Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Dreaded Beam Project: Complete.

After more than two months of work, the living/dining room transformation is finally complete! I know people live in construction zones for greater periods of time, but man, having such a central area of our place in various states of assembly was wearing. The result, however, is totally worth it. Check out the before and after photos:

I learned a tremendous amount through this project, from brute-force demolition to finicky finish work to proper prep and thorough clean-up.

The two things that I am most happy with are the landing and the fact that the beam doesn't look brand-new. The landing was originally carpeted - same as the stairs - and square. We pulled up the carpeting, which covered old linoleum, which was glued to the hardwood underneath. My question quickly became: What possessed a previous owner to use the most adhesive mix of paper and glue possible? Was he laughing as he put it down, finding some twisted humor in imagining another owner slowly chiseling it all up? (But then again, is that any different than me using enough nails, screws and caulk to sink a ship to put up trim...and feeling only slightly bad for the guy that tries to take it all down?) Thankfully, the hardwood cleaned up beautifully, and taking the corner off the landing (nice idea Jen!) didn't prove to be too difficult, although it did challenge my joinery skills.

Before it all began..



The overall look to the first floor is fantastic. Thanks to my friends, Caulk and Putty, you can't even see my two thousand mistakes. Some points of learning I'll pass on to those who might take on any home project:
  • When demo-ing horsehair plaster: plastic off EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE...and do it all in a day
  • Use new wood for trim, because ultimately, the hours spent getting the old stuff back in working shape just isn't worth the trouble
  • Use REAL wood for the trim - for some odd reason I bought composite quarter-round for the landing trim. It's great for outdoor applications, I'm sure, but doesn't behave like wood at all. It shatters when a nail goes in wrong...
  • Borrow/rent/buy an air-nailer, especially for trim work (thanks for lending me yours, dad!) - you will live longer if you do
  • Sharp blades, fresh sandpaper, and clean brushes are more valuable than gold. Change/sharpen often (Peter's lesson: don't agonize over a 50 cent sanding disc)
  • Good prep is always worth it.
    • The extra 5 or 10 or even 30 minutes spent making sure something is done correctly makes the finished product go from "Did you do that part all by yourself?" to "Wow, I didn't even know that wasn't original."

    So that's the story friends. Dad/Dad-in-law and brother, thank you. Beam-lifters, thank you. Jen, your patience and encouragement of my novice efforts was invaluable to my husband-ego and to getting this done.

    (Insert craigslist savvy shopper here)
    Take a lookie at this Pottery Barn Buffet  I snagged on Craigslist for $60!
    Doesn't it look great! I am really excited about that wall above it...stay tuned...

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