Home Improvement Lessons Learned, Volume 1

It’s entirely possible anyone reading this knows these things already, but I might need the reminder for myself later on.

1. Everyone needs sanctuary.

There isn’t a single room in my house that isn’t either in the middle of some kind of project or providing storage for a room that is in the middle of a project. The kitchen is probably the room that is least disturbed by all of the ruckus, but it’s really hard to flop down on a kitchen counter at the end of a long day to unwind and find comfort…even when ice cream is available. Our bedroom, where we usually camp out, is off limits right now due to the projects going on in there. We can flop down on the couch in the living room but there are two grown ups sharing the one couch with three cats, so it gets a little crowded. (I know, first world problems.) There’s a patchwork quilt of paint samples on the living room walls, painter’s tape around the windows, and almost everything from our bedroom is being stored there for the time being, so there’s really nowhere to look to get away from the chaos, except when we bury our noses in our respective tablets. In spite of my laundry list of aches and pains from yesterday’s post, I’m having fun right now, but if there was something I would do over again (or do better next time) it would be to make sure the downstairs spare room that we are temporarily camping out in is outfitted with the little comforts we enjoy in our own bedroom – no projects anywhere, everything organized, curtains over the windows, things like that. Little things make a big difference.

2. Take your shoes off.

This one’s a no brainer, I’m sure. On Saturday, when I was in and out of my bedroom during the popcorn ceiling removal, I tracked dust and muddy popcorn texture all over the house, and after I was stick-a-fork-in-me-I-am-DONE kind of done, I still had to go back and sweep and scrape the floors outside the bedroom. Sunday morning I definitely remembered that! I’d left my popcorn coated shoes in the master bedroom when I was finished Saturday night, and they never once left the bedroom with me on Sunday. I kept a pair of slippers outside the bedroom door, so whenever I left the room I took off my shoes IN the room and stepped into my slippers before going anywhere else in the house, then reversed the process going back into the room. It almost eliminated any clean up outside the bedroom. I had a chunk or two of the scraped ceiling texture fall off my clothes in one or two spots, but no crunchy trail all through the house showing all the places I’d been like the day before. I’ll be a Ninja someday.

3. Be careful where you put that thing!

Another no brainer, but in my defense, I’m new at this. One of the scrapers I tried to use for the popcorn removal was about 20 inches wide with a 23″ long handle, and turned out to be too lightweight for the task at hand, so I simply stored it on the side of the ladder by running the handle inside the ladder and letting the blade part of the scraper rest on top of the brace. As I was coming down the ladder after that, I caught myself on the corner of the blade and gave myself a wee, stinging cut on the pad of my palm below the base of my thumb. (Do you know how hard it is to keep a band aid on that part?) Impaled on my own sword! Et tu, Brute? Nobody makes me bleed my own blood! Ahem. Um. Coming up with those quotes amused me while I waited for the bleeding to stop. Anyway, my point was I could have just tossed the scraper down onto the floor and prevented the cut in the first place.

4. Consider the food situation.

Even if you’re not working on your kitchen, it might not be a bad idea to plan some meals ahead and freeze them. You’ll be tired and won’t want to cook, particularly if you’re doing projects at home in the evenings after eight hours at your day job, and quick, easy foods like cereal and sandwiches quickly become boring and unsatisfying. I haven’t done it this time for the bedroom redo but definitely plan to be better about it going forward. It’s cheaper and healthier than going out and grabbing something for lunch/dinner several times a week, multiply that by the number of people in the household and it adds up. Double up a chili, soup, or stew recipe and freeze whatever you don’t eat in individual serving sized containers so you have something you can just warm up in the microwave and clean up with minimal fuss while you’re working on something. Get some chicken breasts and sauce going in the crockpot, then shred the chicken, portion it out with vegetables, and freeze them as well. Hard boil some eggs or bake up a quiche or frittata, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days and breakfast for dinner is never a bad idea.

Weekend Warrior: Master Bedroom Edition

bedroom before
The war against the popcorn ceiling continues.

