Time warp remodel

Oh my god you guys, I have my own sewing room. It doesn’t look like much just yet, as I only moved things in this weekend but it is so incredibly awesome and gratifying to not only have my own sewing room, but to have remodeled it ourselves (with some help).

This whole process started Thanksgiving weekend 2011. What began as a pre-dinner conversation with my dad about our plans to tear out the carpet and put in a new vinyl composition tile floor, turned into nearly a complete overhaul of the room. My dad said, “While you’re redoing the floor, you should really tear out the ceiling.” Which turned into redoing the insulation. And then adding some recessed lights. And the discovery that the old wiring down was too terrifying to live with any longer. So we called our electrician, Jason, and he re-wired the room for us.

Then there was the concern about leaving the old asbestos tiles underneath the new ones. Not only was the floor lumpy, but Joey just couldn’t feel right about me spending so much time in a place that had asbestos sitting below, ominously dormant. So we called in an asbestos abatement professional, Al at Axsis Construction, who did a fantastic job and was really great to work with. Anyhow, all of this brings us to President’s Day weekend, when we finally put the floor tiles in and finished the room.

This was our biggest project at the new house and it was a great learning experience and a lot of hard work and fun. My dad helped us with 90% of it, acting as our “foreman” making sure we didn’t screw things up. The helpful people at OSH, HomeDepot and Lowes also provided lots of advice and instruction on things neither of us had tackled before. You know how they have those commercials where overwhelmed new homeowners come in asking some guy in an apron how to put in complicated flooring or somesuch and they give them all kinds of advice and help them through the process? Well, it’s a real thing. I know, ridiculous. Truth in Advertising. WTF.

Below is our photo diary of the remodel.

This is the room when we bought the house. Ugly indoor/outdoor 70’s carpet, some strange grandma-esque hurricane lamps (and not “grandma” in a good way) and gross old pressboard ceiling tiles. Tiles not pictured, but trust me, they were gross and needed to be retired.

The closet also houses a sump pump as the room apparently leaks in heavy rains. We discovered how badly this leaks during the remodel after an especially torrential downpour led to about a foot of standing water in the pump well and several little puddles on the floor. This was really disconcerting to me, but after consulting my with Portland-dwelling friend Thomas, who knows a thing or two about rain, he suggested I redirect the downspouts away from the house and seal any cracks that could be letting water in. Advice taken and so far, it’s been dry as a bone down there. Thanks, Thomas!

But first things first, we had to demo the floor and ceiling. This was a gross and dirty process, but strangely satisfying to just tear the shit out your house.

This is the ceiling after the electrician had rewired the room and my dad and Joey installed new recessed lights. We went for the old square style as they felt the most “rumpus room” to me. They also matched the style of the one original light that was in there.

The asbestos removal left the room smelling pretty strongly of solvent, so we covered the floor in kitty litter for a week.

When it was all cleaned up, the floor was looking much better than we expected.

Before we put the adhesive down, we mapped out the floor tiles to maximize tile usage. This was especially important, since in a fit of conservationist guilt, I ordered exactly the number of tiles we needed. I’m not kidding, we had ONE tile left over. I don’t really recommend doing this, but it worked out for us so I guess there’s a happy ending. One thing to remember with VCT tiles is to lay them out perpendicular to each other so there’s a kind of checkerboard pattern of the grain of the tile. It may not seem like it’s that visible at first, but it really pays off in the end.

We had a couple of tricky corners to navigate around, so instead of trying to cut an impossible narrow slot in one tile, we sawed a small notch out of the bottom. You can see some of the old water damage here on the wood.

And then we put down the adhesive. I’ve put in tile before, but always the peel-and-stick kind. I was legitimately intimidated but the prospect of have to trowel down adhesive, let it semi-dry and then place the hard and somewhat brittle tiles on our lumpy cement floor. We went slow though and did a small section first.

What we learned is that this is about three times the amount of adhesive you need.

We put the rest of the adhesive on much less thick and let it dry overnight. It felt like a leap of faith that it wouldn’t be completely dry and unusable, but come morning, it was perfect.

See how the opaque glue has turned mostly clear? It’s tile laying time!

My husband is a badass.

Did I mention there is a blowtorch involved? Yeah. Since the tiles are hard and don’t conform to any contours in your surface (which we had in spades) you have to heat up the tiles with a blowtorch and press them down into the contours of the floor. This was my job. I am a badass too.

Incidentally, this photo totally makes me think of those Soul Train dancers with the exaggerated hats and short pants. You know the ones? I am so fucking fly.

This is how the tiles look once they have been mushed into the floor. The tiles are a little gappy in parts, but since this was our first go at this, I figured we were doing all right.

Once we got the floor in, it was time to put in the baseboards. This project added an air compressor and nail gun to our toolbox. Putting in moldings and baseboards sucks ass without one of these.

Here we are having just finished the room! Exhausted and elated. I don’t know why Joey is yelling at the door either.

Here’s the floor, pre-sealing. You have to seal/polish VCT floor tiles. They get scuffed and scratched to hell if you don’t. It’s really easy to do too. Basically just like moping the floor. You can buff it when it dries and make it shine like a motherfucker, but we didn’t want to add that to our timeline so we left them unbuffed. They look fine without.

The floor, with wet polish on it.

And after it dried.

So that’s my sewing room. We kind had to laugh when we saw the finished product, because it looks like we didn’t do anything to it. I mean, it looks like it must have back in 1950 when the original owners built this room in the first place. Which is pretty great. I’ve always wanted to do one of those types of restoration remodels. Now that I have, I can attest to how gratifying it is to restore something to its original glory. I’ve got another project ahead of me of actually decorating it, but I’m just so happy to have my own sewing room now.

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