Hello! I’m Ana, a mother and homemaker from Alaska.
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The Ram
May 24 2013

Hi everyone, Jacob here again.

We used up our Get Out of Jail Free Card up at the Momplex. 

And then I landed smack dab on Go Straight To Jail.

I probably shouldn’t call it jail, because I like working on projects.  I definitely prefer a day of DIY to a day of desk work.

As mudding and taping was being done by Pete at the Momplex, there is always another project to work on. Remember we took on a second gig? So off to my brother and sister-in-law’s house to help with their projects.

In order for my them to convert their construction loan to a low interest rate mortgage, the house has to meet firecode.  The biggest problem is the playroom is not drywalled, and since it shares a wall with the garage, this does not meet fire code.  But to drywall the one wall shared with the garage, the ceiling needs to be drywalled first.  And to get the ceiling drywalled, we have to finish up the mechanical systems in the ceiling, and then build a dropped ceiling to hide the mechanical systems.

Here is what it looked like to start.

Okay, so maybe jail is a fitting term here?

Whenever I start a project, I make a list of what needs to be done, and in what order, so I can just concentrate on one step at a time.  This is important because each step needs different tools and supplies, so I can take out tools to do one thing, put them away and move on to the next step. 

 Here’s the list for my niece’s playroom:

1- HRV connections completed

2- Finish electrical/wiring

3- Frame dropped ceiling to hide the mechanical systems in the ceiling

4- Drywall ceiling and walls

The previous owner had stubbed ducting from rooms through the floor, but where what goes to what was anyone’s guess.  There’s half a dozen ducts in the ceiling of the playroom. First we have to figure out where they are supposed to go, and what is a supply or returns.  Good old hollering down pipes and flashlight flickering to solve this mystery.

HRV systems can seem intimidating, but it’s actually really simple.  All kitchen and baths vents are returns, and bedrooms and other rooms are generally supplies. This means the stale or moist air from bathrooms and kitchens get pulled out, while the fresh new air to replace it gets supplied to the bedrooms, living rooms, and other rooms. 

Once I figured out what vent in the ceiling was in what room, I labeled them either supplies or returns.

And these are the main supply and returns we will duct everything to – kinda like a inbound and outbound freeway with lots of onramps, but everything eventually tying into the main freeway.

Then my helper showed up. Kind of cute isn't she? This is my niece Clara.  Grace and Hannah (Clara’s older sister) are in school.

And here is my brother-in-law, Louie, Clara’s dad, installing the ducting.


Screws are attached at the joint, 3 on each. Then foil tape over the seams to seal up any leaks.

And then pipe tape is used to hold the pipe in place.

Now came the fun part.  The dropped ceiling.  I had an idea to build a dropped drywalled ceiling for the playroom because it would save so much time, hide all the pipes and ducting, and make the wall drywall cheaper and easier.  The playroom had a 9 foot ceiling, so plenty of room to spare there.

Anybody recognize this tool? This Is the laser level we used in making the Momplex. Handy, let me tell you.

I built a stand for the wall and set it up to shoot me a line around the room at 97”, the standard height of an 8’ framed wall.

Then Louie, Clara and I were able to set the leger boards (boards that we will use to hang the ceiling joists off of) and follow the marks that were made by the laser level.

The ledger boards basically frame the outside of the new dropped ceiling, and give me something to hang the joists off of.

I choose to go with a 2x4 on the end wall (see below) as it was only for hanging the sheetrock, to save some money.

After that we needed joist hangers installed  on the leger boards.

We nailed the joist hangers up 16” on center with TIKO nails.

And then it was time to just drop those joists in the hangers.

20 minutes later …..

We’ve got a dropped ceiling framed in!

They just laid in place. Going in quite easily.  If you want a simple and easy way to finish out a basement ceiling - this is the way to go.

Now little my helper hasn't given up, she’s been helping all day, being productive in here own way.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that that’s a screw.

Once the ceiling was in place, we put in blocking to help stiffen the ceiling and also keeps the joist spacing right for when we hang drywall.  I cut the boards 14 1/2” long first (as is standard for 16” on center walls), and then my helper handed me the boards as I nailed them in place.

Done deal …..

Well, except for the lighting.

This took more time then building the whole room. You get my sister-in-law and my wife Ana together and ask what kind of lighting, and you might as well get a cup of coffee or a beer cause its just might be a while.

And take your cell phone with you to the hardware store, because I can almost guarantee you’ll get a call right before you check out that they’ve changed their minds.

But this time, we didn’t give the girls a chance to change their minds.  Within minutes of the word recessed lights, Lou and I were up on ladders.

I’m glad they choose can lights because it’s a windowless space, and these can lights will provide plenty of light.  They are also pretty easy to install.  Just nail on the brackets where you want them.

We evenly spaced them around the room, and with the brackets, we could slide the lights to just the right position between the joists.

Lights all in, and ready for drywall. 

I should be sick and tired of drywall after hanging so many sheets up at the Momplex. But not really, hanging sheet rock is one of those jobs that is good exercise, and at the end of the day, you see so much progress. It's actually very rewarding work.

Lou and I started hanging drywall around 1PM ...

Had the ceiling done and working on the walls within a couple of hours …

And we hung the last sheet at about 5PM that very same day. 

The rotozip made quick and easy work of cutting out the can lights.

And since I now know we can’t get anything by you, you probably already noticed that the middle tapered seam is offset on the right wall.  We used up scrap drywall in 54” widths from the Momplex here, so that’s why that wall seam is not at 48”. 

Thanks Clara for letting me help you on your playroom! 