Friday night we moved all of our stuff out of the bedroom and closet, much to our dog’s concern and the cats’ delight. When the bedroom was empty our youngest cat, Lucky, took great pleasure in running crazy, bouncy laps around the empty space with her tail poofed out and arched high behind her. Almost everything from our bedroom is sitting in our living room, which also thrills the cats. “HELL YEAH, NEW PLAYGROUND! GOOD JOB, HUMANS.” There are things I don’t want them getting into and I loathe when they sit on my dresser, but it can’t be helped, so I’m just “…eh, don’t knock my perfumes over.”

Saturday I spread the plastic sheets out on the floor, set up the ladder, gathered up my various scrapers, and got to work. I immediately noticed a difference between this ceiling and the popcorn I removed from the bathroom ceiling. I’m not quite sure what the difference is, it could be any of these or all of them: 1, that they are two different types of popcorn, 2, that the popcorn in the bathroom might have been painted, as it was difference in appearance from the popcorn in the bedroom, or 3, that the popcorn in the bathroom had been loosened over time by the steam from the many showers taken in that room. The popcorn ceiling in the bathroom was easier to remove than the popcorn in the bedroom, I’d never had to spray the bathroom popcorn with water. I had a couple of empty cleaning style spray bottles that I hadn’t used for anything yet, so I filled them up with water, sprayed the ceiling, and that did the trick. Everything was easy after that, although I had a little accident when I let the cold, wet popcorn fall onto the hot light bulbs in the light fixture over the bathroom vanity (which is not actually IN the bathroom) and broke three of the bulbs. Oops. I took several breaks to refill my water bottles and rehydrate myself, but I was still done in less than five hours. If I hadn’t stopped for dinner I might have gotten the closet ceiling scraped as well, but once I’d been sitting for a little while I couldn’t convince myself to climb back up the ladder again.

Sunday morning I got into the master closet, removed the light fixture from the ceiling and instead set up a lamp in the closet doorway that I could move out of the way as needed. I spread out more plastic sheets on the floor in there, as well as on the top shelves, and got to spraying and scraping. I was done with the closet fairly quickly but was definitely starting to feel the effects of being on a ladder for so much time over the weekend, reaching above me, tilting my head back this way and that. I had planned to start sanding the ceiling to remove any remaining dust but I didn’t think I’d get very far, so instead I went back to the bathroom vanity area and removed the three light bulbs I broke on Saturday. I ended up removing the light fixture entirely and fired up my steamer so I could get the last few scraps of wallpaper off the wall that I hadn’t removed before because of the light fixture being there. I continued removing other small scraps of wallpaper that had been left behind on an adjacent wall, as well. That wall will need to be patched up with some drywall mud along with the rest of the bathroom, but it’s one more thing knocked off the list, so hurray!

I didn’t put in as many hours on Sunday as I did on Saturday, but my hands were really starting to suffer – cuts, bruises, swelling, and pain in my left forearm for no apparent reason. I took a shower and by the time I was done my feet were hurting so bad I could barely walk, but damn, I feel accomplished. Still much to do, and I’m mentally formulating a plan for reworking my master closet – not yet, Michelle, one project at a time! – but I think by 4th of July weekend we’ll be ready to paint the ceiling and walls and shampoo the carpet, that’s the bit I’m most excited for.

House Project Master List: Indoors

Entire house:
New Windows
Wallpaper removal
Replace hollow doors
Crown molding?
New switch plates, outlets, light switches

Entire upstairs:
Remove popcorn ceilings
New floor

Remove sink and cabinet
Light fixtures that work!
Better recycling center
Better labels in fuse panel?
Organize, organize, organize

Master Bedroom:
Paint walls Benjamin Moore Ocean Air
Paint ceiling and trim white
Try new furniture arrangement
A board at the top of the wall in front of the sliding glass door wall, paint to match wall, ceiling mounted curtain hardware.
Make curtains
New curtain hardware
New ceiling fan

Master bedroom closet:
Paint same as master bedroom or bathroom
Move Michael’s dresser to back wall
New light fixture
Shoe storage
Replace current shelves with pretty wood shelves and supports
Reconfigure my side of closet to remedy wasted space

Master bathroom:
New toilet, tub, tile, vanity
Paint – vanity area same as master bedroom, toilet/tub room to customize blue paint?
Tub – no shower doors!
– raise sink/counter height
– new light fixture
– built in medicine cabinet?

