Thursday, 22 November 2012

Discovering the Untold Joys of Patching a Ceiling

Philip here. First off, sorry about the delay in getting this post up. Cass was working hard all day with her Mom painting, so it was up to me to get it done and, boy, I have a newfound respect for bloggers!

Also, no, it's not Friday yet, but Cass is up to her eyeballs in paint (metaphorically speaking), so it fell to me to share Part 2 of our Patching adventure. Unlike LOST, today's post doesn't depend on you having seen any previous installment. (But like LOST, a working knowledge of the Valenzetti equation will open up a whole new level of meaning to this post.)

Without further ado, on to the patching of ceiling:

To give you an idea of our predicament, we had ducting running to vents in the ceiling as part of the old A/C system. The simple fact that the vents were so high up made four an interesting challenge when removing the vent covers, especially in light of the fact that we only had a short step-stool on hand and, while his genes blessed Philip in many ways, they didn't exactly make him eight feet tall. So--in what you'll soon find is the infomercial-like catchphrase of this post--we improvised!

Kids, go ahead and try this at home! [/BadAdviceGuy]

As you can see in the highly scientific drawing, below, because the ducting runs flush to the ceiling, it's impossible to slide and screw into place a board behind the hole that could hold a piece of drywall in place.

DRAMATIZATION: "I'm the Air Conditioning Duct, and I'm going to go right to the edge of the ceiling so you can't slide any backing into the hole above the ceiling to patch the hole with! Muahahahaha!"

Our attempts to bend the round ducts' edges inward to create space to slide a backing board in place proved futile.

One of the holes we needed to patch. As you can see, bending in the ducting didn't work as it was fastened to the rafters somehow.

So what did we do? (EVERYONE: "We improvised!") That's right! We ended up testing two methods for overcoming this, one of which worked better*, and one of which worked not as well.

The Way that Worked Not As Well (But We Thought Would Work When We Did It!)

We cut a circle of drywall out of a wall that is still up on in our basement but that had a hole punched in it during our basement gutting (we felt pretty resourceful). But we intentionally cut a circle about three inches bigger in diameter than the hole. Then we removed about 1.5" of gyprock around the edge of the cutout, leaving just the papery coating. (To remove the gyprock from the paper, we found it easier to X-acto carve some tabs out of the paper that we could peel away one by one so that, in case one tab ripped, it wouldn't necessarily affect the rest.)
Here you can see me scoring the gyprock under the paper tabs so that it would break off more easily.

All this resulted in a circle of drywall that can slide into the hole with some paper tabs surrounding it which hold everything in place by being adhered to the ceiling using some mud. (Once again, I've provided a to-scale drawing of what we were dealing with.)

DRAMATIZATION: "I'm the green-tabbed patch! I'm a great idea... in theory!"
The idea was good. The result was a minor disaster. The mud adhering the paper tabs to the ceiling, the paper tabs themselves, and the mud covering the whole works up made for a thick layer that we had a heck of a time trying to smooth out.

Here's the patch mudded over. We tried and tried to mud it and sand it smooth, but were unsatisfied with the results.
Only after a couple of incredibly frustrating and tear-inducing days does it look passably good enough. And we're still considering someday climbing up there, cutting the whole thing out, and starting over. (Perhaps once we remove all that old A/C ducting from the attic, a job for a day in spring or fall when it's not too hot or cold up there.)

The Way that Worked Better* (But We Only Realized It After We Had Tried the Previous Method)

Because we had two holes to patch, one in our Master Bedroom (see above)  and one in our future Office (aka the Second Bedroom if you've Taken the Tour), and since the first hole went so swimmingly, we decided to try something different. What did we do? (EVERYONE: "We improvised!") You guys are really good at that! I tried to apply some lessons I learned from the previous method, an old lesson I seem to need to relearn every so often: The KISS principle.

No, this is not the principle that says "Life's better when you wear crazy makeup, call yourself Starchild and desire to rock and roll all night (and party e-ver-ree-day!). No, no, this is the other KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. (See? I can't even keep an explanation of the KISS principle simple.)

Here's the process in its entirety:
A. Cut a circle of drywall approximately the size of the duct.
B. Attempt to wedge it into the duct hole.
C. Shave off the parts that are preventing it from fitting into the duct hole.
...repeat this last pair of steps a bunch of times...
15. Actually wedge it into the duct hole.
16. Mud over!

It's so simple I almost didn't provide a highly-scientific AutoCAD-enhanced drawing to explain it, but I'm a completionist (except when it comes to Prison Break, which got worse and worse as the seasons went on, becoming intolerably bad by Season 4), so here it is:

DRAMATIZATION: "I'm stuck! Lassy, run and tell the sheriff that a little green patch is stuck in a hole!"
If you've been following along, however, you'll know that I've asterisked every time I've said this method worked better*. (Okay I'll stop now.) That's because, as you can see here, even this method didn't work perfectly. Somehow, despite multiple coats of mud and sanding until the drywall dust piled up like snowdrifts, we could not get it smooth. (That said, it's not something that shows up real well in photos, so you'll just have to take our word for it.)

We blame it on the fact that the colour of the ceiling and mud were so different, it hid the shadows that become so apparent now that it's all painted. So what did we do? (EVERYONE: "We improvised!") Wrong! We left it. Yup. We're learning that being perfectionists while renovating is a good way to lose your sanity, especially when you're still learning (like us).

Once we have paint on the walls, a new light fixture, and some furniture in the room, I'm sure we'll forget about it. But for now... well, leave a comment to let us know if you have a third method that's worked for you? We'd really appreciate it.

And before we go, Cass wanted to share this anecdote:
In case you thought we loved renovating, I'll share this story from our trip to Home Depot this evening. I had the most frustrating day (if you're wondering why, you need to go back and re-read this post) and so I was already a little overwhelmed. We walked into Home Depot--usually my happy place--and promptly waited something like 23 mins for help with getting info about the trim and casings we needed. The whole time, the anxiety level is rising within me. This in turn makes me start to sweat--the whole place feels like 42°C! I tell Philip he's on his own and walk away. So how do I soothe myself? (EVERYONE: "WE improvised!") Stop that! But you're right. Sort of. I went over to the carpet and flooring area and started stroking the carpet samples. 
Stop looking at me like I'm a crazy person. Yes, I was petting 5"-square pieces of thick-piled rug! So what? It helped!
I admit it was a bit ridiculous. Philip stayed and talked to the employees there and I was just standing a few aisles over, staring into space, and literally rubbing carpet in order to calm down. Honestly, I recommend it for anyone who's in a home improvement store and feeling a little stressed. There are carpet samples somewhere nearby... go find them!
There you have it! Next time somebody's freaking out at you, you can tell them to "go stroke a rug!" Actually, maybe don't. That might be misinterpreted.

So, in the comments, leave your ceiling-duct vent patching advice, and if you have any other great hardware store relaxation methods (flicking switches in the electrical area? reorganizing paint chips by name instead of colour?), feel free to add those in too!

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