Monday, February 9, 2009

Drywall Dust and Old Rock 'n Roll

The "room" project was on hold for quite awhile until a few weeks ago when Jay got laid off work. Suddenly he had more time to mess with it and got re-motivated. Since then, he's spent quite a bit of time in there and gotten a lot accomplished…although it's things that really don't show up in pictures, which is why I haven't taken any until now.

There is very little that I can do in there right now, it's mostly Jay's ball game. I'm anxious to help spray on texture and then paint… but we're a long way from that (or so he tells me). I did finish the door but it's not hung yet because Jay doesn't want it to get messed up. The open doorway is covered with plastic. So these days my contribution to the project mostly consists of sweeping and vacuuming up powdery dry wall dust that accumulates on the floor daily…. (sometimes in very thick layers).

Besides that, I periodically go in there when Jay's working, stand around a bit, reassure him that it looks great, and ask if there is anything I can do. He almost always says, "no, not right now"… so I leave. He seems to almost enjoy hanging out in there, doing his thing, and listening to oldies on the radio at a volume that I find hard to tolerate. Oh yeah.. besides listening, he's usually singing along.

So, what has he done since my last update?

He's scraped all the "popcorn" off the ceiling and patched all the "scars" left by torn down walls in both the ceiling and other remaining walls. He has also done a lot of screwing… I mean he replaced the original nails in all the drywall in both ceiling and walls with screws. The nails weren't holding the drywall in place well and tending to pop thru in places. After putting in about a million screws, (in every single stud in both the ceiling and walls) he patched up those holes with drywall mud, and sanded it smooth… and then patched again and sanded again… and patched again and sanded again. (I THINK he is ALMOST done with this routine, but I won't be surprised if he's not.)

Here are some rather boring pictures of the walls and ceiling:

All those white stripes on the ceiling are Jay's handiwork with the dry wall mud.
And.... they are all perfectly SMOOTH.

Jay's perfectionism isn't abating any with age. We now have some very smooth patches in otherwise banged up walls. Yes, we still plan to put the "knock down" texture stuff on them all including the ceiling… so I'm not really sure why he wants to get it so perfect, but I'm not going to complain. If he wants to do it "his way" that is fine with me… mostly that he is doing it at all is wonderful.

(I also have to admit that I have my own version of perfectionism with other things... but not walls).) I think most people are SELECTIVELY perfectionistic to one degree or another.)

Along with the popcorn removal and screw hole patching, most of Naomi's stars on the ceiling are history. I can see a few faint reminders of them. The walls and ceiling are looking remarkable "white".. The other day I was getting an almost uncontrollable urge to get out the markers and spice them up a bit… but the glare Jay gave me stopped me. Some of my art work DOES faintly remain but not much.

Jay has acquired quite a collection of trowels or whatever they are called for doing his drywall "mudding" and patching. He really LIKES tools… He even found a special one for doing corners. He also found a thing that attaches to a drill motor that he thought he could use to still drywall mud.. (He buys it by the 5 gallon bucket)… unfortunately, the shaft was the wrong size for his drill and he hasn't used it. Yet. One fun part about all these specialty tools is finding where we put them the next time we need them…(like in 5 or 10 years).

Our poor vacuum cleaner has been through hell. I really should have dug the shop vac out when we started this project, but I put it off… and when I mentioned going to find it the other day, Jay said, “Forget it, we’ll be done soon enough, and then I’ll take the vacuum apart and clean it out with a compressor.” I’m thinking it might be beyond cleaning out, but we shall see. I never really liked that vacuum very much anyhow. The main problem is all that fine drywall dust that Jay is so good at generating… I try to sweep as much up as I can before I use the vac, but still, the white dust gets all inside the hoses and sticks in the little accordion folds.. I have to open it up, dust it out, bang the hose on the floor to knock the caked up dust out of it, clean the filter and so on.. OFTEN.. and then it works okay (but not great) for a little while.. like 10 minutes or so. It’s not long before the dust is coming OUT of the vac more than going into it. Oh well… I’m fairly sure I’ll be getting a new one.

