December on the Sunbeam Ranch project meant drywall texture, more siding, doors, a new window addition, and tile. Plus, we got much more hands on with some refinishing projects and polishing concrete.

Here are a couple of pictures of the main living space with the beginnings of drywall texture.

Here’s more board and batten siding being installed on the front of the house.

We loved these giant barn light shades when we found them at a vintage market. They used to hang in a Chevy’s restaurant. But we weren’t big fans of the paint job. We’re refinishing them white on the inside and grey on the outside. Here are a few pics of the project in process – sanding plus a few coats of paint. Finished pics of these lights to come.

We’re also refinishing a bunch of these metal army bins for our mud room.

We waited a long time for these custom front doors to be built. They were worth the wait. We couldn’t find a stock product anywhere that had the right styling to coordinate with the other architectural details of the house. Though we were really nervous about putting wood doors on a house in the arid Arizona climate, we decided to risk it since the door faces north and won’t need to hold up to sun exposure.

Here’s tile going in behind the boy’s bathroom sink. Their room isn’t getting a vanity. Instead, we’re mounting an industrial-looking sink on the wall. The tile is both a practical backsplash and strong design element to make sense of that wall.

I’ve mentioned previously that we used trusses in the garage volume that provided space for a functional attic. It’s technically just a storage space, but I can see us one day using it as a backup studio or something to that effect. But the space was dark and windowless. I kept having visions of someone getting trapped up there during a garage fire. Our family has experienced several house fires. My childhood home went down in flames, my brother’s apartment complex in Chicago burned, and we had a pretty serious fire on the exterior of the house we just sold. I don’t pretend a house fire couldn’t happen to me.

So while nothing in the code called for a window in the space based on our intended use, we made a last-minute decision to cut a hole for a window just before the garage volume was covered with metal siding.

I’ll be honest. I don’t really like vinyl flooring. But there were a few strong reasons for picking vinyl planks for the second level. First, each of the kids’ bedrooms has a bathroom attached to it. We needed a waterproof product in their bathrooms and I didn’t want any weird flooring transitions. Second, we promised the kids that they could have a lot of influence over the designs in their own bedrooms. The boys wanted a sports room with the floor looking like a basketball court. The girls wanted a beach room, so we needed a distressed, wood-look floor. We wanted a more neutral look in the other areas of the second level. Nucore Waterproof Planks fit the bill. We could get a variety of styles in the same thickness so that they could seamlessly snap together at the thresholds of the rooms.

Here I am installing the flooring in the boys’ room.

That’s me cutting some vinyl flooring.

Here are the lockers we bought at Old Brick House Vintage Market placed in the space custom built for them.

Here’s our tile guy installing the shower surround in the guest bathroom. He installed all of the tile in our last house and he does a fantastic job.

The second picture is the shower in our master bathroom.

The interior doors and cabinets are ready for install!

The painters are painting the horizontal rainscreen siding.

My brother Ryan surprised us with this really cool canvas print of a stylized rendering of our house. Super cool!

The exterior paint is all finished!

Here are the kids and some of their cousins on Christmas morning.

We love our Christmas traditions, but this year a lot of things are in flux. My mom decided we could make some fun memories by opening gifts in their nearly-finished new house. Some of the grandkids helped Grandma decorate a tree a couple days before Christmas and dragged in some bean bag chairs and folding chairs. It was a lot of fun and quite memorable.

We spent countless hours at the house during the few weeks surrounding Christmas performing what was perhaps the most boring job possible – grinding and polishing the concrete.

We like the look of polished concrete. And we thought it seemed like such a simple project! Boy were we wrong.

First of all, the videos online describe the steps pretty well. But they give you no concept of the amount of time each step requires. Also, many of them show the process using commercial equipment that works more quickly than the machines that can be rented by your Average Joe.

Secondly, the rental companies who do have grinding and polishing equipment available don’t know a lot about the process. We bought most of our supplies online. Their customer service reps were very helpful, but it turned out that they gave us some pretty bad advice.

In the end, I probably spent a full week figuring out how to get started. We learned. We worked. We cried. We bled. We hardly slept for three weeks. But we got the job done. And we really do love the end result. We did receive a lot of assistance from the local rep for Husqvarna, the company that manufactured the machines we used.

You probably have no interest in the process. That’s cool – skip ahead to the pics. But here are a few things we learned that might be useful if you decided to polish your own concrete:

  • There’s really no perfect time to polish your concrete. If you do it before framing, then it’s really difficult to protect the floor. If you wait until later, then you’ll constantly be frustrated by how long the detail work (corners, edges, door openings, etc.) takes. We did ours after drywall but before trim and paint.
  • Grinding down to expose aggregate takes forever. We weren’t patient enough for that. We got large aggregate in a few places but for the most part decided to be happy with a “salt and pepper” look.
  • The big machines that handle the large open spaces are really easy to use. (We used a Husqvarna PG450). All of the edging is frustrating and very difficult. The PG280 is a small machine meant for edging. But no matter how we used it, the machine was extremely aggressive and left deep cuts in the concrete. We resorted to hand grinding and polishing all of the edges, which probably permanently damaged my back.
  • The process produced TONS of concrete dust, which is harmful to your lungs. You really need to use a dust collector during every step. We found that dry grinding was just too slow. It didn’t help that our first grit was meant for medium hardness concrete, but it turns out that concrete in Arizona is really hard. Switching to grinding segments made for hard concrete helped, but we also had to switch to wet grinding to speed up the process. The concrete dust combines with water to create a slurry that works to grind faster than the diamond metal bond segments by themselves. It’s much messier, but we’d still be grinding today if we hadn’t started wet grinding.
  • We first ground with 30 grit diamond bond segments, followed by 50 grit and 100 grit.
  • With the 100 grit step we used a chemical that combines with concrete dust to fill in tiny holes and cracks. This helped produce a smoother looking and feeling finish.
  • Next we applied a densifying chemical that hardens the concrete and makes it easier to polish properly.
  • Then we used a 50 grit transition pad.
  • The look really started to change with the resin polishing pads. We did passes with 100, 200, 400, and 800 grits.
  • Finally, we applied a sacrificial chemical layer and buffed it.
  • We literally worked at least 10-15 hour days for three weeks. No joke. Our kids were completely neglected for the first two weeks. Then our family jumped in to make sure the children didn’t have a terrible winter break (thank you!!!). The kids helped where they could, but we didn’t have enough decent masks to feel comfortable that their lungs were properly protected.
  • It took a lot of time to learn the tricks of using the equipment. We had to return to Sunbelt Tool Rental several times to swap equipment that broke (mostly problems with power).
  • We bought expensive, low-gauge extension cords, but some of the equipment couldn’t run on such long lines. We ended up having to rent a generator that we constantly dragged around the exterior of the house to be close to the machines.
  • Again – TONS of work. But we love the result.

These are pics of some of the process. Final product images to come.

Interior doors are getting hung!

The garage is getting clad with mild steel corrugated metal, with a matching roof. The roofers are performing the install. We love the way the metal looks and it’s already developing a cool patina.

Dustin Smith

Author Dustin Smith

Dustin is the father of four awesome kids and works as a consultant and entrepreneur in the entertainment attractions industry.

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