Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cat? What Cat?

In my last post, I told the story of discovering what had made those dark stains on my red oak floors. I'm sure the floor guy had a good chuckle over my reaction, and then he launched into a little informative speech on pee stains on hardwood floors that I suspect he had given to hundreds of homeowners before me. Here are the Cliff Notes:

**No, it can't be sanded out. It would look like it was sanded off and everyone would get all excited and hopeful but the minute you went to put the finish on, the stain would reappear. In fact, when I took a closer look at my floors I realized that one of the PO's had sanded down the stains and refinished over them.

**The pee chemically changes the composition of the wood and if the stain is black, it has gone deep beyond the surface. If the stain is whitish, it is probably stopped by the finish and may just need a new finish.

**There are urban legends that pee stains can be bleached out. Everyone insists that their cousin's best friend's brother's roommate has done this and it worked. In the floor guy's many years of working with floors, he had never seen this work. But, he would give me the name of some chemicals to try, if I wanted to try this route.

**If I could not live with the pee stains, I had two options. 1) Stain the floors darker and finish. 2) Replace the boards, sand and finish.

So, I mulled this information over for a few days. I decided to give the wood bleach a try (what the heck). He was right. The stain laughed at the bleach and did not budge.

I spent a few more days thinking about it all. I knew that there was no way I could live with the pee floors. I also decided that I didn't want to stain the floors a darker color. I would know there was pee under there....and it would eat away at me.

In the process of standing there staring at the floors, I realized that something was wrong with the base shoe (quarter round). It had this odd shine to it. When I got down there to take a closer look, I was stunned to discover that the PO had used a oak looking, paper covered, foam quarter round. I had no idea they even sold crap like that. I pulled it all off. Amazingly, this foam seemed to be the source of the pee smell - it had absorbed it like a sponge. Once it was out of the house, so was the smell.

In the end, I decided to replace the pee boards. I wish I had taken more photos of this process. The process was time consuming, but pretty easy.
We removed the first board by making a hole in the center and then using a jigsaw to cut out the stained portion of the board. We then staggared the cuts and removed one board after another.

At first I was all optomistic that I could remove, say, every 4th board and leave the rest. Well after seeing the new boards in place, I knew that I needed to pull all of the stained boards. I wanted to do this once, and be done with it.

So, back to work we went and pulled the remaining boards. In the photo, you can see the length of the living room with the section of boards replaced. We used new red oak "shorties" and they worked fine with the old wood. My rooms have fairly short strips of wood, so the shorties worked. If the room had had longer strips of wood, it would have been important to use longer replacement strips so they would blend in. We surfaced nailed individual replaced boards & countersunk the nails. If there was a few boards in a row, we put a nail in the tongue instead of the surface but it was pretty difficult to work in such tight quarters. As the last step on the replacement phase, we put down wood filler (nice to fill the pores in oak).

Next post: The sanding guy arrives...and it's as if a cat never set foot in the place.

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