Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Family Cave - Part 2

If you missed the first part of our basement transformation, start here.  

The title of this post really should be something more along the lines of "The Great Cork Board Fail."  Oh China, you failed us on this one.  Our initial vision for our basement project included a portion of the wall to be dedicated to a giant chalkboard area and for the second portion to be a cork board.  After installing all the trim on day #1, we got started on the measuring and planning for the chalkboard paint and the installation of the cork board.  

We thought we had the perfect plan, especially when we found 12 x 12 inch cork board tiles in packs at Michael's.  We bought a few and figured we could glue/nail them to the wall and we'd be set.  WRONG!  As we quickly found out, 12 x 12 seemed to be an arbitrary guess as to size and shape of the tiles.

Measuring out grid for the chalkboard paint

Attempting to figure out the cork board tiles

Unfortunately, after spending about 30-45 minutes attempting to figure out a configuration that would work with the cork board tiles, we abandoned that plan.  We could have gone forward and trimmed the cork tiles to size, but every one of them was different and cutting flimsy cork tiles seemed to be a time-consuming side project that we really didn't want to take on at this point.  Easy solution - instead of just one chalkboard area, Georgia was going to get two different chalkboard areas.  Ripping down the cork tiles that we installed (thankfully only using painter's tape) was a great way to take out frustration!  Even with just using the painter's tape, a lot of them instantly crumbled, so I'm not sure how feasible this wall would have been had we proceeded.

Lesson learned/Proud moment - I'm so glad we didn't just start installing the tiles using glue or nails.  We had laid them out and once we put the first few on the wall using painter's tape, we quickly realized that they weren't the same size and our tiles were crooked and looking odd!

Onto Phase 2 - the chalkboard paint.  

When we were at Home Depot searching for chalkboard paint, one of their staff pointed out to us that we should prime the wall first and suggested we use magnetic primer because the wall would get primed (purpose #1), but could also hold magnets after the chalkboard paint was applied (purpose #2).  Double win!

The directions stated that we should paint several coats and allow at least 30 minutes between coats, so this was definitely time-consuming, but since we knew the outcome would result in a magnetic chalkboard wall, we figured it was worth the time.  We could have just primed with something else and skipped this step, but thought it would add a little more fun factor to the wall for Georgia!

Coat #1 on grid #1

The bad news is the drying time really slows down completing a project. The good news is that 30 minute intervals means other stuff gets done around the house.  Dinner - check.  Throw in a load of laundry - check.  Put kid to bed - check.  It also allows time to go back and fix some other stuff - more caulk needed, adding extra nails, etc.  We find that these little "extras" are what really helps complete the look and add polish to the overall project.

The spotlight comes out = darkness has fallen and the project continues

A new day dawns and work starts again... in our pajamas!  Another layer of magnet paint got applied.  Honestly, I lost count of how many layers Nick put on, but I'd guess at least five coats.  30 minutes to spare again - time to start all the touch-up with the white paint after filling in all the nail holes and letting the caulk dry.  We used the white paint that we used upstairs, which was a match to the paint that the builder gave us for touch-ups when we moved in.

Daddy and his apprentice painting all the trim

Parenting Fail - note the toddler climbing a step stool unattended while her father paints and mother takes pictures!

At some point, the chalkboard paint layers also started to get applied.  

Note to our future selves (since we tend to use the blog to remember how we did certain projects, our paint colors in the house, etc.) --- we should have sanded the walls before starting this project.  Nick is still not 100% thrilled with how the chalkboard walls came out because he thinks the walls look "bumpy."  

Starting to look like the finished project...

The final step was really all Nick.  I can't take any credit here because the man was a sawing genius.  We had purchased thin pieces of trim to use as a "frame" for the chalkboard area, as well as the now failed cork board area/new secondary chalkboard area.  We tried to pre-plan and had trimmed the pieces ourselves at Home Depot.  Unfortunately, our dimensions changed a bit when we switched plans after the cork board disaster.  So, Nick had to re-trim everything himself at the house.  Better him than me!

Planning the frames

I find that at this point in any project in our house, we end up having a large communication failure.  For us, the breaking point came when we were both trying to get the exact measurements for the framing (aka - measure three thousand times and only cut once), but using two different methods.  Essentially we were both right.  But we were both attempting to do it using two very different ways and each of us was having a hard time communicating how we were getting our numbers.  Eventually, we realized that we were both saying the same thing.  We may have both been hangry at the time.  Note to self - never use a tape measure while hangry!  Thankfully, we're both perfectionists when it comes to getting the project perfect.  Add in a lunch break and all is right with the world 30 minutes later.  Amazing how a few hundred calories and a caffeine rush can solve these issues #firstworldproblems???

Getting that first piece of framing installed is always the moment of truth.  If that first piece is off by just a bit, nothing else is going to work...

Why a level is truly man's best friend during a project like this!


I may have gotten a tad excited at this point ---- soooooo close!!

At this point in the project, I'd like to thank "The Polar Express," "Finding Nemo," Ariel, Sofia and any other princesses or Disney characters who helped to entertain our toddler for an entire weekend while we built her a play area!

Of course, just when you think you are finished, there is always touch-up painting to be done.  And more caulking.  And more sanding.  And... well, it's always at least a few more hours of work before you can really get excited.

Painting the frames after caulking the edges, filling in the nail holes with putty, and taping off the walls.

Anyone who knows me, realizes that I was just dying to peel off that tape and see the end result at this point!!

Drum roll for the big reveal...

And the big reveal thrill lasts only a few moments before you realize that you still need to touch up a bunch of areas with the original blue paint.  Back to work for a few more minutes!  Oh, and grab the Magic Eraser while you are at it.  And an eraser because the stray pencil marks are just jumping out at you.  

