The Free Motion Quilting Project: Caught in a Renovation Snowball

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Caught in a Renovation Snowball

Today I'm starting Day 3 of our living room remodel and the honeymoon phase is officially over. I just didn't realize what a big change this would be, nor how much of the house would be affected. I'm so tired!

Yet again with this remodel we ran into issues with finding good help (you can read about the last remodel adventure here). This time I asked Dad to help me find a licensed contractor to work with us and do the job with a crew.

Unfortunately all the professional guys in my area either already had way too much work to do or didn't want to bother with my small job.

We tried to use personal contacts to find a licensed contractor and came up with a guy that does small jobs in addition to driving a dump truck. Unfortunately this guy shows up with only a massive ego in tow, no interest in listening to direction, and copped a bad attitude when he was called out for painting the walls without priming.

Dude, Painting lesson #1 - prime BEFORE you paint!

I came in and immediately found big gaps in the ceiling paint and long drips of primer running down the walls. The guy was clearly irritated at having to prime and took it out on us by doing a terrible job.

When I saw this mess, I was angry. Mostly at myself for not expressing exactly what I wanted and exactly how I wanted it done on paper and making the guy sign it acknowledging he understood.

While I think saying "Here's two gallons of primer for the walls and trim." should be enough to clarify that I wanted the walls primed, the better thing would have been to write a list and make sure we agreed to the terms of the project from the beginning.

The good news is, I was prepared. I'd worked ahead enough in the last few weeks that I have the time to work on this project all week. That's the good news. The bad news is I think I bit off a bit more than I expected.

The Snowball Effect

The initial goal of this job was to remove the back deck which was rotting off the back of the house and replace the back door with a big window. Because I knew this project would tear into the walls in the living room, I figured we'd also repaint the walls in the living room. Because there are only two walls to finish in this room, I thought this was going to be small and easy.

But then the project got a bit bigger.

The ceilings in the living room have had water damage because the roof was in terrible shape when we bought the house. This seemed like the perfect time to paint the ceilings and finally cover these ugly spots.

Except the living room ceiling doesn't end in the living room. It seamlessly connects to the ceiling in the kitchen and hall. So now we're painting the ceilings in two more spaces. That's more floor to cover and more stuff to move and clear.

And the hall walls were in terrible shape...why not paint them too? And the ego guy claimed he couldn't paint the ceiling in the kitchen without painting the walls so there's another room to paint as well.

See what's happened? This whole thing has snowballed and now it feels like the whole house is being repainted. While yes, this is going to be super nice when it's over, right now it just feels like overwhelming chaos.

I'm not a stranger to this type of chaos because I grew up with it. From first grade to seventh grade, my house was in some state of renovation, sometimes sealing off an entire room of the house for years. I grew up with my house like this so it feels weirdly comfortable to have everything jumbled up and tools all over the place.

But it also feels exhausting. Let's face it - I'm a quilter! I sit down most of the day at a sewing machine. I don't haul heavy stuff around, pound nails, rip off walls, or roll paint for hours every day.

This project has made it very clear just how soft my body has become from sitting and quilting every day. I've lost a lot of my upper body strength because I don't often lift or haul heavy things around. That must change. Whether I do physical work outside more often or work out harder at the gym, I've got to rebuild my strength and stamina.

But for now I'm just looking to get through this project. When confronted with his sloppy work and the option to continue under our direction, the contractor quit on the spot. His ego couldn't handle having to actually listen and follow directions.

That left us with a tricky situation - we needed extra hands to get the heavy window upstairs and installed in the window casing. I honestly didn't think we could do this ourselves.

But I guess I didn't give my family enough credit. We called my Father-in-law who lives just down the road and between Dad, Josh, and Chet, we managed to get the heavy window installed on the first try:

Gotta love strength in numbers! Now that the hardest, messiest part of the job is over, the rest should proceed quickly. Today we're going to finish the walls inside and I'll get back to painting today.

My goal is to be finished inside completely by Friday so life can get back to normal. James keeps walking into the living room saying "I just don't know if I can get used to this Mom." and my response is "I don't WANT you to get used to this kid!" I want our house back to normal too.

One thing I've learned with this renovation is to tackle things in smaller bites and not get caught in a renovation snowball. I could have painted only the living room ceiling. I could have refused to paint kitchen. I could have painted the living room years ago and not left it looking so ratty for so long.

When you wait to fix something, it just gets bigger and the job gets harder, more expensive, and more time consuming. Now that I'm caught in the snowball, I just have to ride it out and fix and finish everything at once. It's going to be a lot of work, but definitely feel great when it's finished.

Let's go quilt (I wish I was!),

Leah Day


  1. Love the view from your deck! I fully understand how big the smallest project can get when you are renovating. Now I just tackle small chunks at a time. When I paint, I do one wall at a time, even though there are four walls in a room. It takes longer but does keep the project more manageable.

    1. That is a really good idea Shasta! I should have left the hall until later, but it looked SO terrible. But it's also taking DAYS to paint. Lol! That was a no win situation.

  2. Oh, Leah, I so sympathize with you. Our house is very open too with many ceilings and walls that continue from one room to another. It is a bear when painting. A few years ago, my husband put down pre-finished hardwood flooring in our house. Living room furniture had to go in the living room while he did the family room, and vice versa. Because he is older (70) he couldn't work on the flooring job more than a couple of hours every day. Then at one point he injured his hand on one of the flooring tools so the job got put on hold for a few weeks. Then he had another health issue for awhile. All in all our flooring job took almost a year. So that was a year with our furniture all piled up in various rooms, looking like a used furniture store. It was so worth it in the end, but it can be crazy-making while it is going on. Good luck to you!

    1. I'm glad to hear your job got done eventually. I'm almost at the point of chucking furniture just to feel like there's enough space in the house again!

  3. You seem to have a good attitude about it and yes, thank heavens for certainly have a big area to do. Good luck!

    1. Thank you! We're making good progress so far.

  4. I totally understand how disruptive it can be, but it will be so worth it in the end. I hope you can find good, professional help. I've heard so many people who have trouble with finding the right people.

    1. My new policy will be to keep the project much smaller and focused on changing a single thing at a time. Just adding the window was big enough. We could have just left it there and already be done by now!

  5. Bless your heart. Every project I have ever done in my house has taken much more time, money and energy than I planned. That's just the way it is with older houses. But the results are amazing. So it's worth it.

  6. Going to be fabulous when complete!


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