We moved! And we started to build a closet!

This week we moved out of our beloved apartment. In order to get a mortgage for our new home, we had to rent out our Columbia Heights apartment starting September 1st. The timing is far from ideal but it’s what we have to work with. So we took a break from fixing up the house to pack up all our stuff and move on Friday. Unfortunately our movers were delayed by many hours and the crew finished moving our stuff at 1 AM on Saturday morning.

We decided the best plan is to move our stuff into the basement of our new house and live a nomadic life for the next few months until the house is in a better condition. Our amazing friends have offered to let us stay with them for a few weeks. We have precisely three weeks until we leave for vacation in Iceland and Germany, so it’s GO TIME!

On Sunday, we went forth and framed a wall! The area that we previously destroyed is being reborn as a larger walk-in closet. After watching some DIY tutorials on youtube (I highly recommend this one from Nils the Carpenter), we rented a nail gun and got to work! It took three power tools and 6 hours, but we managed to remove the existing studs and put up new framing for the closet.

Honestly, it wasn’t too difficult. We framed two simple, straight walls without any obstructions in the way (like pipes or HVAC ducts) so it was a great beginner-level framing project.

I’m realizing as we’ve tackled two major projects so far that everything is going to take longer than we expect, especially at the beginning. We literally wasted an hour trying to make the nail gun function and figure out why the circular saw only cut 3/4 through the stud before inexplicably stopping. As we finally got the hang of things and got into a groove, we were done with the wall!

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Behold our powertool!

We rented a compressor nail gun from Annie’s Ace Hardware in Petworth for 30 bucks. The people who work there are SO helpful and knowledgeable. I’d recommend Ace over Home Depot any day.

On Monday, we ripped out the remaining trim in the bedrooms upstairs and detached the radiators in prep for putting up drywall later this week. Before the drywall goes up, Jeremy plans to install more electric outlets in each room and change up some of the lighting.

 

I’d also like to point out that we still don’t have A/C yet! The process of installing the HVAC and upgrading our electric panel has taken much longer than we expected it to, but hopefully by this Friday we will be able to turn the system on!

In which we learn the joys of plaster walls

Jeremy and I have made incredible progress on the house since my last update. After two solid weeks of cleaning the place (and feeling like we hardly made a dent) we moved on to a more immediately satisfying activity…knockin’ down some walls ! On HGTV, everyone always goes nuts for demo day and now I understand why. You literally just knock everything over, pull all the nasty stuff off the walls, and hammer to your hearts’ content. While those home improvement shows may have prepared me for the fun of destroying a home that someone once loved, it did NOT properly prepare me for the reality of a home with plaster walls.

Plaster was the building material of choice before drywall was invented. It was the best method for creating walls, but it was incredibly time-consuming and labor intensive to install. You had to frame the room with studs, then nail hundreds of wood laths to the studs, then slather on the fresh plaster mixture. It lends older homes a distinctive character that was lost when drywall was invented.

All I can say is thank GOD they invented drywall, because plaster is a b*tch to remove. We are doing the same process in reverse. And since the plaster has been dry for 100 years, it literally crumbles into dust as we remove it (side note: plaster dust makes for a nice dry shampoo alternative…even though I’m exhausted my hair has never looked better). We prepared for the activity by buying crowbars of varying weights and sizes, and covering the floor with a big construction blanket. Jeremy plopped two plastic bins down on the floor to catch the falling debris and it worked like a charm!

After about 10 hours of smashing the walls to bits and yanking thousands of laths and nails off the studs, our home is coated in a fine layer of dust. BUT we can see the vision of our master suite coming to life. And we feel so accomplished about how much work we got done.

The reason we are doing this insane thing is that we are taking some space from the largest bedroom to build a walk-in closet.  Apparently people didn’t own any clothes 100 years ago because the closets that came with the house are teeny tiny–this is our solution to create storage space. And honestly, it feels so good to punch this house. Jeremy and his friend Harry literally karate kicked one of the walls in, much to their delight. And our friend Sydney showed up to help shovel up the rubble and ideate our dream closet.

We also pulled off the horrible fake wood paneling only to reveal even worse plaster below. We will refinish the walls with drywall in the coming weeks, so anyone who wants to try putting up new walls is welcome to help! We took a class at Home Depot so we are basically experts and can show you how it’s done.

In the meantime, we plan to frame out and build the closet, re-wire some electric outlets and put in recessed lighting in the next few weeks. Oh and did I mention we are getting our HVAC system this week!? No longer will we toil in filth and sweat….only filth! Here’s to smashing our way into week 3 of home ownership!

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Selfies and safety gear