The initial adrenaline of the kitchen remodel got us steamrolling through demolition, insulation and putting up drywall. When we reached the mud and tape stage, the endless coats of joint compound and sanding in between burnt us out. Let me say it out loud. Sanding joint compound is a bitch! Is there anything worse in home renovation? Please tell me. When we finally called it quit with the joint compound, we were covered head to toe by the dust. Hubby said we had enough dust on us to make a kung fu video showing all our moves with dust flying. And it’s true. I gently punched his chest and a dust cloud came up.
We didn’t seal off the entry ways very well for the first two layers of sanding. The dust reached everything in the living room and all the way to the basement. Since then, we sealed off the entry way to the dining room so at least the living room would be in better shape. We needed access to the garage and the basement for tools and fresh air so we had to leave the other entry partially open. I added a plastic curtain at the bottom of the stairs to the basement. I bought the spring-tension curtain rod before the renovation thinking I would only need it for the demolition and it turns out to be a total lifesaver for the dirtiest job.
If you think that sanding the drywall joints isn’t that bad, try putting a skim coat of joint compound on the entire ceiling and sanding the whole thing. Why skim coat? My hubby kept talking about texture until I read online that skim coating in the kitchen and bathroom is better for cleaning in the future. Besides, Citibank decided to suspend our home equity line of credit because property prices in our area dropped significantly. The idea of hiring someone to texture went out the door quickly. We’ve never done joint compound, let alone skim coating but once I found out about the MagicTrowel (sold locally at Sherwin-Williams) I know we can make it work.
At first, the MagicTrowel seems to be too good to be true. We followed the instructions, added some of our own modifications and it turned out great. Here’s the recipe:
- Buy some premixed all-purpose joint compound (How much? It depends. For the 10’x12′ ceiling we did, we used somewhere between one to two 12-lb buckets per coat. One bucket was definitely not enough, two buckets were too much for one coat. We did 2 coats. We could have bought a 5-gallon bucket and used it all for the joints and skim coats.)
- Add water and dish soap to the joint compound and mix it with a power drill until it reaches pancake batter consistency. (It takes more water than most websites recommended but it also depends on how long the joint compound you end up buying have sat in the store. Dish soap is supposed to prevent bubbles and make it easier to spread the joint compound across the drywall smoothly.)
- Using a 1/2-inch nap paint roller, apply the joint compound onto drywall.
- Use the MagicTrowel to smooth out the joint compound. (The instructions recommended wiping the trowel in the same direction as the paint roller.)
Sounds easy enough? Not exactly. You can’t “paint” the whole wall/ceiling and MagicTrowel the entire surface all at once because the joint compound has already started to set the moment you stop adding water. This is a two-person job for sure. I handled the paint roller and hubby got the trowel. I put on 2 paint rollers wide strip of joint compound and he troweled. The small areas where the trowel overlapped were hardest to perfect. It would also be nice if I rolled on the same amount of joint compound every time but that seemed impossible with a paint roller. We probably worked much slower than the professionals. Halfway down the ceiling, the joint compound thickened up. We added more water and mixed it up. The most frustration thing for me were the corners. The roller couldn’t reach all the way into the corners and I kept getting joint compound on the walls where we didn’t plan to skim coat (since they will be covered mostly by cabinets).
The first coat made the ceiling looked a little better. Before the skim coat, there were intentional gouges that were patched by joint compound. The old ceiling outlet boxes were attached through long strips of metal nailed to the narrow side of the joist facing the floor. We asked the contractor who did some electrical and plumbing work for the kitchen about whether we should replace the old metal boxes with new ones that are to be attached on the wide side of the joist. We were told the drywall would cover right over them. Not true. The drywall popped out like big bubbles over the metal strips except these are rigid. We cut out the popped-out drywall and filled in the gouges. The skim coat really helped covering this major flaw of our ceiling.
We waited overnight after the first coat and sanded the entire ceiling the next day. It’s a big dust storm in this not-too-small room. When we first started planning the renovation, we debated whether we should remove the wall separating the dining room and the kitchen. I decided against it. It was the best decision I made. Otherwise, the whole house would have been doomed by the dust from joint compound and all the dirt from demolition plus everything else that floats in the air during the renovation. After the second coat and sanding one last time, we were done. It wasn’t perfect. There were two short cracks of joints that refused to hold joint compound (that’s after 3 coats of mud and tape, plus 2 layers of skim coat). I tried to fill them up with caulk. The result wasn’t quite right either. But since we have cracks in the plaster ceiling in the rest of the house, we can’t make it too perfect in the kitchen.
On the same day we were done with skim coats, we put on one coat of vapor barrier primer on all the walls and ceiling. We then took a break. Way before we started the renovation, hubby planned a hike through the Wonderland Trail with a friend. It’s time for him to take off. I could use the break but being home alone wasn’t what I was looking for. I spent most of the time putting a few things on eBay since we no longer have the home equity line of credit. Made about $150 from 3 items. I am crazy about packaging things to ship so it took me a lot of energy to do eBay. But all in all, I got rid of stuff that we haven’t used for a long time.
On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, two of my friends came over to help us paint. We could have done it all between the 2 of us but when help was offered, it would be foolish for me to refuse. We painted one more coat of primer and 2 coats of finish paint (Sherwin-Williams Duration Extra White Satin Finish). It’s a completely white room. I feel undecided on color when I have very little idea about the back splash. It would be difficult to paint around cabinets later but white walls will work well with a variety colors of back splash.
The next step is flooring. We have picked out a color of Marmoleum before we started the renovation. It was going to be Wine Barrel but by the time we were ready for the floor, the color has been discontinued from the sheet version. It is still available in the click boards but we were told that click boards are not recommended in the kitchen due to high possibility of water exposure on the floor. We spent another week to pick a new color. We settled on Henna. In the end, this whole color picking fiasco is sort of a blessing in disguise. Wine Barrel is a much darker color. While we were picking a new color, we laid down the new sample sheets in the kitchen and looked through them in different lights. We didn’t like some of the dark colors that were close to Wine Barrel. Henna is brighter but not too red and its pattern is not too visible to make one dizzy.
We paid for the professional to install the floor. It started with sheets of plywood over the subfloor and 2 skim coats of concrete to cover all the joints and nails. The Marmoleum was applied with adhesive. The installation took a day and a half. We were not happy with the outcome at first sight. There were spots of adhesive residue, a few scratches and one of the two seams was not even. The installer came back for another day of work. He thought that the bad seam was caused by an issue with his scriber. Heating and rolling didn’t help. It was decided that a new piece was needed. Hubby stayed home that day to answer questions. He called me at work to figure out the location of the cabinets that would hide an additional seam. When it was all said and done, the new seam looks much better.
We ordered kitchen cabinets from IKEA the weekend before the marmoleum installation. All the pieces were delivered to our house the day after we called it good with the floor. The cabinet pieces were stacked on two pallets. When the delivery guys opened the truck, one of the pallets was tipped and leaning against the other. One of the guys said they went over a bump on the way to our house. We took inventory and inspected all the pieces immediately after they left. We found some small damages on several pieces. We have to bring them back to IKEA for an exchange. The IKEA rep said he will offer us free meal tickets since we opted to bring the pieces back to the store ourselves. Installing the cabinets is going to be interesting. We have experience with quite a few variations of IKEA furniture (bookshelves, desks, filing cabinets, dressers, bed, bed side tables). Kitchen cabinets sound like a whole new level. I called it the “graduate school” of IKEA. Let’s hope that we won’t run into too many problems.