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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Furniture Fridays: Caster(ed), the Friendly Furniture

Confession: I love furniture with casters.  In fact, sometimes I wonder why all furniture doesn’t come with casters.  So for the first Furniture Friday post, let’s talk casters and why they make furniture friendly!

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Top Ten Reasons All Furniture Should Be on Casters:

  1. Cleaning: I may not be Susie Q. Homemaker, but I am rather OCD, especially when it comes to a clean home.  It is my sworn mission to launch frequent cleaning assaults on dust mites lurking in the carpets and upholstery in particular.  Unfortunately, instead of mass-cleaning in one fell swoop, I find myself turning the vacuum cleaner on and off constantly while I move furniture around to make sure all areas of the carpet and rugs get vacuumed properly. Trust me: There is simple satisfaction in being able to relocate furniture with a nudge while continuing to vacuum, instead of waiting for your spouse to help you move the 92″ sofa where the dust mites are marshaling their troops (or wrenching your back trying to strong-arm it one-handed yourself: See #4). Oh sure, I may not move the furniture every time I clean, but I’d really like to avoid the nightmares about dust bunniculas that haunt me when I don’t move the furniture.
  2. Clutter Magnets (also known as Kids): We don’t have kids yet, but I know a lot of blogger buddies and friends who do.  From what I can tell, the average child leaves a room looking like an F5 tornado swept through recently.   In the FEMA-worthy clean-up that follows, some toys are never found in the wreckage: Presumably they took shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture and are still in the back corner, cowering in fear of being sucked into the tornado by giant, grabbing hands covered in marker and saliva (and who knows what else).  Of course, this leads to the inevitable meltdown when your kids set out to build the perfect Lego masterpiece, only to discover that a few essential pieces are missing.  Utter frustration.  Flash forward a few years when you move into a larger home to accommodate your growing family and discover those missing pieces under the bedroom dresser.  Someone in the family shouts, “My Legoooooooooos!” and then, because the Legos have already been packed, those stray pieces get thrown in a random box, never to be seen again…at least until the next move when you are empty nesters downsizing and your children are “too old” to play with Legos because they are now (gasp) adults.  Then, because you are a sentimental parent (or maybe you are the adult children who secretly still love your Legos and want to save every piece of your childhood), you end up with a Ziploc bag of random toy parts in a drawer in the guest room and Hogwarts in a box under your bed, waiting for (grand)children (someday).  Okay, fine.  I bought the Harry Potter Legos when I was in college.  But still.  #NeverTooOldForLegos
  3. Companions (i.e., your other children): We do have animal companions in the form of two spoiled cats.  They have toys, too. Lots of small toys that squeak, shake, jingle, or roll, typically under things out of reach (Note: This picture clearly shows a ball within human reach, but you get the idea).  IMG_2332How many of you have a pet that pouts when his/her favorite toy is under something and he/she can’t reach it?  My cat just falls asleep where his toy is lost, but he’s not exactly an active breed.  My husband’s cat, however, is a different story entirely.  She will whine and fidget in front of a piece of furniture until someone rescues her toy from underneath it, which is usually rather quickly because a Siamesesque shriek is hard to ignore (Siamesesque because she is a rescue cat that has seal-point Siamese markings, but we think she isn’t a purebred).  Usually this rescue mission involves a contortionist act with a Swiffer duster and shoulder dislocation, which brings us to #4.
  4. Critical Injuries: How many people land themselves a visit to the chiropractor trying to unearth toys for sobbing children and whining pets?  If you are a DIYer, go ahead and triple that number.  DIYers probably experience an above average number of accidents (and ER trips) resulting from assuming they have super-human powers (but come on, everyone’s favorite superheroes have a weakness here or there, so aren’t DIYers allowed a few tragic flaws, too?).  A trip to the ER is fairly expensive these days, so if you are a DIYer with pets and children, stock up on Aleve. You’ll need it unless you have mobile furniture that reduces the frequency of opportunities for neck strain and shoulder separation.
  5. Company: As an only child, my childhood involved having lots of people over to my house for pool parties and sleepovers.  Wouldn’t games of Twister have been much easier if the furniture easily rolled back?  Nowadays, when we get together with my husband’s family, the inevitable Xbox 360 dance marathons or Wii Sports games involve lots of action and the need for lots of space.  Furniture relocation for game nights is a cinch if everything rolls in/out.  
