House Week 39: Prepping the Merbau Boards for the Porch

Having made the decision about the what, now all that was left to get started was picking them up. This was made easy as they come in 12’ lengths, so with a smile a request was made to have them cut in half and in half they were cut fitting perfectly into the truck!  Thank you Ashby Lumber!  Once we had the boards back at the house it was time for some planning on where and how we wanted to position them for the best look (the porch isn’t quite square…).  We decided to align the first board with the inside edge of the front steps so we could work our way towards each end from a central starting point.  This allows us to adjust the spacing for each board as necessary to accommodate the shape of the porch.

The board to the far left is our “starter” board, the first board we positioned for the porch and what all of the other boards will be spaced from.  To the right we have started to trim the other planks to fit recessed in the porch.

House Wk 39: Merbau Decking - Positioning

After each of the boards were cut it was quittin time so piled high into the garage they went to await tomorrow when they would begin their path to “sealed”-ness.  Luckily we had a bit of good weather allowing me to get a coat of wax along each cut end to seal the boards from a future damage.  Even through they are kiln dried they still need to be sealed to prevent moisture from entering the wood, which is done all over the boards at the factory so i only had to touch up the spots where we had trimmed them to fit in the space.

After the sealing is done and dry, another day, then it’s time to begin the multi day process of staining each of the surfaces of the planks for added durability.  Yes they have a crazy warranty and yes they are already sealed, but this is one of those things you do so you don’t ever have to do it again…ever!  Here are the boards laid out after i have applied the stain to the top.

House Wk 39: Merbau Decking - Bubbly!

Once the stain has been on the board for 30 minutes or so what is going to sink in has and it’s time to wipe the excess off and allow the wood to begin drying.  Be careful what type of rags you use as a) if it has fuzzies they will be permanently left behind on your wood and b) after this it’s going in the trash (no favorite dish towels please).  I found painters cloths to work well and my father swears by microfiber cloths.  Oh, almost forgot, wear GLOVES!  THis stuff will totally eat your hands, even the eco friendly ones.  When they called them “green” they must have been thinkin of piranhas!

House Wk 39: Merbau Decking - Removing the excess stain

Once you get the excess off its back to waiting, something i have found i spend a lot of time doing with this house.  I gave each side the full day with applying the stain by 10am and then leaving them to dry in the sun until i brush my teeth for bed about 10pm, only doing a single side each day.  It has taken four sessions, but they look great and haven’t stuck to each other once!  Here is a shot of a board in the sun after it has dried for a few days from the stain.  Pretty yellow flecks…

House Wk 39: Merbau Decking Stained

House Week 38: Researching for the Right Planks for the Front Porch

Yep, it’s a real house all weather tight and i have officially moved in!!!  YEA!!!!!!!  Weather tight is actually more important then you may think here right now with our sideways rain and shooter marble sized hail.  Another thing that is tremendously important is solid ground, and well it’s about time i move on from the ever so trendy plywood porch to something a bit more traditional, like wood planks maybe?  So off to the wood planks place (Ashby Lumber) i went to find some wood…

The weekend consisted of researching the ever burdening question “What kind of material should i buy?”  While this sounds easy, it’s actually tricky since there are tons of products out right now that are really only made to last a few years.  Crazy huh!  Who’d want to spend all of the time laying boards down for their porch to only do it a few years again?  Well the answer is no one.  Most of these products are marketed to people who want to do something cheap and don’t care for one reason or another, usually they either are already selling the place and just want to spruce it up or they are planning to soon and would like to get a ouple of extra dollars.  I narrowed it down to a couple of different products.

First was Trex, which is made of “recycled materials”.  I hate it when things refuse to tell you what they are made of…it’s just lame!  So that was one ding, and they were eliminated as a choice when i found out that it is not recommended to place the boards in direct sunlight.  Ummm, that is silly!  From speaking with others who have it installed it seems to hold heat a bit too well so the surface becomes ridiculously hot to the touch which would so not work with my need to be barefoot all year.

