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The Hard Part Is Done

My father-in-law left on Friday, so it’s back to reality for me — that reality in which I work by myself on my projects and figure out answers to problems all on my own.  I can already tell that I’m going to have a very hard time getting back into the swing of things around here.

The progress that was made during his stay was very significant.  Ever since Matt and I moved into this house at the end of 2013, I’ve felt like I was kind of spinning my wheels on some things because the fact is that I couldn’t really get rooms finished until two things happened — the polystyrene tiles and 1 x 4’s were removed and the ceilings were redrywalled, and the electrical was updated.

For example, in the front room (which I originally used as a living room, but now plan to use as a dining room) and the entryway, I tried to make those rooms presentable, but there was no way I could hide those ugly ceiling tiles.  And the oddly placed junction box in the ceiling for the light was centered in the whole area rather than being centered over a seating area.  So to remedy that, I had to swag the light to get it in the right place, which just looked makeshift.

living room with all big projects finished - 1

It was still a big improvement over the original state of this room…

…but it was impossible to make the room feel completely updated as long as I had ceiling tiles and a swagged chandelier.  Those ceilings also held up other projects, like adding crown moulding, and the overmantel I’ve had planned for the fireplace from the beginning.  Any kind of “improvements” I did in here in the last year-and-a-half, other than removing the carpet and refinishing the floors, just felt like lipstick on a pig, but nothing felt like it could be permanent.

What’s funny is that the room actually looks quite a bit worse now than it did when I had it decorated as a living room, but now it holds so much more possibility.

drywall and electrical finished - dining room

I don’t have any more ceiling tiles to contend with, and the lights and junction boxes are in the correct places now.  Once my walls and ceilings are taped and mudded, I can actually add crown moulding, hang my dining room chandelier, build the overmantel on the fireplace, and get this room pretty darn close to finished.  The only other really significant project that remains in here is replacing the windows, but that’s a big cost and will probably have to wait until next year.  Any large chunks of money right now are being put away for our HVAC system.

Speaking of my walls, I know you’re probably wondering why they look so torn up in places.  I really don’t know exactly what process was used on these walls, but every drywalled wall in my house seems to be completely covered with a thick paper (about the thickness of two sheets of poster board) which was textured and then painted.  It probably has about ten coats of paint on it from the past six decades.

But if you’ll remember from when I tried to paint my bedroom, the walls are very textured with a random (read: ugly) texture that I wanted to skim coat.

painted walls with awful texture

But what I’ve found is that this thick paper layer, along with the texture and decades of paint layers, peels off quickly and easily, and still leaves behind a paper layer over the drywall.

drywall and electrical finished - drywall on walls

The paper layer underneath looks kind of rough initially, but I tried on an area to sand it lightly, and it smooths everything out quite nicely.  So the plan is to remove this thick textured paper from all of the drywall, lightly sand to remove the damaged paper layer left behind, and then skim coat the walls.

Matt keeps insisting that tearing all of this out and just redrywalling all of the walls would be easier, but I disagree.  And since I’m the one doing the work, I won on this one.  🙂  Plus, keeping this and working with it is better for the environment, so the less I can take to the landfill, the better I feel about it.

Anyway, I now have four areas that have new drywall and electrical, and are ready for me to design and decorate for good.  No more putting lipstick on a pig in those areas.  So in addition to the dining room, I can also work on the entryway (which is pretty much the same room as the dining room)…

drywall and electrical finished - entryway and music room

…and of course, the music room.

drywall and electrical finished - music room

I do still have some pretty significant projects to tackle before I can really get to the pretty stuff, though.  In the music room, I want to move and enlarge the cased opening into the hallway.  Thankfully, that’s not a load-bearing wall, but it’s still a pretty big project.

