Monthly Archive: July 2012

Project’s end

Well, nearly the end.  The sunroom still needs its safety railings, and its floor still needs a final coat of polyurethane. But the kitchen is 100% done, and there are no more surfaces that require my attention with a paintbrush.

I must apologize for the lack of updates for the last few weeks.  My free time has been devoted to finishing touches — mostly painting — and moving into the new kitchen.

At my last update, we were waiting for the finish coat of polyurethane on the kitchen floors.  That did indeed happen, and the contractors cleared out all their tools from the dining room.  As Lis was out of town that weekend, I set myself some pretty ambitious goals: scrape the popcorn off the dining room ceiling and repaint it, white-wash the ceiling in the sunroom, and move back into the kitchen.


So-called popcorn is a popular textured ceiling finish — popular, that is, with contractors who would rather not deal with prepping & painting a ceiling, especially one that’s got some surface imperfections.  It’s composed of normal drywall compound with bits of vermiculite mixed in (though beware — some popcorn finish applied earlier than the 80’s contains asbestos).  It’s sprayed on with a special gun and allowed to dry.  It looks fine for a while. Then it starts to pick up dust & stains, and looks terrible. It’s nearly impossible to cut a clean line when painting an adjacent wall.  And god help you if you try to paint the popcorn itself: half of it comes off on your roller. When we moved in, every ceiling surface in our entire house was covered with the stuff. The good news is, if it’s never been painted, you can just get it wet and scrape it off with a wide drywall trowel, trying to catch most of it in a paint tray (or whatever).  It’s easy to do, except that you’re working on a ladder and it makes a mess.  I had previously done most of the ceilings on the first floor, and the new kitchen is smooth-finished.  Anyway, I got the popcorn removal done Friday night.

Saturday morning I got to work painting the sunroom ceiling.  As we did in Southboro, we wanted a whitewash (also known as pickled) finish.  The process is to apply a thinned-down white paint with a brush, and wipe it off with a rag. This finish lightens the wood considerably, while still allowing the grain to come through. To my eye, when done right, it looks like someone has stripped the paint off an old painted surface. Our contractor thoughtfully put up the ceiling boards first, allowing me to do this process without fear of drips ruining the walls or floor. This is more ladder work, but much less messy than the popcorn. You can see my work in progress here:


Once that was done, I washed the dining room.  Did I mention that popcorn removal is a messy process? And that our contractor had used this room as a staging area & workshop for the past 3 months? It was dirty. The dark walls & white wainscoting did not help. I washed the ceiling once with a sponge and 2 buckets; the walls took 4 passes.  Once done I was able to paint the ceiling and touch up the walls. And now the entire first floor’s ceilings are free of popcorn.

On Sunday I got started moving into the kitchen. We had done a good job of labeling all our boxes, and so most of the actual work was in carrying them back up from downstairs. I unpacked boxes into rough areas of the kitchen, then started putting things away when I was pretty sure I had most everything. I’m sure we’ll be searching for things for a while, making adjustments over time.

We are very pleased with the entire kitchen. But one thing that’s working out even better than I had imagined is the corner pantry. It just holds so much stuff, and it’s all so visible & accessible.


Somewhere in there I also repainted the half bathroom. This bathroom was one of the first rooms we repainted upon moving in, and we didn’t do nearly enough prep before doing so. Also, changing out the yellow of this room for green freed us to use a different yellow in the kitchen proper.


On Monday I went back to work and was happy for the break 🙂

The following weekend was our kitchen-warming party. While the sunroom was not done (and is still not done as of this writing), we wanted it to be somewhat useable. The contractor got all the electrical work done and got things buttoned up enough that we were able to use the room, even though it did not have the finish floor nor even all the woodwork installed.

The kitchen proved to be everything we had hoped for a party, easily absorbing the 25 or so guests we had at the peak. For a most of the guests, this was the first time seeing our house at all since before construction began, so the transformation was a huge leap. Nobody is going to say that it came out poorly or we made bad decisions, of course, but people’s reactions were good. The biggest surprise for me was a comment I heard from a few people: that this is a much better use of the ex-sunroom space than what we had before — that it was more of just a corridor before — and that the whole first floor seems better connected.


On Sunday (day after the party), Lis painted the outside balusters & posts while I applied a coat of clear polyurethane or white semi-gloss (as appropriate) to every surface in the sunroom except the floor.

Finally, yesterday I caught a break with the weather and was able to get the exterior painting done. I am pleasantly surprised at how much the color scheme helps it tie in with the existing house.

I was also able to paint the shelf in the coat closet yesterday, and now that’s IT!  I am done painting, at least on this project.
And as I said above, we are nearly done with the entire project as well.  We are hoping for the final finish coat on the sunroom floor early this week, which will allow us to move furniture in there after a suitable drying time. They can take as long as they like with the safety railings as far as I am concerned … lack of those is not going to stop our enjoyment of the new space for a few days at least until vacation.  I plan to post another entry once we’ve moved into the sunroom, and I’ll probably make another post about some of the details of what makes the new kitchen work nicely for cooking.

Week 14 update

The kitchen is all but done.  The casings and baseboards are all installed, the backsplash is grouted and sealed and the stove back in place, we have chairs for our new kitchen table.  There are just a handful of things to be done before the kitchen portion is completely ready.

The backsplash looks great now that it’s grouted.  It’s sometimes the case that a tile mosaic such as this one — especially one including glass tiles — will lose some of its sparkle and depth once grouted, because light can no longer enter from the edges of the glass tiles.  I think this one is almost the opposite — that the shadowbox effect around the glass tiles has increased the perception of depth.

I sealed the tiles here yesterday (so no food splatters would stain them) in preparation for today’s rite of passage for the new kitchen: the preparation of two batches of stock: one vegetable, one chicken.

there’s the small matter than when closing up the electrical chase by
the door to the sunroom, they managed to short out the switch for the
overhead lights, breaking it.  I hope it’s just the switch and not the
fixtures too.  I’m assured that will get fixed up on Monday.

We’re scheduled for Thursday to put the final coat of polyurethane on the floors.  I’m hoping the electrician takes my hints and hangs the Tiffany lamp before then.  Once these things are done, we’re ready to move back in!  We’re asking them to clear out of our dining room too (we’ll give them a garage bay) so I can scrape the popcorn texture off the ceiling in there (and repaint it), and otherwise reclaim that room as well.

On the sunroom front, we’re fully weathered in now, with the installation of the remaining 2 sliding windows and the door. The rough electrican work is done enough for an inspection scheduled for Monday, so assuming that passes we should start to see beadboard go up on the ceiling soon.  I intend to whitewash the ceiling (with a white semi-transparent stain) , a process which our contractor has dubbed the “stain shower.”  I doubt the sunroom will be fully done by our official kitchen-warming party in 2 weeks, but I’m hoping for some semblance of usability.


Some update pictures, as promised.  First, the new kitchen table.  After trying out all sorts of funky shapes made of cardboard, we decided to go with a simple 30″ round.  The other shapes just looked weird, and the 30″ size is as small as we thought we could go and still be able to eat comfortably at it; adding a couple inches didn’t really help matters either but will make a big difference in how well chairs fit. And there’s enough maple top left over to make a shelf or candle stand for the corner to offload salt & pepper, etc.

Next, two pictures of the outside of the sunroom, in its current state.