Agley

This is the piece I mentioned last time; there was only a little bit more to write, and I couldn’t bring myself to trash it, so here you are:

The drive to improve one’s habitat is somehow ingrained in members of animalia. Birds do it, bees do it, even frequently alluded-to fieldmice whose modest burrow slept ten and had a gourmet grain-hoard before it was plowed through by some jerk poet did it. Like the tim’rous beastie, my own plans for home improvement proved more challenging than I had anticipated, but not due to interference by a giant Scotsman.

The chief form of entertainment in the Taylor household, aside from the sometimes laughable efforts of my wife’s students, is the gradual bending of our domicile to our will. A little over a year ago, we committed to purchase the modest 3-2. One might be forgiven for missing much of our exterior efforts, as they have been few and largely subtractive. On the inside, however, it is a very different place. The third bedroom is only such in the most academic of ways; it has been returned to its former function as a garage in most respects. There are colors and wood where there was blandness and paint. There is also one less door in the house.

Instead of traipsing off to some luxurious locale for Spring Break, we decided to take that time and money and put it back into the house. There are a host of goals and projects on the wish list, but we settled on one for the week: eliminate the door connecting the master bath to the hall. Our master suite was, in its former life, a guest bedroom, with an accompanying bathroom sporting a door into the bedroom as well as one leading to the hall. In order to fully master-ify it, that second door had to go. While we were at it, it was decided that it wouldn’t be too much trouble to spiff up the rest of the hall, replacing ugly doors on the other side, repainting the whole affair, and replacing the trim.

At the start of the weekend, we selected a hue for the corridor. In keeping with our series of bold color choices, we selected a shade which KILZ calls something-or-other plum. In practice, on a real live wall, it is pink. Not the neon pink of the primer we used in the dining room, but rather a shiny, deep, vivd pink that one might expect to find used on injection-molded toys. For girls. While Christina was out determining the fate of wannabe teachers, I lived with a patch of this color for most of the weekend. Uncharacteristically, I decided unilaterally that this would not be what I saw when entering and exiting my bedroom. On our return trip to the paint counter, after lingering over stormy blues and greys, we decided to get a warm neutral to put between the green of the living room and the red of the dining room and (someday) kitchen. Gaucho it was, then.

Monday came, and with it the rain. In order to finish in time, we had to get our supplies, which weren’t about to fit in our efficient but compact commuter. Lowe’s hourly rental trucks wouldn’t keep the drywall dry, so we turned to U-haul. Thirty bucks got us a day’s use of their smallest moving van, more than able to swallow four studs, a door, seven pieces of trim, a brace of gypsum panels, eight doorknobs, stain, joint compound and tools, tape and fasteners. The lighter, nominally waterproof items came in from the truck easily enough; it was the unwieldy water-averse sheetrock that posed the greatest challenge. We stapled plastic sheeting to it, and slid it down on to the dolly. I carted it around the corner to the front walk, the edge of the panels just clearing the limestone edgers. Once at the door, we upended it to slide it through the door on its long edge, got inside, and promptly collapsed.

Several hours later, somewhat recovered, we saw our living room full of stuff. After a bit of organization, I set out to accomplish something before bedtime. With some careful measurement – and the aide of my new toy, a 10″ compound miter saw – I cut the studs and soon we had a frame. End day one.

Tuesday, we learned all about drywalling, including how to cut the sheetrock, which side faces outward, and how to tape and float. Joint compound has a strange, almost sweet scent, despite the fact that it’s actually a rather nasty goop. It was on this morning that I took up the rest of the baseboard and discovered that it went down into the tilework, instead of sitting atop it. We made the first of what would become daily supply runs, short trips to nearby hardware and discount stores, armed with a list of stuff we needed, but hadn’t foreseen. Tuesday’s list included grout, although I had never actually used it before. We had a small bit of dried grout from the edge of the tile, which, of course, was not a hue available in a handy squeeze-tube. We brought home a bucket of pre-mixed grout, which I used to fill in the gap between the edge of the tile and the wall, so that all our new baseboard would have something to sit on. Grout smells less pleasant than joint compound, and feels even worse. I know this because the tool that worked best for getting it into the required space turned out to be my fingers.

Wednesday, we tackled the doors. First, the “easy” one, the door to the HVAC. When we got the major materials on Monday, we discovered that no one really carries doors in that height. Making do, we decided to sand it down and stain it. Unfortunately, when I got through the layers of paint, all I found was pasteboard. Since stained pasteboard would still look like pasteboard, Christina, who has become a regular paintin’ commando, primed and painted it to match the wall. It’ll do until we find a door that looks better. The trim, in particular the bottom piece, presented a challenge as well. Previously , there had been a ledge, like a tiny window sill, below the door. In my enthusiasm, I had kinda-sorta “smashed” it with a “sledgehammer.” In contrition, I chiseled out the rest up to the seal on the door jamb, and set about finding a way to fill in the gaping hole. Our supply run of the day led us to some “lattice strips” that were inexpensive and doubled up nicely to provide the needed thickness. Tacked down into the door frame, they provided a point of attachment for the new trim. Said trim required some customization in the form of a notch for the air register; this necessitated the purchase of a jigsaw, which brought me unreasonable amounts of joy. The door to the garage had its own set of challenges. We decided to keep the metal threshold, which made positioning the door easy enough. However, just after screwing the frame into the header and sides, we realized there was no way to remove the heavy plastic clamp keeping it closed from the other side, thereby forcing us to undo our work and redo it with one of us on each side of the door.

Thursday, we cut and stained a lot of baseboard and trim. I finished up the last round of sanding and floating for the new wall, and primed it for texturizing on Friday. Taking a bit of a detour on the project, Christina spotted a length of shelf railing, with tiny turned posts between the top and bottom rails. When we got it home, she popped off the top piece and had me mount it above the door inside the closet, making a row of pegs on which she can store her 18 favorite purses (here, Christina would want me to note that she doesn’t have 18 purses, to which I’ll add: yet). As soon as the trim was mostly dryish, I nailed it down, which provided an appearance of progress that we enjoyed greatly.

Friday was trying in the extreme. As I texturized the wall, I became more and more disappointed with the texture, which was nothing like that of the surrounding wall. We had purchased a dustmop that looked like it might approximate the pattern found in the rest of the house; in reality, it just made random patches of very sharp spikes in the texture compound. Having little choice in the matter, I kept going, ending up with a patch of wall with which I was very unhappy. Naturally, as we prepared for the next project, we spotted what was fairly obviously the same kind of tool used to texturize our walls sitting in the other major home-improvement big-box store. Eventually, we will improve our improvement, although I fear it will take a good deal of sanding to get there. Grr.

The texture took 48 hours to dry, so on Saturday, there was the cleaning and the relaxing.

Late Sunday afternoon, two days after finishing the texture, I sanded down the worst of the peaks a bit, so that we will not abraid ourselves walking down the hall. Then came the painting, a whirlwind of rollers and foam brushes. We watched the paint dry over dinner, then just before bed, nailed down the last of the trim. Done! Finally, Gloriously, Done! Aching and paining, we retired to the fully enmasterified master suite, knowing it was back to work for us tomorrow.