And in the hallway, I’m not quite sure what I’ll end up needing to do on the walls.  Right now, I have one wall with new drywall, one wall where the old drywall and shiplap have been partially removed, and two walls that still have the old drywall and shiplap.

drywall and electrical finished - hallway

drywall and electrical finished - hallway 2

drywall and electrical finished - hallway 3

But the hallway does have new drywall on the ceiling, and updated electrical (and I moved the bathroom light into the hallway, but haven’t fully assembled it yet).  Those were the big hurdles, so the wall situation seems pretty easy to handle.  If they require new drywall, at least I know that’s something I can do by myself.  Right now, I really don’t see a need to remove/replace the old drywall and shiplap on the two remaining walls.  Hopefully I’ll be able to leave those intact and work with them.

Anyway, I really can’t tell you how freed up I feel about my house now.  We didn’t get all of the drywalling done that I wanted to do, but I have more than enough to keep me busy for quite a while.



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  1. Kristi, it looks amazing. I hope you feel refreshed and rejuvenated having so much of the stuff that is not fun completed!
    The view looking towards the sliding doors and then the view from the music room into the “dining room” had me thinking about how amazing a black framed factory looking window would look next to your front door!

    Cannot wait to see which direction you go!

  2. What a huge accomplishment! Your FIL is awesome. Glad you are back, I missed you last week. Any news on the condo?

  3. I am overwhelmed by the work you have ahead of you but thankfully you are not! As one of your dedicated readers I cannot wait to see the progress you make this week…if I know you it will be most rewarding and you will have much to share with us on your projects.
    My hats off to you…keep on keeping on…

  4. I have a question/need help please. This old farm house and our remodel. Used Home Depot paint through out. On the woodwork – some areas have peeled right down to the bare wood. What the heck – cannot understand why this is happening-any suggestions – thanks

    1. Did your paint have primer in it? If not, primer was vital on top of the wood And then paint. One never knows what the wood might have had on it. And then again, there is paint failure. I bought a can of Behr paint that did not have any pigment in it! The last attempts to do anything with Behr have been a total failure. So I will be going back to my good ol’ Benjamin Moore or Valspar.

    2. It’s really hard to know without actually looking at it, but I do agree with Alma that it most likely comes down to the amount and type of prep work that was done before the paint went on. On wood surfaces, like furniture, cabinets, trim, doors, etc., I always, use an oil-based primer (Zinsser Cover Stain) before painting.

  5. I am SO glad you are back and hard at it! I have missed your daily dose of inspiration and creativity! Seeing all that you have accomplished makes the wait worthwhile. Keep up all the good work–and I’m looking forward to the condo selling, so you can really blast away!

  6. Kristi — I have that weird paper on the walls of my house. It peels off in huge chunks. But I don’t have sheet rock paper in back of it. Mine is brown and I am pretty sure that is not paint but the color of the paper. Have no idea what it is. Thought maybe a liner. But at least mine isn’t textured.

    Great progress with your FIL and new contractor friend.

    1. This brown paper is what is underneath the white layer of paper for all drywall/gypsum boards. All gypsum boards have several thin sheets of paper over the gypsum which is why its peeling off in layers and creating a teture, most people dont see this unless it starts to peel away like this. The top layer or so is always white to make it easy to paint.

  7. So glad your FIL was able to help you get so much done!!! Big question for me that I can’t seem to let go of – did you get your bathroom finished?

    1. The bathroom is fully functional, but the decorative stuff isn’t quite finished. I had hoped to get it done before he arrived, but just ran out of time. I still have about a week’s worth of work on it.

  8. Praises be to your FIL for his blessed visit. What progress! Yes, I pretty much thought of it as lipstick on a pig, also, as long as those ceilings were there. But I also knew you couldn’t just live in it without making it liveable. Wish I had your energy.

  9. So happy for your progress. What a blessing your FIL is! Lol, your pictures bring to mind the old saying, “you can’t make an omelet without cracking some eggs”. Now you can REALLY move forward! I too would love to have HALF your energy!

    Onward and Upward!

