Monday, December 10, 2018

After Demo, Then What?

If you've never had a remodel or renovation in your home, the steps can be a little vague. Often I find it valuable to let clients know what they can expect in terms of work and, consequentially, how long it all takes.

Let's start with a simple remodel of a space. Nearly all of my projects consist of "going down to the studs" as it is called in the industry. This step is referred to as "demo," as in is when all the elements of your old space are removed and demolished, often in a delightful flurry of sledge hammers and crow bars, to create a blank slate and make way for your new space! However, if I am dealing with new construction, that leads to the same result: the studs.

And this is where we start this phase of the journey. Studs are what make up the framing of a room. A residential room is typically framed with 2" x 4" or 2" x 6" pieces of wood spaced 16" apart, on their center lines. These pieces of wood are the studs.

Below is a photo of a master bathroom suite I designed. The 2" x 4" framing you see is outlining what will become a new bathroom and master closet.

But here is where things can get a little vague. Mostly of my clients know that the next step is for the walls to go up and then they assume it is done. But there are many time consuming steps in between, performed by skilled, master craftsmen, to achieve walls that are ready to be painted.

The first step is to put up the drywall. This is generally a gypsum board product in a sheet form with paper on the back and front. They typically come in 4' widths with a length ranging between 8' and 16'. The drywall is affixed--normally in a horizontal orientation--to the wood studs and held in place with drywall screws.

Once this is done, the next step is to apply drywall compound (a thick, plaster-y substance sometimes called joint compound or, euphemistically, "mud") to all joints (where two pieces of drywall come together) and over the heads of the drywall screws. Sometimes this is done by a different team. I have seen drywall installers come to affix the drywall only and then pass these next steps to plasterers.

Then over all the joints comes a material called drywall tape. This joint tape gets embedded into the joint compound itself using a trowel blade so the finish is smooth.

This is left to dry for 24 hours.

A 2nd coat of mud is applied on all taped joints and this is left to dry for yet another 24 hours!

Next comes a sanding to knock down all uneven spots or areas where there might be some excess mud. It should look something like the photo below.

Steven Puetzer/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

The 3rd and final coat of joint compound is often called a skim coat. A smooth skim coat is almost universally desired but it is possible at this point to do what is called a "knockdown" coat which consists of giving the mud a texture. There are many textures with many names. You may have heard people talk about a "popcorn" ceiling, a kind of ceiling finish (usually containing asbestos!) that was popular in the 70s and 80s with a very bumpy surface resembling a layer of popcorn or millions of tiny stalactites. That is an extreme example (it was generally sprayed on instead of applying by a trowel), but there is also "orange peel" texture, a wall version of the popcorn ceiling. And one of the more subtle textures is called a skip trowel texture. While there will still be a few low peaks here and there, it is not as offensive as orange peel or popcorn. But in this day and age, a smooth finish is what everyone agrees looks best.

After the skim coat is applied it must--you guessed it--dry for another 24 hours. You can see how this process takes time and patience. Once a client sees the steps necessary, they have a newfound respect for their home!

To prepare the walls for painting, they are given a final sanding, and are then wiped down with a sponge to remove all the loose dust. Now the wall is ready for a drywall primer. Why a drywall primer? Haven't we reached the end of what could possibly be put on the walls? Well, the drywall primer is made of a PVA or shellac/alcohol-based primer and is applied to seal the porous drywall and joint compound. When you or your painter comes to apply paint, whether latex or water-based, the drywall primer will prevent the paint from soaking into your drywall and joint compound.

It's quite a that surprises those unfamiliar with construction. But your home is important. Think of it as protecting the integrity of your investment as well as enriching the quality of your life within it.

Happy designing!

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