Thursday, January 19, 2012


My house is nearly one hundred years old. I adore it because it looks like an old farmhouse. I love wood floors, radiators, and plaster walls. Unfortunately, due to a combination of wear & tear and ugly renovation by previous occupants, some of the luster is gone. I aim to restore the beauty. In retrospect I should have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to learn the basics of home repair before I purchased my own version of This Old House.

Complications always ensue with every project. Spare bedroom closet revitalization is no exception. It is a small space 41 x 40 inches. I want to use it for seed starting supply storage. This venture was initiated several years ago but constantly got waylaid by other more important tasks and a busy schedule. When I would have time, the walls would be too cold to spackle or paint. Determined in spring of 2011 to complete the task.

Carefully ripped out the built in shelves, probably installed by the original owners. Utilitarian basic wood with wood supports on the sides. Labeled each part so that I could return them to their original position. Removed the horrid carpeting to reveal a removable plywood floor above the original wood floor. Unfortunately, due to a piping reroute, the false floor must remain. Reduced the draft by filling the numerous gaps with expandable foam. Trimmed off the excess foam. Spackled with joint compound. Wore a mask and sanded the compound. Did spackle touchups. Vacuumed the dust. Sneeze, sneeze, cough, cough. Not good for asthmatic lungs.

Remove decades of gunk from the shelves. Some fool had put on shelf-liner and it is ghastly to disengage. Broke a few fingernails and cursed the liner. Used Goo-Gone to remove the glue. Washed off the shelves with a mild solution of TSP (nasty but effective cleaner). Spackled the dents. Sanded. Glad that is was warm enough to do these tasks outside.

Prepared for indoor painting. Taped areas that should not be decorated, positioned several layers of newspaper over the old wood floor outside the closet, and placed a painting canvass on top. My arthritic hands ache and elbow hurts if I use the full sized roller. Utilized the mini-roller, which is about a third of the size. Wore latex gloves and old clothes. I am a terrible painter; I don’t like staying inside the lines so it is torture to be neat. It is a very stressful activity and exhausting. Plus, the fumes can make me cough and could trigger an asthma attack – even low VOC (volatile organic compounds). I tried wearing the anti-latex fumes mask but nearly suffocated. Kept the windows open and turned on a fan to vent out the stench.

Primed a spot in the bathroom that requires painting, painted the closet walls and part of the floor that is nailed down. Went outside to smother the six shelves and removable plywood floor with hue. Greeted a neighbor and she teased me because I had paint on my face, arm and in my hair. Decided that a ruptured area of the spare bedroom ceiling should be tended to. Scraped off the old peeling paint (I think there was water leakage years ago but not since I moved in) and felt dizzy with both arms in the air. Probably inhaled old lead based paint. Spackled the ceiling, let it dry and lightly sanded. One chore has become three…

Touched up bits of the closet, primed the ceiling, and the shelf supports that I had ripped out. Finally ready for the topcoat. I decided to use antique white because regular white is too dang bright. Closets should be white in hue, regardless of the room’s color. Covered the bathroom area (two feet by three feet), the ceiling spot (three feet by three feet), the closet, and the shelves. Let the first coat dry and did a second coat because the paint was too thin. Don’t buy Designers Image brand from Menards. Touched up walls and painted the shelf supports.

Attached the shelf supports and used the level to make certain that they were in the correct position. Of course, I positioned one of the supports incorrectly and had to hack off about a quarter of an inch to squeeze in the shelf. I should have drawn a mock up of the shelves with labels and avoided this problem. Painted top coat over the shelf supports and let it dry. Touch ups. Put in the shelves and added additional supports under the shelves. Thankfully, my neighbor let me borrow his drill to accelerate this process along. However, the drill has no slow speed so it stripped a couple screws before I learned how to handle the throttle. Two shelves have a runner board against the wall. Had to buy some wood to fill in a gap, of course the wood wasn’t the right height so I had to fill in with a splint. Can I scream now???

The best laid plans of mice and men… Continued DIY purgatory due to family visit, job search, and fall chores outside. Finally finished putting up the shelves. Frustrated that the paint I used on the floor is flaking so I have to put on a coat of polyurethane. Plus, paint another coat on the bathroom wall. Concluding steps are delayed due to cold weather. Must wait for the spring to open windows and apply hue. Cleaned up the mess, returned items to their proper places and felt good for what has been accomplished thus far. As soon as the floor is completed I can finally utilize the closet to store items. Stymied by winter but nearing the proverbial end of the tunnel in spring 2012. Noticed that the NE corner of the closet collects moisture. I should probably open it up and add some insulation, ugh!

The spare bedroom functions as a seedling factory starting in February until the ground is warm enough to plant. Owning a home has taken a lot more time to organize, tasks to complete, and expense than I originally predicted. I have no desire to return to renting. I will be able to hire a handyperson after I procure a job and save some funds. Gardening during the summer and shoveling during the winter takes a lot of effort too. My paternal grandma lived in her own apartment until she was 92. I hope to follow her example, health permitting.

I did it myself!
© 2012 Ima B. Musing

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