Simple? Allow me to describe this simple reno. It started in early August. I had the bright idea that seventeen years of living in this house now required a major cleanup job. I’m not talking about knocking out walls and building rooms. I’m talking about cleanup, paint, refurbishment of already existing walls and fixtures.
First of all, flocked ceilings. I truly would like to know who the sadistic, lazy ass was who invented this stuff. What person has not looked up at one time or another at the discolored popcorn hanging over their heads and said, “How do I fix this?”
Well, dude-meister on YouTube said to tape a spackling knife to the nozzle of a shop vac and vacuum the ceiling. It seemed to work well enough, but it took days—even with a dear friend and co-writer helping me. A little bright white paint later—also applied by JJ Gasparin—and the kitchen and dining room had new ceilings. It took me longer to do the hallways, but that’s because I don’t have JJ’s goliath height and nine-foot reach. I’m 5’4”. I had a ladder.
Then there were the kitchen cabinets. I think they were installed at some point in the 70’s. I’ve been using the kitchen for seventeen years. People who know me know I cook. Really cook. From scratch and everything. Hence the expensive appliances I purchased back in April. I deserve the best—at least that’s what I told my husband when he balked at the price. (It’s the new appliances that started this mess. They looked like three Cadillacs sitting in the middle of tarpaper shacks.)
But I digress. Back to the dilapidated cabinets. I had restored the finish a couple of years back, but it was no good. They were worn, scared and in need of replacement—but who has the money, right? So, I decided it would be best to paint them.
Ever wanted to know what it takes to paint finished wood cabinets that live in a house where someone cooks for real? Well, first, you have to degrease. That is, you scrub. You scrub until your fingers bleed. No, really. They bleed. I even bought one of those horrendous, bad-for-the-environment, skin-melting chemical compounds guaranteed to make the mess disappear. Yeah, no. It didn’t work. I was down to Brillo and brutally hot water. My fingers bled. Taking pity on me, the husband even decided to help on one of the many days I worked the project. After that day, he realized just how hard the work was and decided to see to our meals.
Then the doors and hardware have to be removed, and every square inch has to be sanded. Thoroughly. The hardware went into the trash. I refused to clean it and put it back up. No way.
Oh, and here’s a lesson: While your mother is in to help with the painting, don’t allow your 15-year-old daughter and her 18-year-old cousin to paint the cabinet doors in the garage. With the door open. With their long hair unbound. With the little doggie running wild over the freshly-painted panels. If you do this, you will spend the next week re-sanding and repainting, that is, after you scrape all the hair and dirt off. I’ll admit, the puppy prints were somewhat cute, but not on kitchen cabinet doors. Also, when you tell them to be careful not to get paint on the inner side of the door, make sure they understand you. Apparently, that instruction translates to, “Don’t worry. Mom’s just kidding. Make as big a mess of it as you want.” Thusly translated, you get smears and globs to look at when you open the doors. I’ll fix that mess later. I don’t know how, but I’ll fix it.
Once all the painting was done there was the reassembly. Allow me to describe this special ring of hell. First of all, the old-fashioned hardware is no longer available. One cannot simply buy the same hinges and put the screws in the same holes. Oh, hell, no. You have to figure out a way to apply the new hardware, perfectly line up each freaking door and shove the screws into the wood without an extra set of hands to help hold it in place—and in my case, no experience doing same. If you make a mistake, you have to take it back down, putty the holes, repaint and scream. In that order. (The scream is necessary to inform all those in the household who don’t bother to help that they should stay far away lest they get a cabinet door drilled into their backs with Mama’s handy-dandy power driver. It’s very effective.)
Owing to various levels of frustration—or rather my inability to function at the level of frustration the hardware issue caused me—it took me a couple of weeks to accomplish the reassembly. This was frustrating on its own. Then it was time to go through everything I had removed from the kitchen and dining room and decide what would go back up on the walls and what would be disposed of. In the end, some things went to the attic, some to the dump, and some to charity. I went to the store and bought all new decorations. Three items, in fact. Just three that would enhance the gorgeous mural my daughter painted for me some weeks before. I chose three giant flower wall hangers done in brightly painted steel. They’re pretty cool-looking and very simple. Picture perfect and finished.
Except for the countertops I had to order and the new chandelier that’s still in the trunk of my car.
By this time, August and September are gone. There is still the guest bath and the living room yet to go. Oh, joy. I’m so out of steam.
Living room redo started with the removal of some furniture for disposal. I had planned to donate it all, but unfortunately, the day I moved said pieces outside to be loaded on the truck and hauled away, we got a tornado. I was on the phone when it hit. (I work from home, for a health insurance call center, adjusting claims and quoting benefits for healthcare providers.) The nice gentleman with whom I was speaking, judging by his accent, was from somewhere in the Middle East. It was obvious he had no experience with tornadoes as when the sirens and radio alarms started going off and I told him I had to get off the phone to seek shelter, he became a bit miffed. I had hoped to get the humongous desk under cover before the storm hit, but he wasn’t having it. He wanted his information, so I tried to throw it at him quickly. He failed to get it all and told me to repeat. Just then, the wind crashed through my open window and sent the desk flying. I told him I wasn’t going to die for his information and to write more quickly next time. I disconnected and dove for cover—after closing the window and making sure I knew where the dog was.
