When we moved into our new home, it was technically fine to live in. You could say it was a turn key house. However, let’s be honest, who wants to move into another persons house and just live there? Eventually, you need to make it your own. Plus, the “buttercream” walls were getting on my nerves. I am NOT a beige person… why should I live in a beige house?
The first “semi-reno” that we did was C’s room. She is our six year old who was just dying for her own fancy room – no more princesses or fairies, she wanted a FANCY room. And fancy it is… but I am not going to tell you about that today because I don’t quite have the finishing touches done. And sorry, but I have to digress here fo a second – does that happen to anyone else? You do all the real work of redoing a room and buckle down and get it done, and then when it comes to the finishing touches, it just never happens? Well, that’s me. Art work is in desperate need of hanging in our house.
Back to the topic at hand… the living room. Here is a picture of our living room when we moved in (well, plus our furniture, which we will also discuss later):
Pretty bland, eh? See what I mean by the buttercream walls? How dull! It was time to do something. I always loved wainscotting, but honestly wasn’t in the mood to slap down all that money. I debated beadboard for a while, which my husband was on board with because it seemed like less work. Finally, I settled on board and batten (which hubby wasn’t so on board with). Now there are lots of tutorials out there in blogland about how to do B&B and this is not going to be one of them, because I will be honest with you and myself, I am not in a position to be telling anyone how to do anything when it comes to power tools. However, what I will tell you is about the challenges that I found while doing this project. When I researched this, everyone seemed so happy about their very easy b&b project. I thought I was in for a walk in the park. I ran into so many challenges and I looked for solutions and help, and couldn’t find any… so in case this happens to anyone else, here is what I experienced.
We worked with mdf, because it seemed like less work (it was preprimed) and the price was right. Our room is about 12×14, with one wall being a big picture window, and one wall being a railing to the stairs for the foyer. So really, we only had 2.5 walls to work with. We bought 1×8 for the top and decided not to do a little shelf because I knew my children would be hanging off it if I did. The vertical strips were 1×3. The guy at Home Depot recommended Liquid Nails, which gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach but I went along with him. I also bought some nails just in case. The Home Depot guys cut the 1×3 boards to 3′ in length, since that’s how tall I wanted my B&B. Then, we went off to my husband’s grandparents to borrow their mitre saw (which we needed to angle the bottom of our boards into our existing baseboards, because ripping them up was not an option.)
I mentioned getting the saw because I have to tell you this hilarious story. We had called Grandpapa the night before to see if he had a mitre saw we could borrow. “Of course,” he assured us. “Come on over!” So we did, and what did he hand us? This little hand saw looking thing that sits in a plastic box that moves to create the angle. WHAT?! “I built the whole garage with that saw.” Oh dear! This would not work!
So our reno was set back by a day, and we borrowed Steph’s dad saw the next day. We discovered that the hone depot guys hadn’t cut our boards perfectly and we had to recut a bunch of them. We also discovered challenge number one, and probably the biggest challenge of our reno – our walls were not straight. Now I am not talking slightly crooked, they were obscenely wobbly.
It took us a long time to get that piece of 1×8 up there. It was also 12 feet long, which made it extremely heavy. We tried liquid nails, and just as I anticipated, it was a sinking failure. The board would not hold at all. We moved to Plan B – nails. Well, in the crooked spaces, nails wouldn’t work. We finally got big screws and put them on… we would figure out how to cover them up later.
Now if you have NEVER done any sort of handiwork or home reno, like us, you will need to know this – studs are not a couple of inches wide! They are less than an inch wide. So you cannot “nail” in the general area of a stud and hit it. You need to know exactly where that sucker starts and ends. We did not know this. This is how our board looked once it was up:
Pretty roughed up, right? Yeh. We quit after this board and went to bed. Yes, you heard that right, getting this board up took us the whole day. Tips to cut down on this time: premark your studs (beginning and ending), and make sure you have the right hardware. Also, be prepared to spend a long time levelling. It may also help to cut the board into smaller pieces so it is easier to hold while you are doing the work. You can also line it up with your studs, because our second challenge was that our board ended where there was no stud. Back to the hardware store to get these screw things that looked like they had wings to put on the end of the board. The wings stay inside the drywall and the screw cannot pull out.
The next day we were ready to tackle the project again… after all, our ONE board was stuck on with Liquid Nails… there was no turning back. We put the horizontal boards up on the other two walls, which was a cinch – perfectly straight walls. The vertical boards went up MUCH easier that the horizontal one, maybe because we were more aware of potential problems. We spaced them about 16 inches apart, because our studs were 16 inches apart. Easy peasy. It really was. We had to slightly vary our spacing when we came to an outlet, but it wasn’t a big deal.
It wasn’t so easy when it came to doing the other walls. To our disdain, exterior walls have a different spacing than interior walls. Our studs were now 24 inches apart. We came to a head with challenge number three – my husband wanted to keep the spacing the same as the other wall, I wanted to keep putting them in studs, because I knew that was easier and more secure. I finally relented and agreed to space them the same. I think that might have been a mistake. It was so hard to get them to stick to the wall! We had to use liquid nails and then try to nail them in on top of that. I found myself slightly altering the spacing so I would maybe hit a stud here and there to make my life easier. Let’s just say the spacing is ALL over the place on this wall. If you were to do this, my recommendation would be to find the center of your wall, and your studs, and work your way out from there. By starting in the center, you will avoid one of our biggest regrets about this project. See if you can spot it:
Yes, the left corner has a huge gap and the right corner is tight to the wall. But, I knew my bookcase was going in front of the right corner, so I tried not to worry about it.
After the loooong installation process, it is time to caulk. And caulk. And caulk. It really is an endless process. Caulk the top of the rail. Top the bottom of the rail. Top every single edge where the board touches the wall or another board. Caulk every nail or screw hole. But do you know what? The caulk restored my belief in this project. It started to hide every single blemish. After caulking, I painted the top part of my wall (a CIL color called Bear Run) and then painted the B&B (another CIL color called White Tracks). The one interior wall actually runs all the wall in my hallway, so I had to paint it a different color, because I didn’t want blue hallways. I chose Hiking Trail by CIL, because it was a nice grey-brown color.
See, what wobbly wall? The caulking really is a miracle worker! It hides everything! Also, the white paint blends everything together so seamlessly. You can’t notice the different widths or anything (unless you are looking for them, which our guests thankfully do not).
Here is the finished project (minus finishing touches like art and lamps, as was previously discussed):
All in all, I am thankful we did this, and I love the semi-finished room, but honestly, if you aren’t familiar with power tools or home reno’s, it isn’t quite as easy as everyone makes it out to be. It is totally doable, because honestly, if I can do it, anyone can, but be ready to put in the time and make lots of trips to the hardware for advice. I must have called my dad in Newfoundland about 52 times throughout the project for advice and opinions. But now I have made the mistakes and encountered the challenges, so hopefully this will help you be more successful! Good luck, and if you ever decide to do B&B, I am no expert but I would definitely answer any questions about our experience 🙂
Oh and total cost for the B&B, paint not included: $72! How awesome is that?!