Then, TADA, and you step back and enjoy... before realizing you still count use an extra coat or two of chalkboard paint.  But, that can happen tomorrow, because for right now, you're just going to sigh, sit down on the floor and stare.

Now what shall we move over here to decorate the space and make it more enticing for a toddler????  And how do you keep her out of here for a few days while the chalkboard paint dries and sets.

Stay tuned for part 3 as we pull everything together for a finished look.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Family Cave - Part 1

When we first moved into our house, we declared the basement Nick's "man-cave."  Sadly, less than 3 years later and it's much more the "princess cave" with a giant flat screen television, treadmill, and leather sectional.  Perhaps the best term would be the "family cave" since we all use part of the space for our activities and hobbies.

We've been brainstorming a way to make the basement more user friendly for all family members.  Since the space is one large rectangle, it's been hard to break down the room into smaller sections.  When we moved in, it was a giant box of potential...

The blank canvas...

About a year after we moved in, the basement finally got some color as Papa Kevin painted it Valspar's Clear Blue Sky, which definitely added some warmth to the big box space feel.  

Last summer, I finally moved some toys downstairs and tried to give Georgia a corner of the room to house some of her stuff and a place for her to hang out while I was on the treadmill.  We removed the large round glass wicker set that Nick once used as a dining set in his bachelor pad condo and I moved a bookcase over to the corner by the window so that Georgia could have a place to read and play.  We kept the various shelves and pictures on the wall that displayed some of our favorite scuba diving adventures.

Even with the updates, the area still wasn't doing it for me.  Every time I was downstairs, I would look around and think about how we could better utilize the space we had down there.  After our big sitting room transformation in 2013, I started to think more about doing some form of board and batten wall treatment down there too.  The giant walls still needed more depth and somehow needed to be kid-friendly at the same time.  The grand plan came together after we attended a birthday party for a neighbor and spotted the giant chalkboard wall they framed in their basement.  It was like a cartoon where the light bulb went off over my head!

Poor Nick - I briefed him on my plan and dragged him to Home Depot with ideas for our weekend project.  Okay, I didn't really have to "drag" him to Home Depot since any excuse to use power tools in our house is typically welcomed.  But, he may have groaned a few times as I changed ideas and we had to unload a cart full of stuff and start over.  We did as much measuring as we could ahead of time and had the staff at Home Depot do some major cuts for us to save us time at home.  

Day #1 - Blank canvas again

The good news is that since we already did a similar board and batten project last year, we knew where to start.  The first steps flew by and we quickly moved through steps that took us an entire day last time around.  We also knew that we wanted to keep the blue paint background, so we got to skip painting, which was a time consuming piece of the upstairs project.  

Since adding a second "baseboard" helped with the sitting room project in our master bedroom, we decided to use the same idea in the basement.  It helps to even everything out and also gives us a starting point with a nice thick piece of trim.  Again, we bought two pieces, cut them in half, added a 45 degree angle and met the seam in the middle of the wall.  

Adding the 1 x 1 primed mdf board to serve as our "extra" baseboard

Our original plan was to create a chalkboard wall on half the wall and a cork board wall on the other half so that Georgia could display her favorite pictures, artwork from school, etc.  As we would soon learn, the best laid plans don't always work out so well.  

We divided the space by using a 1 x 3.5 primed mdf board as our vertical slat (again, just like we used in the master bedroom).  It's amazing how quick it goes when you are only installing one of these guys vs the 9 we installed in our bedroom...

Glued to the wall and held in place with lots of nails (any excuse for Nick to use the nail gun for a project!)

No, you're not seeing things, those are definitely black spots on the wall.  It took me a few minutes to realize those marks were the holes from the previous shelving we had on the wall before this project started.

Next up, Nick installed a long piece of chair rail molding across the top.  Again, just repeating the same concept from the master bedroom project (step-by-step instructions here).  

We thought we bought the same chair rail that we used upstairs, but apparently we bought a thinner piece because it didn't quite have the same thickness as the vertical board that we had already nailed up.  No problem - Nick quickly got out the sander and tapered the piece to better meet the new chair rail.

Closer inspection of the sanded down tapering we had to do in order to get the boards to meet.  It didn't necessarily look "bad" without the taper, but the transition certainly did not look as seamless without the sanding.

After the not-expected-sanding step, we added the top piece to serve as a "shelf."  We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having the shelf in our master bedroom sitting area, so we knew we definitely wanted to repeat that step down here.  Again, we used a 1 x 3.5 inch piece of solid pine board to serve as our shelf.  The pine is a pricier option, but it's heavier, solid and can stand up to serve as a shelf.

Nick nailing in the pine shelf

This is the point in the project where you realize that your "new" house of less than three years doesn't have straight walls.  Check out the gap between the shelf and the wall (and this is after we leaned, pushed, nailed, glued, etc.).  Lovely bowing...

Thank goodness for wood putty and lots of caulk

This is also typically the point in the project where your toddler discovers that there are lots of new "toys" to play with, including a tape measure, glue gun, a step stool, and various other objects that can easily cause bodily injury to a curious 2 year old.  Time to put on a movie...

Gotta love pajama pants, a pretty blue bow, green "Beauty and the Beast" socks and a striped shirt all coming together to form an outfit!  Don't judge... it's the weekend.

The rest of day #1 included lots of sanding, caulking, wood putty and other non-fun related activities that Nick and I both hate, but really lead to the end result that we want in terms of a flawless look.

Stay tuned for part 2, which will include a total change of plans thanks to some rather disappointing cork boards...