...take a break

Deck Staining Rant

I think this is going to turn into a bit of a rant here so please bare with me...

Over the last couple of days I have been taking advantage of the unseasonably warm first week of November here in Southern Ontario (on Monday the high was around 15C, Tuesday it was almost 20C and today is supposed to be the same ) to get my deck refinished before the snow started flying. Of course I should have done this in say, September, when I woud have had a little more time and but I was stupid and didn't do it then.

I don't have a small deck. No, that would be too easy. We didn't build this deck, it was already here when we moved in about a year and a half ago. I just did the calculations on the size of the deck and it is about 520 square feet or around 48 square meters. Not small. My brother rented a condo in Toronto for a couple of years that was just over 20% bigger than our deck. Like I said, not small.

For some reason I thought that sanding the deck to get all the previous stain off would be a bad idea. I'm not sure why I thought that but I did. I think part of the reason was I thought it would be expensive to rent a floor sander which I will get to later. So I decided to go the chemical method. I bought some deck stripper stuff that promised to remove the stain and also remove the little wood fibers that usually give a deck that fuzzy look after it has been stripped. The deck stripper stuff seemed like it would be so easy. The instructions said that you slop the stuff on, let it sit for awhile until the finish starts to lift, scrub it with a deck scrubbing brush and then hose it off. Easy, right? Yeah, ok you just go ahead and believe that.

The instructions on the stripping solution said that it will lift reasonably deteriorated surface finished. What it should say is that if it looks like the finish could be scraped off with a wire brush, then the stripper should be able to take it off. After spending about 3 hours applying the solution to the deck and then using a pressure washer to wash it off I was actually able to get about 30% of the stain off the deck. I think that if I had just used the pressure washer I would have been able to get about 20% of the stain off the deck. The next day I decided to try again. So I spent another 3 hours applying the solution and washing it off. Not a whole lot of difference. By this point I had spent just over $60 on the stripping solution. Then I had to spend another $20 on a solution to clean off the stripping solution so the wood could be stained.

Total spent about $80 and approximated 8-9 hours of work.

When I was in the hardware store buying the cleaner solution I took a look at what it would cost to rent a floor sander. I had thought that a floor sander was a big bulky thing that would cost over $100 to rent for a day and that wouldn't fit in the trunk of a car. The floor sander I saw was much smaller than I thought (I think the sanding drum was probably 8-9 inches wide, I was imagining a sanding drum about 16-18 inches wide) and I think it would fit in a reasonable sized car trunk (provided the back seats fold down). It would almost definitely fit in the trunk of my Jetta with the back seats down. And the kicker? It costs just over $50 to rent for 24 hours.

I think that in the time it took me to pressure wash the deck once I could have had the entire deck sanded. Even if it took me twice as long as pressure washing the deck I would have been further ahead time wise because I had to wash the deck 3 times total and I had to apply the stripping solution before I washed it off. So for the price that I paid for the stripping solution I could have rented the sander. Then I would have had to pay for the actual sandpaper but I wouldn't expect that to cost more than say $15-$20 and it would have saved me at least 4 hours of time. That's less than minimum wage!

Maybe it wasn't warm enough to use the stripping solution, maybe the wood wasn't dry enough when I started, maybe the deck could have survived the winter with just some minor stain touch ups, I don't know. I do know that I am never going to attempt to use a chemical stripper on my deck again. I'll spend the $50 and rent a floor sander so that I can actually get the whole deck ready for a new coat of stain in a day instead of spending 2 days and having to wonder if I got enough of the old stain off for the new stain to stick properly.

So my advice to anyone looking to refinish their deck (which for most people probably won't be until the spring now) is just rent a floor sander. If your deck is bigger than around 150 square feet (15 square meters) the expense of the floor sander will be about the same as the expense of the stripping solution but the sander should actually work and you don't have to worry if it is too cold or if the wood isn't quite dry enough or if the sun comes out and drys up the solution before the finish is lifted or, or, or... Just sand it and save yourself a whole lot of aggravation. I know next time that's what I'll be doing. Either that or replacing the deck boards with that wood composite stuff that doesn't need staining.
category: General posted on Wednesday November 05, 2008 at 09:22:48 by: 0xCC

How to ruin a good cup of coffee

I made myself a great cup of coffee this morning. It was probably the best cup of coffee I've had in over a month. Just the right balance of body and flavour without being too bitter or overpowering. Short of having roasted the beans myself it was pretty close to the best cup of coffee I think I could make. It was so good I went to get another cup from the pot but it was too late, I had already ruined the rest of the pot.

