El Chris Wrestles a Floor

I’m not handy. I’ve never been handy. I probably never will be handy. Ever. Let’s make that clear.

Two months ago, The Patient Wife and I bought a house. We did it. After a long while and a lot of anxiety, we finally did it. But the anxiety didn’t end at closing.

Oh no sir.

We bought a house that needed some love. We could have moved in and left it as is, but we knew… KNEW that the house was pregnant with potential (thanks for that description, Brother-in-Law). We knew there was beauty beneath everything we saw, so I ate my anxiety about being handy and went at it. This is the story about how I, El Chris (along with more than a few dedicated friends) rescued a 113 year old maple floor from awful carpet and bad choices and gained new confidence in myself.

Our story actually begins on Facebook. The Patient Wife and I had gotten an estimate of $2500 to sand the two rooms. We knew that we would have to do it ourselves. I asked Facebook for advice, and everybody swore up and down that it was the most awful thing ever and I should pay someone to do it, except for two people. Ryan Ryan (a man I hired when I was in charge of a convenience store) gently encouraged me and said that I could do it. Mr Liquor, a good friend and a man I hope to be when I grow up, offered me a sizable amount of money to do it myself. Armed with newfound confidence, I set off.

I. Could. Do. This.

Ugly Carpet

The Patient Wife and I hung drywall, with the help of Mr Corn. We exposed some brick, we fixed the nasty plaster, but that carpet. Someone missed the bad choices talk in middle school.

At some point, someone pointed to this in a shop and said "Yeah, ok, we like that one. We'll take it."
At some point, someone pointed to this linoleum in a shop and said “Yeah, ok, we like that one. We’ll take it.”

We pulled up the carpet, and we found this. We knew there would be lovely wood floors in the living room, but the dining room had this underneath. So, my muscles, my friends, and I all got to work.

Chopped linoleum
Two hours of awful, sweaty work produced this

It was slow, strenuous work. Mr ‘Hoda (Mrs ‘Hoda’s husband) took a day off work and he and I spent the whole day chopping tile with an ice chopper and chisels. it was slow and awful. The linoleum didn’t have asbestos, but if it did I would have had an excuse to pay someone to get rid of it. Finally, a fantastic helper on Instagram suggested I use a heat gun. After using that, the tile came right up and in whole pieces too.


After the tiles came the boards. An entire squadron of helpers came to pull up the nails used to hold those awful boards down. A special thanks goes out to Officer Hansen, Jakers, and Oaken Gearbox who spent HOURS on their knees with me pulling up nail after nail. After each board, we anxiously awaited to see why those beautiful floors were covered up. Not a single flaw was found.

Who covers up a floor like this???
Who covers up a floor like this???

We found this flawless floor underneath. Scratching our heads as to why someone would ever cover up a floor like this, the sanding started. Swallowing my anxiety, I made the trip to Home Depot where Rob in tool rental calmly talked me through each step. With that, I rented a 300 pound beast of a machine. I took a deep breath and I started sanding.

Maple floor
A before and after of a single pass on the floor.

I think the worst part was turning it on for the first time. Once I actually started moving, it wasn’t so bad. Before long, I had sanded the entire floor in both rooms. Then I repeated it. It took me six passes to get the whole floor cleared of old finish.

Floor Sander
This drum sander weighed almost 300 pounds. There’s a reason I didn’t sand the upstairs.

At this point, my friend Rub (you know, Rub from that Scout Camp?) asked if he could help, so for a Thai dinner and oodles of beer, he and his lovely companion Miss Knickers came and helped me sand. He did the corners by hand, and when he was finished, he went upstairs and started my next project.

Rub sanding
Rub, sanding the corners

Rub sanded, and sanded, and sanded. Then The Patient Wife sanded some more. And then our neighbors complained that we were sanding too much. But we kept sanding that damn floor.

The discs we used to sand the edges.
The discs we used to sand the edges.

The machine I used to sand the edges would travel about six inches before the sanding disc was completely covered with melted varnish. The disc on the left was new, and the disc on the right traveled less than six inches. It was a long, slow process.

The bare maple floor
Our bare maple floor.

FINALLY our raw floor was ready to finish. After some hemming and hawing and delay tactics and some encouragement from my brother-in-law, the first coat of finish went down, and the wood positively glowed. I was on the last step.

The maple floor in the living room after the first coat of finish.
The maple floor in the living room after the first coat of finish.

After many mornings of sanding and applying the next coat before work, I was finished. I did it. Holy crap. I DID it.

The final floor the night before we moved in.
The final floor the night before we moved in.

If I can do it, you can do it. It wasn’t perfect. It’s still not perfect. But it’s perfect for me. My sweat (and little bits of beard hair) are now literally part of my house, at least until they wear out of the polyurethane. But I made this house one step closer to perfect. And right now? That’s just perfect.


Author: El Chris

I’m full of snark that doesn’t always come out. I have a soft spot for kids and people with special needs. I’m a disability advocate by day, and a coffee roasting photographer by night. You’ll love me, but your parents will love me more.

5 thoughts on “El Chris Wrestles a Floor”

  1. Great recap. Would like to see full pictures of the living room before and after, now with furniture.

  2. I was hoping this would become a blog post! I’m so proud of you guys for all of the work you have done to make your house into your home. It’s looking beautiful!

    1. Thanks for the constant encouragement and help, Amanda! Just curious, did you get any traffic from my link to you?

  3. Having just wrestled my own floor I feel your pain. I had to go through SIX layers to get to the wood. The wood was shot to hell,but I gained six inches of height in the room. My knees will never be the same, but the result is FAN-freaking-TASTIC

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