Extreme Room Overhaul




About: This author has not updated their profile. They might or might not get around to it sometime. If the kid wants a unicorn... Dangit, we're gonna make that happen. What little I know is dangerous, the rest I...

Not for the faint of heart, this is only one part of a bigger renovation of an apartment that I had started last summer and am still working on till this day. If you want things done right, you have to do it yourself.

The apartment was a space at my mother's place which went unused for a long time. A family close to us needed to move so it was offered to them. I had to get it into a liveable condition in a few short months. This is the teen girl's room. She wanted a purple room. And you know me, I couldn't say no.

Working on an old house is a challenge. There are so many different things to think about as you try to bring things up to current building code and problems to solve as they happen. It is an opportunity to know the entire stock of the home centers better than the employees there.

I am not in the building trade. I learned a lot of this fix it up stuff through the years but I got my start early on (almost a quarter of a century ago) by learning from a master builder while volunteering on weekends building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Jacksonville, FL. Look up your local chapter for a worthy cause..

Step 1: Look Up...9 Feet...

This room has an original tin ceiling. It's an architectural detail I wanted to preserve but decided it was best to cover it up and restore it in the future, very far future. The ceiling is the underside of a cold inaccessible attic crawlspace so I wanted to put a new insulated layer. A regular dropped ceiling would have worked but because that room got cold fast, even with the nice steam heat, I wanted to put in a good insulating layer.

I used steel studs to frame out a new and level ceiling. It is attached to the original ceiling joists with additional brackets cut from the same metal stud material. Note that I rough wired in a new ceiling box that is rated to support a ceiling fan when I install that later.

Step 2: Making an Entrance...

The original purpose of this room was the dining room so it had a wide opening to the kitchen. I needed to close it off and install a regular door.

I framed in the rest of the opening with a mix of wood and metal studs.

I left in a transom like opening for light/air circulation or to pass food through. I will figure out how to cover that later with a decorative grille or glass blocks.

You can see where I installed the rough wiring that will be connected to the new electrical service that was put in the house. The wiring will just sit in place until the rest of the house is rewired. This is the best time to run new wiring when the walls are opened up. Use a lot of nail plates to protect the wiring passing through the studs. When the room is completed, blank faceplates will cover the electrical box openings.

Step 3: Cut and Paste...

Depending on what kind of car you have, you might know the hassle of trying to haul back building materials from the home center. I don't like to pay for delivery that only gets it dropped off on the curb..

I will not strap a full 4 x 8 ft sheet of anything to the roof of my car. I have seen flying mattresses and someone who had lost a load of sheetrock on the highway. I am that guy with the utility knife and T-square in the parking lot cutting up stuff to squeeze into the car. My car's hatch is just short of 48 inches wide so I have to at least eyeball thirds on the sheet.

From the pictures you can tell the rough shape of the plaster walls. I wanted to veneer drywall over the damaged walls. There was no evidence of any exposed lead paint so the new walls would encapsulate anything there in the multiple layers of paint on the walls. Stripping the walls to the studs would have been messy and expensive to hire and park a dumpster outside. These are old time plaster and lathe walls. I did find an old newspaper page stuffed into the wall base but it was too brittle to preserve. Using 1/2 inch lightweight sheetrock would add minimal thickness to the walls.

One far wall was still in fairly good shape. That is the dividing wall between the buildings so it is plaster over cinder block. I cleaned off all peeling paint and loose chunks of plaster from previous water damage. The roof had been repaired a while back. After filling in any major cracks, I primed that wall to seal the remaining paint and dust. I then put on a fiberglass mesh mat to cover the wall. This is plaster repair fabric you can buy in rolls. I then floated the entire wall with drywall compound to make it a flat new surface.

The ceiling was piecemeal too. I got some family to help me do the overhead install of the big pieces of sheetrock and then I filled in the small pieces on my own. I did a nice job on the ceiling floating out the surface smooth since popcorn or textured ceilings are no longer "in". I prefer not to sand drywall joints unless absolutely necessary because of all the fine dust it kicks up. I can smooth newly set drywall compound with a water spray bottle and wide drywall knife good enough that a medium nap paint roller covers any small imperfections with paint.