     Roll it out for dance sessions and roll it back in place for boardgames. Because who wants to injure their backs before the dance marathon happens? Not this kid, especially since Kinect dance-offs are the only thing I usually win when playing games with my husband’s extremely competitive family.  My family is only competitive when it comes to SEC football, but piling a bunch of people into a room to yell at the TV watch football comfortably would be helped by rolling furniture, too!
  6. Christmas/Holidays: Company frequently coincides with the holidays, no matter what holiday you might be celebrating.  More people = more furniture and less room for it.  If you celebrate Christmas like we do, there may also be the addition of a tree or two (or several).   Trees need space, which involves moving even more furniture. Casters make Christmas (and Christmas decorating) a happier time.  And who doesn’t want to have a happy holiday?
  7. Creative Whims: Decorating for Christmas certainly necessitates furniture finagling to fit everything and everyone in the room together cozily yet happily.  However, if you are like me, a creative whim to change decor and rearrange furniture can strike at any moment–not just the holidays.   Casters make it possible to cater to your creative whims, especially if creative inspiration usually strikes you when you’re home alone but don’t want to wait to try out your new idea until reinforcements arrive.
  8. Cross-country Moving: Whether moving cross-country or cross-city, you may not always have the financial resources to hire a professional moving company or be fortunate enough to have your company pay for movers if relocating to a new job/job site.  I have lived in 5 states and have moved 14 times in 29 years.  Only twice did those moves involve professional movers.  Moving furniture would be much simpler if everything rolled so that you could save your strength for lifting across thresholds and up ridiculously narrow ramps and staircases.  Plus, you wouldn’t have to use those small, rolling dollies that seem prone to wiggle out from under furniture at the worst possible times and are best suited for pet skateboards (or beds, in this case, thanks to the soft towel laid on top to protect the sofa in transit to make it more comfortable).  IMG_2331
  9. Critters: The Great Mouse Roach Hunt: This section is not for the faint of heart.  We currently live in a townhouse with neighbors on both sides.  We have perfectly wonderful neighbors on one side, and interesting neighbors on the other (interesting: a Southern female euphemism for less than savory).  These interesting neighbors have habits that seem to invite critters of the six- and eight-legged variety.  I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that the combination of a mild winter and dry summer plus those neighbors has led to critters finding their way to our home, too.  We have regular pest control services (and our service provider is absolutely fantastic!), but last weekend we saw a ginormous roach emerge from the floorboard along the wall we share with those neighbors.  Neither of us had seen a roach that big since dorm days.  It zoomed under furniture, up walls, and even attempted to fly-hop across the kitchen before we trapped it. I completely lost my head and stood on our new storage ottoman from Target (with casters, of course) while my brave husband went after it.  I am normally only that creeped out by spiders, centipedes, and snakes, but this thing was as freaked out as we were, which made it that much worse.  If all the furniture had been on casters, we would have been able to end The Great Roach Hunt more quickly. Blech.  At least it wasn’t one of those infamous German cockroaches. Exponential blech.IMG_2282
  10. Couching: This last one may be a new one for some of you.  If you grew up as a suburbanite, perhaps you may or may not have participated in (or been the recipient of) a toilet-papering/rolling/TPing of someone’s house.  What you may not have done is “couch” someone’s house.  This involves the traditional toilet paper, accompanied by various and sundry other random things deposited in the victim’s yard, including: traffic cones, street signs, toilets, and couches.  (All of these things found their way into my yard at some point during my high school years.  You know who you are). 😉  Things like toilets and couches were allegedly scrounged from people’s yards who had set them out to be hauled away to the dump (translate: NASTY condition).  Things like traffic cones and street signs, well, you can figure those out.  Not legal, folks.  Don’t do it.  Now,  I would imagine that sneaking a couch into someone’s yard would be made much easier if you could simply roll a couch down someone’s driveway and run/drive off, rather than carefully placing it on the front porch.  Of course, maybe that would be taking some of the fun out of it, if, in fact, couching is a fun activity.  My dad played a good joke on the people who “couched” our yard one chilly night in late October that involved a toilet and a gigantic pumpkin, and let’s just say, there were no more couches or toilets in our yard for a long time afterwards.  Maybe this is why I love pumpkins so much.  At any rate, I’m not endorsing couching, but as an OCD person, I wanted a list of 10 reasons, and this came to mind as something humorous/bizarre/unique to add to the list when I was thinking about why you would want casters for moving furniture more quickly and easily.

Can you think of any more reasons why casters would simplify/improve your home/work/life (preferably a better reason than #10)?  Please share!