Now Jay’s working on a major repair in one of the corners where the wall “rotted” at the bottom… I guess. Or the house shifted, or who knows what. Anyhow, he rejected my idea of duct tape and will undoubtedly do his signature nuke-proof repair.

Another repair that he plans to make that sort of scares me because of the magnitude of it, is the window frames. The house shifting/sinking or whatever has played havoc on those windows over the years and I think he plans to do some major work on them. I just hope it doesn't take too many months. He is still mulling over his options.. He rejected my idea of just covering them with curtains or shades and not worrying about them. (Seems logical to me.)

Yes, that is one of the windows… I stuffed the pillows in there for insulation to keep the cold out of the room.

Sometime before too long, I think he plans to put in the electrical box under where my desk will be for my computers. I know this because he bought the electrical stuff to do it with and he dug out a piece of dry wall to patch up the hole. The hole was already there… but seeing it made me think… "What a great place for an outlet for my computer equipment." Of course, just because he plans to do it soon, doesn't necessarily it means he WILL do it soon. He might get side tracked with window repair or something else. I will be patient though. Right.
Meanwhile, I will continue my routine
of sweeping, vacumming,
and offerning encouragement.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

On Hold

I see that it's been two months since I posted anything here. That's because it's been that long since we've done anything on the project worth mentioning. I guess it's "on hold" for now.

There are a number of reasons for this... I can't remember what order they came in, but reasons include Jay working overtime, spring's arrival and yard work and storm clean up, out of town weekends, having company, and other things that I guess I can't remember right now.

We were just planning on getting back to it this past weekend... but I think it's still on hold. Jay ended up working overtime on Friday (when he is usually OFF). I picked up fallen branches and mowed most of the day on Thursday and Friday. Friday night a storm hit... Saturday morning, Jay did errands while I picked up MORE fallen branches and accessed major damage to a couple trees on our property that would have to wait for Jay and his chainsaw to clean up.

Saturday evening (yesterday) another storm hit and knocked over a HUGE oak tree, which will require most of our attention for awhile. You can read about that on "Keeping in Touch".

Anyhow... Tearing Down Walls is still on hold. My goal is to have it done by the end of this year. Meanwhile I'll just keep that door shut. I'm not going to stress out over it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A new light, promised outlets, and a bunch of screws

(In advance, sorry that the quality/lighting of my pictures is so inconsitant and screwy. It’s hard to figure out whether to use the flash or not, and a lot depends on if I’m taking the pic before daylight (the best time of the day) or with lights on or off. I’m not spending the energy to worry about it, so these pictures have all sorts of lighting. Also my attempts at editing them to make them lighter usually makes the walls look MORE cruddy than they already are. If I had the sense, I’d be embarrassed… oh well, not enough apparently.)

Over the weekend (which for Jay is actually THREE days since he’s off work on Friday as well as Saturday and Sunday on his current job) “we” got a lot accomplished, but it’s kind of boring stuff. …Important, labor intensive, but boring. …Especially when I try to think of interesting pictures to add. I’ll head in there with my camera after I finish writing this to see what I can find to snap at.

Jay did a lot of sorta-structural adjustments… taking out pieces of 2x4 that were still attached to places they’d no longer be necessary, cutting off little chunks of wall from the closet, and piecing in new wood where needed and dry wall over that. See… I can’t even find words to tell what he did. I know that he spent a lot of time doing it tough, part of it up in the attic, not his favorite place to spend time.

Yesterday (Sunday) I was sort of at a loss on how to look productive while I stood around offering my presence and support. (He always prefers to have me there at least WATCHING him work even if I can’t find anything that is in my line of expertise at the time.) I decided to ask him if there was anything I could do, and wouldn’t you know it, he had already thought of projects for me. He’s not usually good at delegating anything important so I should take it as a compliment… or maybe the things he “assigned” me aren’t “important”??? Hummm

First on his list was for me to start screwing. UmHum… yeah… well… He wanted me to screw screws into all the walls where the studs were (behind the drywall). These are existing walls that have been there for the past 25 years. The builder used nails, not screws when they put up the sheet rock. Over time, and because our house tends to settle and shift, some of the nail heads have been easing their way out and showing through. That irritates Jay no end.

