Friday, 23 November 2012

5 Tips for Surviving The NeverEnding Story that is Painting

As Philip helped me out in writing yesterday's post, I thought I'd catch up on my four posts a week by filling in today.

In some ways this prepping and painting saga has reminded me of the movie The NeverEnding Story. It not only seemed to drag on forever and I was never sure if we'd finish, but it kind of terrified me. 

I feel like this is a memory from my childhood that has scarred me for life - as has this painting experience. The name of this character, Falkor the Love Dragon
doesn't really seem to be fitting in my mind.
I spent days and days prepping the ceiling and walls for painting, attempting to make the plaster walls as straight as drywall to no avail. It still doesn't look perfect, but we're okay with it for now. Once the light fixture is replaced (and we don't just have bare lightbulbs shining right on it creating terrible shadows) we're hoping things improve. You can read more about our experience with patching the ceiling in yesterday's post.

But things are looking up, people! Instead of just undoing what's already in place, we are now moving forward: we have colour on the walls, things are feeling a lot fresher, and after three months of living here it is beginning to feel a little more like home. And so we offer some tips for painting that you may or may not find helpful.

Tip #1: Practice, practice, practice your edging (or have a mom who's great at it already!)
Yesterday began at 8 am when my mom showed up to help me with painting. She's amazing at edging and doesn't need tape which is a huge time-saver. Katie Bower loves her some Frog Tape, and we've never tried it ourselves, but our experiences with taping haven't exactly been known for their speed or their ultimate quality. Edging is an art, and maybe one day we'll put together a how-to post where we pick my mom's brain; for now, know that if you can get good at cutting-in without tape, you're a big step ahead in the painting department.

Tip #2: Don't let good paint go to waste.
We went ahead with the plan to reuse leftover paint from the condo to both save us some money and prevent it from going to waste. Because we didn't have enough paint to do a full room in any of the colours we had on hand, we tried to choose complimentary colours and thus both rooms ended up with a two-tone look (spoiler alert).  At some point if we don't fall in love with the combinations of colours there might be some repainting going on, but for now it certainly looks okay. 

When my mom got here, we started out by sanding the air conditioning circles one more time and priming them. Since we had to wait for those to dry, we went ahead and started painting in the office. I had painted that ceiling on Wednesday with the help of a friend, and so we were ready to get going with the walls. Philip chose to use Benjamin Moore's West Coast (previously in our condo living room as a feature wall) as well as their Blue Stream (previously in our condo guest bathroom). It's interesting seeing this pair of very familiar colours in a totally new room, and right next to each other where before they were separated.

I took a few progress photos but there isn't much to see so I'm going to go ahead and skip right to the completed paint job. There are a couple of angles shown here, and next week as we put the furniture in and get the trim up over the weekend there will be a lot more completed photos to be seen!

This is the view you see when you walk into the room. Blue Stream covers the window wall and closet wall.

To the left of the Blue Stream window wall, the colour transitions to the darker West Coast.

This is the view of the closet corner, showing the transition from Blue Stream to the West Coast that covers the hallway door wall.

Next, we started work on the master bedroom. First up was the ceiling, which leads us to...

Tip #3: When painting ceilings, use a broom handle as a roller extension, but use a solid wooden broom handle.
My mom suggested attaching a broom handle to the roller so that I wouldn't have to stand on a stool and move it all the time, seemed like a great idea! I started with a plastic blue broom handle. It seemed a little bit flexible but worked pretty well... for one row across the ceiling, upon which it promptly broke, allowing the paint-soaked roller to fall from the heavens leaving my beautiful Mike Cameron Seattle Mariners t-shirt with a painted shoulder (might need to buy a new one!). 

So I tried again, this time with a metal broom handle. I got almost the whole ceiling done but then --SNAP-- it happened again! Oh boy. More paint on my head. More paint on the floor. More time spent cleaning up. So I'll go ahead and recommend you try with a wooden broom handle, or else just suck it up and do it with a step stool, as I did for the second coat. Or just tarp the floor like crazy, have backup t-shirts on hand and get the Herbal Essences variation that's good at getting latex paints out of hair ("More volume! Beautiful shine! Less house paint!").

