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Working on the chain gang
diy
nmg

So this is how it goes.

We live in a 1930s mid-terrace built by the Swaythling Housing Society to a Herbert Collins design. This is not a "Collins House" - it was built as social housing, and was subsidised with the profits from Collins' more up-market developments. It is clearly of a lower build quality (the cement render hides some rough cinderblock brickwork) and smaller dimensions than the posh houses on Orchards Way (as surliminal will attest), but the design is good, and some aspects of the build are remarkably good.

One of the good points is the downstairs floor. The house is built on a concrete slab, and the floor in the living/dining room consists of pine tongue-and-groove floorboards bedded into a layer of bitumen on the slab. No electrician has ever hamfistedly hacked them around for the simple reason that there's no space under them to run cables (on the downside, the floors upstairs have been comprehensively butchered, particularly in the hallway).

We decided to get the living/dining room floor sanded. Unfortunately, our initial investigations under the carpet failed to reveal that the gas fitter who installed the living room gas fire had run a gas pipe under the floor in the dining room. He'd lifted - and discarded - a 15' floorboard running across the house, chased a channel for the gaspipe into the concrete slab, then filled up the floorboard-sized gap with concrete. The floorer has sanded and varnished the living room, but held off on the dining room until the concrete was removed.

I've now spent a solid day and a half laboriously chipping this concrete fill out with a lump hammer and cold chisel (after getting the gas pipe disconnected) so that the floorer can lay a replacement floorboard and finish off the job that he started a few weeks ago. I have blisters on my right hand, bruises on the knuckles of my left hand, and an incredibly sore right forearm. The living room looks gorgeous, and I've every reason to believe that the dining room will look just as good.


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Ugh. I hate work like that. But I never seem to get around to renting the necessary power tools from the rental place that's just along the road, so I'm always clubbing away with a lump hammer (or is that lumping away with a club hammer?)

Post some pics when it's done!

On the plus side, I've been able to keep the dust and grit down by working by hand, so hopefully there won't be any stray bits of flint to scratch up the side that's been varnished.

(also, I don't trust myself with power tools - would be too easy to slip and gouge up the adjacent floorboards)

(8) Working on a railroad
For a dollar a day ... (8)

Wow, you always were a glutton for punishment :)

Sounds like you did a great job though. Post photos when it's done.

We laid beech plank flooring on our ground floor which was also hard work, but probably less so.

I ought to take some in-progress shots, not least because I want a permanent record of my physical labours.

(if the floor had been in a state, we would have considered engineered solid wood flooring - this way has been loads cheaper)

I intended to do timelapse photos of laying the floor, but the tripod got in the way, and I gave up quite quickly.

Laying it was a real PITA, not like chipping out concrete :) but a lot of saw work and annoying clamps and so on. If I was doing it again I'd pay someone to do it, it would have pushed the cost up a bit (about 4-5 man days of labor I reckon), but well worth it.

For that sort of work, I reckon it's worth investing in a chop saw. When I was putting new skirting in the library, I reckon it reduced the time by an order of magnitude (compared to hand sawing) and the mitres were a damned sight neater than I would have cut them by hand.

I did get a chop saw. Yes, it helps a lot.

Not much use for lengthways cuts though, cos the planks are quite long. I didn't think it was worth getting a circular saw just for that, but it might have been worthwhile. I used a powerful jigsaw with a broad blade, but it was tricky.

Ripping planks lengthwise is my least favourite DIY task. I've done it by hand (exhausting), I've done it with a jigsaw (not ideal, given that jigsaw blades tend to wander) and I've done it with a circular saw (quick, but it tears the board up).

As you know, I wussed out and paid someone, who came round with a big circular saw and turned cups of tea into a 5x4m engineered oak floor in about eight hours. And I'm very glad I did.

I've got a DeWalt cordless circular saw (bought it as part of a set with a drill). It's a slightly smaller blade diameter than larger (higher powered) corded circular saws but the freedom with it is great and with a decent framing blade it doesn't tear up too much on lengthwise cuts. Helps if you put masking tape on the far side first, the edge fragments less, or use scrap wood underneath.

Was somewhat dubious about buying it but it's been so damn useful that I don't regret it in the slightest.

Cool, that's good to know. I wondered if cordless ones would have enough power.

DeWalt cordless drills rule.

I bought the cheapo own brand cordless saw from B&Q when they were on special offer (£25 if I remember right). Good enough for the job, and while the battery hasn't lasted well, it was effectively disposable at that price.

(Deleted comment)
A particularly wussy man, though...

Sounds like horrific work. Glad you're nearing the end of it. I hope it looks amazing when done.

When my parents moved into their current house (Edwardian miner's terrace), they discovered that under the lino in the kitchen, a lovely wooden parquet floor had been covered in a thin layer of concrete skim. They ended up hiring an industrial sander to get it off and covered the whole place in dust for a week, but it was worth it.

Ugh. Sounds grim. I'd have been tempted to crack the skim, remove it by hand and then sand the parquet to make good, purely on the grounds that wood dust is less unpleasant than cement dust.

I think they tried but it was too caked on. Looks lovely now, mind.

Eee. Sounds way too much like very hard work to me!

My place has been on and off filled with plaster dust (which gets everywhere) for the last few years. I hope to be done with this soon.

I so wish my place had full concrete slab, the underfloor area in the old part is draughty and annoying even if it does make running cables far easier.

Good luck on the floors, hope they look good :)

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