Thursday, May 1, 2014

drywall - and, a design dilemma

Back to my one-room challenge copycat project: the closet that I unwisely underestimated.  At the end of last week, we were here:

Plus studs on the ceiling:

And one wall covered and the outlet wired:

And I had the floor patched.  But that was pretty much it.  As you may recall, last week I said that "by next week, I certainly hope to have the drywall, taping, and spackling done. Plus lots of the little projects (mostly patching) that didn't deserve a whole point on the list. And I hope to have the painting at least started, along with the new trim in the green bedroom."

Well, let's see about that.  You may remember I cut the drywall for the ceiling 3" short (by forgetting to add the width of the tape measure), after which I gave up and hung not one single piece of drywall during "drywall week."  While I was sleeping last Thursday night, elves visited me and suggested a solution for that.  Fortunately I had some leftover 2x2 in my scrap pile:

It's the stuck-on piece in the middle there.  It made it possible for me to hang the ceiling drywall:

Eeexcellent.  I followed that up immediately by painting around the hole for the light fixture box:

For what I assure you are excellent reasons.  Then I used my first large scrap piece of drywall for this area:

I don't know whether you can tell, but I already need three patches: the missing 3" on the ceiling piece, a 3" piece at the right end of the piece above (by-product of cutting the ceiling piece too short), and a gap-filler for the top of the piece above.  Awesome.  Also in that picture, you can see that I installed the top piece of door casing right after the drywall.  Oh, plus I had to drywall around the top of the shelf niche:

So I got that done.  Also, I decided it was time to wire the light.  I knew I needed .5" of play in the screws that attach the fixture because of the depth of my junction box.  But apparently the lunatic who designed the fixture thought the strap for it should sit all the way inside the fixture - which is impossible (on any ceiling) since the strap has to be outside of the fixture in order to attach to the ceiling box.  This could all be fixed with longer screws, but it would make the fixture wiggle around like crazy during installation - not fun.   

I have been accused of being a pack rat for keeping the lunatic assortment of scrap wood and unidentifiable orphaned hardware that I hoard, but I ask you, absent said hoard, who would have enough different widths and lengths of both wood and machine screws to find two that just so happen to fit the junction box and the fixture, and be a full inch longer than the included ones? 

No one, that's who.  Because those puppies up there aren't just any screws.  They're closet bolts.  That does not mean bolts for the light fixture in your closet, by the way.  It means TOILET SCREWS.  (And no, I have never used those particular ones on my toilet.  They were extra.)  So I got that blasted light in:

You can also see there that I've added the drywall patches along that wall.  And that I did them poorly.  Unfortunately, there weren't enough studs to keep the patches level.  (Free home remodeling advice: always use single, solid pieces, not patches.)  In an odd turn of events for this project, I was actually working in daylight.  Plus I caught my DH in a good mood (I bought myself some good will by cleaning the momental construction debris last week).  So he agreed to go down to the basement crawl space and throw the breaker for the outlet I was planning to cannibalize for my light:

Namely, the one on the left in this here before picture.  'Cause it's closer to the light, and also I wanted to keep the three-pronged one for, I don't know, purposes. 

And then some interesting things happened.  Even after he threw the breaker, my circuit tester showed a current at the outlet.  Granted the tester tends to overreact (it consistently indicates that I personally carry a current - not a very strong one - although given the mood I'm in most of the time I'm using it, that could be true), but I didn't wire that outlet and I wasn't in the mood to gamble.  So my DH gamely shut off power to the entire house.  This put me on the clock, since it was almost 5PM. 

When I took the outlet apart, I discovered several things.  First, there wasn't a knock-out in the top of the junction box.  I had been hoping to drill through the baseboard to the junction box and feed the wire in that way, but this made it impossible.  In fact, it meant that no hardware that I know of would work on the box.  I also learned that the unspeakable moron who wired the original outlet simply crammed the grounding wire into the back of the box, rather than attaching ("grounding") it.  This was actually good news, since my new wiring had a ground to attach to it.  But I am highly unimpressed with whoever did that.  I dearly hope it was not a professional.  Not that my results looked all that professional:

Whatever.  The point is:

It has since occurred to me to bend back the outlet cover slightly, so it doesn't put too much pressure on the wiring.  I'll do that soon.  I'm also going to run conduit around the end of the wire so it's not exposed.  Getting conduit into that shape will be fun. 

Of course, I painted the area around the light so I wouldn't have to cut in around it later; and I wanted the light up as soon as the ceiling was drywalled so that I would have light inside the closet, because I was about to start blocking the light from the next room:


But I didn't do the sides right away.  Because there was still THIS:

The South Carolina-shaped hole in my wall.  So I went to bed. 