He explained the process thoroughly as is his habit. He said I should use a little nail to hammer holes in the wall to determine the exact placement of each stud..(which were hidden behind the dry wall). That required a lot of little holes. The studs are about 1.5 inches across.. and I needed to hammer holes until I found both edges of the stud.. then determine the middle.. (at least marking on the walls was no problem and I was well practiced at it.) Then after finding the middle of a stud, I was to take the 4 foot level and make a line all the way down the wall identifying the placement of the stud. I suggested that a chalk line would be easier.. but he explained to me that a chalk line takes two people and he had more important things to do, so I’d just need to use the level. Okay. So maybe this project is low on the importance scale.

After getting the lines in place, I was to take the drill (with the screwdriver thing on it) and screw in screws every foot or so along the line.. for each stud in each wall. I was to be sure not to screw too deep or not deep enough, although, not deep enough was preferable to too deep. I’d have to agree. Jay likes to do things accurate to about 1/64th of an inch but that’s not my game. I did my best at getting the depth to his specifications. Then, I was to go and remove any nails whose heads were peeking through. That turned out to be easier than I thought…and actually the whole screwing process was sort of fun. I only have half of the back wall left to do. By the time I did what I did, it was time to make dinner and I was about pooped out anyhow. Eventually all those screws that are screwed into just the right depth will be covered with joint compound, and (hopefully) forever hidden from view.

If you look hard enough, you can see the screws and lines on these walls:

The hardest part of all of that was picking up a whole box of screws that I dropped when the box came apart. I was climbing up on a chair to screw in the top screws… drill and box of screws in hand… I had planned on sitting both on a nearby window ledge and the box just disincarnated in my hand scattering a million screws all over the floor. When I tried to pick them up, they stuck to the carpet and resisted any attempt to push them into little piles. Oh well.. I needed a sit-on-the-floor task at that time anyhow.

I celebrated the accomplishments of the weekend by making a very forbidden dinner… bacon, fried potatoes, and pancakes with syrup… the later two of which I hardly ever indulge in for obvious reasons. I dug out a bottle of Tequila Rose from the back of the fridge to complete the meal. Yes, I know that is not exactly a balanced or healthy meal, but do I care? Nope. (Hey wait.. meat: bacon, milk: Tequilla Rose, Veggie: Potato, bread: pancakes.. the only thing missing was fruit. I should have put a blop of raspberry jam on each pancake.)

I just got back from going into the room with my camera and remembered more things that we did. On Friday Jay sent me to town to find a new light fixture for the “hall” light. No, there isn’t a hall, it’s the light where the hall used to be. The fixture was there was a simple 60 wt one bulb thing with a very ugly round florescent tube hanging from it. It was great light, but ugly. I can deal with ugly; I’m more focused on utility, but since Jay suggested a new fixture, I wasn’t going to complain. The new one has two circular florescent tubes (22 and 33) and looks pretty nice. It's large, about 20-24 inches in diameter and gives good light.

I also almost forgot to mention one of my “fun” projects… I got out that joint compound and played around with patching a few holes, starting with the mouth and eyes of my marking pen people. I haven’t finished yet, still need to sand smooth and see about a second coat. Now one of my little girls is speechless and the other is blind. I ran out of patches or would have knocked the center out of the flower. I’ll do that soon. The other holes are boring, they will have to wait.

Jay took the remaining frame pieces out of the closet where I will have my computer “nook” and took out about a foot of wall so that it’s completely open. He patched in the drywall on the outside wall “wound” but is still working on the ceiling wound and the other side where he took out the chunk of wall.

