When we left off, Mr. Skinny Geek was applying many bandages after trying to remove primer off of kitty paws. We now continue with our journey (Also note, he was typing this as we did for his facebook page so that's why some of the references were from 'tonight' etc..).
Day four dawns on a room full of dried primer. At this point in the project, this bucket ($7.99) is the scariest piece of equipment I've bought yet because....
... it will contain the first substantial concrete we have to put down. This is 2 of 4 50 lb. bags of self-leveling concrete. The purpose of this is to fix some of the obvious dips in the floor that will be more obvious when the baseboards are reinstalled as well as to mask the tack strip repairs. I'd briefly thought of doing the entire room, but at $30 a bag, 15 bags of the stuff was cost prohibitive. Any unevenness in the center of the floor was just going to have to stay.
Hopefully the fear in my face isn't too obvious. The mud mixer ($30 rental) is easy to use but this whole project just jumped a few skill points above changing light bulbs.
Imagine pouring 20 gallons of very runny pancake batter onto your floor. There's no going back, changing your mind, or undoing it if you make a mistake because, oh yeah, it's not pancake batter; it's freaking concrete. Furthermore, imagine explaining all of that to the contractor you're going to have to call in to save your ass when you screw it up.
We ended up doing the entire closet and just the edges of the bedroom with the self-leveling compound. Turns out there was really nothing to worry about - it was extremely easy to use. We just had to wait about 15 minutes before taking a trowel and feathering the edges down to the level of the existing concrete. There are no pictures of this process just because we had so little time to get it applied, but this is pretty much what the end of day four looked like.
This stuff. Day five was an utter waste of time thanks to this stuff.
We'd poured the self-leveler, re-primed and were ready to put down something called a micro-topping. It's another type of concrete/polymer mix designed to be applied at about 1/8" thickness for decorative concrete work. We spent all of day five searching 8 stores in Baton Rouge and couldn't find it anywhere. We eventually got in touch with a Sherwin-Williams store in Opelousas that held 4 bags for me ($49.99 per bag) that I picked up on day 6. I thought I was going to find a dapper Frenchman and a tribe of Hovitos warriors waiting outside the temple of Sherwin-Williams to steal my prize.
This stuff is apparently the equivalent of a prescription drug in the wild world of concrete. If you don't know how to use it and don't buy it by the pallet then you have no business having it and therefore no instructions are included on the bag like every other product I've purchased so far for this project. That was my first clue that I might be in trouble.
Every corner of the internet assured me that this stuff was easy to use (just mix with water, spread evenly) but the material data and instructions that I finally found at the manufacturer's website were marked 'For Professionals Only'. But then, right under that ominous warning it said nothing more than "mix with water, spread evenly".
Panic set in as we spread this first uneven, splotchy, and awful-looking coat of micro-topping on half of the floor. We used the closet as our test area and it came out slightly better due to a thicker application, but this was downright terrifying. There are only a few pictures of this because the dry time on this is shorter than the self-leveler. 10 minutes and it gets too thick to work with; 30 and its dry enough to walk on. No time for selfies.
We pressed on and made a startling discovery. The second coat looks pretty amazing. I'm not sure if you can see the difference, but this is the area of floor just off to the left of the last picture that, I assure you, looked just as terrible at the end of the first coat. After application of the second coat (that we put down a little thicker) it came out much better. It's a little rough in places, but very few trowel marks - nothing some sandpaper shouldn't take out. There are some color differences here just because it hadn't finished drying when this shot was taken.
We don't even know when he got in there, but one of the cats left his seal of approval on the micro-topping in the closet. You can see some of the drip marks we made but those smoothed right up with the scraper.
End of day 6 - unfortunately, the room + closet = 350 square feet and one bag of topping only does around 250, so one bag doesn't yield one coat and I have to cook dinner and get a good night's sleep for work tomorrow. At this point, half of the room looks pretty nice; the other half still needs a second coat of topping and it the whole thing will need sanding.
This is my artistic representation of the concussion that I feel like I have narrowly avoided today.
Fun fact #1: my home does not provide enough power to correctly run a floor buffer with a 100 grit sanding screen.
Fun fact #2: the idea of tipping the buffer up a smidge, starting it then lowering it to the floor is a bad one. It angers the buffer and causes it to run amok in a crazed, whirling dervish fashion in tribute to the buffer god.
Fun fact #3: with sufficient motivation (i.e. knowledge that you don't know anything about sheet rock repair) you can stop a runaway floor buffer with your body.
Fun fact #4: orbital sanders ($69.99) and knee pads ($14.99) are on sale at Home Depot.
|All that's missing are the little stars that go around your skull just like Bugs Bunny|
This is my 5" random orbit sander. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My 5" random orbit sander is my friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My 5" random orbit sander, without me, is useless. Without my 5" random orbit sander I am useless.
We're finally getting the random trowel marks and the larger imperfections out of the micro-topping. It's not fast and not perfect (my new floor will still have 'character') but it's starting to look pretty damn good if I do say so myself.
After the first round of test stains last night, the color didn't really seem so much absorbed into the concrete as it seemed to be lying listlessly on top asking to be drawn like one of those French girls. I found a book on concrete staining written by none other than Jerry Garcia (citation needed) who advised, "More acid." So that's what I did.
I decided to work with different dilutions of muriatic acid and water, all applied in addition to last night's 5:1 mix. From right to left are applications of night's single application of 5:1, double application of 5:1, 3:1, 2:1, and 1:1.
From top to bottom of the frame, dilutions of water-based stain from undiluted to 1:1, 2:1 and finally 3:1 at the bottom.
This is only one of two coats of stain to be applied, no gloss has been applied, and I have lousy lighting in my closet so it's a terrible picture, but you guys who have put up with reading this (both of you) deserve closure, dammit! In person the difference in these is pretty obvious. It looks like 1:1 acid dilution with undiluted or 1:1 stain (far top left and one down) will be the winner. We'll know for certain after I do the second coat late tonight and we check the dried product in the morning.
For those of you still following this... the first stain is down. There's still a second stain to go, then sealer, then gloss and wax so It's WAY too early to judge how I feel about it but my optimism is waning fast.
I feel like the stain just brought out every single imperfection in the microtopping that wasn't visible while it was white: every trowel mark, every change in elevation, every different type of concrete, every pothole on a parking lot in China on the exact opposite side of the earth, every errant breeze caused by the breath of a newborn baby in Australia. It resembles the lunar landscape rent asunder by a portal to Hell that opened up in the wrong place. It looks like someone set it on fire and tried to put it out with a pitchfork.
The upside is that however ugly it may turn out, the concrete patched, level (enough) and will need very little additional work should we end up having to just put down a laminate tile. We'll know for sure tomorrow morning after sealing and waxing.
Looking much less tragic after the second coat of stain. Looking a little less like the aftermath of an apocalyptic caramel factory accident. A definite improvement.
Part 3 will hopefully be up and ready either tonight or tomorrow. He needs to finish the rest!