Adventures in Renovation

Because my father has retired, he and my mother want to move back into the house they lived in before Dad’s job transferred him, a.k.a. the house in which I grew up. They have been renting it out for three and a half years, though, so there is a lot of work to be done before it is livable again. Besides, it is a twenty-two year old house; it could use some fresh paint. Since I recently graduated college, I decided that I could spend my free time helping them before I move away.

Examining the house was an adventure. We found black mold. And termites. I wore a mask until the mold was torn out.

Then there was the decision-making concerning interior design. My mother wanted beige paint, taupe carpet, a tan rug on the brown hardwood, and beige linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom (replacing beautiful stone tile). Any of these on their own would have been fine (except the linoleum; who replaces stone tile with linoleum?), but together, they would have created a monochromatic nightmare. Eventually, they decided: pale cucumber paint, taupe carpet (only in the master bedroom), no rug on the hardwood, and to keep the pretty tile.

We all worked in different parts of the house, so I can’t say much about what my parents did, but here is what I have been doing lately, along with some useful tips I’ve learned along the way.

Task One

I pulled up carpet with my dad. The last renters had two kids and a dog, so the carpet was nasty. the floor was littered with random objects (marbles, spare change), and smelled distinctly of dog excrement, some of which we found, still on the carpet. It had to go. Pulling up carpet is actually pretty easy. You find where it starts and tug until the carpet is no longer attached to the floor. Moving that carpet outside, however, poses a problem, as does taking up the tack strips. Unless you want to cut the carpet into several manageable pieces, have friends help you move the carpet, because it is heavy. Crowbars are useful for taking up tack strips.

Task Two

I scrubbed walls. Two kids can do quite a bit of damage to walls. Some of their most dangerous weapons include markers and greasy hands. Paint sticks best to clean surfaces, so the walls had to be scrubbed before we could do anything else to them. Magic Erasers are great for this; however, if you are scrubbing hard over a large surface area, beware: Magic Erasers wear out quickly. That is why I would suggest buying the extra power ones: they last so much longer. Grab a small bucket of water so that you can keep the Magic Eraser wet, and get to work. It took me hours just to get through one room, so be patient.

Task Three

I peeled wallpaper. This is an arduous task. I was up on a stepladder for six to eight hours peeling wallpaper border. When stripping wallpaper, a bucket of water and a sponge are your best friends. Use the sponge to dampen the wallpaper, find a seam, and peel the wallpaper. In my experience, only one of two layers will come off at first (NOTE: Sometimes, depending on the type of wallpaper, dampening the first layer is useless; wait until you’ve peeled the first layer off, them dampen the second layer). Once the first layer is off, use the sponge again to soak the second layer. Wait about thirty seconds, then start to peel it off in strips. A helpful tip: after dampening the second layer of one section, peel off the first layer of the next section, then dampen that underside as well. This will save time and keep you from sitting like a lame duck while waiting for the water to weaken the first section.

Task Four

I tore out drywall. It was great. Giving a recently broken up, unemployed woman a hammer and telling her she can take out her frustrations and aggressions on the wall is the best gift a dad can give, I think. Also, I just like destroying things, which was much more motivation that any frustration I may have been feeling. When tearing out drywall, it is important not to knock down the studs. They are keeping the wall up and, if it is a load-bearing wall, they are holding up the ceiling as well. If you know where the studs are, take a pencil and make a quick mark to designate each stud. If you don’t know where, I would suggest tapping the wall lightly at first to find out without damaging the boards. Also watch out for electrical outlets and plumbing. Those issues dealt with, take a hammer and knock a few holes in the wall. That finished, use the pry bar side of the hammer to pull out the drywall.

I’ve also cleaned windows, polished doors and wood paneling, scrubbed tile floors (get a sponge mop with a scourer), and completed various other tasks, as have my parents. Even so, we are not even halfway finished with this project. I’ll update later about further accomplishments, and hopefully post pictures of the final result.