The lesson here is don't be afraid to piece together drywall when you install it. Nothing in an old house is level and square. Yeah, a little more work and some extra joint compound to float a flat surface but you can be Michaelangelo for a while and make a work of art.

Step 4: Blank Walls...

Prime the entire room with primer. Buy that stuff in 2 gallon pails or get the big 5 gallon one. It will get used.

Primer seals all the new surfaces like the drywall and reduces the amount of the expensive paint you use for the final color. It also provides a nice surface to help new paint bond to old paint.

Step 5: A Touch of Class...

Since the color selected for the room was purple, even though a nice shade of violet, it might be overwhelming if it covered everything. I wanted to break it up with the bottom half being a more neutral or white color.

You could do this two tone by just masking off top and bottom.

You could do this by just adding a chair rail moulding trim around the room.

I wanted to jazz it up by adding mdf beadboard wainscoting for the bottom half. It adds texture and character of the country cottage look to the room.

Step 6: A Splash of Color...

Paint the ceiling with flat white ceiling paint. Using a gloss would call out any imperfections in the ceiling and make the lighting seem harsh.

Since all the trim and wainscoting would be semi-gloss white, I painted that first. Note that I went around the wall top with a strip of door stop trim. I call it my faux-it's-too-expensive-for-real-crown-moulding special detail.

Oh, that reminds me, I have to build a couple of radiator covers.

Test a spot on the wall where you want to apply your bold choice of color. Make several test patches. Ha, my tester paint size is a gallon but I trust myself with a few color swatches from the store.

You want to get an idea of how it will look in different light during different times of the day and see if you need to get a lighter or darker shade of color.

Buy more paint than you might need. Even with computerized color matching, it's best to have enough paint mixed in the same lot or day to get even color.

Step 7: Finish Coat...

Cut in all the edges of the areas to be painted.

Use a brush to get into the corners. You can then use a roller to cover the big areas.

Paint with a nice worklight or in bright daylight to minimize where you leave brushstrokes and don't miss spots in painting.

Clean up any flying specks with a wet rag and try to even out any paint blobs before they start to set.

Wait until the next day to give it a second coat.

Step 8: Put a Step Into It...

The original parquet floor was actually in decent enough shape to be refinished.

I decided to do the expedient laminate floating floor to cover it.

It would also provide a new layer of sound reduction to the tenants below.

Make sure you open the packages of the flooring at least a week ahead of installation so that the planks can acclimate to the new home environment. The mating edges are machined to precision specs at the factory. You will have a tough time locking them together straight out of the box and will be cursing a lot, a lot.

Get the good installation tools such as the larger end hook and the special tapping block. A large deadblow hammer helps. Use of a scrap wood and a regular hammer invites damaging the edges of the planks.

Clean out the edge grooves with a stiff paintbrush. Have a scraper blade like a drywall or putty knife to gently realign bent edges.

Have a jigsaw and a small circular saw available to trim and cut pieces. There is a lot of fine dust from the cutting so vacuum often. Be careful walking around. The boards are slick when stacked on each other.

Read the instructions to butt up the first row solid to one wall and cut pieces so you can alternate the joints in a brick laying staggered pattern. That is necessary to prevent the seams from opening up across continuous joints. You can then judge how to cut those half starter pieces to minimize waste. Of course, buy a spare box of flooring from the same lot to account for that.

Be sure to leave the appropriate expansion gap around the perimeter. That will be covered up with base and shoe moulding around the bottom of the walls.

And like all those home fix it up shows, the family moves in and lives happily ever after... and no, anyone serious about doing demolition does not tear things apart by wildly swinging a sledgehammer, amateurs...

