The 20-year Itch

Also subtitled “What was I thinking?”

After being trashed by a very unfavorable (and error-filled) home appraisal for a refinance from a person who was definitely unqualified, we decided it was time to do some changes around the house.  Our family room contains one of our fireplaces and, since we are heading into summer, we probably wouldn’t be using it very much in the coming months.  So, our next decision was to remove the old paneling which had been slapped up around the beginning of time by our house’s old tenants from 20 years ago.

Last winter, we had an ice storm which built up in the rain gutters and forced a bit of water into the house over the french doors to our deck.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough for me to have to tear down a few pieces of paneling.  What I saw back then should have prepared me for what was coming at the beginning of this week.  The old paneling, which had been slapped up using a garden hose for a straightedge and a piece of bread for a square, practically disintegrated when I pried it off.  I spend quite a bit of time making repairs to the header over the door like filling in huge voids, removing plywood blocks to support a 12×8 lintel, and tugging out blackened pieces of non-outdoor insulation with an R-factor of about -12.

Once this was done, I began to apply new paneling.  Trying something new that the wife had found on a web site, we decided to use our composite flooring we bought at IKEA on the wall.  Don’t laugh, it works just fine.  Seeing as how the walls, corners, and ceiling were built to not-so-very-exacting standards, I had a heck of time measuring and cutting boards to fit.  After three days of struggling with saws, hammers, finishing nails, and the like, I am now about half-way through with the pr0ject.

My left thumb is black and blue with a severely cracked nail and I have multiple tiny little pokes from hidden nails behind the old paneling which was laid directly over small pieces of gypsum board and, in some places, the original lath & plaster.  Each new piece of paneling removed revealed more shoddy construction.

It will be nice when I am finished though because we plan to place bookshelves from floor to ceiling on either side of the fireplace.  Some other changes will be to lighting and, eventually, new flooring.  This coming winter should see our family room as a very cozy place to do some reading and toasting in front of the fire.  When you hit 70, pleasures like that are hard to find.

Our next project will be to tackle the downstairs (basement) fireplace and do pretty much the same to it.  At least down there I already know how the paneling was installed.  The fireplace area also includes the pool table and the sliding door out to the hot tub.  I can hardly wait.