Mea Culpa

Forgive me, blog, for I have sinned. It’s been a month since my last confession. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t found the time to sit down and write about what I was up to.

I should break this update into a few posts. Lemme talk about the bedroom reno first.

After I got derailed by Con Ed’s feeder line burning out and putting my 220v Delta table saw temporarily out of commission, I regrouped and decided to start on the finish work. The remaining trim work is mostly shop stuff so I can do it later.

Three days! Three miserable frikkin days! That’s how long it took to fill all the nail holes and sand the 500+ square feet of woodwork in the bedroom and hallway renovation down to 220 grit. After that, I vacuumed and ran tack cloths over every square inch of it.

Then I applied an oil wood conditioner. This usually isn’t critical with hardwood or hardwood plywood but sometimes the veneer blades can leave cutting marks that you won’t see until you apply the stain. So I always do it anyway.

You have to stain within a two-hour window after application of the conditioner so I did the staining job in eight stages, roughly corresponding to the number of walls I had to deal with. The stain was also an oil. Early American was the closest match I could find to the Coming Real Soon flooring. Even though I was going to use a water-based urethane, I hate water-based stains. They streak, dry too quickly, obscure the grain and scuff off too easily. And you invariably need two coats. I like penetrating oils.

However, the downside with oils is the fumes. And I couldn’t have picked a worse day that week to start staining because NYC dove into its last blast of winter. That meant I could only run an exhaust fan in the room. With 2.5 gallons of conditioner and stain on the walls, the house smelled toxic for days. I told Karen (an MD) that I could feel my pulse in my fingertips. She said it was because the distillates were constricting my blood vessels and, by the way, how’s my headache?

But what are ya gonna do?

It took another four days to complete the staining. Then I started over with the water-based urethane. You have to be careful because a water-based urethane will peel off if the oil stain is still outgassing. One way to test is to rub the finish with a clean cotton cloth and sniff. If you smell the stain or see stain on the cloth, wait another 24 hours.

Three coats of semi-gloss gave me the finish I wanted, with five coats on horizontal surfaces. Of course, there was more sanding between coats with a 320-grit sanding sponge but this is mainly a scuff job. Each of those passes took a full day too.

I was afraid that with all this woodwork a dark stain was going to make the room a little gloomy. It sort of does in these shots but that’s a digital flash camera artifact. The room actually feels pretty warm. However it dumpstered one paint schema I had been thinking about before I started on the project: dark red walls. Karen picked up some color chips in pastel blues and yellows she thinks might work.


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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.