Problem-solving on the fly – Not this again!

“Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?”
“I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.”
-Groundhog Day – 1993

    It’s always nice when things fall neatly into place, but quite often it seems that will not be the case because the house throws you a curveball or three and suddenly it’s as if you’re stuck in the Groundhog’s Day of home remodeling.

     Since we started on this house 3 1/2 years ago, we’ve learned more than our fair share of lessons the difficult way. Not for lack of trying mind you, more so due to … what we will call a lack of information.

    The way most projects go is as follows: make a plan and do any and all appropriate research, materials are purchased, project is started, and then, the “Oh S*** moment” happens where all the hard work and planning you’ve done starts to fall apart at the seams and you’re forced to take a step back and rethink everything.

    Let me back up a bit here. We started painting our closet and quickly realized that the areas we had so painstakingly spackled and sanded smooth, stood out starkly against the rest of the rather textured wall.


Sanded vs original wall


With the walls already primed, we decided against trying to skim the closet walls, opting instead to complete painting and move on to the next area.

   Now, most paint rollers will leave some sort of texture on even a completely smooth surface such as drywall. The thickness of the woven cover a.k.a. the “nap” of a roller will determine how much of a texture will be left on your walls and the type of surface you’re painting on will determine how thick of a nap you need. They can range in thickness from 1/4″ onwards to 1″ and are labeled with their thickness and best uses.

   Back on point here, we chose 3/8″ nap rollers which are a fairly common choice for walls and ceilings and only leave a slight texture. The previous owners, however, must have used a much thicker nap roller as the rather obvious texture on our walls makes it look like they used an orange peel instead of a paint roller. And when you add sloppy brushwork (drips and all), with uneven and heavily textured walls, and well, you can start to see our predicament.

   Skimming walls would be the ideal answer but from our experiences thus far in wall skimming, it’s incredibly labor intensive and material intensive. We easily blew through more than one 5-gallon bucket off drywall mud on the two skim jobs we did earlier in the year. And working in a small 5’x5’ish “room”, the mere thought of trying to maneuver a bucket, ladder, paint tray, and all our other supplies in such a small space is cold sweat, panic-inducing kind of stuff nightmares are made of.

    So now what? Well, they necessity is the mother of invention and while we didn’t actually invent this method of skimming, I doubt we would have tried this had our hand not been somewhat forced. Now many of the online DIYers prefer what I call the quick and dirty skim method which is just drywall mud, a trowel (or tray) and a putty knife, as opposed to using the roll-on method that we had previously used.

   We simply laid on as thin a coat of non-watered down drywall mud as possible. It was just enough to fill in and smooth out the walls. It took a bit of doing to get the right rhythm and thickness down but once we got in the groove, it turned out quite nicely.

IMG_20180216_142251683 (1)
Just enough to fill in the texture a bit

   Once everything had dried, only a light sanding was in order to get it ready to paint. Will we continue to use this method on future walls? I don’t know. Working in a 5 x 5 space is a lot different than on a 12′ long wall. I guess we’ll just have to see. (Also, my apologies for so many boring pictures of plain walls. Perhaps the next post will feature slightly more dynamic photos.)



Paintbrush in hand and here we go!

It’s been a busy few months for us at Parkside. Life just keeps rolling by (brakes anyone?) and we’ve been hard-pressed to keep up with everything going on. At least now that the holidays in full swing, I have a moment, albeit a very brief one, to stop and play a bit of catch up on all these projects.

Our biggest update to the house in recent weeks has been painting. It’s only taken 3 years to get to this point but it’s finally happening! That’s right – we PAINTED. I’ll let you have a moment to let that news sink in. (Technically we did paint a couple years ago but since that wall had to be skimmed over, I’m going to say it doesn’t really count so shhhh! Also, there’s the fact that the color we had previously used turned out much darker than I had originally thought and I ended up not really loving it.)

But back on track now – with the walls of our side (main) entryway painted a lovely soft gray, all that’s left to do in there is hang trim and our closet organizer. It’ll be our first fully completed room project since we started. There aren’t enough words to express how excited I am! Stay tuned for more excitement to come!My husband did a good bit of the painting with help from my stepson who was all gung-ho about it, jumping and practically chest bumping the walls to maximize his limited reach. It was quite entertaining to watch.




Spackle & Sand 2.0

It’s day #22,147,895 of remodeling here at Parkside. As of late, it’s been a seemingly never-ending repetition of spackle and sanding. We’ve just started in on our 4th? 5th? 5-gallon bucket of drywall mud. The drop cloths are being washed for the second time in a week and my floors are covered in a fine white dust from sanding which makes me wonder if they’ll ever be clean again.

So much drywall mud!