Laundry room:
Paint cabinets?
Build “surround” for washer/dryer, including countertop
Maybe a tile “backsplash” below cabinets?
Organize cabinets/closets
Paint – undecided. Sandy/tan color or blue like half bath?

Half bath:
New light fixture, toilet, pedestal sink
Prep and paint

New light fixture(s)
Hallway closet – clean out and organize. Will need to become a temporary pantry at some point during kitchen redo.

Paint – main entry tan/beige color
New front door
Stairs – new banisters/handrail eventually
Square off the rounded edge of the step, built in cabinet or shelves on wall next to it. Accent wall blue or green (depends on kitchen tile)
Now – Get stairway carpet shampooed
Eventually – Remove carpet from stairs, replace with same hardwood as majority of upstairs

Living room:
Redo ceiling beams
New ceiling fan

New everything
Add another oven?
Glass front doors on upper cabinets (can these be saved/painted/reused?)
Remove lowest part of ceiling, add cubbies at top of upper cabinets.
Remove upper cabinets on either side of sink?
Remove built in desk. Replace with additional cabinets, shelves, or moveable island/cart

Entire downstairs:
Wood plank ceiling?
Are there any more leaks??? Yes = fix, No = get new carpet pad installed from missing section and get carpet nailed back down and shampooed

Remove vertical blinds from sliding glass door, replace with curtains
Replace basement door with single French Door (Home Depot)

“Duck” room:
Cover up cinder block wall with drywall
Built in shelves/cabinets
Remove door
Half wall between room and rest of basement?
Drywall mud
Move Michael’s desk/office stuff to this room

Main area:
Built in media center
New ceiling lights
Wood paneling: paint? remove? replace with bead board or wainscot?

Organize, organize, organize!
More shelves?
Firewood storage

New tub, tile, and vanity
Drywall mud
New light fixture
Additional cabinet next to toilet?

Linen closet:
Remove contact paper from shelves, paint instead
Spiff up the doors

David’s/Guest room and closet:
Modify top trim piece at window
New light fixtures
Closet: organize

“Teal” room:
Is it still leaking???
Put up new light fixture
Possibly change paint
Built in shelves/cabinets/daybed?

So here’s what I’ve been working on

This is a photo of the tub, toilet, and linen closet area of our master bathroom, taken during our first walk through of this house before we bought it. What I’ve finally been working on the past few weekends is removing the wallpaper and popcorn ceiling and prepping the walls and ceiling for paint. This has been a huge chore for such a small space for a few reasons, the first of which is that I think they pasted the wallpaper to the walls with Super Glue. It took me two and a half weekends to remove all of the wallpaper. I scored the wallpaper and sprayed with DIF but that just wasn’t working out at all, so I brought out my steamer and put in a mixture of water and vinegar, which eventually did the trick. Between the vinegar and the smell of the wallpaper paste it was really stinky, but I am so glad to have that wallpaper down. I detest wallpaper, I vote to outlaw it.

The second reason this has been a huge chore is that when I decided I was ready to remove the popcorn ceiling, I WAS READY TO REMOVE THE POPCORN CEILING. Meaning I was too impatient to take 20 minutes away from the project to drive my happy butt to the store to pick up a face mask to prevent me from inhaling the dust from the texture as I scraped it off. Bonus points for inhaling the dust from a popcorn ceiling removal at the height of allergy season. Wheezing is fun. When it came time to sand down the ceiling and walls prior to prepping them with drywall mud, best believe I had more than one face mask at the ready! And safety glasses!

So what’s next?
1 – Replacing some drywall tape that was torn as I scraped off the popcorn. Also applying drywall tape to the very top edge of the drywall in the skylight, up next to the window itself, to stop the peeling edges and smooth them out.
2 – Applying drywall mud to the walls and ceiling and sanding that down smooth.
3 – Prime and paint. Flat white paint for the ceiling, a pale blue for the walls (still working on which color this will be), cabinet painted white inside and out.

I’m planning on completing the drywall tape and mud portion of the list this coming weekend. We’ll see what actually happens.