Category Archives: Renovations on a Dime

The 70’s are calling, they want their wood paneling back!

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Ahhh yes, the classic “never should have happened” fetish that is wood paneling. WHO ever thought this was a great idea?! It is ugly, makes any room feel like an absolute dark cave, lets no light in, and gives you a feeling that your walls are closing in on you.

*facepalm*

You can imagine our delight when we toured what is now our home and saw this. Here come the “before” photos. Brace yourselves, it’s bad. Like, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad awful. Paneling come at you in 3…2…1…Image

Check out that sunburst fixture. HELLO 1960’s! I loved it for about a day and then saw the light. It then became a fun game between us and our friends who own a house one neighborhood away, where we’d each drop it off at the other’s house in weird places and pass it back and forth. It was fun for about a week until I put it at the curb. I digress! Here’s the back end of the room, so that you get the full effect of this loveliness:

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UGH. I can’t even. This room is 25 feet long, and that is a lot of wood paneling.

So, when faced with this, you’ve got 3 options:

1.) Leave it alone (option 1 is for those with rocks in their head, don’t pick option 1).

2.) Paint over it using a quality bonding primer with a good paint.

3.) Take it down.

Here are the possible issues with option 3:

*You have NO clue what is behind it. There may or not be drywall underneath it. If so, it may be damaged and you may not be able to salvage it. If you get lucky, there is drywall under it in good condition and you can paint. Again, this is a risk. If you choose this, be fully prepared to hire out a contractor to re-rock/re-drywall the whole room. THIS, friends, doesn’t come cheap. We know this firsthand (more on that hot mess at a later date).

If you didn’t already deduce it, we chose option 2. And to be perfectly honest, I am thrilled that we did. If you buy the right materials, it’s a great-looking, dirt-cheap update that completely transforms a room. There is no comparison. I hated how dark and cavernous the paneling made our den, which is large with a stunning white brick and silestone fireplace and tons of space. It kind of ruined it. In our minds, while looking at the catastrophe that was the paneling, the only solution was “WHITE!”.

Those who know me well were surprised by this. I like my walls neutral and unexpected color pops in my decor, but I can’t stand white walls. Looking at the room, however, it’s exactly what we envisioned. A beautiful, soft white that would lighten, brighten, and cheer up the room! Semi-gloss paint is (in my humble opinion) way too shiny to use over paneling, so Jeff and I chose an eggshell finish.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty (and photos), I will tell you that painting paneling is not a pleasant task, and is much more irritating than painting flat drywall. But the end result is completely worthwhile. Another thing that shocked me was how much I truly loved the texture/look of the paneling after painting. I am a texture-person all the way, and I find it so pleasing to look at.

The first thing to do is get yourself a good bonding primer. It’s worth its weight in gold and is one of the most underrated renovation products on the market (more on the joys of bonding primer at a later date). It negates the need for sanding or “roughing up” the paneling, and provides a surface that your paint can adhere to. It’s going to give you strong, long-lasting wear. We used Valspar’s, and it’s fabulous:

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As for materials, the best ones for this job are a few different sizes of trim brushes (my local dollar store carries them 3 to a pack (multiple sizes) for $1). You need this for the trim and for between the grooves in the panels (which is a pain in the you-know-what). You’ll also need rollers. Just, please, whatever you do…NEVER use foam/sponge rollers. Foam rollers equal air and bubbles. Here’s a photo of the priming (the rockstar in this photo who helped me tackle this room is my best friend of nearly 24 years, Kerrie):Image

And here we go again:Image

As you can see, my side is a lot heavier. I have a heavier hand with paint than she does, but it all came out even and beautiful in the end. You can already see what a difference it will make in this one small section with the soft white paint on it:Image

It’s already a thousand times improved, no?

If you take on this project, make sure to paint your trim and baseboard, and be sure to get between all of the grooves. Any uneven or falling parts of molding can be nailed back in or up, or caulked for a seamless finish. Hubby went around caulking in here once all was finished. My sister is great at trim and got both the bonding primer and a first coat of paint on all the trim in the room! This space was a true team-effort, and I am so thankful. I can’t say it was fun, but painting this room did turn into a singalong and dance party (typical in our house)!

So to recap, This is what we inherited (also note the “magical” polished brass ceiling fan that has since been replaced):

ImageAnd this fabulous room is what we’ve got now:Image

Image(And in the back of the room, we opted to set up a game table):Image

Here’s a pulled-back view of the room, with my “daughter” hanging out and walking around (you can see a glimpse of our nice, new rubbed-bronze fan, too):Image

And remember the bizarre 60’s sunburst-looking fixture as the centerpiece for the fireplace? Here is the mantle now:Image

See what I mean about the texture of painted paneling being nice? The soft white paint we used (Olympic’s “Delicate White”) ended up being just what we needed. It feels comfy, bright, and inviting in here now. All for the cost of paint and some materials! Such a complete and utter transformation!

The future of this room includes ripping out the carpet and putting down a nice laminate at a later date. For now, I am living with the carpet.

As always, the price comparison of DIY VS Professional:

DIY: About $100 for paint and supplies

Professional: At the low end for priming and painting the room, you’ll see about $750-800. On the higher (and likely more realistic) end: You’re up over $1,000. If you want a pro to take it down, prime and paint existing drywall, you are over $1,000. If they remove bad drywall behind the panels and have to re-rock the room, you’re now in multi-thousands.