The next morning, I tackled the problem with vigor.  First I dug through the trash for some large paper and made a tracing of the hole:

Then I traced the shape onto some scrap drywall:

The inside line is the shape of the hole.  I was planning to keep an inch of extra paper around it to make it easier to spackle the seam.  Brilliant, right?  Turned out to be impossible.  So I just snapped the rough shape:

At this point, I was pretty convinced I was the most brilliant person who had ever lived.  I was able to cut it a little more precisely with my drywall saw.  I also scraped out the uneven areas of plaster from the hole, AND IT FIT:

Now I think it looks more like Africa.  Well, western Africa.  Doesn't that sound way more impressive?  MOST OF A CONTINENT WAS MISSING FROM MY WALL, AND I FIXED IT! 

What you can't see in that picture is that the hole was less than 1/2" deep (the depth of the drywall), so the patch sticks out a bit.  No way I was going to go back to the store and buy a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of 1/4" drywall just for one little patch (for reference, in this paragraph Africa is really small), so I decide to solve the problem by ignoring it.  Instead, I hung more drywall:

And then I re-installed the picture rail that I had been saving since demolition:

I was not able to save the baseboard during demolition.  But I decided I could cut up two of the leftover shelf pieces from the old linen closet to make new baseboard.  I thought this would be a miserable project, full of errors and re-cuts, but it was blissfully simple, even though the baseboard was taller on one side than the other and I had to build in an adjustment.  I was particularly surprised by the fact that the shelf boards were not warped or cupped at all despite having been unevenly supported in the closet for possibly 120 years.  I usually find pine boards warp in less than a month.  [Please note foreshadowing.]  So they all joined nice and flat. 

And then, I spackled and caulked the outside of the new closet walls.  This took, approximately, eons:

I have to say, I'm pretty proud of the spackling job on Africa.  It will never be perfectly even because the patch is thicker than the surrounding plaster (which obviously is my fault), but that's not the easiest spackling job in the world and I'm pleased with it:

However, that was the only part I was pleased with.  I've actually done a lot of spackling, but I've never done corner seams before that I can remember.  And it shows:

If I had to do it again, I would skip the seam tape (the mesh stuff you can, appallingly, see through my spackling job).  And mix smaller batches of spackle!!  Anyway, I eventually sanded it down, and primed and painted the green part of the wall:

Even though I knew that wouldn't really help:

Ugh.  That was Tuesday, by the way.  Several times, with this project, I've run entirely out of energy to do something correctly, but by the next day I've been willing to do further work to get the correct results.  (It usually takes me months, so this could be an improvement in my character or something.)  So last night, I caulked over the most uneven bits.  I'll touch up the paint job next.  I didn't take a picture of that part, though.  Last night, I was focused on spackling and caulking the inside of the closet.  Because the spackling has been going so spectacularly badly, I did as much of it with caulk as possible:

Even some relatively wider gaps:

And, yes, I spackled some too.  (The roughness will be easy enough to knock down with a scraper and a sponge - easier than sandpaper, I find.  My original goal was to spackle so perfectly almost no sanding would be needed.  My revised goal is to survive the process at all.) 

However, I did not finish spackling.  I still need to skim-coat most of this side wall:

And finish the left side of this gap:

And this one:

So, the bottom line for the past week's goals:

have the drywall, taping, and spackling done - check, check, half-check :(
plus lots of the little projects (mostly patching) - check
have the painting at least started - check
along with the new trim in the green bedroom - check

But the good news is, once the spackling is done, the real misery of this project is over.  I need to hang shelves and rods, put in a bit more trim, and paint things.  (I like painting.)  The end is in sight.  Or, it was.  Because I also made a patch for this segment of baseboard:

Sorry, that's an earlier picture - I forgot to photograph it last week.  But you see there's a gap in the baseboard.  The missing piece was actually the exact size of a scrap piece from cutting the new baseboards for the outside of the closet - a rare stroke of luck.  It was just slightly too tall.  I decided to plane it instead of risking sawing off too much.  As I was mindlessly planing, small whispering voices pointed out that there was an odd smell.  Because...

The shelf boards I had sawed up for baseboard were solid 7/8" thick cedar - clear, appearance-grade cedar, not the "rustic"-looking stuff you buy to line closets with these days.  That's why they weren't warped or cupped after all those years: because cedar has much greater "dimensional stability" than pine.  Of course, somewhere along the line, some nitwit (not realizing that they repel moths!) had  painted them, so it's not my fault I couldn't tell what they were.  And I bet the wooden wall between the closets that I ripped down was cedar, too.  (I still have those boards - they didn't fit in the trash.) 

But this presents me with a dilemma.  The closet is supposed to have a full-width shelf and a half-width shelf.  I bought a new piece of pine stock for the full-width shelf, to make my life easier.  (I initially planned to use the old shelves to make the new ones, but they were exactly the wrong length to be supported by the studs and brackets.)  And I have a scrap piece of 7/8" thick pine from my antique kitchen cabinet that's just right for the half-width shelf.  I liked the idea of reusing that in an application that I'd like to look sort of antique.  And I was planning to use the old closet shelf boards to make horizontal dividers for the shelf at the top of the closet, and they're also 7/8" thick (a size they don't really sell now), so I thought they'd all match nicely. 

