Dining Room Day 20: Enough with the Mudding!

I’ve been obsessing over this patch job for WEEKS now!  The better the mudding comes out, the better your paint will look… especially if you pick a paint with any sort of sheen to it–that sheen will just make every imperfection pop.  I happen to like eggshell for walls, it’s not shiny, but it’s not flat either (and if you have kids or a tendency to beat the crap out of spiders you find on your wall, you really don’t want a flat finish because it’s not cleanable At All).

Eyeballing your finish isn’t quite enough; if you really want it to turn out well run your hand over it.  You’ll end up feeling bumps you might not have caught otherwise.* After things were feeling pretty good with the hand test (not perfect mind you, but pretty good) I went over everything with a coat of primer.  Once everything’s an even color it’s also easier to pick out areas that looks a little off, just make sure to check it out as the lighting changes throughout the day.


I was crazy happy with how good the spot looked after priming.  1) It looked way more even than expected and 2) the texture left the primer and roller seemed to be just enough to match the subtle wall texture that was already there.  I was a little worried about that and had started to look into some of aerosol texture sprays, but think we may be ok!

I also (mostly) finished painting the trim.  I started last week on our day of rest after Vegas and got one coat of paint on about 1/2 the room.  This weekend I got almost everything else done (I couldn’t reach everything since our table is shoved against one wall, so I’ll be working in sections). Trim is the most tedious thing to paint I think.  Walls are a piece of cake, but trim… it’s more of a souffle–time consuming and finicky.


Because I’m impatient, I also put a little patch of paint up to see how it looked against the trim.


SO excited to get this room painted!

I switched my day off for this coming week from Monday to Wednesday to help out a co-worker and it ended up working well for me too.  I get a break from manual labor and can hopefully dive into painting on Wednesday.  Karma.


*Lighting and shadows can be tricksy

Day 1: Dining Room Demo

After deciding on the Dining Room as our next project we detoured a little bit in January to follow along with Apartment Therapy’s January Cure.  I think this was a good call to allow us to refocus a little bit on the house as a whole and tackle a couple of smaller projects.

So, the dining room…. it will be a project, but we have a plan! We started by removing the bookcases.

The first one came out really easily.  Despite all the screws it wasn’t actually attached anywhere so we just had to pull it out and haul it into our garage (without getting impaled by any of the screws).


The second bookcase was an entirely different story. This guy was actually fully built in.  We unscrewed any screws we could find (2) but there were still nails holding it in place.  The nails were sunk deep enough that we couldn’t pry them out so the bookcase wasn’t budging.  Demo time.


After some quality time with a crowbar, a hammer, and some brute strength the bookcase was in shambles.


And eventually we were left with this (and a bunch of suspiciously pointy scraps of wood so we are totally prepared for a vampire invasion!)**


Awesome, right?

We already knew there was some wall damage behind this one.  One of the side trim pieces popped off a while back so we could see some exposed lath board so this wasn’t a total shock.  I had kept my fingers crossed that the wall behind the bookcase would still be ok… nope.

The weird thing going on here is that the main walls were drywalled at some point so what you’re seeing here is a combo of drywall and plaster.

I demoed out the remains of the plaster (which is remarkable satisfying by the way) and Matt tackled the baseboard. The baseboard did not want to budge, but we need to replace all of it (patching would have been nearly impossible).  I had to go make a hardware store run in the middle of it to get a large crowbar so we could get some more leverage now.*


Now that the demo was done we had to start putting it back together.  We had picked up some drywall*** and started cutting it down to size.  Somehow whoever drywalled the first time managed to make wobbly cuts all around this opening.  How is that even possible? You get a straight edge, a utility knife, score, snap, and voila! Straight line.  How do you mess that up?


Our patching got a little wonky along the bottom because of the way we had to cut down the drywall to get it home in the first place, but that will all get covered up by new baseboards anyway so I’m not going to stress about super smooth finishes down there. Evening out the rest of the wall will probably take us a while though…


*The cashier asked me how my day was going and looked mildly frightened when I responded with “Well, hopefully better now!” while wielding a 3′ crowbar

**Don’t talk to me about sparkles.  I really want the t-shirt I saw that said “Then Buffy staked Edward.  The end.”  Also, this is totally worth watching.

***FYI a 1/2 sheet of drywall barely fits inside a compact car and people will probably laugh at you while you try and wedge it inside (especially if you’re already mildly panicking because it started to rain) and you may slightly damage the rubber seal around the door frames.  Thanks for volunteering my car Matt!

Hole Patching 101, 202, and WTF Did You do to Your Wall???

