One Room Challenge: Week Two – Electrical & Drywall

I’m chugging right along with my tiny Master Bathroom renovation. You can check out my plan for the space on the Week One post for my One Room Challenge. One of the first things I needed to do in this space was to actually finish demolishing the homasote that covered the right wall.

Demo is something that is just so satisfying! A few quick hours and you can completely transform the space, every swing of your hammer is progress. So quickly a space can go from this lovely little 70s space…

…to this hot mess. And then you have to clean it all up. Whomp, whomp, whomp. And this stuff gets heavy too! Make sure to use contractors bags rather than normal trash bags since they’re so much stronger and don’t get ruined by the rogue nail! I probably should have removed the plumbing in the bathroom before doing this, but I was hoping to maintain the basic function of this room as long as possible.

It resulted in a whole lot of crazy, but demo’ing this wall allowed me to get a good look at the electrical situation that was going behind it. This house (like most older homes) has a whole lot of secrets hidden in it’s walls. When I opened this space up, I was able to see the new electrical my electricians had installed in the house back in October 2017 and where they’d tied in some older electrical to the new lines. It also exposed some of the willy nilly “structural” supports that were added when some previous owner decided to bump the wall out to fit in the old bathtub in the main bathroom. You can also see the new framing I added to support the original wall location and the backside of my new shower surround.

Once I got my eyes on the electrical I was able to figure out what was going on and replace the existing older wires with new in the locations I wanted. I’d gotten two free light fixtures from my Aunt Stephanie who’s neighbor was replacing some newly installed fixtures after buying their house. Since the original light in this room was above the door, once I’d removed the homasote walls, I could just pull that wire over to the location I wanted my new fixtures. I planned for two sconce fixtures in the space to wash the room with light. Then I could install my medicine cabinet beneath one and a framed picture beneath the other. I also moved an outlet to be next to the light switch for convenience. For the most part, this wiring was already in the walls, I just shifted the locations and switched out any really old wires for new.

Once I’d measured where my new sconces should be I nailed up a horizontal board to hang the far sconce off of and wired up the second sconce to the first.

Simple! Since I needed light to work by in the evenings, I ended up wiring the last sconce in and then hanging it from the grounding wire. Which is probably not the safest idea, but it was very effective and approved by my contractor neighbor. I also had him double check that the electrical all made sense and I wasn’t going to kill myself or burn my house down. He said it looked good, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I’m super nervous about fires now, so it’s nice to have a second pair of eyes. Thanks, Erik!

Then it was time to stuff the wall full of insulation to create more of a sound barrier between the two bathrooms and to keep the bathroom off the kitchen warmer. I just filled in the space and stuffed it all behind the wiring, I tried to make sure it was less compressed than in this picture before I closed up the wall with drywall! Mostly I wanted to keep that main bathroom nice and toasty.

You may have noticed this old fuse box in the picture above. It was the reason the old wall was bumped out only in the lower portion! See how the right wall recesses at the very top in this picture from when I first got the house? The shadow kind of gives it away. I guess the old owners didn’t want to mess with it. I wonder if they put plants or anything on that ledge? That would almost make sense… except the bathroom has a north facing window about 20′ from my neighbors house so it gets no light…. Hmmm… so many questions!!

And even after I had my electricians rewire the main bathroom and tweak this box, it still looked like a mess! The fuses are misleading though, my electricians had switched the wiring to hook into my new circuit breaker, but left these fuses in place… connected to nothing. They used this box as a place to tie all of their wiring together. Which mean it would need to be accessible still. Since one of my sconces was right next to it, I knew that a simple double outlet cover plate would be pretty hidden and allow enough access to this spot. Doesn’t the old wiring look super weird though… I was told it’s not knob and tube, just old.

I knew having an outlet would next to the light switch would be a lot easier to access and prevent me from having to make even more cuts into my beadboard, so I moved it up and placed it right where I wanted it in a new electrical box. Now when I blew dry my hair (which is never) or straightened my hair (once every two years) I’d be prepared! Seriously though… what else do people use bathroom outlets for? Electric toothbrushes?

