom and convert the bedroom into the kitchen (the master bedroom goes upstairs).
That change will turn the lower level into a three-part space. The lounge on the east, the kitchen on the west and the dining area in the middle. We have two lights in the lounge that are set up for it to be a single space, and when the layout changes one of them will be in the wrong spot to be useful. Even as-is we never use that light; the space it illuminates is a bit of a dead area. The easiest time to move it is now, before the ceiling goes on.
There is an extra cable in the roof that used to go to the ceiling fan, removed long ago. It was disconnected and the switchplate on the wall removed and the hole plastered over. The easiest thing is to repurpose that cable for later.
A hole drilled in the current ceiling luckily located the cable straight away. We pulled it through and popped it in the spot where we’ll have a new “dinner table” light later on.
We’ll put a cap thing in there to keep the insulation away from the wiring connections, and then just cover it over with plasterboard. Once we’re ready we can use the measurements to cut the plasterboard in just the right spot to locate the wire.
The floorboards are sitting in the lounge room acclimatising. They’ll be installed in about a month. We were always going to put a ceiling over the exposed beams in the lounge. They give a kind of fake country feel that makes the place look dated. Ceiling work involves a lot of up and down on ladders and, let’s face it, it will be a miracle if we don’t drop anything on the floor from height while we’re doing it. So it’s best to sort the ceiling out before the floor.
We want to put some insulation up there and move one of the lights while we’re at it. It will also give us an opportunity to fix up the bodgy hole that was cut way back in the day for the fireplace flue. It’s supposed to have a shroud around it, but we found the shroud down under the house when we moved in. The shroud has a circular hole for a flat ceiling, and the sloped ceiling turns circles into ellipses, and it looks like cutting the correct ellipse out of the shroud was put firmly into the too-hard basket.
The rafters are 900mm apart, which is way too far for fixing plasterboard directly to the roof without risking sagging. The solution is furring channel, a metal extrusion that is attached to the rafters, with the plasterboard then attached to the extrusion.
The furring channel was relatively easy to procure, along with special clips to attach it to the rafters. We needed another ladder so we could both be up there at once.
The main trick is ensuring that the surface that is created is flat. Any kinks in the plasterboard will be quite obvious, so the furring channel has to be just right, and you can’t trust old rafters that were never installed with precision in mind.
We utilised our trusty straight edge and a level to line up the ends both across and up-and-down the roof, and used it again to eliminate any sag in the middle of the furring channel.
The furring channel comes in 6m lengths, and the room is 6.3m long, which left a gap. We cut them in the middle at the shop so that we could transport them in the ute. We could have wrangled other lengths, and gone cutting the furring channel to span the whole distance with ends that line up on the rafters, but the gap is not a problem: we’ll span a piece of plasterboard across it.
We spread the work out over two days, and it probably took about 7 hours in total, since we’re newbies and we had a lot of breaks for cuppas and the like.