Sunday, February 24, 2013

DIY #1: The Sleeping Porch

We have no DIY experience. We own a small toolset, a drill with a cord, and a cordless drill. That’s it. Our house came with an elaborate workbench in the basement, along with a large selection of nails, bolts, and other misc., but it has yet to be used for anything but piling things on top of.

I say all this by way of introducing the next few posts I’ll write here, highlighting the DIY projects we’ve completed so far. I’ve taken lots of before-and-after pictures, but I haven’t yet put them together. So, here we go, with DIY #1: The Sleeping Porch, which we undertook at the end of the summer.

“I didn’t expect this part to be so…difficult.”

If we’d been featured on the HGTV show Renovation Realities, this comment from Andrew would have flashed onto the screen, immediately after an arresting image: Andrew and me in our painting clothes, winter scarves tied tightly around our mouths and noses, the “sleeping porch” we were attempting to renovate barely visible in a swirl of white dust.

The sleeping porch (as the previous owners called it) is on the second floor, off of my office. It’s a pretty beautiful room, lined with windows that wind open. The problem with this room is that it’s not insulated—it’s truly a room to use only in warm weather, despite the gorgeous sunlight it gets. I like going in here now and then even when it’s cold, because it gives a bird’s eye view of the backyard and gives me the sense of being high up in a lighthouse.

This room had a lot of problems. First, the floor: asbestos tile. Second, the walls: painted a hideous mint green, with earnestly hand-rendered (but also hideous) flowers scrolling along the top. We saw this as low-hanging fruit, as far as DIY goes: a simple painting job, followed by some peel-and-stick tiles, and the room would be transformed. And it was pretty easy, at first. We did almost all the taping and painting over two nights. Then we hit the flowers and realized they’d still be visible under the paint—the paint was really caked on, raised well above the surface. So I took the girls to Home Depot the next day, where I was instructed to purchase a canister of Wallboard Joint Compound and a trowel. Applying the compound took another night. Then it had to dry overnight. Then we had to sand it down with an electric sander we borrowed from a neighbor. Then we had to paint over that. Suddenly our two-day project—a day for painting, a day for floor!—hit the seven-day mark.

We eventually finished the painting, and then turned to the floor. This was our first adventure with peel-and-stick tiles, and they proved to be remarkably easy to use, with a very satisfying end result. Cutting the tiny pieces to fit along the angled edges of the end of the room was time-intensive, but overall this proved to be the easy part.

And voila—a transformed sleeping porch. We’ll probably return to this room in the future, to tear up the asbestos tiling and add insulation to make it more of a livable space, but for now, for our uses, it’s great.

Estimated time: less than 2 days
Actual time: 10 days (working in the evenings)
Number of trips to Home Depot: 2
Tools borrowed from neighbors: 1



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