The hubby and I spent a good portion of our weekend working in the hopes that we’ll get one step closer to painting (the paint that’s been sitting in our someday-rec room/current storage of whatever room since Memorial Day weekend.) And while what we’re doing is not terribly difficult work, it is slow and tedious. But still, we press on! Using the good old divide and conquer method, I went to work sanding while he spackled over the corner beads in the other room.

Sexy right?

I thought my short little self would be super clever and use the pole sander on the ceiling negating the necessity of a step-stool, but that quickly turned out to be a clusterf*** of a nightmare so the pole sander was relegated to the corner of shame to think about why it wasn’t being helpful. Step stool and sanding blocks it was.


I’m hoping that sanding still counts as arm day so I won’t have to work out double.

All jokes and sarcasm aside, it’s been hard. And it’s been slow. There are many days when neither of us has the motivation to work, days when the progress seems so slow and the work yet to be done is cripplingly overwhelming. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve had a good cry or three about this house and desperate prayers whispered in the middle of the night for continued perseverance and patience.

Then I look at how far we’ve come, in spite of how much work there is left to do. We had beautiful new floors and carpet installed this spring, the corner beads are mounted and we’re nearing the end of the mudding that needs to be done on those.

One more coat should do it!

I think of how much I’ve learned here, and while I would never consider myself or the husband experts by any means, we have learned skills that will make the next remodel project just a little bit easier. And so we continue to work, and we laugh and cry, and maybe have another glass of wine to help cope with the stress.

Electric Boogaloo

The super fun part about owning an older home is that you never really quite know what to expect with the wiring. Since the house is 80+ years old, it predates modern wiring and instead has quite a bit of good ol’ knob & tube (UGH!) No lovely color-coded wires and all the other good stuff. Now the previous owner had done some updating and we’ve had electricians out to do work as well trying to get some of it up to code. Still, it’s usually an adventure when we try to update things.

Now the previous owner had done some updating and we’ve had electricians out to do work as well trying to get some of it up to code. We are slowly but surely replacing switches, outlets, and of course the *cough* lighting fixtures.

With most of it being decently straightforward, my handy hubby has done quite a bit of it. As for me, I know less than zilch about electrical work despite being painstakingly explained to me multiple times. Beyond knowing there’s a hot wire and a neutral wire, the rest is Greek to me so I usually just smile, nod and pretend to understand. And since I’m not much help, I stand by encouraging my hubby as he does his thing. Sometimes I even get to hold the flashlight for him which means I do things like:


Gotta keep myself entertained somehow!


Now we finally have a decent light fixture in our mircofoyerspacethingy. (It’s really small.)

Until next time!

Living the spackler’s life

Progress on the house hasn’t been booming. We hit what I’d guess would be a lull or maybe a slump after vacation and now we’re slowly crawling back out. Slump aside, I’m starting to feel like we’ll never get past the spackle and sand phase of the renovation. Ceilings, walls, patch here, more walls. Someone save me from the madness!

Our current project – the one we’ve been at for awhile now – is corner bead spackling. The corner beads are pretty much all mounted so now the task of mudding over to make them smooth and even with the wall. It’s not SO terrible really, just a slow process when you’re unable to do the entire doorway in one go. I mean any spackle project will usually require multiple coats as well, so add that to the mix, stir well and voila! A half-complete doorway! Baby steps right?


Once this doorway is finished, we have one more to mud, then we sand. And someday we’ll get to paint it. Someday…

Before I go though, I leave you with this: what happens when ginger cat decides he wants to be in on the action too AKA rubbing up against the still-wet drywall mud and leaving cat hair and hair marks in it.


We were so proud of his contribution he was immediately rewarded with a partial bath – something he was none too thrilled about. Heh.

We Built This Cat Tower

Taking a break from our regularly – although not so regularly – scheduled remodeling crud to bring you something fun-ish.

We built a cat tower!!!

It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for awhile, debating back and forth about the details of a cat tree – whether we buy or build and when. We do have scratcher boxes all over the house that we’re constantly tripping over (or maybe it’s just me being a total clutz.) Regardless, the cats seem to ignore them half the time, even when it is RIGHT THERE. Do they walk the extra foot to the scratch box? No. Instead, the little boogers opt to dig their claws into the carpeting. I am thankful they pretty much ignore the furniture but is it too much to ask to ignore the carpet as well? Apparently.


Now you might be wondering, why build a tower when you can purchase one? It’s way less labor intensive! First: they’re fracking expensive! $70+ and up! We bought one a few years back and it fell apart in under a year. Definitely wasn’t worth the price we paid for it. I love my cats and all but that’s just too much money. Particularly if we want more than one. Second: After finding a relatively simple plan from turns out we had most of the materials we needed since the carpet guys were kind enough to leave us the excess off the roll.