This is the ceiling wound where the closet frame was removed. You can see how perfectly Jay patched the wall where he removed that part of the frame. One thing is certain, when it's done, if Jay does it, it will be "done right".

He’s been contemplating (to my thrill) the possible locations to add more electrical outlets and another wall switch for more lighting. He had a brilliant idea. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself and I’m very proud of him for “thinking outside the box”. (I must be rubbing off on him). He said that the big hole in the back closet wall looked like a good place for a new outlet… (a four plug type…yippee). It’ll be right behind my computer desk, the perfect location.

This is the hole in the back closet wall where my new outlet will go!

He also said he could put a new wall switch on that exposed part of the wall he removed from the side of the closet. This is great. Electrical wiring and related stuff is way out of my expertise so I have to rely on him and he’s coming through like a hero. (I was a little nervous because he has a hard time understanding my obsession with having lots of outlets.. and lots of lighting.) By the way, when I put those closet shelves back in the computer nook, I will add “under counter” florescent lights under the bottom one… light that will shine right down on my desk just like I like it.

Jay also filled in the wound in the back wall (below) were the wall between the two rooms had been and has the drywall mud over it nicely… he still has to sand it and if I know him, will touch it up a few more times. That wall looks so much longer now with the wound filled in. Actually, it IS long, 22.5 feet, I think.

A related, but separate project… Jay took out the “whole house fan” that we had in the ceiling…right before going into the new room (not inside it). We put it in when we built the house and then because of the humidity and the house being “air tight”, we realized it wasn’t an option for us, so we never used it. (The moist night air tended to encourage mushrooms growing from the baseboards!) So the fan’s just been sitting there in the attic for 25 years. It was a little tricky getting it lowered through the hole but we did it, then loaded it in the van. We’re giving it to friends of ours that can use it. Jay patched new drywall into the ceiling “wound” where the fan was.

This is the part of the fan that was in the ceiling that you could see from inside the house. I'll wait to put it in the van until we're ready to deliver it to our friends so it won't get banged up.

The fan is big and fills up most of the back of my van... all ready to go. At least it's not sitting in the living room.

I was going to stain the door today since I got all the little nail holes in the door frame puttied in over the weekend, but I guess that’s going to wait. Jay says he needs to finish the drywall around the door so that when he does it, the plaster dust won’t get all over a freshly stained and finished door.

Meanwhile, he suggested my next project… no, I haven’t even finished screwing yet, but he just wanted me to have options. So, next on his list of things that he can trust me with is scraping popcorn off the ceiling! Yippee… I was kind of hoping we wouldn’t have to scrape the whole thing, but I guess Jay’s feeling about the popcorn on the ceiling is relatable to mine about the little wallpaper remnants… he wants it ALL off. (I should have anticipated this.) I’m supposed to start with the parts closest to the “wounds” where he’s already patched in dry wall, but has to finish off the seams with tape and mud. He’s thinking at least 6 inches on each side… He insisted on showing me how to do it and I cringed as I saw all that popcorn turn to dust, flutter around through space and float towards the floor. I briefly thought about putting down a drop cloth, but I guess that’s what vacuum cleaners are for…and it’s one reason I left the old carpet in… to catch crud.

This is Jay's example of what the ceiling should look like after the "popcorn" is scraped off. There's only a narrow strip that he scraped, up where the ceiling and the new wall over the door meet. The screws you see here are not my doing... That's new dry wall... I only got to do OLD walls.

After thinking about all of the above, I am strongly leaning towards going grocery shopping today… and to the bank… and wherever else my van takes me. By the time I get done with that it will surely be nap time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Last Week... and my new desk top

Last week I finally got all the colored parts of the wallpaper off. The filmy little under-layer is still there in places and I’m debating about how much energy I’m going to put into getting it all off (or not). Sand paper is one option that I’m considering. I tried using the belt sander and it did a pretty good job, but the little bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder that I harbor in the recesses of my psyche resists abandoning the challenge of getting it all peeled off. Whatever route I take, the next step with the walls will be getting out the bucket of joint compound to start patching up holes and gashes. After contemplating that, I worked on sorting and “deleting” the unused shoes and clothes in my closet instead. Yeah, I was procrastinating.