After the ceiling was dry we painted the rest of the room, using Benjamin Moore again, in Smoke and Silver Streak. On this one, we were pretty uncertain how to proceed, so let's head straight into...

Tip #4: Decide on paint colours and don't second-guess yourself.
Based on the inspiration picture we posted two-and-a-half weeks ago, we were definitely going for a light, textured, layered, airy room with plenty of visual interest. Silver Streak is a darker shade (a "bold, saturated" colour "that brings spaces to life for those looking to illuminate their world with pure, extraordinary colour," according to Benny M!). Not exactly light and airy. So I phoned Philip at work to get his opinion. I'll let him describe what happened next, but know that this is his interpretation and it wasn't exactly like this:
Cass called me at work. She was agonizing over using Silver Streak in the bedroom. She wanted to know my opinion. I said I thought it would look okay. She said she didn't think so, could we get another can of the Smoke? I said, sure, if that will make you happy. She said no, we can't do that. We're going with the Silver Streak. I said no, go ahead, get the extra can and paint the room Smoke. But somehow--in a phone call that started with her complaining about the Silver Streak and asking if we could get more Smoke--she'd convinced herself that the Silver Streak was the way to go. Women.
Okay, he didn't add that last word, but he might as well have. And in my defense, saying that I could go get more Smoke if it made me happy wasn't exactly the same as saying "I like Smoke better than Silver Streak, please paint it that!"

Long story short, we're almost done, the first coat of Silver Streak is on the walls, but we have to do a second coat over the weekend before we put up the trim.

Silver Streak covers the Master Bedroom walls by the hallway door and the closet.

Smoke was the choice for the Master Bedroom's window wall and the wall to its left.

I cannot wait to see the white trim go up, and start putting some furniture into these rooms that have been storage rooms up until now! Which reminds me...

Tip #5: Don't tell Philip "I can't wait until the rooms are furnished."
...because he will start laughing, thinking you meant to say "finished" and had just let slip with a very weird accent. Then he will start trying that accent out himself: "Err carrn't wairt urntil the rooms arrre firnirshed..." And you will be laughing because he's really just making fun of himself... maybe you had to be there.

But yeah, the most exciting thing will be sleeping on a mattress that is not on the floor for the first time in months! It will also signify the third room we've slept in in this house in three months. Ay caramba.

You may have also noticed that we've extended the poll for over the weekend, we will write about the results on Monday after those Americans come back from their festivities and we're done a bit more around this place. 

Anyone else had a week they could barely get through? All I know is I'm lying in bed right now writing this (it's actually Thursday - woah this is a Back to the Future moment) with feet so sore I can barely walk. I am so ready to move into our new bedroom and put this project behind us. Anyone done any painting lately? Have terrible childhood memories of The NeverEnding Story? Maybe that's just me. (Philip had never seen it. He's also a little older so he's not quite as informed into what was cool when I was a kiddo.)

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!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza?

Sorry about how late in the day this post is coming, it has been a bit of a hectic week.

With the removal of the boiler system and radiators, we were left with some serious wall to patch. Unlike bucket holes, a straw just wouldn't do (I've never understood the whole straw as a patching system in that song if someone wants to explain that to me).

Philip enjoying the last moments before patching the unplastered area of our wall.

We're new to the idea of plaster walls and so we weren't exactly sure what material we should use to patch them. Our window installer  (clearly the leading expert in plaster repair) recommended quick-drying drywall compound, the kind that dries in approximately twenty minutes. His reasoning is that longer-drying mud is more likely to bubble and takes longer to be sandable, so you can do more coats faster with the quick-drying stuff. So off we went to The Home Depot (are there any other Home Depots that those orange big boxes should need the preceding "The")  and purchased it for $7 a box. We ended up using about two and a half boxes so far, and will probably buy more of it for doing the living room and guest room when we get to them. 

Sheetrock 20 "The name the pros trust" - by pros they clearly meant us.