And finally, it was time for drywall! I bought one sheet of drywall for $15 from Home Depot for this project. I knew it would take care of this wall and I could use scraps from the bathroom and the kitchen to cover up the wall with the door. You can also see here where the old wall was when I bought the house, with the top of the wall niched back. Such an odd arrangement. I filled in a little bit of plaster to help even out the back wall here. Since I was covering everything up with beadboard, I knew exacts didn’t much matter.

And thank god for beadboard, because trying to smooth out all these drywall pieces patched together would have been no fun at all!

Meanwhile, that wasn’t the only thing that needed to be patched either! The former space in the bumped out wall had holes in the floor as well as in the old wall where the plumbing for the original bathtub from the other bathroom had been. I patched these in the same way I patched in the floor in the main bathroom using scrap wood and some clamps. You can also see where I’d slapped a coat of primer on the subfloor after removing most of the peel and stick tiles at one point. It was so much “nicer” this way. Hahaha! Since the peel and stick tiles were coming off and sliding around anyways, there was all sorts of gunk beneath them. Covering it all up with concrete board and tile was going to be amazing!

Now, I can’t say this space was looking a whole lot better yet. But progress is progress, and the middle makes no sense! At least I had the lighting in and the space was suddenly bright and ready for the big transformative touches! I still needed to remove the sink and address the left wall, but everything else was ready for beadboard!

So Week Two is now wrapped up and it’s now on to tiling for Week Three! It’s my second tiling project after the main bathroom, so fingers crossed all goes well. I have just baaaaarely enough tile left over from my parents’ bathroom renovation to complete the floors in here! Soon this little room is going to be looking completely different from when I bought the house. Hopefully, more authentic feeling with more storage and function and much, much prettier to boot!

Boy will I be excited when this is finally done! It’s a pain storing all my bathroom stuff in my bedroom and to encapsulate all the old gross with clean and new is going to feel so amazing.

Definitely check out some of the other participants in the One Room Challenge. There’s a ton of amazing talent out there, it’s so fun to join in for the first time!

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Installing Drywall in the Bathroom

To properly read this post, go mix yourself a cocktail and drink every time you read the word “screw.” Also you should probably smirk every time you read the word too, since, you know, we have the sense of humor of 12 year old boys over here. Got your drink handy? Okay, let’s get into this.

Once the insulation was in I started trying to find a good friend to help me install the drywall in the bathroom. I knew there was absolutely no way whatsoever I could do the full install alone.  Lucky me, eventually a friend casually mentioned he worked a summer installing drywall in college. Bingo! He had no idea what he’d just gotten into with that comment. I immediately started talking about my upcoming project and dropping hints. With the floors now covered in HardieBacker It was time to whip the walls in shape. I just had to wait for the plumbing inspection to finish so I could drain the drywall pan!

Land of Laurel | Taped Hardiebacker

Luckily, I soon passed inspection and after dropping too many hints, went ahead and asked my friend Janik to come help me drywall. Before that could happen I was faced with the dilemma of how to actually get the drywall… because 4’x8′ sheets weren’t going to fit into my VW Tiguan! As usual, I was discussed this issue with my neighbor Erik. And because he is an angel child, the man volunteered to meet me at Home Depot with his truck the next Saturday to buy drywall. He had to go anyways to pick up a few things. At this point we were each going to Home Depot 3-4 times per week and we were picking up things for each other on 1/4 of those visits. You guys, my inbox of electronic receipts from Home Depot is over 200 messages. In just over 1 year!

Anyways, I drove to Home Depot that Saturday and looked at drywall stuff. Erik met me there and convinced me to buy a bunch of drywalling stuff and then told me the drywall was cheaper at Lowe’s. We got into our respective vehicles and drove 10 minutes to Lowe’s. But when we were there, they only had normal 1/2″ mold resistant green drywall board. HomeDepot carried the ultra-light version of the same product. So back in our cars we went and back at Home Depot I purchased the sheets and tools which we then slid into the back of Erik’s truck. At my house, Erik helped unload the sheets of drywall into my kitchen storage room where I was staging everything for the bathroom remodel. I was glad we went back for the ultra-light drywall at that point considering how dang heavy the ultralight version was!

