Tonight we spent some time cleaning at our Third Ward Wonder. The house is not as dirty as it could be, although the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink smells mildewy and is so dirty it kind of makes me want to cry (I’m very tired, okay? And I hate cleaning house.)
We went over there planning to shampoo the carpets in the back bedrooms (I am thankful that they are the only carpets in the house) but the gas isn’t on, so there is no hot water.
I have a dilemma about the floors. They are hardwood, almost certainly original to the house (built in 1948.) After reading a bit, I think that the finish is probably a “penetrating seal”: they are somewhat shiny but not glassy or plasticky, and the grain can be felt. So I think they can probably be waxed. I used to live in an old apartment with old hardwood floors, and when I moved in, a friend’s mom came over to tell me how to care for them and the other very old finishes in the place. She advised cleaning them with Murphy’s Oil Soap or weak ammonia, and then waxing them, and even gave me a little bit of acrylic floor wax to use. I did just that and they looked great, but now I am reading that I shouldn’t use ammonia or oil soap, so I don’t know!
I do know that the floors are in pretty good shape and we probably won’t be refinishing them anytime soon… so waxing them probably won’t be a problem. And I just realized that I have the perfect “inconspicuous area” to test a treatment on… which brings me to the next floor problem.
Our house is a brick facade house built on a block-and-beam foundation. The brick outer walls, though, were extended down to the ground all around the house, with grills to provide ventilation. Like most block-and-beam houses, there was some sort of opening in this wall at the back of the house, so workmen could get under the house if necessary.
I say was because while it may still be there, it’s now inaccessible (ironic for an opening typically called “the access.”) When the former owners expanded the house around 2002, they added onto the back of the house… and didn’t provide easy access to the underneath. In fact there’s just not as much crawl space under the addition, and so when the house needed foundation work (way before we bought it) the then-owner decided to cut through the original hardwoods and subfloor in both original bedrooms. Yes, they cut through an original, functional hardwood floor… and then left it like that! My studio (the second bedroom) has a single, poorly cut chunk that can be lifted out, and the front bedroom has a chunk cut out as well, only the planks have all been separated there.
(The former owner did not have to butcher the floors. I have seen work done in similar situations: they could have excavated a trough between the piers of the new addition. Whoever they were, they were lazy and ignorant.)
Now we have the flooring issue to deal with, as well as the access issue. So I wonder: how should we repair these floors? How can they be repaired? Does the subfloor have to be fixed from below? And how do we make sure the crawl space is still accessible? I have no idea how we are to repair them, but for access, I am actually thinking that we should install a door in the floor of the studio, or in the master closet. That way workers can access the crawl space if need be. And come on, how cool would it be to have a secret door leading to a wonderland beneath one’s house? (By “wonderland”, of course, I mean “sandy, dark area with lots of paw prints. Plus spiders.”)
My plan for tomorrow is to get some sleep (’cause I need it) then pack some here during the day. When my partner gets off of work we will take a load of stuff over to the house, where I will mop the floors (and probably wax them) and clean the baseboards. If the gas is on we’ll shampoo those carpets… I am concerned about lighting the pilot light on the water heater, I’ve never done that before.