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Greenleaf's Pierce 5: Floor Treatments

 In previous posts I've discussed how many choices there are in building and decorating a dollhouse.  Flooring has no fewer choices, possibly even more than other decorating areas. 

Similarly, materials used in dollhouse flooring are vastly varied as well. Flooring needs to be chosen with scale in mind. The Pierce is 1:12 scale, also known as 1:1 scale, meaning 1 inch in the dollhouse equals 12 inches or 1 foot in real life.  So wood grain in any floor material needs to be in scale as well. In other word, you can't really use a whole tile of self-sticking faux wood vinyl floor for a real house in a dollhouse because the scale of the wood's grain will be off. Some materials that translate scale well are: popsicle or craft sticks in regular and jumbo size, coffee stir sticks, adhesive wood veneer, faux stone adhesive floor tiles, air dry paper clay bricks or stone, cardboard egg carton stones, designs printed on computer paper, just scoring floorboards in the plywood floor, and small mosaic tiles.  The creative use of materials for flooring is limitless.   I strongly recommend you visit the Greenleaf Forum Member Gallery to see the wide range creativity displayed by members.  It is well worth the time to research options before beginning.

I decided for my Pierce that I wanted parquet floors in the formal rooms, a designated area for the entryway, more utilitarian floors on the second floor, and wide floorboards in the attic.  

I also wanted some way to break up the space on the second floor between the stairs and the master bedroom. That area is an open space.  I have seen people add a wall, but in my opinion it makes the space cramped and harder to reach.  I thought of using a curtain.  In the end I decided to use a change of flooring pattern to designate the bedroom from the hallway, and to designate the hallway from the open bathroom.  Lastly, I wanted some kind of tile in the bathroom, within my skill level.

Delineation of hallway from bedroom and bathroom.

So I went with the use of craft sticks which, while cheap, are needed in great quantities, and will add weight to the house.  In the picture below you will see I made a homemade jig for holding the popsicle sticks to consistently cut them to the same length using a miter box.  It was a very time consuming process.  I bought a tool called the Northwest Short Line Chopper II.  I'm not getting paid for naming brands, just telling you what I used.  I was happy with the increased speed, but quickly learned the tool doesn't cut easily through popsicle sticks.  So I upgraded to a Proxxon Bench Circular Saw.  It makes quick work of the popsicle sticks and has guides to ensure uniform cuts.  I did not have this tool until I was working on the attic floor, and wished I had it much earlier!

Homemade Jig for cutting floor boards.  Legos make great straight edges and right angles!

In the next photo you can see I am using the basket weave design for my parquet floor in the living and dining space.  A real good video titled Flooring tutorial dollhouse miniature 1:12 scale hard floor demonstration Instructions shows how to make this type of floor.  I  tested the floor idea with loose pieces, examining the different orientations before I glued it down.  I stained the popsicle sticks with American Walnut before installing.  Despite my best effort and skill, there were gaps between the pieces.  I did not have a planer to make sure stick width is uniform.  For the downstairs, I cut and inserted slivers of wood to close the gaps and then sealed with Polyurethane.

Checking orientation of floor before gluing down.

In a previous post I discussed installing the fireplace early.  I did so upstairs, but did not downstairs. Downstairs I just traced where the fireplace would be. In another post I will examine the problems installing the downstairs fireplace and it's solution. But in the photo below you can see how I left space for the hearth.  In hindsight,  I wish I had put a border around the edge of the room downstairs like I did upstairs to make the floor look more finished. 

In the entryway I really wanted a ceramic mosaic tile floor, but after a lot of research and an honest assessment of my skill level, I decided to do a simple wood tile floor to designate the area.  I first designed the flooring on paper.  I didn't like how the hallway leading to the right of the stairs was mostly border, so I changed the design to fit the space by eliminating the second line of border.

Designing a tiled floor.

The next time I do a parquet floor, I think I will let the Cri-cut Maker cut the tiles from balsa wood, which is very soft.  But by sealing with Polyurethane,  the floor will become harder.  It's not like dollhouse furniture is so heavy as to dent the flooring.  But even so,  it is probably a good idea if the house is display only.  It might not hold up well to active use by young people.

Visualizing the floor design in situ.

I started cutting the tiles, and in my inexperience I painstakingly stained each one before installing.  Again, I found gaps despite my best efforts.  So I filled them with slivers of stained wood before sealing with 2 coats of polyurethane, buffing with a piece of brown paper bag after each application.

Last chance to see if this is what I really want!

Stained and sealed.

In the kitchen I went with a plain floorboard approach.  I dry fitted the walls, and starting at the far wall, worked my way towards the opening in the back of the house.  It is not important that the edges against the walls are flush if you are installing baseboard.  Just make sure any gaps can be covered by the baseboard.  Similarly with the other rooms, I had gaps and filled them with stained slivers of wood, tapping them in with a ball peen hammer.  Make sure to lay some fabric down like fleece to protect the wood from the hammer.  What is important is to make sure the edges of the floorboards that over hang the back foundation are uniform.  If you have a reciprocating saw or hand saw you can trim off the excess at one time.