Janik was coming over the next weekend, so I was able to fully assess my supplies and read up on the tutorials on hanging and mudding drywall on younghouselove.com. I gathered everything I had purchased and double checked I had everything I needed a couple of times.

I started with the easiest piece of drywall on my own: the lower part of the exterior wall, just to see how quickly this could go. After I measured the wall a couple times, I scored the paper outside of the drywall with my boxcutter and snapped it neatly along that line. I cut a second piece to fit around the window frame and then shoved the whole thing against the wall and screwed in drywall screws every 16″ with my handy new impact driver.  The whole piece took 20 minutes tops, so I figured the whole room would go very quickly. Ha!

Berrybrier | Drywall First Piece

Now they make special drill bits for hanging drywall that prevent you from screwing through the paper and I eventually tried them, but I didn’t care for them as they prevented me from seeing and feeling the screw go in. It’s important to sink the screws just enough to recess their heads, but not enough to break through the paper. Here’s an example of a perfectly sunken screw.

Berrybrier | Drywall Proper Screw

Because the strength of drywall really comes from the paper, it’s super easy to cut (much easier than the hardiebacker!) and once the paper is cut the rest snaps very easily. This means screwing in the boards is a bit sensitive, since if you break through the paper, your screw is no longer holding on to anything at all. Here’s where my screw went in a little too far, you can see the rough edges. It’s a delicate balance of trying to get the screw to sink juuuust right. But once you get the hang of it, screwing into the drywall is pretty easy and if you mess up, you just sink another screw near the first. No big deal.

Berrybrier | Bad Screw

Later that week Janik arrived at my house ready to help hang the rest of the drywall. We got right to work templating the places to cut holes into the drywall sheets on the opposite side of the room. I took some primer that was nearby and dabbed it all over the edge of the sconce electrical box edge. Then we simply cut our sheet to the correct length and pressed it against the wall and electrical box. The primer left a nice circle on the sheet and I cut that out with a jagged edge drywall knife and gave the sheet a tight fit around the box.

Berrybrier | Templateing Holes

Piece after piece the walls came together and the bathroom became room-like again! It worked well to have two people on this job as one person could hold the sheets and the other person could screw. That sounds dirty, but you know what I mean! We made a good team since Janik is much more of a precision type person and I am a “well, it’s good enough” kinda person so the drywall job ended up right in the happy middle of those two as we worked efficiently around the room. I was particularly grateful for a second person when we started the ceiling since our arms were both screaming waiting for the other person to finish screwing in the sheets above our heads.

Berrybrier | Drywall Second Person

I had Janik wear an extra pair of crocs that were lying around Berrybrier since crocs are the shoe of choice for this renovation. I’m sure he appreciates this being memorialized on the internet.

The ceiling was absolutely the hardest part since this is an old house and nothing is perfectly square. Holding a sheet of drywall up above your head while another person tries to figure out what needs to be cut an an angle in order to make it all fit is exhausting and really a great arm work out. But I hate arm work outs, so I was all for cutting a bit deeper and mudding a bit more.

Berrybrier | Ceiling Mud

We diligently worked around the room and ceiling cutting out for the plumbing pipes and medicine cabinet with the same technique we’d perfected with the electrical box, though we some how messed up on at least one plumbing pipe hole and made an extra hole. Otherwise, we just cracked joke after joke about screws and time passed pretty quickly. All of a sudden it was 2am, 8 hours after we started and we finished screwing in the final piece of drywall in the ceiling and paused to get water in the kitchen. As soon as we stopped my body rebelled and I was ready to collapse with exhaustion. But the bathroom had walls again!!!

Berrybrier | Drywalled Bathroom

I took a few days to let my arms recover from the first real arm workout I’d done in 5 years. But there’s no real rest for the weary round here. It was time for some mudding, the hard and dirty part of drywalling. I was not looking forward to it. But I psyched myself up with chai lattes and the promise of actually being able to shower. That tends to work for me!

