From Indoor Beach to Dust Bowl

Remember reading about the Dust Bowl in everyone’s favorite Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath? Remember how miserable everyone looked in the old black and white pictures of the Dust Bowl in our history books? Remember when we used books for learning?  Well, we now have a greater appreciation for what it was like during the Dust Bowl because we’ve gone from Indoor Beach (Yay!) to Dust Bowl (Boo!) in a matter of three weeks. Cue the sympathy symphony.

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That picture isn’t blurry.  That’s all the dust. Choke.

Last time we posted about our 40 Days of Flooring project, we had just solved our vinyl adhesive fly-trap-like sticky situation by spreading sand across our floors, resulting in an indoor beach effect. We were planning to hit the cleaning and prepping of the concrete fast and furious when tragedy struck.  My grandfather passed away, so we took a week hiatus from floors to focus on family.  I’m also continuing to travel back and forth across state lines to help take care of my grandmother while my parents tend to my grandfather’s final affairs.  This means our 40 Days of Flooring has turned into 50 Days of Flooring (if we’re lucky).

In the meanwhile, we’ve spent two weeks scrubbing, scraping, grinding, and cleaning the concrete for the underlayment and fighting the concrete dust that is now our constant companion.  Short version? Getting up the vinyl adhesive residue + paint overspray + splotches of wall/ceiling mud + poorly poured self-leveling concrete from who knows how long ago + random unidentified charred-looking black holes everywhere was is NOT. ANY. FUN. AT ALL. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE.

Long version for all you detail-oriented folks: Although the stickiness was mitigated by the sand, the adhesive was still strongly adhered to the concrete slab.  Our arsenal consisted of the following materials:

  • Long handled scraper
  • Sponge mop
  • Scrub mop
  • Grout brushes
  • Scrub brushes
  • 3 five gallon buckets (1 for dirty mop wring outs, 1 for clean water, 1 for TSP)
  • TSP
  • warm water
  • Angle grinder with adhesive removal blade
  • Heavy duty tarps and painting tarps
  • Furniture cloths (old sheets is what we used)
  • Painters’ tape
  • Dust Deputy + Shop Vac
  • Long sleeves, closed toe shoes, knee pads, eye protection, ear plugs, legit respirators, and chemical resistant glovesIMG_3816

After doing a lot of research, it became clear that we were going to have to get aggressive if we were going to subdue the adhesive.  We used TSP and our Cinderella power {aka elbow grease} (SO MUCH SCRUBBING. SO MUCH SCRAPING. RINSE. REPEAT.) to clean the formerly carpeted areas of the house. LivingRoom1

We also took the time to demo the tiled fireplace that eats into our living room floorspace. The bottom ledge that costs us in usable square footage was simply tiles laid on cement board laid on concrete block that just required a gentle love tap with a sledge hammer to come loose from the slab. Then we just had to scrape that adhesive off the slab, which turned out to be a much easier and more satisfying task than anything else. The wall tiles didn’t come off so smoothly, so we’ll have to replace that drywall when we finish the fireplace later.

IMG_3845The scrubbing and scraping work was tedious and took its toll on our hands.  I even managed to wear down an annoying palmer wart on my right middle finger that I’ve had for more than five years and was continuing to grow increasingly larger and more painful. It’s gone now, hopefully for good. Don’t want to smell like apple cider vinegar and wear duct tape? Scared of those freeze at home kits or a visit to the dermatologist? No worries. Just hand-scrub paint overspray from your whole house, though I wouldn’t recommend this particular remediation method. Also, don’t work with (or have?) wee, virus-carrying children if you don’t want warts, as I didn’t get them until after I started teaching the infectious little grubbies. 

The adhesive-stricken sections of the house were a different story entirely.  Chris had to use an angle grinder with a coating removal blade in the foyer, kitchen, dining area, laundry room, and guest bath (we are doing a major master bath reno in the next couple of years so decided to leave that room’s floor in tact  for now),IMG_3722especially in places where the original construction crew poured self-leveler to patch dips in the floor. resulting in (a) hills instead of flattened valleys and (b) a cement version of a poorly frosted cupcake. Gorgeous, no?

IMG_3844With our extremely open floor plan, this was profoundly problematic, so we bought GINORMOUS heavy duty tarps to seal off the work zone from everything else in attempt to confine the dust to the extent possible {key word: ATTEMPT}.

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We also purchased a Dust Deputy from Ace Hardware to minimize the dustiness from the grinding: IMG_3696

The Dust Deputy connects to your shop vac and filters 95% of the dust before it enters your shop vac so that the shop vac exhaust doesn’t deposit that dust back into your home.  We bought a pool vac hose (note the blue hose going into the house) so that we could put the shop vac and dust deputy OUTSIDE to minimize dust in the house even further. We have a newer shop vac but chose to use our old one so that all the concrete dust wouldn’t ‘ruin’ our new one.

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During the grinding, we were fairly certain the neighbors were going to call the Fire Department, as we set off the fire alarm and had mad crazy dust clouds billowing out the door, but they didn’t.  Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, really….Meanwhile, I cowered in the farthest away room with the cats.  Apparently I cannot breathe through a respirator, so I was not much help during this phase.

Despite sealing all visible cracks and covering everything with old sheets and protective tarps, the dust found its way into every nook and cranny of everything we own.  EVERYTHING. All our books are now dusty tomes (including my old high school copy of The Grapes of Wrath), and everything in the kitchen has needed washing multiple times, thanks to dust continuing to settle. Suffice it to say, our house is officially a living (but not breathing) diorama of the Dust Bowl, minus the abandoned farm equipment and clapboard siding.

Chris gets husby points for (a) doing all the grinding and (b) admitting that we should have done the floor demo, prep, and clean BEFORE MOVING IN like I originally wanted to do.  No glory in “I told you so” here, though.  I am suffering severe respiratory issues from all the concrete dust and probably have concrete lung {if that’s a thing, and if it isn’t, it should be}.  Chris only sneezes occasionally, and the cats seem to be doing okay, too, other than going bonkers from being kept in a confined space far from the madding crowd grind zone.

Now on to the underlayment and tile! Sneak peek:

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