29 July 2011

DIY: laundry closet redo: installing the boards

All right, everybody! What do we need for board and batten wall treatment? That’s right, boards! Well, technically, battens. See, actually the boards are the big thin sheets of wood that cover the whole wall and the battens are the boards that cover the seams of the actual “boards” and who cares what you call them, we need some up in here.

You might recall from the planning post that I chose to install all the horizontal boards and the shelves first, then fill in the vertical boards later. To get started on the horizontal boards, I first marked on the wall where my shelves would go. I wanted the bottom shelf to be about 33” from the ceiling (it’s a low ceiling) in order to be just above the electrical outlet. So, I measured and marked 33” in each corner:

No, I have no idea why I have a yardstick advertising a business from a tiny town in Montana (population under two thousand as of the last census). I don’t know anyone from Montana. I’ve never even been to Montana. It’s just one of life’s mysteries I’ve come to accept without question.

Anyway, after marking off the back left and back right corners, I made sure that 33” from the ceiling in one corner was actually level with 33” from the ceiling in the other. I’ve learned (the hard way, sometimes) that I should never assume my home is made up entirely of perfect right angles. I tested it with the board for the upper shelf – remember, the board for the lower shelf would be broken up by the outlet. So I measured the marks by holding the board over the marks instead of under (if that makes sense). Surprisingly enough, it was level!

(Hey, did you notice that the mural is almost gone thanks to that extra coat of paint I mentioned at the end of the last post? Thank goodness, right?)

So I kept those 33”-from-the-ceiling marks and did the same thing with the shorter boards on the left and right walls. Then I found the studs, partially with my teensy magnetic stud finder (pictured below, stuck on the wall) and partially by wailing all over the wall with a hammer and a nail. IMPORTANT REMINDER: Make sure that you are nailing those test holes in a place that will be covered with the board and batten. Then make double sure. I skipped the second step and hoo boy, was that a lot more spackling that had to be done. The loudest swear I uttered was when I realized that mistake. So: DOUBLE SURE.

After marking the wall and locating the studs, I nailed the boards in – by hand. That’s right, I didn’t want to buy an air compressor and nail gun, so I hammered away by hand. It sounded easy enough in my head. In actuality it required Mr. P’s help, a lot of strength and sweat, and a few mumbled curse words because Mr. P doesn’t like to hear those words and he was actually in the room for once to hear them.

I used 2" "finishing" nails, if you are interested. The idea is that they can be hammered all the way in – not quite as far as a nail gun, but at least flush with the board. In the photos below, they're not hammered in all the way, because to get them out, you need pliers, and I wanted to check that the shelf was level first before hammering them the rest of the way.

We tested it with the shelf once we had the boards up on both the left and right walls:

Then we (ok, just I) held our (my) breath as we tested to see if the shelf was level:

ON THE FIRST TRY, BISHES. I high-fived Mr. P. No, high-tenned.

We repeated the process for the upper shelf, and then nailed in the back wall pieces (again, all in the studs where possible):

That first photo demonstrates how I solved the problem with originally wanting to build around the water hookups on the back wall and instead moving the shelf up over the outlet. Unfortunately, that short piece is not held into a stud, because there was no stud to be found. In a corner. For either wall that makes up that corner. Honestly, I have no idea exactly how the drywall in the laundry room is attached to the structure of the house, because the studs are totally not in any logical place. Another of life's mysteries.

Anyway! It was then time to install the vertical boards. I mentioned in the earlier planning post that I decided I’d cut the vertical pieces of board myself, in a fit of crazy delusion. So I measured the spaces I needed boards to fill, picked up 5 96” pre-primed 1x2s, formulated my plan to know which sizes to cut, and went to town in the garage with my ancient vice grip and crappy saw.

Which promptly broke, two cuts in. Like, BROKE broke. The blade snapped into two pieces (one significantly longer than the other, at least).

So this is how I cut the rest of the boards:

You know how loggers cut down trees with two people pushing and pulling on a giant saw? It was like that, except each one of my arms was one of those people. In other words, LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. The fact that it was nearly ninety degrees in the garage just added to the absolute insanity.

Mr. P: “Do you want to go buy a saw?”
Sarah: “No. We’ve already been to the store once. And I don’t want to find a place to keep a power saw.”
Mr. P: (delicately, because his wife has clearly lost her mind) “Or maybe just a regular saw? Or a blade to replace that broken one?”
Mr. P: (shakes head, backs away)

In all, it took close to three hours to cut all the boards to size. And then I started installing them – again, hammering them in with an inherited hammer. Only the top boards are shown, because that's as far as I got:

I’ve said several times that “you too can do this without experience or good tools”, and you can, but I will tell you right now, this is sort of where I melted down. It was taking forever to install the boards, and it was LOUD with the manual hammering, and we were about to leave town for an extended period in a day or two, and I knew that it could go faster if I had better tools but I didn’t want to buy them because this project was supposed to be cheap.