First I taped down rosin paper to protect the floors from stray drywall compound. Then, I started out by filling every single one of the ten billion screw holes with a bit of drywall compound, before moving on to the more challenging parts. I continued with the next baby step: the seams along the middle of the walls. I spread a thin layer of joint compound in the seam with my 6″ knifeand laid the paper tape on top, then gently pressed it into the seam with a tad bit more mud. I spread slightly more mud over the tape working with the 8″ knife. After this first coat those seams looked pretty rough, as expected.

Berrybrier | First Coat of Mud

I moved from there to the outside corners framing the shower surround. I cut the outside corner metal strips to length and screwed them into the drywall, working from the top down. You can get rounded corner or 90° angle metal strips, I chose the former since they were better suited for this style house.

Berrybrier | Outside Drywall Corners

Once it was screwed on, I globbed on a whole bunch of the drywall compound with my 6″ knife. It was a challenge to smooth the mud on one side of the tape without shoving the excess mud onto the other side of the corner. I did my best and moved on to the inside corner seams around the room, folding my paper tape into a 90″ angle and working it into the seam as I had on the flat seams.Berrybrier | Outside Corner Mud Coat 1

I used SO MUCH mud for the first coat. I worried I’d run out of my 4 gallon bucket of joint compound before finishing this small room. It was later November at this point and it was cold! I still had not turned on the heater in the house and was sleeping at my cousin Kristen’s after working on my house all evening, every evening. Because the house was so cold, the thick first layer of mud took several days to dry and cracked a bit in the inside corners. Since it was the first coat, it wasn’t a big deal that it had cracked, but I knew I needed to get that furnace tuned up and running asap!

I had the HVAC guys come out the day after Thanksgiving to fill up my tank with oil and give the 1920s furnace a good tune-up. Once that was cranking, the house stayed a tad bit warmer and the drywall compound dried a bit more quickly on the next coats.

I knocked off the higher bits and lines with a 6″ knife before starting the second coat of drywall mud and then used my corner, 8″, 10″ and 12″ knives to spread out the mud from the corners and seams as thin as I could. After that dried for a couple days I did my third coat, creating a heavy layer of mud, that was probably more than is recommended, but worked out just fine. Here’s that same outside corner by the shower surround after the second coat of mud. The last coat went on the smoothest and I thinned the mud slightly with some water in a second bucket to allow for a thinner coat.

Berrybrier | Outside Corner Mud Coat 3

Then it was time for sanding. SO MUCH SANDING. I sanded this room for weeks, ya’ll. I was sanding still in mid-December. Sanding and sanding and sanding. I used the sanding blocks and then borrowed a sanding screen from Erik which worked more quickly, but left more of a linear pattern than the sanding blocks. Drywall dust was in my pores and my skin was dry dry dry, but the room was looking more and more room-like and this corner was looking ready for primer.

Berrybrier | Sanded Outside Corner

The walls got really smooth and the edges of the outside corners felt really good too. The ceiling was much more difficult and I honestly, just decided after a couple hours of sanding, it was plenty good enough, because I wasn’t sanding above my head any longer. See comment above about my “eh, it’s good enough” attitude.

Berrybrier | Sanding Corners

Eventually, after I don’t even know how many hours of sanding, the bathroom was smooth as a baby’s bottom and ready for primer and paint! At last! My showerhead had been installed and as soon as the room was primed, I could shower again. Boy was I looking forward to living in my own house again. My 10:30pm 15minute sprints back to my cousin’s to shower and sleep were getting old quickly. I needed to be staying at Berrybrier full time to get through the push! But here we were with a bathroom with ACTUAL WALLS AGAIN!

Berrybrier | Sanded Bathroom Drywall Mud

Already this room was looking one million times better than where it had started and even with the drywall dust, I was happier to walk in here now than before! Now the room was taking shape and the new layout was feeling real for the first time. Boy did it look more comfortable than sneaking around the sink and gross tub to get to the toilet!

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Great progress had been made and I was so freaking excited for the next steps: paint and tile! Have you ever drywalled a space before? Was the ceiling the worst part for you too? Did you think you were going to be sanding forever? Would you ever do it again? Commiserate with me in the comments!