Home Improvement Part 8

Home Improvements, Part 8

This is part 8 in a sequence. If you want to begin at the beginning, you can go to Part 1. The following shows the contents for this and adjacent parts.

Part 7 (separate page)
  • Wallpaper removal, etc.
  • New Roof
  • Pool resurface
Part 8 (this page) Part 9 (separate page)
  • Guest Bath Refresh
  • ...

(initial section posted 2/26/19)

Closet Repairs - Popcorn Removal

It was just about a year ago (at the time I'm writing this) that I was working on the "Minimization Challenge", which you may recall was triggered by my closet "explosion"-- a broken shelf that required repair. You know how they say bad things come in threes? Well, that seems to be the case with closet repairs, because in the last year I've also had to repair two other closets, both because of roof leaks causing popcorn ceiling damage. One was in the craft room (that was the leak that triggered getting the new roof) (pic at left). The other was in the other walk-in closet in the master bedroom (pic at right). Interestingly, that one had made its first appearance not long after we first moved into the house. At that time, we simply had the popcorn repaired; I don't recall any associated roof leak (I think they may have looked but didn't find anything obvious). It was many, many years (like maybe 20?) before I saw any evidence of the leak returning, and I thought perhaps it had been just an aberration. But it did return, just a couple of years ago. At first it was just a stain, but eventually it, too, started dropping pieces of the popcorn, so was gonna need real repair. As with that first leak in the garage roof, I decided it made sense the get rid of the popcorn. The closets were relatively small, contained spaces, so I figured I could do it myself. The tricky part would be emptying out each closet, because popcorn removal is very, very messy and it's important to clean everything out of the area that you can.

Now, the closet that was done a year ago, I'll call that closet #1 for the purposes of the story. Closet #1 needed just a shelf repair, so I only needed to remove the stuff that was on that shelf. However, I did need to find another closet to put the hanging stuff in, which I will call the staging closet. But before I could move the hanging stuff from closet #1, I had to make room in the staging closet by moving the stuff from its floor and shelf onto the floor elsewhere in the room... which meant another mess that would need to be cleaned up later. Then, prompted by the Minimization Challenge and my need to downsize, I took extra time to edit the stuff I was moving around. And once I started doing that, it made sense to continue to work through the other shelves in closet #1. (It's a walk-in closet, so it has a lot of shelf space.)

So that's why, even though the initial repair on closet #1 happened very quickly, when the new leak in the craft room closet (which I'll call closet #2) appeared 5 months later, I wasn't finished with closet #1. I was still in the process of going through it, cleaning and minimizing, a small section at a time. Fortunately it was completely functional, so it was no problem to find a convenient stopping point and call a hiatus on that project, to allow myself to focus on the leak problems in the other 2 closets.

I decided to start with closet #2, because

Alas, it didn't make sense to actually complete the repair until the roof was repaired enough to stop the leaks. But there was a lot of planning and prep work to do first anyway, the bulk of which was going to be getting the closet totally emptied.

Closet #2 had almost 2 feet more hanging space than the staging closet, and it was packed very tightly. Also, the staging closet still had stuff in it from the partly-done closet #1 process. I'd decided it would be a good place, even for the long term, to "stage" clothing that I intended to sell on eBay or similar. So, even with some pre-editing of the stuff, and packing the staging closet as much as I dared to, I still had to find a few extra feet of hanging space in order to be able to totally empty closet #2. There actually was some room in closet #3, although I needed to move a bunch of boxes that were stacked on the floor for that space to be usable, and the only place I could put the boxes was elsewhere on the floor of the master bedroom... sigh. The level of disarray in the house was getting worse.

But, closet #2 did get emptied, just about the time work was progressing on the roof, so I was ready to start work on the popcorn. First I made sure to check online for videos and tips for how to do popcorn removal. Some of them suggested attaching a scraper to a shop vac to help suck up the debris as you work, which seemed like it might be a good idea. I did have a small shop vac but decided against using it because I thought it would be difficult to wrangle the vac in the tight spaces of my very-cluttered craft room. Since the ceiling area being scraped was pretty small, I figured I'd let the debris fall where it may and I'd just clean it up when I was done. Otherwise I basically followed the directions of wetting the popcorn first to make it easier to scrape, and it was tedious, but went pretty smoothly (interim pic at right).