I was so frustrated. I threw my hammer down with a loud CLANG on the washer and told Mr. P that I was going to bed. And I laid there for about two seconds before going down and trying again and then swearing and crying and trying to go to bed again.

Perhaps that’s why the next day, I found that Mr. P had borrowed this from his friend:

That is a nail gun, the same one used to install hardwood flooring in the kitchen, borrowed from the same friends. He's like a knight in shining armor rescuing a DIY damsel in distress.

Notice how far I am from Mr. P. That’s because I was terrified of the nail gun. Laugh all you want, but it is essentially a GUN WITH SKINNY BULLETS. It’s right there in the name. Nail GUN. And I’m generally afraid of guns. And I'm sorry if you haven't read the Stieg Larsson books yet and I'm spoiling it for you but there's a part where a nail gun is used as a weapon and it's super creepy, which is why I kept my distance, even after Mr. P showed me all the safety features. GUN. THAT SHOOTS NAILS. IS A WEAPON.

So, he finished nailing in the vertical boards, which took about five minutes compared to my hours of hammering. Next time? I will conquer my fear and use the damn nail gun from the start.

Moving along! The next step was to caulk all the seams. I had gotten the impression from other bloggers that this part was the worst, that it took forever. Well. Perhaps if I had a power saw (or even an intact manual saw), and a nail gun, and a wall that didn’t start out with a clothesline mural requiring eighteen coats of primer and paint, caulking would in fact be the most time-consuming part. But for me? I liked caulking! It took less than one evening (compared to the days I'd spent working so far), it was rather relaxing, and it made it look super great.

This is the stuff I used:

The salesman at HD assured me, after asking twenty times, if it was paintable with latex paint. This stuff was well under two bucks, and did the job well.

Since I had never caulked before, I bought a basic cheap caulking gun (an OKAY sort of gun, as it doesn’t shoot anything that can ATTACH YOUR FOOT TO THE FLOOR), also under two bucks, and tried to figure out how to use it. Once I got that under control, I read the many caulking tutorials out there. The gist of them are to make a “bead” (line) of caulk at the seam, dip your finger in a cup of water, and run your finger over the bead to smooth it out. Repeat for each seam. Easy! I also keep a roll of paper towels nearby, because duh.

For me, caulking was a two-handed job so it was impossible to get action photos (without calling Mr. P down to do the photography). So instead I’ll give you two troubleshooting tips for things I had trouble with. First of all, you squeeze the trigger to push the caulk out, right? I sort of figured that when you stopped squeezing, it stopped pushing the caulk out. Well, no:

None of those excellent tutorials mentioned that there’s a little release button at the back of the gun that you should hit when you’re done caulking each bead. That button releases pressure so that no more caulk oozes out. Fortunately, I figured it out quickly enough.

Secondly, before I really got the hang of it, I had too much caulk in one bead and didn’t wet my finger all the way before smoothing it out. The result was this:

Sorry for the blurry photo – again, the light is bad and my camera was having trouble focusing with nothing but white in the field of view. If you can’t tell, that’s excess caulk that didn’t smooth out seamlessly onto the wall. And it dried, like, two seconds later, so it’s there for good, unfortunately. At first I thought that could be remedied by never using too much caulk, and that’s sort of true, but I discovered that as long as I kept my finger wet (like, not just damp, but drippingly wet) when smoothing it out, I could have plenty of excess caulk and still smooth it out for a seamless look.

Caulking, you guys, was so gratifying. Up until this point, I was seriously doubting that what I’d done was going to satisfy my “vision” for the laundry closet. It looked like a bunch of boards nailed to the wall, not stylish at all. But caulking the seams transformed it, making it seamless and lovely. I know the angles aren’t exactly the same but here is a before and after for you:

The top part is caulked in both photos, but for a true before, check previous photos in this post, or imagine that the top part looked like the bottom part in the photo on the left. So yeah, caulk is magical! I sort of adore caulking. It’s like paint in that it covers up all my mistakes and imperfections.

And speaking of paint, that’s the only major step left! Tomorrow is the big reveal!


Christal said...

I'm so impressed...and excited!!!

Rachel C said...

Yay! I am so excited for the reveal!!

My favorite part of this entire process is the picture of Mr. P with the nail gun. Who among us doesn't recognize his long suffering "my wife has lost her mind and I got drug along for the ride" facial expression? But yay for saving the day!

Shanna said...

I am SO laughing my head off!!!!!!