A more utilitarian floor for the kitchen.

I really had my heart set on a mosaic ceramic tile floor SOMEWHERE in the house.  Since the bathroom was small, and as likely a place as an entryway for such a floor treatment, I decided to try my hand there.  You can make wood look like ceramic by painting it and adding a high gloss sealant.  I also wanted a floral design.  So I experimented with scrap pieces to see what affect I could achieve.

A concept for used wood pieces to make flower tiles.

I glued two rounded ends of popsicle sticks together to shape a petal.  I used left over triangular pieces from the entryway floor for the leaves.  I planned on making the center of the flower yellow.  Just on a side note, I tried to use all the same colors from the rest of the house for a couple reasons.  One, to save money, and two, to give uniformity.  In a real life home it is not visually jarring to have rooms in different color schemes.  But in a dollhouse where you see all the rooms at the same time, you want to keep a basic color scheme throughout.

Shaped wood pieces.

Painted pieces.

Once I saw the pieces with color, I was hooked.  All the negative space around the shapes was something I wondered over.  How to fill it?  With what?  Lots of little wood pieces?  After making all the pieces for the entryway my spirit quailed over that thought!  I envisioned painting the plywood and the interior sides of the trim pieces in a tranquil blue.  Then I thought to fill the space with clear resin to be level with the top of the flower pieces.  I wish I had done that.  Someday I will.  I think I would have been happier with the result, but I knew nothing of resin and was already way over spending on materials.  So I decided to fill the space with paper clay, hoping to score tile lines in that.

I don't have a picture of my attempt.  It was the beginning of COVID and Hobby Lobby was closed.  So I watched some You Tube videos on how to make paper clay out of materials I had on hand.  At a time when toilet paper was rationed at the store, I sacrificed two rolls and made my own.  All I will say is to make great home made paper clay make sure you have a stand mixer you can dedicate to your craft to achieve the best results.

The paper clay I made was too lumpy and it was very difficult getting the floor smooth.  I ended up mixing wood filler with water until it was runny and pouring it into the low spaces and sanding smooth the surface.  You are supposed to be able to sand paper clay.  I think I had too much glue.  It did not sand well.  It did not look good.  😖

Filling in the floor to raise it to the tiles' level.

After several layers of primer and re-leveling with liquid wood putty, I achieved a smooth floor surface.  Unfortunately the tiles looked like they were just painted on the surface by that time.  I had come too far to remove it; I had created it on the bare floor.  So I felt stuck with it. I did my best to cleanly outline the flowers with a black sharpie and moved on.

In hindsight, I think I should have tested my original idea of using the resin before dismissing it.  I knew nothing of resin work and allowed myself to be intimidated.  If anything I've learned building dollhouses will lead you down paths you never thought to explore.  It just makes you a more well-rounded artist in a sense.  At this point I am a jack of many arts, but do not see myself as a master of any yet.

As I've gained experience, I've learned too from members of the Greenleaf Forum (I strongly suggest you join.  It's free.  You can get lost for days in all the information and pictures on that website) you can put flooring on a piece of chipboard, which is the type of cardboard used to make cereal boxes, that is cut to the shape of your floor.  Then your floor is removable, which helps greatly when installing electric.  Also, you can change the flooring in your house easily if you choose to remodel.

I started the bathroom floor before other parts of the 2nd floor.  By the time I finished the bathroom floor, I had completed the rest of the flooring.  Changes I made to my method increased my speed and the look of the floor as well as the quality.  This time, I pieced all the floorboards together UNSTAINED.  Then I went through and filled all the cracks with wood filler.  I made sure that I scored lines between the floorboards so the filler didn't create a smooth affect between boards.  I let it dry and sanded and sanded.  After I was satisfied, I then applied the stain.  Finally, I sealed it with 2 coats of polyurethane, buffing after each coat with a piece of brown paper bag.

Stained and sealed!

In the attic I wanted to create the effect of an old and somewhat finished space.  I used wider floorboards to indicate age.  Because this space is lacking windows I went with lighter colors, so I used a pine stain.  I used the same process to fill the gaps, sanded, sealed, and buffed.  Wider floorboards definitely make the process go faster.

Raw and freshly glued in floorboards.

Make sure edges along the opening are lined up as perfectly as possible.

Filled, Sanded, Sealed, and Buffed!

A lot of lessons were learned between the first, second, and third floors.  Do not ever expect a 1:12 scale dollhouse as large as a Pierce to be built and decorated in a few months.  I began my journey in October 2019 and am just now nearing the end.  Real life gets in the way sometimes.  I like to sit in my workroom when I am sure to have at least 2 hours of uninterrupted time.  I am already thinking of my next dollhouse and how I will decorate it.  I will say this, no amount of research or lurking in the Greenleaf Forum or watching You Tube videos competes with actual hands on experience!

Next Up:  Foundation Walls


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