Saturday was build day or at least day 1. A quick trip to Home Depot and then husband and stepson got right down to business.


In spite of initially proclaiming that the tower wasn’t epic enough (someone was watching too many cat mansion youtube videos), the kiddo got pretty excited once it was all put together. He couldn’t even wait for us to put carpeting on and started running around the house calling for the kitties.

Complete and ready for carpet!

Onto the fun part of carpeting and rope. The boys measured and cut and I got to attach everything.


The carpet was stapled on and the rope attached with hot glue. I also added staples in the back of the rope roughly every 4-6 inches for added measure.


2 1/2 days later it’s finally complete. Or at least it’s as finished as it’s going to get. I would have liked to have added more rope so that all the wood was covered, but then I’d have to go buy more as well as spend the time attaching it which required just a bit more effort than I was willing to give at that point.


It’s a little crooked in places and a little messy but it’s sturdy and really that’s all that matters right? There’s sweat in my bra, rug burns, and scrapes on both my knees, hot glue burns on both arms, hand cramps from stapling and a blister on my left hand of unknown origins. It was painful, tedious, and not quite as much fun as I imagined, but it was all worth it. The cats are in love with their new tower and they’ve pretty much stopped clawing the carpet. And while the kiddo wasn’t here to help us finish, I’m sure he’ll be just as thrilled as the cats are with the final product.

Project cost: About $60. We had leftover carpet and 2 x 4’s from previous projects. $15 for the MDF board, $15 for the glue gun and glue, $9 for 50-ft of 3/4 in. sisal rope. It would have been cheaper but our staple gun all but gave up the ghost halfway through our project. Tack on an extra $25 for staple gun and staples. As a finishing touch, we attached the string of a broken cat toy for their added entertainment.

For now, I rest. At least until the next project.

The Joys of Corner Beading

Okay ladies and gents, this week’s lesson is on corner beads! While it sounds like a super fun craft activity, corner beads are a staple in home building. Apparently they are used to protect the outside corners of your drywall. Now I grew up in the 80’s where people used plastic exterior corner guards so I didn’t even know that these existed until this year.


Vinyl corner beads seem to be the way to go nowadays so we jumped on board the trend train and a-wayyyy we went!

They’re actually quite easy to install, messy but easy. Whereas metal corner beads need to be nailed or screwed into the wall, vinyl ones can be set with spray adhesive. And the adhesive is nicely colored so you can see where to apply the corner beads after you spray. I think this goes without saying, but just in case, make sure you lay something down on the ground before you spray or do it outside so you don’t get sticky crap all over.

As you can tell, I’m absolutely winning at this spray thing. So proud of how awesomely terrible I am with aiming and spraying it on evenly.

Next on the list is to mud over the corner beads to hide them and then it’ll (hopefully) be time to paint.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash my hands again for the umpteenth time. Stupid sticky spray adhesive.

Until next time!

Wall Skimming 2.0: More lessons to learn

So 20 YouTube videos and 2 skimmed walls later, the hubby and I are total pros at this now. If only.
At this point, I’d say we’re semi-capable DIY-ers who are having lots of fun with our hands-on learning.

Here’s a list of things we’ve learned so far:

1. Consistency matters. There doesn’t seem to be a set formula for determining how much water to mix into the drywall mud i.e. 1/2 c. water to 1 g. of drywall joint compound. YouTube and DIY blogs have recommended the thickness be somewhere between mayonnaise and creamy peanut butter. Real talk here: I love that people are using condiments as a reference for mud thickness. I mean, how else are we supposed to gauge it right?

Looks about right.


The first time I think we made it a little too thick and it coated well but it made for difficult rolling. Round 2, I thinned out the mud more and while it rolled on quite easily, it did not coat well. Now they say you’re your own worst critic, but after all was said and done, it was quite obvious that it was an uneven coat with certain spots of the wall being more visible through the skim than others.

2. The second coat should be skimmed at 90 degrees to the first one. So since coat one was pulled vertically, coat two had to be done horizontally. Something we didn’t know to do the first time around. I guess it’s to fill in the gaps better or to get it more even? I’m still learning here!

3. Keep a spray bottle of water handy. The other thing we didn’t know our first time through is that the magic trowel should be wet. We used the spray bottle to keep the squeegee/trowel wet and for keeping the wall damp during pan refills.

Some sites recommend that a quick set compound is used rather than a pre-mixed one since it has a faster drying time but both the hubby and I felt like that was just an extra hassle and the time frame for the quick set compound was too tight to work in.