The only food Philip makes in our kitchen is waffles, so this was right up his alley.
Before getting to the real patching, we practiced with this snow woman, our snow wasn't perfect and kept falling apart so we had some serious hole patchage to get to. (Yes, I made up that word. No, it won't be the last time.) Here's the finished result. You can also see our updates on Instagram if you follow myself or Philip.

Cassy and Concetta, in order to give a better idea of how our snow woman is posed.
Concetta - named after the person who I've made friends with at the Bomber stadium. We don't know her real name, but this word is on her sweater.
The first patching assignment we began to tackle was the baseboard radiator's previous residence, below the window in both the office and master bedroom. We mixed up the drywall compound, which I would compare to mixing pancake batter. Basically you just add more or less water depending on the consistency you're going for. We mostly followed the instructions on the box (but I've been known to be a little free with the measuring cup - we've talked about my lack of measuring skills in the past and that happens to continue in the kitchen where I prefer to "eyeball it" when baking or cooking). The final consistency ends up being crepe-like (really thin pancakes) and can definitely be a little drippy at first when it comes to troweling it on, but is best in order to get a thin and smooth coat. 

Yes I am wearing klompen slippers. Heritage heritage.

Me patching away, as you can see we have some floor to patch after this from where the radiator pipes came up from the basement.

The basic idea was a bunch of thin coats, so we spent the past few days patching, followed by sanding, followed by patching again. It's not easy work, and it was complicated by... well, I'll let Philip explain it in his own words:
"Some mistakes are worse than others. On a scale of "minor miscalculation" to "Steve Smith in the '86 Stanley Cup Final," this one might not even rank.
You see, we've been patching over the spaces where our baseboard radiators used to be, and if you've patched an area that large and with more than one section you know there's an intense amount of sanding required. And being so close to the floor, it's tough to get a good angle with decent leverage.
Now, put yourself in my shoes. You're halfway through the sanding you have to do. Your arm and shoulder are hurting. And you look over and see a power palm sander.
I made what I thought was the logical choice. I even remembered to close the heat vents in the room and wear a dust-filtering mask. But I didn't remember a few other also-critical details. Which leads me to my list of 5 Things I Should Have Thought Of (But Didn't):
5. How much dust will this create?
4. Where will that dust go?
3. Should I put the door to this room back up first so the dust stays contained in this room?
2. Should I attach the dust filter to the palm sander?
1. (Halfway through) Is it getting cloudy in here?
Long story short, when I finally looked up from what I was doing, the room looked like how I imagine a London morning, except replace Big Ben with Dumb Philip. And when I walked out into the hallway, it wasn't much better. It appears I had inadvertently discovered the Best Way to Make Your Whole House Dusty in Half an Hour Or Less! (Patent pending.)
As you might have guessed (since she probably would have talked me out of it), my wife was not home at the time, and so I fired off the following texts.
I love her objection at the end. You're about 20 minutes too late with that one, honey.
On the plus side, the dust did make my hair look salt-and-peppery. I'm not going to be so forward as to say I looked devastatingly handsome; I'll just say, if I go gray instead of bald, my wife is a lucky lady."
Thanks Philip. By way of update, the walls did get pretty smooth, thanks to another layer or two of the crepe batter and my mom coming to help me out.

And, yes, the dust is still everywhere, partly because we've been advised it's not smart to vacuum it up (it can really clog a vacuum's filter), so we've mainly been avoiding wearing black socks and eagerly awaiting the day we'll be done with the patching so we can Swiffer the house to death.

But that won't happen until we're all done. And we can't show you the final results until we tell you the tale of how we patched the holes left by the A/C vents. Which were in the ceiling. As in above our heads. Despite making those sentences real short, they don't convey the epic nature of this challenge. But believe me. You. Will. Be. Stunned. (There, that's better.)

By the way, anyone willing to leave a comment with your biggest, bone-headiest mistake you've ever made while renovating? It would really make Philip feel like less of a doorknob (or at least less alone in his door-knobbedness).