Once again, DIY is dynamite.

Hello, hardwood!

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Okay. So, you’ve just bought a house that is covered in carpet. Maybe it’s nice carpet, maybe it’s musty, old, stained carpet. Either way, it’s not what you want. You find out that there is hardwood underneath them.

That is really the luckiest scenario. If they’re in any kind of shape, it’s a whole, WHOLE lot easier to refinish them than to lay new wood throughout your home. Granted, you take the risk of them possibly being in bad condition when you tear out the carpet, but it’s the only way to do it. I will admit that, although not our style, we had very nice, plush, clearly pricey carpet throughout our home when we bought it. It didn’t matter, because once we knew there was “amber gold” under there (my nerdy husband’s phrase), we were itching to get started. We couldn’t wait to get rid of this:Image

And this:

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And THIS (YUCK…REALLY?!)

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THAT is what we were working with. The photos make me cringe. Now, we were prepared to outlay the expense of new flooring if we had to, if the wood couldn’t be saved or was in too bad of shape. Fortunately, we got lucky beyond our wildest dreams, because the floor was in a much better condition than we could have hoped for! The first step, is cutting the carpet with a razor into manageable “sections” to then rip out. We tag-teamed this job and pulled together. Teamwork makes it easier! Here is Jeff pulling up the first piece of carpet in the house:

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(Cute, isn’t he).

See the oddly-colored foam stuff under the actual carpet? That is the pad, the insulation. Sometimes it’s super easy to pull up, sometimes the installer goes adhesive-happy and you have to all but scrape it off. Either way, it has to go. Once you pull up the carpet and the foam, you will notice you are left with tac-strips around the perimeter (that hold the carpet in place), and what appears to be about 3 million staples. Brace yourself, this is the WORST part! There’s no short-cut to be learned here, you just have to get yourself a good pair of locking pliers and pick them ALL out. Some will fight you, too! You can always go back if you miss one, but it is so important that you do a thorough job of staple removal before you sand, because nothing tears up sandpaper and screens like stubborn, evil staples. Here is our tac-strip garden/collection (that very happy man is my new across-the-street ne.Image

A fair warning: The worst part area in the house for carpet removal WILL be the stairs. You will need to pull and rip with all your might because It will really be on there! Or, like us, you have a beast of a brother-in-law who yanks it out for you…thanks, Steve!

Once the carpet is gone, you have pulled out the staples, and you have removed the tac-strips, you’re ready to refinish. You’ve got several options. Our home is a 1965 center-hall colonial, and they nearly always had oak hardwood and (for whatever reason) pine stairs. I am a huge fan of oak hardwood because of its grain, beauty, and durability. You can choose to change the color of the floor with a stain, which only adds an extra step and more drying time…or, you can leave the wood its natural color and skip to the poly after you sand. Our floor was 50+ years old, and we decided to leave it its natural color.

Onto sanding: You can rent the sander at your local Home Depot. Usually, an orbital sander is used for deep sanding. We chose a drum sander, because we were able to get away with more of a good “scuff” than a deep sand. DON’T sand too much, you don’t want to wear away too much of the wood, which is especially true in an older home. Best practice is always to sand in long strokes, with the grain. This will bring out your floor’s natural beauty. For stairs, you can use a small hand-sander, which will make the job easy for you. We own one, but you can rent one. Here’s the drum sander:

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(I was SO happy to have hardwood floors).

Here is what sanding the stairs looks like with the hand-sander:

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Once you’ve sanded the whole area, and are down to bare wood, it’s time to vacuum up the dust. We found that a shop-vac was perfect for this job:Image

Your next choice to make is going to be what type of poly you want. Decide whether you want a gloss or semi-gloss finish. We chose semi in the bedrooms and gloss everywhere else but most people choose between the two. You can go with oil-based or water-based poly. I’ll break each option down for you:

Oil-Often more durable, a bit more scratch-resistant, much higher fumes, and slow drying time. Oil-based poly will “amber” over time, darkening your floor. For some, this is a great thing and a look they enjoy, because it will eventually accomplish what a coat of stain might have.

Water-based: fast-drying (a matter of hours per coat), low fumes, and will NOT darken over time or change the color of the floor. You can walk on it 24 hours after the last coat and it cures within a week. It’s 90% of the way there in a couple of days, so this is a GREAT option for a family who needs their home back quickly or in a pinch.

Here’s a good comparison, bearing in mind that the oil side will “amber” or darken more with time:

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To brush on the poly, you can buy a special sponge mop with changeable head for the job at any home-supply store. It will give you a great finish. You pour the poly on and then “brush” it around with the mop in long streaks so that it’s even. Just make sure you leave yourself a way out of the room!!

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So pretty! Then you simply let dry and enjoy 🙂

Looks like a lot of work, right? It is. But here’s the best part, and it’s the cost breakdown of doing it DIY vs hiring a pro.

DIY: With the cost of the poly, sander-rental and paper/screens, mop, brushes, and supplies, we spent about $350 total.

Pro: To have a professional remove your carpet, tac-strips, and staples, sand and then poly your floors in the whole house…you’re talking about $3,000 on the lower end and $5,000 on the higher. Staining adds extra cost because of the extra labor. The costs are ALL labor, because it’s such a labor-intensive job.

The difference is staggering! So roll up those sleeves, get your hands dirty, and get to work…and save a TON of money!