Buh-bye desk. Fortunately, that was the only damage. Sigh. It was a nice desk. Past tense.
Screw it. Off to the dump with what’s left. Sounds like a job for super husband and his trusty sidekick, the princess. He was not pleased. When he started to argue, I gave him the look. I think I’ve explained in a previous post about the look. It’s enough to drop the most stalwart of men and children in their tracks. Funny how it doesn’t work on other mothers, though. Anyway, he clamped his mouth shut and hollered for the kid to help. They were off, and I was scraping ceilings again. Oh, what sheer joy. Before and after work, scrape ceilings. Remove things from walls, scrape ceilings. Patch holes, repair cracks, scrape ceilings. Sand patches, scrape ceilings. The walls are now ready for painting, but first, the ceilings have to be painted.
In the bathroom, I used the same paint I’d used in the other rooms. For the living room, I wanted something a little more dull and flat, so I bought a different kind. Today was the day. Today I was going to get my new countertops delivered. Today.
I took today off so I could be ready for the installers. I also had to paint the damned ceiling in the living room.
O . . . kay. So the day did not go so well. The installers arrived on time. The plumbers arrived yesterday to disconnect everything. I had spent a couple of hours clearing everything out of the way and removing items from cabinets. Bar stools and chairs were carried out to make room, and I was ready. They showed—two very nice gentlemen with winning smiles and good attitudes. I knew this was going to be great. I was excited. Face it; the old counters are more than 40 years old. They are a hideous wood-grain laminate that is currently disintegrating into horror. My horror. Embarrassing horror. No way I’m cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for the multitudes with this mess.
They pulled all the counters out. There was much noise. There was much grunting; then they began pulling things out. I should also mention that I told them about the nightmare of getting all the cabinets and walls repaired and painted, and I told them the penalty should they mar same. They were very careful.
Then they brought in the first new piece and put it in place. It was gorgeous. I was so pleased. While they were outside wrestling with the really big, main piece, I decided to look inside the now-exposed corner lazy susans. Well, I discovered where the mice had gotten into the kitchen last year during the first freeze. I also discovered where they had nested and grabbed the vacuum. I had it all cleaned up and had returned to my work in the living room by the time they had returned.
They came through the front door with a behemoth of a counter top. I stopped them. That wasn’t the sink I had ordered. It was wrong. I glanced at my naked kitchen with no plumbing. I looked back at them. Their faces fell. They were no longer smiling. They looked at the orders. Yep, the sink was wrong. The massive manufactured, fitted stone counter top had the wrong sink, and I was less than pleased. I tried to remain cool about it, but I didn’t want it. There was a real reason I had ordered the perfect sink. I needed it.
A few phone calls later, the crestfallen men loaded the thing back onto the truck. They decided to bring back that hideous old piece of crap I wanted so badly to be rid of and set it in place—leaving one stretch of cabinets with no cover at all.
Now, I have no plumbing, one missing counter and old, dilapidated crap. Not. Going. To. Tear. Their. Hearts. Out.
Shake it off. Paint the ceiling. Yell at the manager later.
So, back to that different paint I bought. Um . . . Dutch Boy, what the hell were you thinking? You tried to “out-technology” the competitors. You should have just stuck to making paint. Why do you have to make something with “color-changing technology?”
Here’s what happened. I used all the paint—ALL the paint—on just one third of the ceiling. I ran out while I was applying the third coat on one corner. Yes, I said third coat. The paint didn’t cover well at all. When it changed color from the hideous pink to what was supposed to be a flat white, it turned light brown. Well, hell. My old, popcorn-flocked ceilings were brown. That’s why I had gone to all the trouble of scraping them off.
Off to the store to find something better. I talked to the paint guru. He recommended a different Dutch Boy. I had used this brand many times and had always been happy, but I was leery. Still, I took it home and got to work. In most places, it only took one coat. I really like that. In most places.
I was almost finished when a large glob of paint dripped and hit me square in the right eye. Let me tell you, people; there is no hell like the ninth ring of paint clinging to your eyeball. There is no known eyewash that can remove same. The horror! The humanity! The cursing . . . I invented words. My eye currently looks like a large cranberry with a brown spot in the center. Grand.
Back to work. I finished at last, or so I thought. The now-dry technological failure kept bleeding through on the first third. No matter how good the rest of it looked, that first third looked dirty.
Okay, another major disappointment. The sun was down, and I was tired. I called it done for the day. I decided to let it go until Saturday when Mom is to come to help me paint walls. I would just do a quick coat and move on to walls.
I took up tarps. I took a shower. I moved remaining furniture around to make it livable.
Then I looked up. I heard a sound faintly reminiscent of dried leaves crackling and looked up. I should never have looked up. The ugly brown bleed-through paint was cracking. It was flaking. It was falling. The only place on the ceiling it was doing it was where that first gallon of crappy “high-technology” paint was bleeding through. Apparently, the only thing the paint doesn’t stick to is ceilings. No, really. It’s true.
It clings to my skin, which I have scrubbed raw, my hair where it has become permanent, the hardwood floor where it was tracked by the husband, and the inside of my right eyelid, where it is still burning. If you put it on your ceiling, it just comes off in big flakes.
I’m going to let Mom deal with it. I also have half a mind to sic her on the counter top people. I’m so done.
I also broke my crock pot.
And I’m out of tequila.