Creating a sun-filled oasis, part 1

The bonus room in the rear of our house faces out to the back yard. I envision that one day, the space could be used as a relaxing reading corner with lounging furniture and low book cases, or maybe a sun-filled breakfast nook. For the last few months, it’s looked like a war zone. This is what it looked like the day we bought our home:

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The bonus room on the day we bought the house

Last fall, we hired a company to remove the load-bearing brick wall to open this space up to the rest of the house. We had the original old windows replaced. Then we demolished the remaining walls and ceiling, ripping out the plaster and lathe to reveal the studs behind the walls. And guess what we found? Two pretty cool brick columns hiding behind some hideous wall paneling.

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We uncovered the brick columns when we demo-ed the plaster and paneling

We put up sheets of insulation between the studs for temperature control, since these walls are external, and boy, did we feel the cold on the especially windy days in early February! It literally blew into our house before we put up the insulation. Jeremy spent countless hours examining every square inch of this room looking for cold air drafts, and plugging them up with spray foam insulation.

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Putting insulation in the walls and ceilings made a big difference!

We hired a general contractor to rough in the plumbing and electrical for the powder room (because we are certainly not qualified to install new plumbing and sewage lines). We only paid them to do the framing and behind-the-wall plumbing and electric wiring, then we would “finish” the rooms ourselves to save money.

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The roughed in tiny powder room

The contractor originally made the powder room even smaller than this, which they had to re-do because no human being could comfortably use the toilet. We trusted them to build the room to code but they made it WAY too small. That’s why you should always double check their work and don’t assume they have your needs in mind. TRUST NO CONTRACTOR!

In late January, the entire space was finally ready for us to close it up! The first step was installing drywall. One day when the weather was nice, Home Depot delivered 21 pieces of drywall to our back yard. We knew we needed nice weather on this day because they don’t deliver it inside.

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The bane of my existence…moving drywall inside

For the next nine straight hours, Jeremy and I were in full-on BEAST MODE. Our goal was to install drywall in our entire bonus room and powder room. This included the ceiling, the beam, and around the windows. I am really proud to report that we are supreme drywall experts at this point, after our drywall adventures over the last six months (read more about it here, here, and here). We honestly kicked ass the entire day. Our approach was simple: measure inside, cut the drywall outside without moving it from where Home Depot dropped it, then walk it inside and install it. Jeremy and I worked in shifts–he measured inside while I cut the drywall outside, then we switched places. It was straight up teamwork MAGIC.

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After only 8 hours of work, the space was transformed!

At one point I realized I was lifting and moving around our heavy ladder, which I normally can’t lift and make Jeremy move around because I’m a weakling. There was so much adrenaline pumping through my body from the sheer productivity of it all, that I found the strength to get through the day with ease!

We were not able to finish drywalling the entire space, but we got damn close. Jeremy finished installing the remaining pieces over the next few days while I was at work (thanks, boo). Unfortunately since we didn’t finish before the sun set, we had to haul 11 whole pieces of drywall inside. It was NOT my favorite part of the day.

Jeremy insisted he could fit one single piece of drywall into the powder room and he proved me wrong…though it was a tight fit!

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Just enough space for one man, a light, and a huge piece of drywall

After the drywall was up, it was time to compound! We applied three layers of compound over the screw holes and seams. The most important thing we learned finishing this room is the value of using pre-mixed, 24-hour drying compound as the final topcoat. It is a LIFESAVER and so much easier to sand flat and smooth compared to the 90-minute or 20-minute stuff.

Another miracle tool we discovered is a drywall sanding screen, which is 5,000 times more effective than normal sandpaper.

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All the seams and screw holes are covered in compound

The next step was dealing with the brick columns. Jeremy caulked the gap between the drywall and the brick, which was way easier than I expected it to be!

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The gap between the drywall and the brick column looking nice and seamless!

Then we had to seal in the brick columns. The old cement between the bricks was crumbling pretty badly, so we sealed the whole thing with two coats DryLok (meant for waterproofing basement walls). They look so much better already!

Then it was time to prime and paint.

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We decided to paint this room a dark color. As I’ve mentioned before, I wanted to paint our entire house rich dark tones, but we ended up compromising on a lot of the rooms. This room has four huge windows with tons of natural light, so I’m sneaking the dark walls into this space.

I will will post a final reveal of the bonus room in a few weeks, after we restore and re-install the window trim, replace the back door, and install the lighting and powder room fixtures!

 

 

 

Building a wall that America actually needs

As I mentioned in this post, our living room was ready to finish once the plumber replaced an old pipe in the wall. So over MLK weekend, our dear friend Elizabeth came over and helped us close in the wall. This was my first foray into compounding which felt super intimidating for some reason.

Walls may just look like walls, but so much work goes into it. To make a wall look like one long, flat surface, you need to hide the seams between each sheet of drywall using tape and compound.  But we didn’t want to pay a handyman to do this type of work so we did it ourselves!

Compound is essentially light weight cement powder that you mix with water and then slather onto the drywall. We used the type that dries in 20 minutes which allows you to apply all three layers of compound in just one day (rather than waiting 90 minutes or 24 hours for other types of compound to dry.

The first step in our journey to finish the wall was to screw drywall into the ceiling to cover the hole the plumber made.

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Then we screwed strips of metal corner bead onto the outside corners, which protect the corner if anything bumps into it.

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Screwing in the corners

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Then we got to work compounding over all the seams, screws, and corners. It was not hard at all!

We put tape on the seams by plopping a dollop of compound on the drywall and then gently pushing the drywall/putty knife down along

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Very proud of my corner

We bought a fun tool to help with the inside seams that worked like a dream! It’s hard to make these inside corners look like crisp 90-degree angles but with my new tool friend, it was super easy!

After two applications of compound, we sanded it down using sanding blocks (which covers everything in a fine compound dust). Then we painted. Then Jeremy cut and installed the baseboard trim and quarter round.

The whole project took about 2 full days to complete, and my god it almost looks like a normal house!!

We built that wall!
We built that wall!

For comparison sake, we would have paid our favorite team of 2 handymen around $1600 to complete this task. I’ll take free over $1600 any day of the week! #Winning.