The New House-Reno Part 1

Saturday, January 23, 2016


If you've manged to stick around after my months and month of plans about the new house (I was annoying even to myself), I salute you! You'll be happy to know we got possession of the house on November 30th, which is already last year (gulp!) and started immediately to tear it apart. I suppose tear it apart is too strong a word. It wasn't like our last house where we demolished any walls but we did rip up a lot of carpet, remove a hell of a lot of popcorn ceilings and paint every last surface.

For those of you who have scraped a popcorn ceiling you're saying to yourself right now "um mm, yeah dummy it's a huge and messy job that leaves piles of heavy, wet plaster everywhere". If you were me before this started you where saying to yourself "this needs to be done at whatever cost to Chad and his father" because I am a rational person who realizes that popcorn ceilings are a crime against humanity.

Making our kitchen look like a scene from Dexter



Chad and I took a week off work and both our dads came over to help (Chad's amazing dad even flew in all the way from Alberta to help!). We were two teams ready to tackle the 80s back into its rightful place. Camp Zentner (Chad and his dad) were in charge of wetting and scraping every single ceiling in the house, removing all the carpet upstairs, removing all the floor staples and installing the new plywood floors. Camp Brown (my dad and I) were in charge of supervision and stupid questions.


I'm kidding (not really, we Browns do ask a lot of questions and are not super handy). We were in charge of taping all the goddamn plastic up over every goddamn surface in the entire house. 3000 square feet of plastic later, we ensured none of the wet plaster ruined any surfaces. 


While the ceiling popcorn came off fairly easily it really did get everywhere. After it dried it left dust EVERYWHERE. The ceilings are also not perfect. After sanding and patching they are pretty good but I think to make them perfect you'd have to skim coat them or something.  Halfway through the popcorn removal was when I swore it would never end and that the whole house would have wonky ceilings and be plaster and dust covered forever. 

Side note: there is always that moment in the renovation when you swear you made a huge mistake and have taken a perfectly good house and ruined it...usually you do some yelling and then push through with the help of alcohol and it works out!

Team Brown were also the sanders and then the painters. Okay so maybe my dad ended up painting most of our house (thanks dad, you're the best!) but painting every single ceiling was no joke. I swore my neck would be stuck looking up forever. 


You can see below the ceiling in the Master bedroom freshly scraped and painted, just waiting for the carpet to be removed. This was the only neutral carpet upstairs but it was certainly showing some wear and had a few strange stains. I also hate carpet, not as much as popcorn ceilings but they still had to go. We left the carpets in while scraping the ceiling allowing them to act like a huge towel-one less room to give the "Dexter" treatment to.


And then the carpets were gone...but not that ugly wall colour! 


A view in the second bedroom (below) gives you a sense of the beauty of those carpets. Not sure what the thinking was here-yes, let's do red in the bedrooms for a fun pop of colour and to hide all the blood stains... but let's show some restraint and do a nice neutral grey in the hall and then just to change it up-a beige in the master! Design dreams, people. 


Below is the upstairs hallway with the last of the carpets gone but before the beige walls said goodbye.


Here is Chad deep in thought about the plywood floors. We knew we wouldn't have the money to replace the carpet with the same hardwood that runs throughout the house. At approximately $4-$5 a square foot for materials alone, it was going to add up fast. I'd kept Jenny Komenda's "DIY Wide Plank Floors (from Plywood)" tutorial in the back of my mind for a while just waiting to find a time to use it. Chad liked the fact that it ended up being about 80 cents a square foot. 


Here's Chad to tell you a bit about how the process went:

Ok - so this is easy, but tedious and time consuming. Good thing it's cheap! What you do is buy a bunch of cheap-o 3/8" plywood. Then rent a hardwood floor sander and use 20 and 40 grit paper and go to town on each board. We did this in the garage. Once each board is sanded, you will need to rip each board into 8" strips on a table saw. Each strip will then have to have the edges knocked down a little bit with a hand sander. Then it's just a matter of cutting and installing with a nail gun. (Sarah insists that I mention that we made the gaps between planks uniform by using my square as a spacer before nailing). Once the floor is installed, we did a DIY whitewash which is just a 2:1 mixture of water to white paint. Once the whitewash was dry, we protected it with 3 coats of polyurethane. Like I said, tedious but cheap.






Above the master floor completed but not whitewashed. Below, floors done and the beginnings of removing the colour Chad liked to refer to as baby shit. 


The hallway complete before we painted the stairs white.


The other huge project for Chad was removing the ceiling fan from our very high vaulted ceiling, scraping away the dreaded popcorn and creating a very large DIY light fixture. I'll save the details of how he made it for a special Chad post a.k.a. a post full of swearing.


Renting scaffolding was actually not as expensive or scary as I thought. The delivery was the most expensive part and a nice guy came and set it all up. It ended up being around $168 to rent, have delivered and set up for two weeks and then picked up and taken away.


Chad had to install the light fixture in sections, removing a level of scaffolding as he went. 



Yeah! Pretty light fixture for a fraction of the cost I would have shelled out! 

So that's where I'm going to leave you for now. Stay tuned for part two so I can show you the house finished and just waiting for our furniture to arrive. Thanks again to our two awesome dads who probably cursed ever agreeing to help out. At least I know my dad was after he found out there is a real ailment called "dad reno knee syndrome".



3 Response to The New House-Reno Part 1

January 28, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Wow! Quite a job indeed. Great idea to take photos of the entire process. Otherwise it would have been very difficult to visualize. Good thinking and planning on your part.
As you say, how fortunate you were to have such a devoted partner and generous parents to make your reno dreams come true. Many hands, eh?
Can hardly wait to see the next installment.

M. Holmes

June 3, 2016 at 3:09 AM

I found that the closer the realtor is to your home, the easier the entire process will go. You are going to be making several meetings together over the months, and the closer the better for everyone involved. I used to try to make life easy for my realtor because I knew she was being pulled in 50 directions at once each day.

Margaret @ Boston North Shore Real Estate

February 1, 2017 at 12:56 AM

I'm not sure I've ever seen a popcorn ceiling, so I'm intrigued to know what one looks like? It's a shame you didn't post any 'before' photos of the ceilings. Anyway, I can see your house was stuck in a time warp but what a superb job you're doing now. I love your choice of colors for the walls and ceilings.
Glenn @ MMTeam

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