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Day 4: These Stairs Had Better Look Nice

[This is part of an ongoing series chronicling our one and half week attempt to finish a handful of moderately involved home improvement projects.  See the whole series here.]

While drinking our coffee yesterday morning (I’m writing this early on Day 5, for reasons that will become apparent), we decided to give some more focused thought to our critical path.  If you’re not familiar with the term,  a critical path is described as:

… the sequence of project network activities which add up to the longest overall duration. This determines the shortest time possible to complete the project. Any delay of an activity on the critical path directly impacts the planned project completion date (i.e. there is no float on the critical path). A project can have several, parallel, near critical paths.

For weeks we’d been aware of the general nature of our project’s critical path.  We need to:

  • do most of the destruction (i.e. sanding, scraping, ripping up floors, and other things that create large volumes of dust)
  • before we do the construction (painting, new floor, new countertop, etc.)
  • before we put the house back into some form of working order
  • before we pick up the kids next Monday night

While to some extent the plastic sheet that blocks a lot of dust between the kitchen and hall lets us have two parallel critical paths (one for the kitchen, and one for the stairs), our breakfast-time planning confirmed our intuition that they were very similar paths, though the stairs, due to stain and polyurethane drying time and multiple coat needs, would be the proverbial long pole in the tent.

To put that another way, in order to be done by time T, we need to the sanding and scraping done so we can stain (three times, drying in between) so we can polyurethane (three times, drying in between).  And because these are stairs, each time we stain or poly (three times) we actually need to do it twice — once on every-other stair (so we can still walk) and then again on the other set of every-other stair.

As it turned out, our critical path analysis said that long process of staining & polyurethaning needed to start, well, this morning.  We came to that conclusion about 24 hours ago, and it didn’t look nearly as daunting then as, in retrospect, it should have.

Amy set off to continue sanding and scraping the stairs (if it seems like she’s been doing that for days, well, that’s because she has).  I set out to scrape the inside of the front door.  I didn’t know / hadn’t remembered that this was even part of the project, but Amy is sure it was, and it’ll look really nice.  In any case, the door opens to the landing of the stairs, so dust and paint flecks from the door need to fly before the stairs are wet with stain.  The old paint job on the door was in a pretty sorry state, but even knowing that I hadn’t expected to get quite as much of the paint off as I did (it produced about a gallon’s worth of paint flecks!).

front door - before

front door - after

After the door, I took a few minutes to finish up the speaker installation in the kitchen. This wasn’t on the critical path, but it’s really nice to have music where we’re working, and it only took a few minutes.

scraping/sanding break

scraping/sanding break

Meanwhile, Amy was still hard at work scraping & sanding the stairs. She’d been on it for days, and we were both working on them from early afternoon yesterday, and we didn’t finish until nearly 9pm yesterday.

We started taping & getting ready to paint (tarps, etc.) while waiting for dinner to be delivered (Glass Nickel — so much for our hope to avoid delivered pizza). After eating we finished taping and started painting the ceiling in the upstairs and downstairs halls and along the stairs, and the three walls over the stairs (since this is our last ability to have the freshly cleaned stairs taped for a few weeks).

extension edger

Boooooo ... this sucks!

Painting went smoothly, with the exception of a maddeningly frustrating extension edger we found as the only way to reach the tall ceiling above the stairway (short version – it doesn’t really work). Well that, and realizing just when it was time to start painting that we couldn’t find the rollers, causing Amy to make a 1am run for roller covers.

By about 3:45 I’d edged everything and Amy had just a few walls left to rolls, so I stumbled to bed, and she followed a little while later. The new color looks really nice, though you’ll have to wait for pictures until Amy gets some edited and on to flickr.

The album of the day was Technicolor Health by Harlem Shakes.

Today (Day 5), we need to stain half the stairs and completely remove the old kitchen floors. Our hand muscles are already sore, and there are thousands of staples embedded in hardwood that need to get removed today.

empty paint can