Learning by doing

by jenny on 12 November 2012 - 09:53pm

The journey toward a beautiful living space isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes it’s downright dirty.

Worse, sometimes you have to pour your blood, sweat, and tears into repairing some dilapidated part of your space just to bring it back to “normal”. And no one even notices the fruits of your labor!

But you’ll know. And this is your space. The space you live in every day. So it’s totally worth it.

And you could always start a blog in order to show the world the whole story… ha! :)

Remember this picture of my shower?


See that innocuous-looking area above the window? Betcha had no idea it used to look like this.


Actually, it used to look worse than this. This is an older project from before I started the blog (with crappy image quality, more on that here) and I didn’t take a proper before picture. Imagine this scene speckled generously with black mold to get an idea of what I started with.

“But isn’t this a rental?” you ask. Why yes, it is. Allow me to explain.

A couple of years ago, I bought a house in Albuquerque. (1500 square feet for $112k!! Yeah, I know. Unbelievable.) I purposefully chose a place that could use a bit of work. You know, some ugly linoleum floors here and there, a countertop that had seen better days, etc. I figured it would give me a good excuse to learn some home improvement skills.

I settled in with all the best intentions, and even took an afternoon tiling class at the Home Depot. But when it came down to it, I could never bring myself to rip up that ugly yet perfectly intact linoleum in order to put down something better. I worried I’d ruin what I had and then would encounter some obstacle while tiling and end up with no bathroom floor at all and have to spend a zillion dollars calling in a professional who’d probably mock my efforts. Or something.

I ended up living there for three years and took on very few of the projects I’d imagined myself doing.

So back to my bathroom window… someday, I’d like to own a house again. And when that time comes, I’ll be just as overwhelmed by all the home improvement tasks I don’t know how to do as I was the first time around. Unless I do some hands-on learning in the meantime. So while I could call the landlords for every little thing that goes wrong, I prefer to think of them as learning opportunities. With the landlords as backup. You know, kind of like calling in the professionals except it’s free. :)

As I said, the picture above is a couple of steps into the cleanup process. The first step was to google what to do with mold. Followed by spraying down the area with white vinegar, waiting 15 minutes, wiping it down with a damp cloth, and then repeating the process. This did make the paint peeling problem worse, but I had to do something about that anyway. If you’re doing something similar, you may want to try a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar instead and hope it doesn’t hurt the paint. Let it thoroughly dry.


Next step: google what to do with all that peeling paint (update: looks like that article no longer exists), followed by a few practice scrapes with my putty knife.


Yep, seems easy enough. Continue until all the loose paint has been removed.


And you’ve made a giant mess.


One nice thing about badly peeling paint: it’s easy to get a sample to have color-matched to new paint!

Wipe it all down well with a damp cloth and allow to thoroughly dry.

From here, the article said to sand and re-paint, but the area was so crumbled and uneven I knew that wasn’t going to work. I turned to YHL for advice on smoothing out wall imperfections before painting and got out the same spackling I used to patch up those screw holes in my bedroom wall.

It’s hard to tell in the photos, but the edges of this area were actually on a different plane than the center. That is, it was concave. A mini arch, if you will, though not an intentional one. After applying most of my pint of spackling with a 6” plastic putty knife, I finally had everything on the same plane and the crumbling spots were filled in. Things were looking a little better. Though in this picture, the spackling is blotchy because it’s still drying.


Next up: tape off the area with painter’s tape.


And paint with your color-matched paint.


Wait an hour, apply a second coat, and immediately remove the painter’s tape while it’s still wet for a crisp line.


If all goes well, in the morning it should look like nothing exciting has gone on and things have always been this way.


Ha! But you’ll know better. Queue the happy dancing.