Earlier in the week I decided I’d better do something with that door that Amon knocked over and put a hole in. Having it just sitting there staring at us, a reminder of fifty bucks wasted… was kind of a sore point with Jay and I need to keep my crew happy. I took it out of the frame and took the hinges off… I think it’s going to be my new desktop. All I need to do is get someone on my crew (hummm I wonder who?) to cut off about a foot on the end with the hole and about 2 inches off the back. Then it will fit nicely into that closet “computer nook”. The hole for the door knob will be go against the wall…. A perfect place to run electric cords through to connect the monitor or whatever. It all seems like fate to me. Thanks, Amon… you saved me from trying to figure out what I’d do for a desk top.

I’ll stain it and then put on several coats of polyurethane… put a little piece of edging on to cover up the hinge holes... then set it on top of a couple file cabinets, one on each end. Tada… instant custom made DESK. (These pictures were taken before I finished getting all the wallpaper off the closet walls.)

When I took the door frame into the “kids computer room” which has become the “misc-stuff storage room”, I realized I should have been a little more organized when I started stashing stuff in there. Before long I may not be able to open the door. It’s a good thing there are no kids and no kids’-computers that need to use that room anymore.

Over the weekend we did some more work. Well, mostly Jay did some more work and I piddled around, looked busy, and offered my support. More about that in my next post, coming soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wall Fun

When I started this project I found out that banging holes in walls is fun…. And now I know that writing on walls is also fun.

Writing on the walls hadn’t really occurred to me until I removed a strip of wallpaper that revealed not only Esther’s “signature” but a note from one of her friends too. That’s when I began to consider the possibilities….

Earlier I had found a cute little stick person scribbled on one of the walls but I can’t find it now, so I guess all those applications of enzyme wall paper removed him. Actually I was almost impressed that there wasn’t much writing on the walls. Then I realized that of course there isn’t. The bare walls were not often exposed; they were usually covered with wallpaper except for brief times in between re-decorating projects.

Writing on the walls is kind of like eating with my hands… it brings out the “bad kid” inside of me. Eating with my hands is perfectly acceptable in India though… (and I loved doing it while I was there.) I’m sure that writing on the walls is not.

Pounding holes in the walls was fun, but sort of tiring. Writing on them is much more fun and not tiring at all. I sure hope the paint will cover it without too much hassle. (Jay has his doubts.)

It was the holes in the wall that inspired me most. They made great mouths, eyes, or centers for flowers.

Our walls aren't as dirty as they look... a lot of what you see is remnants of the old wallpaper and/or glue. A lot of it is old patch plaster that Jay did to fill in nail holes from picture and poster hanging over the years. And yeah, some of it is mildew or other sorts of grime. Seriously, it looks worse in some of the pictures than in person. um hum.. yeah sure.

A happy wall.

Pretty flowers, almost like wallpaper!

Notes to my contractor

Silencing my critics...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back on Task - Enjoying the Journey

Okay, the wedding is over. I’ve taken care of some lingering household tasks and I’m ready to get back to my empty nest project. I haven’t written anything since before the wedding because there hasn’t been much to write about until now. There’s still not a lot, but we (I include Jay) have made some progress.

Off and on for several days I’ve been “picking wallpaper”. It’s been a slow and rather tedious process because it just doesn’t want to come off easily.

A few days ago in the midst of picking at it I gave myself a little pep talk… here’s how it went… “Life” is not about getting to the destination… it’s what you do while you are heading to the destination. (There is an email going around that says something like that.) I agree with that, and I am determined to try and live my life with that philosophy. AND, to enjoy every part of the trip.