  10. Thank goodness for your FIL! I know when I bought my first home (a 130 year old mansard roof 3 story) every room had those awful suspended ceilings. If that wasn’t bad enough, they were all different heights. So you would go from the living room and feel like you needed to duck to go in the dining room. It was just a reaction to the different heights. I had the ceilings done first thing and it made the rest of the work go much easier. The house actually had 10 ft ceilings so the rooms looked so much bigger with the new ceilings. May you new ceilings prove to be uplifting to you and your wonderful imagination. Blessed Be.

  11. Congratulations for you new ceilings Kristi! 🙂

    Why do you want to sand the brown layer of paper that is left on the wall after removing the top layer? It might be a messy job. If you sprinkle it with water and let it soak for 5 minutes, it should be easy to scrape it off the walls.

    1. I actually don’t want that paper to come off. The brown paper that’s left is part of the sheet of drywall. The only thing underneath it is the white crumbly gypsum that’s sandwiched between the two outer layers of paper on drywall. I don’t want that gypsum layer exposed. 🙂

  12. I too have missed your daily posts of inspiration and creativity, but wow, that was a lot of hard and necessary work that your FIL helped you with in such a short time and now can’t wait to see your creativity in putting the rooms together…..let the fun stuff begin!!

  13. I wish I had been a fly on the wall when you and Matt found this house and listened to the “should we or shouldn’t we buy it” discussions. Honestly, I would NOT have seen this beautiful potential and I’m usually really good at that!

    1. Matt didn’t see the potential in it either, but for some reason, I fell in love with it and he trusted my vision for it. 🙂 I think he may still have moments of doubt, but he loves what I’ve done so far, and he knows I’m having fun doing it, so he just lets me have my fun. He’s awesome like that. 🙂 My family, on the other hand, thought I had lost my mind. 😀 I remember the first time my brother saw it, he said something like, “My gosh, Kristi. I’m just glad it’s you and not me.” LOL

  14. Did you know how to determine whether the acoustic tiles had any asbestos? I have an almost equal problem with my laundry room and downstairs hallway. They have tons of acoustic tiles with tons of paint in them. I cannot cover them with drywall because the ceilings are too low.

    1. Fortunately I didn’t have any guesswork and didn’t have to have them tested. There was an entire box of extra tiles left in the storage room at the back of the garage, and the were labeled. Mine were just made of polystyrene, like a Styrofoam cup.

    2. Alma: I found a lab in my town that does testing, and took a piece of ceiling tile to her to test.
      You may have a similar lab in your town.

  15. So glad to hear from you Kristi! I bet this week will be an exciting adventure in home remodeling!

  16. You and your FIL work well as a team. You always seem to accomplish a lot when he visits. Now you can go back to your list and work, work, work!

  17. So we have had the courage to build an addition, but we never have gutted old areas in our home. So, with all the months of watching you gut the bathroom, and rip out ceilings and walls, we bit the bullet last weekend, and gutted our back entry way, ceramic floors, bathroom, tub toilet and vanity. Everything right back to the studs, and the ceiling tiles too.

    I can’t wait until my drywall, new floors, and new lighting is installed! We are going to try to do it all ourselves too!

  18. Would it be possible to just prime those walls and skim-coat over that? Sure seems like a LOT of work and mess to remove the outer paper layers.. Love your blog; you inspire me!

  19. OMG!!! You’ve done so much work! Now it looks amazing! Last year me and my husband, we bought a house which needed a lot of renovation. We are ready with the first floor where are the living room, the kitchen and one bathroom and now we should start with the second floor. The work is a lot but I am happy that I participate in every single renovation. I can call that house mine!

  20. Just a very late tip (because you are probably very far into this room fix already) but try painting shellac over the brown paper. My husband found this trip after removing some wall paper that pulled off the drywall paper. Once you paint over it with shellac it will harden those little fibers that tend to come up and you can sand them smooth. Works like a charm without having to skim coat the whole thing.