The next step was patching a couple of damaged spots, and sanding. That went pretty well. There were a couple of areas mostly near the corners that were just difficult to get as smooth as I wanted, and I had to remind myself it was just a ceiling inside a small closet and nobody else was ever going to look at it as closely as I was looking at it and I needed to let them be.

Then I had to clean up the debris, it was messier than I had expected... all over the wire shelf as well as the floor, and a mix of big chunks as well as fine dust... and the dust tended to get tracked around. I'd need to do something better with closet #3.

Then, prime and paint. Because it was bare drywall, I first used a sealer/primer (which I'd learned about from Chaz, the home painter). That stuff doesn't provide any color though. I had some leftover spray primer/paint that had worked so well for hiding simple stains (as opposed to actual damage) on the popcorn, and tried using it as basic ceiling paint, but I guess because it's a spray, it didn't provide sufficient coverage. So, regular ceiling paint with a brush and roller it was. Small space, went quickly, and ended up looking good:

It took less than a week (in mid-Sept 2018) to complete the repair after I'd gotten the closet emptied out. Of course I had to take the opportunity, while the space was clear, to clean the shelf and the floor. Then began the far more tedious task of putting stuff back, and of course editing it down in the process. I obviously couldn't start on closet #3 until most of the stuff from closet #2 was put back or otherwise dealt with.

In thinking about closet #3, I figured I'd probably need to allocate at least a full week time span where there was little else going on. I figured around Christmas-New Year's time should work, so that was the plan.

As the time approached, I needed to clear out closet #3. There were a lot of boxes on the floor, which I figured I could easily move to the floor elsewhere in the house just before I started the actual repair work. As usual, the difficult part was going to be the hanging stuff... and this closet had maybe twice as much stuff as closet #2. I was pretty much done with the editing of closet #2, but hadn't had much opportunity to sell or otherwise attempt to process the designated "staged" stuff, so the staging closet still had a goodly amount of stuff in it (including, still, staged stuff from closet #1). I ended up moving the staged stuff from closet #1 into the office closet (small amount of space, but small amount of stuff), then the staged stuff from closet #2 onto a portable rack that I put into the dance room, then I stuffed the staging closet as much as I could. I had a section of dance practicewear on hangers, but since it was all wrinkle-resistant, I just piled it on a big chair in the master bedroom. There was still a couple feet of hanging stuff left, so I cleared off the rack in the laundry room for it (some of the stuff there was actually being staged from before I came up with the concept of a staging closet). At this point, I pretty much had every other closet in the house packed, and then some. After I'd moved the boxes out as well, the clutter level of the house was stressing me out. But closet #3 was empty and I was ready to start on schedule.

This time I was a bit smarter. I put down a disposable dropcloth to catch most of the debris. Also, I had seen a YouTube vid that showed a gadget (which I got from Home Depot) that was basically a scraper with a gizmo mounted on it that allowed you to attach a small garbage bag to catch stuff. It did help some, but the scraper was a bit awkward and tended to be harder to use over the rougher spots (like the seams in the drywall). I think the dropcloth was far more help in terms of reducing the messiness. (Interim pic at right.)

Once I got started, again, everything went pretty smoothly. Of course, I had to work more hours each day (compared to closet #2) because of the larger area, but the basic process was pretty similar: scrape, patch, sand, prime, paint. Interestingly, the area where the visible damage had been had no real damage underneath and so didn't need any extra patching work. However, there was an area near the A/C duct where there was some pretty bad damage that had been totally hidden by the popcorn surface. That required 3-4 cycles of patch-and-sand before it looked OK. And I still had to remind myself this was just a closet ceiling, so it didn't need to be perfect.

Finished pics below. The first pic is where the original visible damage was; the second is where the "discovered" damage was.


Then it was just cleanup and putting stuff back. As mentioned, the dropcloth helped the debris cleanup. As I write this (late Feb.) the putting-back is still going on though, for the usual reasons of trying to edit stuff while I'm at it. At least I've got most of the extreme overflow processed so my stress level is back at a more normal level.