Wall Overhaul

Third Prize in the
Wall Overhaul



    • Sew Tough Challenge

      Sew Tough Challenge
    • Paint Challenge

      Paint Challenge
    • DIY Summer Camp Contest

      DIY Summer Camp Contest

    16 Discussions


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    thanks, it kinda reminds me of one of the incarnations of the presidential Blue Room at the White House.


    how did this get featured without references to obscure science fiction?

    also hopefully you painted the walls with leaded paint, for restoration purposes.

    1 reply

    Shouldn't you be checking on cans of expired milk paint? Every once in a while I do ibles that are truly random with no references to science fiction. It throws off the people chasing me through the time portal.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I really appreciate that you recognize the beauty of the original parquet floor and tin ceiling and chose to preserve them, even though you didn't have the time to restore them. A lot of people doing this sort of work would have torn holes in that tin to hang a ceiling or run wiring, and broken my heart a bit in the process.

    Also, I found your technique of using joint compound across the entire wall instead of taping the seams to be very interesting. I'm quite impressed; I don't think I could ever get a wall as flat as I want without help from a sanding block. (Which reminds me of the time that I had to clean up a plastering job so bad that I ended up using a random orbital sander, but that's a story for another day...)

    Anyhow, thanks for the Instructable. It's a great looking room now, and I'm sure the girl living there is enjoying it!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I even tried to only screw through the tin panels at the joint lines where they match up to the ceiling joists. It was only the wall without the doors or windows that I was able to float after covering with a roll and a half of the plaster crack repair mesh fabric. It's the same as the mesh joint tape but in a big sheet. You kinda use the fabric thickness to screed or scrape the excess mud off. Then you go back with a thin finish layer and feather that out. The trick is really to get your drywall compound thinned out with about a pint or two of water so it is like mixed sour cream. It is way to stiff straight out of the bucket. With a 12inch wide knife blade, you can get pretty good at smoothing it all out and a spray of water helps give it that smooth glide and shave. I think I tried to do it that way since I watched the pro plasterers on This Old House do their plaster coat walls and burnish them down when set. You can tear your arms out if your sockets when mixing so use a good high torque low speed drill with a paddle or spiral mixer attachment to keep things under control and not spray out of the bucket.

    Thank you for commenting. Anyone that has worked on an house has a good story to tell. It never gets old hearing them.


    4 years ago

    Your comment is right on - "if you want it done right, do it yourself"! I renovated the townhouse we live in and it's currently under contract. We plan to buy bigger, which means I get a do over on a much bigger scale. I'll be sure to share my experience!

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    And if this isn't your day job, it could be! You are much more precise and talented than the contractors who have nearly wrecked my 1927 home in Tampa.

    1 reply

    This house is from the 20s or 30s too. I couldn't find matching door trim that was as beefy as the original as the closet door or windows. That actually let me butt up the new layer of drywall and caulk to make a seamless appearance. I did save all the 6 or7 inch wide baseboard trim that I pulled out to install the wainscoting.

    Some house archeologist will uncover and appreciate it in the future. Unfortunately, the circumstances, time and budget would not allow me to do a real this old house restoration. The hallway has this hand textured plaster wall that I am experimenting with techniques to match the texture so I can patch the holes the professional electrician left when he used a sledgehammer to make holes to fish for wire. Real plastering is a lost art.


    4 years ago

    It's actually called Scottish Heather.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    That is great. The best satisfaction or joy out of doing it all is that you know you are creating the best world for your kid or loved ones to grow up in. It's interesting the names they give to the colors. Is that blue a lilac or sea breeze?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    So much great information here. Nicely done.

    I like that you decided to break up the room with the wainscoting. Interestingly enough, I recently painted my daughter's room purple, and have thought since that it's a little loud and garish in there. I might have to add some wainscoting!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    This is the color scheme I had used to paint Caitlin's room to match the Barbie fairy curtains. Note the double door stop faux it's too expensive to use real chair rail moulding for chair rail moulding. Caulk is our friend. Kids grow up too fast and it's time to paint again.