Friday, February 19, 2010

Surviving the Dust Bowl

Months ago I was watching a documentary on PBS called “Surviving the Dust Bowl.” If you ever get a chance to watch it I highly suggest it. It is interesting to see how dust became such a part of everyday life. Dust would fly under doorways, wedge into small cracks, covered furniture in blankets, dirty clothes and even get in everyone’s teeth. I guess chewing the grit of the dust was quite common back then. I just remember watching it and thinking how could anyone live that way?

Well, lucky me, I got a chance to experience it this last week. We have been remodeling our kitchen for the last two months and this last week was about to drive me crazy. At first the remodel was easy and casual. A little sanding here, a little paint there. In your mind it will be 1-2 months tops. Well, that never seems to be the case in home remodeling. We have just started our 3rd month and now we have the dust bowl. Here is our kitchen before:

- Removed cabinets above the island. They broke up the space between the kitchen and dining area and it really made it look more open with them down.

- Got rid of the wallpaper, well sort of. The entire kitchen, wall and ceiling, were covered with 1987 wallpaper. They applied the wallpaper directly over the drywall with no primer coat in-between. I have removed wallpaper like that in other rooms and the word ‘nightmare’ really does describe the horror of it. We opted for the cheating method and just painted with oil-based primer over the top of it. It’s not the best, but the wallpaper was pretty stuck on the walls and from what I gathered it is what many home improvement sites recommended. (Note: Use oil based, it won’t break the seal between the wallpaper adhesive and the wall. Latex is water based, which could cause the wallpaper to pull away.)
Right now, as you are reading this you are probably thinking, “OK, where does this dust bowl reference come in?” Well, here is the part of the remodel when it gets messy. The following events proceeded to the event of our dust bowl.

- Modified lighting. We installed canned lights above the counter, which really made a nice working space. Then we had another genius ideas, which was to add above and below counter lighting. My husband wanted to put them all on the same switch as the main light, but I put my foot down. All we needed was someone to flip on the lights and be blinded by all the lights in the kitchen. To get all the lights on their own switch, we had to modify a 1-switch outlet to be a 3-switch outlet. This required him to fish wire through the ceiling the entire length of the kitchen, which meant he had to cut holes in the ceiling. Which requires lots of joint compound and sanding to fill the holes, which = DUST! And when you have to joint compound over the hole three times that equals lots of DUST! Not so bad you think…well there is more.

- Removed the backsplash. The backsplash was this lovely wheat etched muted brown colors. It really was quite neutral, but the wheat etching screamed 1987! (I am sure the wheat was a lovely match to the wheat-etched chandelier I talked about in a previous post.) Big surprise here….they adhered it right to the drywall. I know you watch tons of home improvement shows and they do that all the time, but according to many sources it really is a bad thing to do. Sheetrock is not built to hold the weight of tiles and grout. Best thing is to install cement board where the backsplash is placed. It provides more stability and the less chance for your grout to crack. When I was at Home Depot buying the Hardiboard I actually had the person working in the tile department thank me for using cement board and not sheetrock.

Well anyways, to get the cement board to match all backsplash areas requires quite a bit of cutting, which in turn kicks up a TON of dust. (For cutting I recommend an angle grinder and the good old carpenter’s knife.) We could have cut the boards outside, but that would have involved lots of carrying them out and bringing them back in. In the middle of winter, this is really not the best and more time efficient route to take. After a couple hours of cutting my husband had all the boards up and we were finally on our way. We were both so excited!

As we ventured upstairs to clean off for the day, we began to notice all the dust in the rest of the house. And I mean, it was dusty! I am sure the furnace had a large roll in this, but it caked the living room, the banister to the upstairs, and even the bedrooms upstairs. Almost everything we own had a sheet of dust on it. It was as if our plastic sheets on the doorways had zero effect. In addition, my husband and I were finding dust in our ears, mouth, nose, you name it! It took me 2 days to wipe down the kitchen from ceiling to floor and dust the rest of the house. I am sure this won’t be the last of our dusty experience, but at least we won’t be tracking through the house as much.

As I am typing this, I am preparing myself to begin the next step for our kitchen remodel. Priming over all the joint compounded areas and paint the ceiling and walls. It will probably take me all day and hopefully I get it finished today. We are both so proud of our work we have accomplished so far. It is a lot of work for two people to take on, but I feel that we now can somewhat see the end in site. On Monday they come out to measure our countertops for our new granite (YEAH!!!) and then once the painting is finished we can refinish all the cupboards.

There really is no comparison of the dust bowl to our kitchen remodel, but at least I understand more about the situation people went through. Like I said before, it is a lot of work and things like the dust make you want to quit the project but we know we must go on. As like the people who lived through the dust bowl, it may not be fun, but overall when it is finished we know that we have survived a trying time and persevered.


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