(following section added 11/29/19)

Window Treatments - South Wing

After the roof was done and I had a chance to get back to relative normalcy, I needed to get moving on the next couple of things on my list, the first of which to get done was getting new vertical blinds put up in the south part of the house, because the old ones had all been removed when the wallpaper was removed and the walls repainted. It didn't make sense to put the old blinds right back up because every single one of them had something broken about it (they were original with the house so that's not surprising) and I knew I needed to replace them. The old blinds had been taken down in the family area back in 2017 (pic at left) and the main area in 2018, but here it was, 2019, and I still had temporary things in the windows and nothing at all on the sliding glass doors. The sliders open to the the fenced-in back yard, so privacy was not a really major issue, but it was about time.

The hardest part was picking a company to do it, but once I did (the one I chose was called Boca Blinds) everything went pretty smoothly. They came over and measured and a few weeks later my new blinds were completed and they came back and installed them (see "after" pic at right of family room). I'd been living so long with the incomplete windows I was surprised how nice and "finished" they ended up looking.

The original blinds had been white, but for the new ones I got an off-white to better match the walls. Also, the new ones have mini-valances on top to hide the mechanisms (which you can see in the "after" pic at right).

Following are "before" and "after" pics of the sliding glass door in the main area.


The office and guest room (in the north part of the house) still have their old vertical blinds, and those need to be replaced also, but those rooms aren't in a state where that can be done just yet.

Side Door Replacement

The second thing I needed to get done after the roof repairs was to replace the side door, as I mentioned when I painted it back in 2015 or so. Below are pics of what the door was looking like in early 2019:


I decided to go with The Doorman again, because I'd been happy with his work on the hurricane doors (back in 2007, wow!) It took a while for the door to be ready and to schedule with the installer, but finally in mid-August I had a new door:


(following section added 5/10/20)

House Painting

I'd been needing to get the house exterior painted ever since the roof was done, not just because it needed some freshening up, but also to address some specific issues:

So once the side door was installed, I got a good lead on someone to do the painting, and signed them up. They did a good job, and by early November 2019, I had a new paint job-- the same colors as before, but fresh and clean and with the issues fixed. The following pic shows the same corner as the previous "before" photo (although not quite the same angle).

You may note I got the back door painted while they were at it; it seemed to make sense. And here's a couple of pics of the (new) side door after painting; compare with the pics in the previous section of it right after installation.


Odds and Ends: Gutters, Patching...


As the roofers replaced any bad fascia, they took down the gutters where needed. But they left the rest of the gutters up. That meant I'd need to get those remaining pieces down before the exterior painting work started, so that the painter could properly paint all the fascia. But I figured I'd better get them down sooner than that or the HOA would be even crankier than they were with just the color difference. So, pretty much as soon as the roofers were done, I enlisted the help of a friend and we got those extra gutter pieces down. (You can see some of them in a pile by the door in the "before painting" pic, above.) We were planning to take them to a scrap metal place, but as of the time I write this, that hasn't happened yet.

In any case, once the painter was done, I needed to get new gutters put up, which I did (used the same company as did them originally, however many years ago that was). I didn't get a picture, though, mainly because the gutters are brown to match the fascia so any pic would look almost the same as the pic without the gutters.

Brick Patch

For some reason, after the house was painted, there was a good-size hole in the brick across the front wall of the house, right in the center. (It's not real brick, it's faux brick done with stucco, so it was stucco damage.) I don't think it was there before the painters were there, but they said they didn't know where it came from. I do suspect it happened when they were pressure-cleaning the wall, but it's possible there was some defect or damage that the pressure cleaning just made obvious and worsened. In any case, I figured it wouldn't be too hard to fix.

I went to Home Depot to get some Stucco Patch, and used a scraper to push it into the hole area, trying to form the brick shapes as best I could, using my fingers as needed. I didn't think to get a pic of the hole before I started, but this pic of my first pass over it with the stucco will give you an idea how big the damaged area was:

There are still some small gaps in the above pic, which you can probably see. It did take a couple of layers of the stucco patch to get it filled in acceptably. Then it takes 3 days before it's fully cured.