But now I know that the boards I want to use as dividers are solid cedar.  And, in fact, I have enough cedar left to make the half-width shelf, albeit with a joint in the middle.  For painted shelves, a joint is just extra work (caulk and paint will hide it), but if I left the cedar bare, the joint would be ugly.  Of course, there's no "leaving" it bare.  I'd have to strip it.  I hate stripping wood, and it's time-consuming and my remaining time is all accounted for.  And then of course I should probably strip the shelves I'm using in the niche, which I cut from the original shelves - more cedar. 

For the full-width shelf, I could return the pine to the store and buy cedar instead.  It would cost twice as much.  And the longer cedar at Home Depot doesn't look like Eastern Red Cedar, which is the stuff that supposedly repels moths - but the product description says it repels moths.  (Maybe the closet-lining stuff I bought is just particularly crappy cuts of Eastern Red Cedar, and it doesn't usually look like that.) 

Which brings me to the closet lining - I bought one $30 box of cedar closet lining.  I figured I could do an 18" band of it right above the full-width shelf in the middle, and maybe another band at the top.  And use it to support the edges of the shelves in the niche, so they'd have some cedar nearby, too.  It would be mostly concealed by clothes on the shelves.  Which is great, because this is the general feel I was going for:

Except that I'm going to use oak closet poles.  And also the inside will not be greige, but pale blue - the same color as my bathroom and back stairwell (I really like the color, and I have leftovers). 
I think pale blue walls and bright white shelves would look lovely.  And go well with my precious light fixture.  A stretch of cedar lining here and there would fit in fine, I think (especially if largely covered by clothes).  But raw unpainted cedar shelves would look peculiar.  It would just look like I couldn't be bothered to paint them.  Especially with seams in the middle of some.  But I don't want to paint cedar!  It's more expensive than pine, and it appears to date to the original house, and it obviously was used because of its moth-repelling properties that are useful in closets.  I would like to honor that, and also repel moths
I could buy two more boxes of cedar lining and line the whole back wall of the closet, so that the cedar shelves match the back.  But I wanted light finishes in the closet.  If I use that much cedar, it would look like a sauna!  And it would be dark.  And require additional cost in cedar lining and shelving material...and time to add that much lining...and lots of time for stripping cedar boards.  (I am not under any circumstances removing the ones I have made into baseboards.  I will just paint them white and pretend they are baseboard.  Only the remaining three scrap pieces are up for grabs.) 

My last trip to Home Depot is Saturday (since I need closet poles anyway - last time I was there they had run out of the oak ones I wanted).  I have to make up my mind by then in case I need to buy some more cedar.  And I am entirely at a loss.  Please help, internet.  (I am sharing at Linda's link round-up.  Maybe they will help.) 


  1. You may not be making the most progress, but you are certainly the funniest -- and your diy adventures are closest to my own. Thank you for making me really laugh for the first time in days!

    1. I am touched. I just wish I knew who you were :).

  2. Wow, what a job! Can't wait to see more!

  3. You hang sheetrock fast! I'm not sure what do do about the cedar lining, (that's a preference and cost thing) but I have two suggestions for using the cedar you have. First is to seal it. It will give it a sheen it should make it look intentional, rather than unfinished. Second is that if you want to use that cedar board that needs to be joined together, center your seam and use a decorative piece of lattice to cover it. It may have to be pine, but you could choose a finish that coordinates. Good luck the official final week :)

    1. I'm afraid I can't seal the cedar without removing its moth-repelling properties (which I've always wanted for this closet - that's why I bought the cedar lining, actually). But I like the trim idea. Maybe I can find some decorative trim in cedar! It could happen...right?

    2. Ack! I forgot about the moths... You'd lose the smell too - I love the smell of cedar.

  4. I don't really understand the dilemna. You have everything you already need for the closet you want, right? This newly discovered cedar is "extra." What about making something else out of it? Boxes for out of season clothes? Planters.

    Perhaps just use it to line the sides of the closet?--moth repelling properties intact, but not as dark as doing the whole thing. Or--just do a wainscotting effect?

    Sorry I am reading this on Sunday! Probably too late anyway.

    1. Viewing the cedar as "extra" would be the rational approach - not the sort of thing that naturally occurs to me :).

  5. Hate drywall! Tried to do a dry wall job myself in high school to cover up a hole from a party sans parents. Didn't wait for it dry before adding 3 coat. Needless to say I'm been afraid to DIY again with drywall. Good luck, we can do this! Looking forward to seeing your big reveal!

  6. You make hanging drywall look so easy....I do not know HOW you get the spackling smooth???? I HATE that stuff....Is there a trick?

  7. Hahahah You saved Africa honey! That patch job was pretty brilliant! Design is 25% actual "design" and 75% trouble-shooting! Home stretch love, can't wait to see the final product!

    xo- Julie
    Peace! Love! LOL!
    Haute Khuuture Blog