Ana White
May 03 2013

Last Christmas, our family got a very special present.

My sister, a mother of three with a newborn baby, and her husband, finally found the perfect house.  After a year of looking, after almost buying a house "just to get into something" - the perfect house for their family became available.  

When we went and looked at the house, we were amazed at how well built it was, how well layed-out it was, and just how perfect it was for our dear little nieces to grow up in.

And the house was just a five minute walk from the Momplex, a bike ride from our own house.

Sounds to good to be true, doesn't it?

Of course it is.

Here's the catch:

The house isn't quite finished.  It's finished enough to live in, but not finished enough to get a regular mortgage on.

Proud Auntie Note: Can you see my sweet little nieces?  I am so thankful they have this beautiful home to grow up in!  Those are the same little nieces you see throughout this blog.

So my sister had to get a construction loan that will convert to a regular mortgage when the house is completed.  In the meantime, she's paying a high interest rate on the full amount of the home.  In other words, every day this house is under the construction loan, she's paying double the interest and no principle.

So getting this house finished up is a top priority for their family.

But here's the problem.

  • My brother-in-law works seven days a week.
  • My sister works full time.
  • My newborn niece has severe food allergies and is very difficult to care for, consuming all of my sister's time.
  • They've called on contractors, but for different reasons, the house isn't being worked on.
  • Things just aren't getting done.

    Meanwhile, the Ram and I have been busy working on the Momplex, trying to get the Momplex wrapped up and Mom moved in.  We are so darn close.

    The Ram and I talked about helping my sister out - they've certainly helped us out quite a bit over the years on our cabin, our house, and my brother-in-law has helped out on the Momplex too - but we both agreed that we just don't have the time to commit to getting my sister's house done on top of our current work load. 

    Well, five months went by .... and they haven't been able to find a contractor, and they haven't been able to find the time to tackle the projects themselves.

    Soooo ..... welll ..... 

    You already know how this story goes, don't you?

    I know, you totally saw that one coming, didn't you?

    One of the first things on the list is removing temporary carpet and installing permanent flooring in the living room.  The rest of the house has finished flooring - it's just this main room.

    Bye bye temporary ugly orange carpet ....

    Under the carpet, the floor hadn't been cleaned for flooring, so we removed all the mud splotches.  Can't have uneven spots under laminate flooring - the joints will pull apart.

    When you do a heated floor with gyp-crete, you border the area with boards in doorways and stair landings, and then fill inside the border with the pipes and gyp-crete.  The Ram ground down the joints to make a level surface for the flooring to float over. 

    And then we went through the entire floor area and checked for any nails popping up or other problem makers.

    Then my sister started vacuuming up the mess we made.  This is my newborn niece with the food allergies.  The food allergies give her a terrible rash and I can only imagine a tummy ache too, so she's held all day.  This is how my sister get's housework done.

    We wonder if the old carpeting with pet stains/hair could be contributing to the allergies because the allergies seemed to have gotten much worse when the moved into the new house.

    Don't worry, we've got fans blowing, doors open, and the kids have been outside for the grinding.

    But now they want to help!

    This flooring doesn't come with foam underlayment, so it has to be layed down first, separately.

    That's the other Uncle J, who also helped out on putting the flooring in.  He's also been helping out with lots of other things too.

    The foam underlayment has a sticker, so you just layer and stick the ends together.

    This foam underlayment is designed for a heat floor, allowing the heat to transfer up, but still giving the floor a little bit of a cushion underneath.

    Baby likes it!

    The actual snapping the flooring down and putting into place went really, really fast.

    It's the 10% at the ends that take up 90% of the time.  

    Helpers don't hurt either!

    But then we got to the fireplace.  What to do here?

    It's hard to see from this picture, but the fireplace is not a straight rip cut on the boards.  It actually varies quite a bit.

    So I used this marking tool to find the pattern of the rocks.

    It's actually called a Contour Gauge - it's $10 at the Home Depot and will save you 10 hours.

    And then trace that pattern on to the flooring.

    I got a whole process down of lining up, marking, tracing, repeating, and this went really fast too.  The Ram took my marked boards down to the garage and jigsawed about 1/4" in from my marks.

    Seriously, how can you not want to rip out old carpet and put in new flooring for that almost crawling cuteness?  

    We had to cut a little loose around the fireplace just to get the flooring to snap in, but it looks really good, and we'll go back and fill any gaps with grout from the fireplace, and the fireplace will look like it was installed after the flooring.

    Then there's just the little section past the fireplace ...

    And it's done!

    I think I've figured out what makes this guy such an awesome DIYer.

    He's fearless.  

    I'm always worried, what if we cut this wrong?  We'll waste a piece of flooring.  What if we start wrong and don't have enough left on the end ... what if???  I'm always questioning myself (I think that's why I love plans and furniture so much!).

    But the Ram?  He just goes for it.  And if things don't work out, he figures it out.  

    My sister and I talked about this too.  If she had the time, she's more than capable of whipping this floor out.  We are all capable.  But it's fear of messing something up that inhibits us.

    I can promise you, there's one piece in this floor that shouldn't be there.

    And you are looking right at it.

    A good carpenter can hide anything, right?

    I believe that's the key to DIYing.  You just gotta go for it, do your absolute best job, over-prep beforehand - but when there's a challenge, don't give up, just keep at it until you get things right.

    And don't forget - it's about the smiles.

    So I guess we now have a weekend gig too.  But you already knew that didn't you?  Darn it, I wish those little nieces were just a little less cute sometimes!

    Have a great weekend!  You know where we'll be!

    XO Ana


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