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

They've Arrived!

No, I'm not referring to Katie Bower's baby which was born late Sunday and which has been the main thing happening in my blogging life this weekend (super exciting and it even creeps me out a little how much I was into this woman who I don't know giving birth), but rather I'm referring to my beautiful washer and dryer that I ordered back in the day, and gave you a sneak peek of yesterday.

They were delivered Saturday while we were making our pine cone craft, beautiful LG high efficiency graphite colouring...pure wonderful. My parents showed up out of the blue to help out with setting it all up. My dad was able to get the washer set up no problem, but the dryer didn't have the right outlet for the newer dryer, and the ducting didn't fit. We also had to replace the ducting anyway because our previous system included the flexible plastic ducting that used to be en vogue and is now understood to be a bad idea. 

But now we've got such an efficient, and aesthetically pleasing system. Philip's dad came over to help us out yesterday and I am now able to wash and dry our clothes! I've never been so in love with doing laundry, let me tell you.

Our new LG electric steam dryer and top-loading washer.

On another note, this week we're hoping to get all of our painting and trim done in the master bedroom and office. The patching is proving more difficult than we'd anticipated, so we're using some courage wolf for motivation.

Wish us luck! We'll hopefully have an update on the patching tomorrow, and then on to telling you about our painting progress! It's a big week for us.

One other update: Our furnace was inspected yesterday and passed! Yay for safe heating!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Tree Droppings Reinvented

Last month, you saw as my friend Brittany & I made our very own Pinterest inspired craft, chevron art prints. We had such a great time making them that we decided to try and make a new DIY project each month. 

With Christmas approaching quickly, we decided to start creating some Christmas decorations. They were inspired by Pinterest projects such as...

Gold, Red, Green, Chocolate Brown Pinecones give a warm Christmas vibe.
These jewel toned pine cones are really fun, and the idea of putting them into a vase is what I was going for.
I love these colours for Christmas, sort of icy/snowy and soft.

After stomping through my snow filled yard seeing if we might have any pine cones, I gave in to buying some at Superstore for $6, Brittany and I split them for $3 each so overall it was a pretty thrifty craft. To fill a pretty large vase, it required about 13 pine cones and the bag I had came with 25.

Very strongly scented cinnamon pine cones from Superstore.

Some sites recommended dipping, but we didn't have the quantity of paint to make that feasible so we went ahead and painted them by hand with a small paint brush. They didn't turn out perfectly covered, but good enough!

It was tricky to hold on to them when painting, but it turned out okay and this fun blue colour adds some vibrancy to the pastels that I chose for the rest of the pine cones.

I happened to have pink and purple paint on hand from the splatter painted chevron art project mentioned above, so I went with the more pastel theme as seen above. I also borrowed some of Brittany's blue paints. She went with a white and silver theme, which I have to admit I am super jealous of, so rustic and Christmas-y! 

Brittany's silver and white pine cones turned out beautiful, and a little rustic because she didn't paint the insides.

Side by side it's fun to see how two different projects can be created from the same product.

I do still really like how mine turned out though with the nice bright colours, almost a mix of the last two ideas I pinned. Hopefully the blue pine cones also bring the girl-ish factor down a little bit and make them a little more Philip friendly, and maybe even a little more baby Jesus friendly as Christmas is a boy's birthday anyhow.

The finished product, on a paper plate.

I haven't found all of my vases yet from unpacking, and so for now my pine cones are hanging out in this serving dish on my coffee table. I have to admit I do like them there!

With my glass candy dish shaped like a present, my coffee table tray is looking pretty festive!
On a final note, here's a sneak peek at the washer and dryer that arrive Saturday! We haven't hooked them up yet so we'll let you know once that happens how well they work!

Have appliances ever looked this beautiful?

Anyone else thinking Christmas-y thoughts yet? Started shopping? Tried making anything from Pinterest yet? I'm definitely not crafty, but I feel like I'm getting there slowly but surely! Also a reminder to submit your vote to this week's poll about blog reading, thanks to those who entered last week's poll, see the results here.