Second was Merbau, which is a super hard wood which for this product is grown sustainably in the tropical Asia-Pacific region and was promised to not burn my feet, yea!  The wood has a soft brown grain with streaks of yellow highlights giving it a fantastic depth.  The product has a 50 year lifespan, which then you can turn it over and use the other side so 100 years in total.  Another bonus, something i only have to do once not matter how long i live.  It wasn’t cheap, but it did not break the bank either, decision made, time to go pick it up.

House Week 37: Back to Stripping … Paint

There is a never ending amount of items original to the house that i have been stripping 90 years of paint off of since last year, and unfortunately the pile has not visibly shrunk.  With the trim going up around the windows in the front of the house it is imminent that the actual windows themselves will need to be ready for installation.  With the world thinking all of the rain needs to fall now and in Berkeley i took advantage of a break in the storms to attempt to strip the two fixed windows that will be set in the living room as i will not have time to finish all of them before they go up, and well it seems to make sense to focus on the ones that will be nailed in place…right?

Stripping paint is definitely not a strenuous job (like laying a porch), but where it lacks in strength it makes up for in time.  Lots of time!  Most of stripping is waiting, testing, waiting some more, and then waiting just a bit longer still, and THEN going at the object scraping and swirling with steel wool trying to loosen as much as possible before you start the whole thing over again.  I have found a relatively earth friendly brand of paint stripper i like, Citristrip, which has a super pleasant odor of oranges and lemons so it’s not so bad during all of the waiting while i read.  Also it works…watch!

So here are the 90 year old windows i focused on in all of their 7+ layers of paint glory…

House Wk 37: Stripping Paint, in the beginning

House Wk 37: Fixed window edge that has never touched paint     House Wk 37: Stripping Paint, all of the layers

So here’s the steps…

  1. After i got the windows out and setup in a shady spot i gave them a damp dusting, not too wet, just enough to break through the dirt/dust (and cobwebs) that has been accumulating on them since they came out of the house a year ago.
  2. Once they were clean i used a dry cloth to make sure to remove any remaining water or dust.  They have to be *dry* for the stripper to work.
  3. Time to glob on the stripping gel.  I just open the jug and pour in over the surfaces sparsely and then go back over it with a paint brush to distribute evenly.  I think the directions say to put it in a can and brush in on from there… (but we all know i hate directions!)  The trick seems to be a good even layer nearly a 1/16'” thick over the entire surface to ensure good coverage.  This is one of those times that more is totally better.  Also note that if you have metal hardware on whatever you are stripping, like the casement hinges on the windows, you can remove or leave on and the stripper will help clean them up too, no damage
  4. Time to wait!  I give them about two hours before i even poke at them…
  5. You will need to test an area to see if they are ready yet, but i wait a minimum of two hours AND look for the tell tale sign of the paint curling together.  No curls or bubble, it’s not done.  If it’s dry and there are none, add another coat to help restore the moisture levels so the stripper can get back to work.
  6. Once you have the ripples test a corner using a plastic scraper (metal at you own risk, i totally learned this the hard way with an ugly scratch on the glass).  You should get a good couple of layers off at a time.
  7. While it would be nice, this is not a single coat type thing.  For my crazy hundred layers it took two passes, which is nothing!  So from here depending up how much paint you got off repeat steps 3 through 6 at least once more and and many times as necessary to get close to the wood.  Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t all come through, we have something else for that. 
  8. Once you have *most* of the paint off time to move over to the Mineral Spirits and Steel Wool.  Unfortunately this is something that stinks to the high heavens.  There are “Green” and “Odorless” ones, which i used, but they are definitely not odorless!  Be sure this is done outside or somewhere you and nothing else will be for at least a day.  Pour a sparing amount of mineral spirits directly onto the wood and scrub at the remaining paint.  I started with “00” pads and they worked great without scratching up the glass and metal.
  9. Keep working with adding more mineral spirits and changing out your steel wool pads once they are full of paint (remember they have two sides!).  I used an old rag to help clean off the areas as i finished them.

And here are the windows after a full day…

House Wk 37: Stripping Paint, windows...the end     House Wk 37: Stripping Paint, DONE!!!

Aren’t they fantastic!  I am super impressed and can’t wait to see them up in the house!!!  Which will mean i can move in :)