In our quest to replace all the light fixtures in our house we’ve run into some interesting… situations.  In the bathroom we discovered an existing hole in the wall once we removed the medicine cabinet and old light fixture.  In our bedroom we, once again, had no electrical box, couldn’t mount one where the existing hole in the ceiling was, so had to put a new hole in our ceiling for the electrical.  When we moved in there was also some existing awfulness by the window on our stair landing, so this weekend we had 3 different repair/patch situations to deal with.

The Basic


Removing the old make-up mirror in the bathroom left more than a couple screw holes.  It looks like they painted around it multiple times so there was actually a depth change in the wall too.

What you need

  • Spackle
  • Flexible putty knife
  • Sandpaper

Start by cleaning up the existing surface.  In the case of flaking paint, try and take off all the loose stuff you can.  For holes just make sure there’s no unevenness (especially with plaster walls since they can sometimes bubble when you try and screw into them).

Next, cover the hole, dent, divet, whatever with a thin layer of spackle.  Use the putty knife to smoosh in the spackle then drag the blade of the knife even against the wall to scrape off excess.  Like spray paint, the trick is working in thin layers.


Once the first layer has dried, use your putty knife to lightly scrape off any ridges and sand down any noticeably high points. Then add another thin layer and repeat.  You’ll probably use around 3 layers, so don’t try and gob a ton of spackle on all once.


Once you think you’re done, run your hand over the area to make sure.  You may feel lumps and bumps you didn’t see  and they’ll stand out more once you paint. Sand/spackle as needed until everything feels nice and smooth. Then you just need to prime and paint and voila!

The Intermediate


If you have a larger hole, spackle alone isn’t going to cut it. Maybe a doorknob tried to show your wall who was boss. Maybe your teenagers had an unauthorized rowdy party.  Maybe the idiots who wired your house didn’t believe in electrical boxes and you need to patch the old hole where the wiring came in.

What you need

  • Wall patch
  • Spackle or joint compound
  • Flexible putty knife
  • Sandpaper


The steps are pretty similar to patching small holes, but you need to cover up the hole first because there is no way you’re going to fill it solid with spackle.  You can find  wall patches at your hardware store in a variety of sizes.  They’re pretty much an adhesive mesh over an aluminum panel so they’ll stick over the hole and then you spackle over them.


The trick here is to gradually feather out from the patch since it’s going to be slightly higher than the surrounding wall.  Again, build up thin layers until everything’s hidden and smooth.



Once the ceiling gets repainted it will disappear completely, but even now you can’t notice it unless someone points it out to you.

The Maybe-I-Should-Just-Call-a-Pro


Dude, you got this. It looks scary, but it’s not that bad.  Even if you have plaster walls.

What you need

  • Drywall (Home Depot sells 2’x2′ squares, Menards sells random sizes for patching… other places probably do too)
  • Drywall Screws
  • Utility knife
  • Stiff putty knife/5-in-1 tool or drywall saw (depending on your wall type)
  • Paint stir stick/thin scrap wood (optional)
  • Wood glue (optional)
  • Joint compound*
  • Flexible putty knife
  • Sandpaper

When you have a hole this big they don’t make adhesive patches big enough so you’ll need to fill it with drywall.

Safety note: make sure you know if there are any electrical wires behind the area you’re patching since you do not want to accidentally cut or drill through them.


Start by evening out the edges of the hole so it’s rectangular.  If you have drywall you can cut out the rough edges with a drywall saw easily.  If you have plaster walls… it takes some more effort.  This video can probably explain it better than I can. It’s a little putzy and time consuming (and dusty!) but not incredibly difficult.


Cut (really score with a utility knife and snap) your drywall patch to fit your new, squared hole and screw it into place.  If you’re missing lath  or not near a stud you may have to create a surface to screw into with some scrap wood. Again, there’s already a video that should help explain that better than me.  He’s patching a pretty small hole, but the concept’s the same.


We had to cut a hole for the wiring too.  I traced the electrical box in the right spot, drilled holes along the perimeter, then used a drywall saw to cut it all the way out. The drilled holes just make it easier to cut a rounded shaped, if you’re cutting out a square you probably just need the saw.


Tape the edges with an adhesive mesh tape and feather out those edges just like you did for a smaller patch. We ended up taking off more plaster so we could expose some more stable laths to mount the drywall on.



Still working on this one since it will take some effort to completely hide a hole that big, but by the time we paint you’ll never even know it was there.


*Ok, so I used the same wall patch spackle I used on the bedroom ceiling… time will tell if I royally flubbed it.