Thursday, September 23, 2010

Flooring DIY Project

I get the desire to do home improvement projects from my parents. As my siblings and I grew up, we watched and participated in many home improvement projects at home and at our cabin. As such, I have the desire to do such projects at my own home. My wife and I bought a new home three years ago, so there hasn't been many opportunities to do much home improvement.

That doesn't mean that I haven't found ways to get some projects done. First, we painted our garage floor, walls and ceiling. Next, I built some large shelving in the garage to store boxes and large Rubbermaid containers on.

Since then, I haven't found an opportunity to do much more. I would like to build a set of shelves in the garage to store my tools and stuff in, but I haven't taken the time to design and build it since I have one of our college era bookshelves in the garage for those items.

My wife and I have been talking for a while about putting different flooring on our main level. Our carpets in the living room and dining room were showing signs of wear from three years of little children running around and making messes. Also, the occasional coffee or juice spills that our steam cleaner couldn't get rid of.

The linoleum in our kitchen and half bath were in very good shape still, but we figured that since we were replacing half of the flooring downstairs that we might as well do the rest. So, we developed a plan. We would replace the linoleum flooring with tile and the carpeting with wood laminate. We measured the floors and my wife went out and picked out the flooring we would use.

We invited my brother, father and mother out to help us out. The night before they came out we pulled up all of the linoleum. The linoleum itself came up fine and very easy. The adhesive beneath is another story altogether. I would recommend that anyone who is taking linoleum off of concrete to try pulling it up and if the adhesive doesn't come up, rent a floor sander. We didn't do that and have spent an inordinate amount of time scraping that crap up off the floor. We found that getting it wet helped it come off better and then found that adding cleaning solution to it made it even easier, though still quite a chore.

We decided when my family arrived that we would tackle the laminate first. We wanted to do that because if we didn't finish it all in one day, then we would at least have our living room and dining room done. It ended up to be a good idea. After eight or so hours of solid work, we finished the laminate. The carpet came up very easily as did the padding underneath.

Luckily for us, a friend of ours had a chop saw that we borrowed to cut the laminate with. I had planned on using a circular saw, but the chop saw ended up working pretty well. We had to cut, then flip and cut again, but my brother was getting very good at that and at the end of the day you couldn't even tell that it took two cuts per board.

We installed the laminate in floating style, which meant no glue or adhesive to put down. I would recommend that to anyone doing a laminate floor like ours. It was easy and we did about three hundred square feet in one day.

That left the kitchen and bathroom without any flooring at the end of the day. At this point, I was travelling every week, so I only had time to work on it during the weekends. Since I didn't want to spend a whole lot of time on it, we didn't dedicate a whole day to working on the tile. Instead, we did it in sections. We first laid the tile on the mortar in the bathroom. It was easy enough. Next, we laid some tile in the hallway that leads from the kitchen to the bathroom and stairs.

Then, we decided that we wanted our bathroom back, so we grouted it. We wiped it down a couple of times, then left for our friends' house. Big mistake. Our tiles aren't smooth, and we didn't clean them as thoroughly as we should have, which left grout in the divets and indents that the tile naturally had. In order to seal, we needed to get all of that grout out of those spaces. We ended up spending hours upon hours on our hands and knees scraping grout out of those spaces. What a pain in the butt (and knees, etc.)!

We haven't grouted anything else, yet, but we've laid tile in most of the hallway and about a third of the kitchen. The mortaring and laying tile is relatively easy. Spread mortar and put a tile down. Don't forget a spacer in between the tiles. It's that simple.

My plan is to finish laying all of the tile before we bother to grout any of it. We have been walking on the tiles that we've laid and there doesn't seem to be any negative effects, yet. When we end up spreading the grout, we will definitely make sure to spend the time to clean the tiles more thoroughly, and we also plan to be more careful with the grout so that we don't get so much on the faces of the tiles.

All in all, parts of this project have been easier (laminate), but the tile has definitely been a lot more difficult than my wife and I anticipated. Not that I would go back to the linoleum and carpet that we had before. Once we are finished, the floors are going to look amazing!

Favorite song of the moment: YTCracker - Use My Brain

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Geeky Awakening

I've been a geek (or nerd, if you prefer) my entire life. I never had an issue with this. I always accepted that this was who I was and it was who I wanted to be. It wasn't until relatively recently, however, that I "discovered" the broader spectrum of geek culture.

Sure, I played D&D, video games, read sci-fi (or syfy, if you prefer) and fantasy books, etc., but I wasn't directly connected to geek culture, I was just moving on a parallel path. My journey into exploring geek culture started just over a year ago. I was looking for reading material or blogs or something about raising kids (we had an almost two year old and our son was on the way) when I did a search for geek and dad or something like that. I then stumbled upon the Geek Dad blog. I was immediately hooked and began to read it every day. I had found my first connection to the greater geek community, but it didn't stop there...

Through that blog I found their podcast that included regular episodes featuring geeky music. I really enjoyed listening to the podcasts, but I didn't make an effort to find out more about the artists or music. This was partly because I didn't realize at the time how big the scene was or that the information was readily available through quick searches. Nerds and geeks rule the internets, of course our music is going to be easily accessible there.

I was just starting to delve deeper when my son was born. I remained in a far orbit of the geek community for a long time during the first few months of his life. I didn't venture further inside, nor did I drift out of it to my prior state.

After a few months, things settled in my house and I got more free time (aka sleep). Also, I began to travel for work again, so I had more time to surf the net and listen to podcasts. That's when I started listening to Radio Free Hipster. Z, the geeky personality behind the podcast, introduced me to a lot more music that is right up my alley. Also, through Z's blog "Hipster, Please" and a few other blogs and websites that I found, I am getting more into the greater geek culture.

I discovered (or was led to) geeky icons like Jonathan Coulton, Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage, MC Frontalot, and a lot more. Of course I knew of Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage before my geeky awakening, but I hadn’t read much about them and didn’t know about wootstock either.

A couple of months ago I picked up a RSS reader, FeedDemon, which has helped me keep up with all of the websites that I am now fond of visiting. I've also often considered joining Twitter since a lot of my geeky idols are on there, but I can't bring myself to pull the trigger on that one.

My new affinity to the greater geek culture has led me to a dilemma of sorts. I've always known about PAX and Comic-con and other geeky gatherings, but the more I read about them from the websites I am now visiting, the more I want to go to them. I haven't been able to work going to any of them into my schedule, but maybe once I'm not regularly traveling, I might be able to work do just that. The problem is that with my travel schedule, I don't get enough time with my family as it is, much less taking a weekend out of that time to do something frivolous, not matter how much fun it might be. Going to PAX this weekend would be awesome, but at this point I don't want to take time away from my family to do that.

I find that I may have reached the pinnacle of my connectedness to geek culture by not going to one of these gatherings, but at this point, I can't convince myself to spend the time and money to travel out to something. If only there was a big convention like that in Minneapolis coming up soon! I've also read about people like me putting together small geeky conventions, such as Nerdapalooza, but I don't have the resources or time to do that, much less the connections or anything to get something like that going.

So, that’s the story of my geeky awakening. I feel like I identify more with the greater geeky community, which is good, but I also feel like I might be missing out on a lot of fun by skipping the awesome sounding events occurring around the country.

And, like always, I will be sharing my favorite song of the moment: The Grammar Club – Balloon Flight. The reason that I do this is to possibly introduce you to a song or artist you may not have heard before. I encourage you all to do a quick google search or youtube search for these songs/artists. You might like what you hear.