Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Floor Sanding Begins: OSHA is on Standby

Through the looking glass to my living room as it is barricaded off in plastic wrap.

The Floor Sanders arrived early this morning and began putting plastic barriers all over the house (to keep the wood sand out of the nooks and crannies). Since the company touts its "Automatic Dust Free Sanding System," the plastic barriers must just be their belt-and-suspenders redundancy. As with almost all hard work done in California today, this work was done by Spanish-speaking immigrants.

And, like all the rest of the workers who have come to my house these past months, these young men were polite, quiet and resourceful. When I asked if I should cover the crystal chandelier in the bedroom, the crew chief said he would take care of it. The next I knew, Worker #2 was up on his toes, covering the chandelier. I'm so glad OSHA wasn't here to see that he did so standing on a wobbly plastic bucket.

When these guys get a union, that bucket thing is going to be history.

When the two men discovered my 220 power outlet was of the new four-pronged variety, and their sander had a three-pronged plug, they spoke softly together for a few minutes and then hand wired their sander into my fuse box outside. I believe this is how whole neighborhoods get their power in certain parts of the world. I'm not even going to show you a picture of what they did because I'm afraid the code enforcement guys might be reading my blog.

All this is really terra incognita for a woman who used to work with highly structured union crews in the television industry. You couldn't even change a bulb in a light unless you were from the right branch of the right union. When I worked at KRON-TV in San Francisco one of the unions had delayed the changeover from film to video for years because negotiators hadn't worked out all the details.

There were benefits to many of these union rules, and safety was among them. But market forces were pushing back and laborers who were eager to work began flooding in across our porous borders. The market, like a river, will find its path.

Meanwhile, assuming all my fuses don't blow and no one is electrocuted, my Pink Bedroom floor begins its transformation.

This was my parents' room near the end of their lives. I hope both would be pleased to see the damaged floor repaired. (This is the "before" photo).

The red oak floor after the first of the machine sanding work was completed.

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Jon said...

Dustfree floor sanding? That's pretty hard to believe. My Dad did floors when he was in his 20s. He refinished the floors in my 104 year old classic portland home. White oak is thought to be of higher quality, but I love the red oak. The variations in color are more enjoyable.

Did they take off the baseboards? If not, then the floor will not be level if they are ever replaced or removed. The edging of the sides of the room are the most difficult, as they may require a hand held sander. If not skilled, the floor will have divots, or be uneven.

Another good trick is if some boards are dented, scratched, or stained badly, you can take out the boards and flip them over. This is easier than it sounds. Alternatively if you have a closet, boards can be swapped, or put new non-100%-matching wood in the closet.

The floors are looking pretty sweet. Can't wait to see the finished product. I tried the water based finish, and was disappointed. Another time I had pros some out and used some heavy duty stuff, like for gym floors. It is very tough, and is what I would use again. The down side is that it had a strong chemical smell that dissipates in 2-3 days.

Robin Chapman said...

You sound like you really know your stuff. The floor is looking good, but I always think a floor looks best after it has been finished and walked on and scratched up a bit! When they are freshly finished they look a little too perfect. I think these guys did a good job. Today they put on the varnish and do it again tomorrow and again on Friday and then I'm just supposed to let it cure. Once the walls and trim have been repainted it will really start to look good--I hope!