Meanwhile I'd also picked up some paint samples when I was at Home Depot of what might be considered "brick" colors, and compared them to the actual brick colors to see what would fit in closest. I picked a color called "Pizza Pie" and got a sample-sized can of it. I figured I could use some leftover brown paint from the house to add some color variation.

So, after the curing time was up (I was pleasantly surprised to see how nice and hard it had gotten; I thought it felt weirdly soft, kinda spongy, when I was working the second layer of the stucco), I went out with my paints to try and make it look like brick. I also needed to use some acrylic paints to get the "mortar" to look gray--the raw stucco was awfully pale, as you can see in the earlier picture. In any case, I was pretty pleased with the results (below). I don't think anyone would notice if they didn't already know it was there.

Ceiling Patches

I'd become aware of a couple of dirty-looking spots on the ceiling. Both of them were near a corner of an A/C vent, and looked kinda like dirt gathering on the popcorn ceiling texture, possibly from blowing out the vent. (Although if that's the explanation, I can't quite figure out why only 2 vents of the 16 or so that are in the house would have this issue. Maybe there were cobwebs up there at some point, or something, who knows?)

In any case, these dirty spots were bothering me, and I tried dusting them a little bit without any result, and you don't want to do that too hard with the popcorn texture because it's easily damaged. So I decided to paint over them, using the same "Covers Up" upward-spraying ceiling paint that I had previously used with good results on a couple of small leak stains that had appeared on the ceiling before the roof was repaired.

Because you're spraying up with this thing, you need to be extra careful to mask off anything that might get overspray, which means dropcloths on the floor, masking off any nearby walls from ceiling to floor, along with any nearby furniture, and in this case, the applicable A/C vent. Pic at right shows the upper part of the masking I did (using scrap paper and plastic bags for the masking) for one of the spots. I know this really isn't a terribly interesting project, but it amuses me that it takes less than 5 minutes to actually spray the stain away, but probably like an hour to put up all the masking.

(following section added 5/16/20)

New Fence

My old fence was showing its age --the pic at left is from 2010 (I think), when I had just completed repairs after hurricane damage; now it was 10 years older still. I was planning to replace it (even before the homeowners association complained), but I thought, logistically, that I should wait until after the house was painted. But before that happened, my (very nice) next-door neighbors decided to install a swimming pool. They first had to remove the ficus hedge along our property line to enable equipment access to the pool work area. Once the work was done, they would put up their own fence around their back yard.

So of course, I figured I should wait until their work was basically completed so I could make sure we coordinated what we did along our mutual property line. Finally, in mid-February 2020, things came together and I contacted a company called "Fences Done Right," which had been recommended by another neighbor. They were able to start right away, and they removed and disposed of the old fence and built the new fence in like 2 days.

The results look really good. (1st pic below, same basic area of the fence as the "before" pic above left; 2nd pic shows a detail of the nice new gate, which has a metal frame to hold it together.)


I'll also mention that this new fence, along with the circumstance of coordinating with the neighbors, also nicely addressed an issue we'd had with the fence since we first moved in. The fence originally connected to the house in such a way that it left one window of the master bathroom exposed to the neighbors-- the window right where the tub is, no less. We'd insisted they fix the problem so there would be better privacy in the bathroom before we moved in. But of course they fixed it in the cheapest possible way they could, which resulted in the fence having an odd "L" shape to it. It did address the privacy issue, but it never looked quite "right" and it did cause some issues related to landscaping. We soon added the ficus hedge along that side of the house, which helped the odd appearance, but it also meant we couldn't change the positioning of the fence when it came time to replace it some years later.

So now with the hedge removed and the neighbor with a new fence along the property line, I had better options. So this part of the fence is now connected to the house between the master bedroom and the sewing/craft room. It looks much better, and the whole master bedroom area now has the additional privacy of being inside the fence. I did have to fix up the wall area where the old fence was attached when the house was being painted, but I had the leftover stucco patch and the leftover house paint, so that was no problem.


Continue to Part 9


Return to Part 7
Restart at Part 1

   Return home