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Island House: Naturally Varnished Pine Flooring

Island HouseJamie2 Comments
Rendering of the San Juan Island house - under construction 2015-16

Rendering of the San Juan Island house - under construction 2015-16

What we've been doing since November

A working master bathroom - yay!

November was busy with Shawn completing inspections for electrical, plumbing, heating and mechanical and then the drywallers arriving to do the entire sheetrock job for us inside. It was our first time ever having professionals do the work. It was a liberating experience, to say the least. What would have taken us six months, they did in three weeks total. The hangers came and put up all the drywall in one day, then the taping and mudding person came and got all the seams covered and mudded. Lastly, the finishing mud was put on. We opted for a textured mud to go on the walls. It gives the suggestion of plaster and has a neat texture. The week before Thanksgiving, it was up to us to carry on with the project.

For a change, Shawn stayed at our rental and worked on his drafting work while I went to the house and got the priming done before a planned departure for most of the month of December (it was time for a break from the job site!). Before leaving, I wanted to get the entire upstairs primed and painted, so that Shawn could start work on the floor. I was able to do that before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, it was time to prepare to move out of our rental (hooray!!) and then leave for a three week visit to see friends in Pt. Roberts.  I wasn’t able to prime the entire downstairs, but I did get some of it done including priming and painting the kitchen. We also brought our 1 x 6” unfinished pine flooring in to acclimate just before Thanksgiving. The plan was for it to have a week or so to come to temperature and then for Shawn to install the flooring while I was in Pt. Roberts, joining me there after a week for a break of his own. This worked out well. While I was away, he installed the flooring upstairs and down and got the upstairs bathroom in working order, with toilet, tub and shower.

Hand finishing pine floors with natural varnish

Me, hand sanding the kitchen floor.

While three weeks seems like a long time to be away, it flew past and before we knew it, it was after Christmas and we were back at the house. For me, it was the first time seeing the flooring installed and it was stunning to see in “real life” rather than just pictures. Now, a new set of projects came onto the boards. My primary focus was on completing priming and painting throughout the house, and then starting the finishing of the floors. The painting was a good way for me to get back into the swing of working on the house. We also found out that the couch and chairs we ordered (after 8 years without!!) are arriving on the 12th of January, so that was the deadline I needed to get going on the floor finishing. For the floors, we opted to use a natural clear coat varnish. We didn’t want to whitewash the floors again but wanted to use another natural, non VOC containing product. After a fair amount of research, we discovered a company called Ecos Paints that offers a product called Wood Shield. 

Rolling on the second coat of Woodshield Satin Varnish by Ecos Paints!

I am always nervous when using a new product in such a high visibility area but my concerns about this product were unfounded. I followed the simple label directions and sanded, vacuumed and then mopped the floor, allowed it to dry and then applied one coat of varnish using a roller. After 4 hours, I applied a second coat. Beautiful results. A nice hard surface, even coats, nice distribution and such a pretty shine. We both marveled at the new appearance of the pine. It looked nice unfinished, but the finish captures a wet look, deepening the color a bit and giving a pleasant shine to the floors. The surface feels well protected. Thus far I’ve done the second bedroom, the bathrooms and the main living room/foyer area. I also got half the kitchen done. Shawn will be starting kitchen cabinetry tomorrow and needed at least half the kitchen done. I can’t do the other half till we can move all the appliances into their places. The living room is now ready for its long awaited furniture to arrive next week. The cat has not appreciated being shunted into her carrier for a few hours at a time, but at least she has windows to look out of while incarcerated, and there are no curious cat prints tracking across our floors.

Preparing to start the kitchen

Shawn has been drafting both for clients and for our kitchen layout as well as installing switches, plugs, and lighting throughout the house. He installed the washer dryer unit and also installed sink cabinets in both bathrooms and the downstairs toilet. While there’s a way to go yet, we are really down to cabinetry and trim inside. Having the drywalling done for us by professionals was a real coup for us in terms of setting us ahead of the finishing process. We were so glad with the work they (Miller Drywall of Friday Harbor, WA) did and how well the tricky angles in the upstairs bathroom and second bedroom (where the clipped gables are) came out. It was well worth the cost.

A bit of time away from our project amongst truly missed friends and environs was a great way to end our 2015 and get us rolling on the completion of our island project this year. We are aiming to be completed by early May (on account of needing some warmer weather to finish the siding work remaining). We will now update our progress more regularly, and the updates should be more interesting as it’s back to finishing work; always gratifying and enjoyable to see finishing work take place.

San Juan Island Small House Update


This week was all about rafters and building things that would allow us to install even more rafters. We are now at the point where we are just about completely done with them, even installing the short rafters that comprise the clipped gables. There remain only four rafters to install for the main roof structure, those being at the very end of the house proper. In the relatively near future it will be time to install the merge and fly rafters as well, but we are not there yet (need to build knee braces prior).

We also built the north and south dormers and got them raised and sheathed in plywood and then installed the dormer rafters. It was nice to see the gaps in the rafters fill in. I must say, too, that there is a certain shame about having to install a roof over top of a full rafter installation. There is something beautiful and even moving about seeing the framework of a roof standing out against a blue summer sky. Fortunately, my dreamy architecture gazing got a reminder of why it’s important to take the extra steps and finish the roof when we had a bit of rain on Thursday afternoon. Friday the sun was out again and we finished the first downward rafter for the clipped gables. The cuts for these rafters are deceptively complicated, but working slowly and deliberately, we got them done and installed. We have an adjustment to make to them tomorrow, but the fit was good and we are pleased to see them rounding out the edges of the house. The gable end walls have a beginning to them, with the main windowed part of the wall framed in on both the east and west sides of the home. We will finish the gable end walls this week and install the final four rafters for the main roof at that time. 

The dormers have made for a very spacious upstairs and we are pleased to see the layout taking shape. Tomorrow we’ll be back at it, finishing up work on the clipped gable rafters, installing the exterior rafters, building out the rest of the gable end walls. At that point, it may well be time to shift gears a little bit and build the pergolas that will be on the east and west side of the home. These pergolas will provide us with built in staging and help us immensely with sheathing the gable end walls and then installing the barge and fly rafters. We aren’t sure how long that will take, but in a sense, the building of the pergolas is the next step in roof framing, at least for us!  

Another piece of exciting news is that we have chosen our paint colors and the paint is on the way. That might seem a bit premature, but in fact, a lot of the trim rafters I like to prime and paint completely before installing to save on the job later on when they are high above my head. Check out our colors in the photos included below. The trim will be red and the siding gold. The window exteriors will be ebony and so provide a third color. We are again using Mythic Non-Toxic Paint for all of our exterior paint. Not only do they mix lovely colors, but the paint is great in terms of weight, coverage, luster and is also completely non toxic. I am going to do a full review of the product later this summer and include details on how you can get a discount coupon on your next order from them!