So, picking at stubborn wallpaper isn’t a thrill, but it doesn’t have to be a drag either. I don’t have to grit my teeth and dread it, I just need to settle in, get comfortable, and do it…. And enjoy doing it. I don’t have to do it non-stop either… there is no rush on this project; working on it is just part of my life right now. Getting it finished is a destination, a goal… one that I easily visualize, but my enjoyment of living my daily life doesn’t have to suffer from pushing myself… speeding along the highway. I can, and will, take the windy back roads enjoying the twists and turns and taking time to stop and smell the flowers along the way.

So… as for picking wallpaper, I plugged in a radio… got comfortable sitting on the floor or a chair depending on the height of my focus… got a drink, and some trail mix to munch on and just picked away. Yes, I’m also using enzyme wall paper remover too… which takes several applications to even start to work. This will take awhile and I accept it. Oh yeah, and enjoy it.

Finally I have almost all the colored stuff off the last walls, but that little film of whitish paper is still there in splotches. I will get it off eventually. Like I said before, the clouds come off pretty easily, it’s the other stuff that was under it that is the hard part.

When I put the clouds up, I sure did a thorough job. I can’t believe I did the whole inside of the closet too! … Even up high above the top shelf. I don’t think that older more stubborn stuff is under it though. The cream color that you see in the closet is one of the under-layers of wallpaper (not bare wall). I quickly peeled off the clouds and that part remained. I'm curious to see what little bits of history are hiding under that.

Jay has been working too. Saturday he cut drywall and put it up over and around the new door as well as in the ceiling where one of the walls used to be attached.

Yesterday Jay climbed up in the attic to do a little structural work while I kept on keeping on with the wallpaper removal. Funny how it’s taking me longer to get if off than it did to put it on.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Falling Stars and Obstinate Wallpaper

With the wedding over, all my little chickies flew back to their own nests so again, mine is empty. I spent a couple days collecting, distributing, storing, trashing, and organizing the remnants of the weekend. Then, yesterday I decided (to my surprise) to get back on the empty nest project. When Esther left, her car was crammed to the limit with her belongings. Only four boxes and a few odds and ends are left. I moved those things to the guest room where they will reside until the next time she comes to town….which left “MY Space” empty. How could I resist?

I began by tearing down the remaining paneling which revealed a couple large holes in the wall underneath. It began to come back to me why I put it up in the first place.

Then, on to the cloud wallpaper…. The clouds came down fairly easily, but revealed another layer of old wallpaper underneath.

THAT stuff doesn’t want to come down… and I began to recall why I left it up and just put the clouds over it. It’s stuck TIGHT. I think when I put it up, I did it over walls that hadn’t been primed or painted. I spent a lot of time messing with it and made little progress. It MUST go though, so I’m accepting the fact that it might take awhile and I won’t stress over the process. I will get a cd player in that room or something to occupy my mind while I pick at the wallpaper.

To relieve the boredom of picking wallpaper I decided to knock down the remaining stars off the ceiling. At least that brought a small feeling of accomplishment and completion.

All the stars are now GONE… well, not the painted on ones, but all the little plastic ones. Naomi was really into stars. She even painted the light switch plate to say “Reach for the stars”… and there are two little star lamps. I’m trying to decide if I want to keep them or not.

One of the things Esther left behind is a big brass dolphin… about 2 feet tall. It was Ruth’s… before it was Esther’s. It’s a novel piece, but I’m not into dolphins. I’m looking for a good home for him…. Or maybe some sort of purpose that would convince me to let him go on living here.

When Rinnah and Roger were here this weekend, she offered to do “Venetian plaster” on that back wall… that is exciting. It’s an artistic process involving colored plaster and she’s very good at it. That will be near the end of the project… after the ceilings and other walls have been finished and before the new carpet.

I don’t plan on getting a lot done in the next few days, but will work at the wallpaper a little at a time between doing some of the other household stuff that I have been letting slide.

Shopping list:
More wallpaper removal chemicals.
Joint compound to fill in holes and smooth walls
Sand paper… lots of it.
Stain for door and wood putty to fill the holes in it.

PS If you are interested in seeing pictures of the wedding, you can find them on my website, “Mom’s Photo Alubm” at