Dried skim-coat. Pre-sanding

Quite honestly, I’m still not 100% certain we’re doing it correctly. There seems to be quite a bit of texture on the walls even after a light sanding. The question now is, do we sand it down further, do a third skim-coat, or just paint it and hope for the best. With it taking approximately 2-2.5 hours for each coat, I’m not a particular fan of the third coat option, which leaves us with more sanding or throwing the towel in in favor of painting.

So many decisions and so little time!

Floor Money, Floor Life – Part 2

So. Floors. More specifically the carpeting. I apologize for the 4 million pictures on my last post but it was necessary to show exactly how things were.

It took us an extra week but we finally have gorgeous new flooring and carpeting. It was supposed to be a back to back install. Vinyl one day and carpet the second. Instead there was a slight weather-related hiccup with getting the carpet installed. 

Plans. Heh. Why do we even bother sometimes?

Carpet install day arrived, pouring rain and all. The installer team was concerned about delivering in the rain and us not having a space available (at the time) to cut the carpet indoors. We rescheduled for Saturday. 

Day three arrived with the prospect of carpet installation but sadly it ended with a no-show no-call. We were expecting a late afternoon/early evening arrival but apparently they got tied up on another job and it put them quite a bit behind schedule. Whatever happened to delay them so much during that day, we will never know. I will say that the company’s handling of the situation was professional and prompt, filing a ticket and calling us back quickly to reschedule with priority status for our new install day.

As promised, we were the first appointment for the following Saturday. The install team showed up at 9 and they were quick and efficient, even being kind enough to haul away all the old carpeting as well as leaving the extras for us at our request. (There will be cat tower building in our future. Hopefully sooner rather than later due to the hubby is threatening to turn the cats into Chinese food if they tear up the new carpet.)

Now we have beautiful, soft, new carpeting in both hallways and up the stairs. Another big upgrade from the dingy, worn down carpeting that came with the house.

(Yes the old stuff is quite dirty from the remodel but since they were going to yank it up and haul it away, we figured why bother vacuuming.)

The worst part of this whole flooring experience wasn’t the cancellation and install pushed back or even having my hardwood and laminate dreams dashed once we found out how bad the subfloor really was or the fact that the cost was at least 2.5x’s more than we had hoped for. The hardest part was getting everything prepped and ready for the installers to come out. Pulling up the carpeting itself was easy enough. Getting it rolled and stored out of the way, slightly more work but still not terrible. No. The worst part of this whole process – removing the tack strip and staples after the carpet was up. If you’ve never had to do this, I pray that you never will because staple pulling can be quite hellish.

I felt like one of those characters from Greek mythology who were forced to spend eternity doing labor. Specifically, the guy whose punishment consisted of rolling a huge boulder up a rather steep hill only to have it roll back down before he could reach the top and he’d have to start all over again. An eternity of useless effort and endless frustration. Except for me, it was every time I thought I cleared an area, I’d find more staples, as if they had magically reappeared just to torment me. Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. It’s not really quite as much of a soul sucking torment as all that but it was incredibly tedious and it most certainly made my knees and back ache. In the end though, the labor, the pain, the cost was worth it all. 

This is the kind of renovation I love, the kind I live for. Pretty new floors and carpet, picking out paint and trim which is next on our list. Not the crap of dry-walling uneven ceilings or the hazards of replacing light switches and outlets. If only things were always this way. One can dream right?

Lawncare 101: More Harsh Realities

There’s that old saying, “Sometimes you have to break it down before you can build it up again.” At least I think that’s how it goes. Anyway, I think I’ve mentioned how much I love/hate spring time. I mean, I love the growing part and everything getting green and pretty. Everything up to that point I could do without. Like our lawn. Our poor half dead yard at which I’ve been raking and digging and pulling weeds and dead crabgrass  – hence the uh, breaking part.

I mean, there’s been a lot of reseeding too but so far not a lot of results beyond a few sprouts. Out of all the things we’ve invested our money in, the yard has produced the least results. Every time I think I have a handle on things, I get thrown for a loop.

And with everything going on inside, combined with some very crazy spring weather, I have barely even touched the garden. Here it is mid-may and not a single thing has been planted and what weed pulling I’ve been able to do has been very sporadic. I feel a repeat of our first year coming on. img_20170516_125805750-e1494955393109.jpg

Now a few things survived the winter, which thankfully, is pretty mild compared to the midwest winters I grew up with. At this point, maybe I’ll just leave the garden be and focus on the lawn? Hmm… Maybe I just wasn’t meant to be one of those green thumb people? On the list of things I’d gladly hire a pro to handle, my yard is at the very top. Will I get the satisfaction of doing it myself and seeing all my hard work pay off? No. But I’m good with that.

One of these days I’ll have a pretty lawn and a nice garden I swear.. One of these days…