Normally I only make one cup of coffee in the morning. It is a big cup, probably 500ml (around 16oz I think) but I only make one. This morning M asked me to make some extra coffee because she wanted to bring some to some one later in the day. Ok fine, I can do that. Pull out the coffee maker that I don't normally use. How much coffee? How much water? How much does that thermos that M wants to take hold? Did I put too much coffee in the filter basket? Not enough water? Ok, add some more water but take a cup out of the pot first so there would be enough room to hold the extra water I just added. Yes, that is a good cup of coffee.

After doing some work I go back to the kitchen and remember that I actually had a pot of coffee brewing. Fill up the thermos that M wants to take and still have a good portion of coffee left. Pour myself another cup and... Too watered down now, barely more flavour than a cup of coffee from that Canadian institution.

Oh well, back to making a single cup tomorrow.
category: General posted on Friday October 03, 2008 at 10:27:18 by: 0xCC

Testing Google Docs

This is just a test to see if I can get a Google Docs spreadsheet embedded into this post... Let's see if this works:

I'm thinking that it isn't going to work...

Wow it does! Ok, that makes my next series of posts much easier...
category: General posted on Monday February 25, 2008 at 09:18:28 by: 0xCC

Getting Even Closer...

Ok, I know I said that I would have been posting some more articles by now because things would have settled down for me by this time. Well, it didn't quite happen the way I expected (does anything?). Just yesterday I finally got the majority of my office at home put back together and I expect that today I will be putting the rest of it together and getting it more functional.

So, what has happened in the last 5 months? As I have mentioned there has been a lot happening. I resigned from a company that I had worked at for almost a decade, I started a new job in a city over 100km away from my other job, we bought a house close to my new job, we sold a house and we moved. For over 4 months I had a commute of about 90 minutes one way (if traffic was good, it could be close to two hours if traffic was bad). Now that I'm not spending 3 hours driving every day and we have made the big move and we are almost totally unpacked I hope to have a little bit of time to actually be able to post some articles on a regular basis here. As I mentioned before I have a couple of what I think will be week-long series planned as well as a couple of shorter articles almost ready to go.

So stay tuned, I hope that in the next week or so I should be posting one or two of the shorter articles. Before the end of the month I should be posting at least one of the longer series.
category: General posted on Sunday August 05, 2007 at 11:03:19 by: 0xCC

Getting Close

Wow, a lot has happened since March both with me and in the Canadian financial blog arena. There are a whole lot more good blogs out there then there were even 3 short months ago.

I think my hiatus is almost over. In the next 3 weeks or so my life is going to settle down considerably. I have had some interesting experiences over the last 4 months or so and I have a lot of material to write about now. I expect to be doing some week-long series of posts about some of the financial aspects of the changes we have gone through since March. I have been keeping some notes on what has happened and how that has affected us so I hope to be able to provide some fairly good first-person perspective on the thought process that may happen as some one goes through a specific event.

So stay tuned. In around a month or so I should start posting some new articles.
category: General posted on Friday June 29, 2007 at 11:40:50 by: 0xCC


As you may have noticed I haven't been posting much lately. The reason is that I have had some fairly big changes happen in my life in the last couple of months and I haven't had much free time. The good news is that this is a temporary situation and that all of these changes should provide some good topics for me to discuss here in the future. The bad news is that things aren't going to calm down for me until at least July.

I hope to maybe be able to write a handful of posts between now and the middle of July or so but I can't promise anything. I am going to be turning comments off so if you really want to get in contact with me: 0xcc at this domain...

Oh, and the changes are positive changes that involve my day job and some relocation which as I mentioned I hope will provide some good topics to discuss here. I will just be in a fairly serious time crunch between now and the middle of July or so which will limit my ability to post.
category: General posted on Wednesday March 21, 2007 at 09:03:50 by: 0xCC

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