Our 3rd barn home construction update ended with drywall. Thanks to winter weather, drywall ended up being the headliner of our build for over a month.
By “headliner,” I mean we couldn’t move forward with a huge to-do list of key tasks drywall was finished, from painting to plumbing.
Chris and our carpenter hung the first few walls and ceilings in February, adding a couple types of soundproofing to make sure our house of hard surfaces – metal ceilings, wooden walls, cement floors – isn’t an echo chamber.
When our first carpenter ducked out after 2 productive months, we started looking for more help. Our excavator/electrician, “Z” recommended a carpenter we’ll call “J.”
The people Z recommends have been the best professionals we’ve worked with out here. J was responsive by phone and text and arrived with a good vibe. He provided proof of insurance and a written contract consistent with his verbal quote. We asked him to start right away.
Drywall isn’t only tedious to hang, the “mudding” part is intimidating if you’re aiming for smooth walls.
Mudding means spreading spackle over the gaps between drywall sheets and over the nails or screws that attach the sheets to the framing wood, letting it dry, sanding it smooth, and doing it again, and probably again after that. The sanding creates beachloads of fine dust. Insidious, skin-drying, sneezy dust.
Drywall isn’t rocket science, and you can absolutely do it yourself, but the more experience you have with it, the more you’ll realize achieving smooth walls is an art form. Rush or skimp on the process, and you’ll have wavy walls that show nail pops and tape lines sooner rather than later. We were glad to have professional help.
I’d never been this involved with the drywall process and didn’t have a good understanding of what “doing drywall” was. If you’re the same way, and you’re sitting in a standard US home right now, look at the walls. Appreciate for a moment that, without a doubt, a human being or 3 worked really hard to attach the surface that sits between the house’s frame and the paint. They probably sanded for hours, surrounded by a cloud of dust that takes many showers to remove. Are your ceilings smooth? That means someone spent hours with their arms over their heads in that room, spackling and sanding.
Spackle can take forever to dry during a cool, humid Smokies rainforest winter. Pretty soon, partly to keep him around because we like working with him, Chris was having J quote more finish jobs (as in, let’s “finish” this house so we can move in), like hanging doors and building a handsome knee wall in front of the HVAC in the loft.
They probably call it a “knee wall” because it’s only knee high. You can see it up top in the below picture.
It’s bananas how much light the windowed door lets in.
Springtime and No More Sanding
Spring is enchanting in the Smokies. Flowers, foraging, sunshine, sniffles…Plus warm weather to dry the rest of the spackle so the drywall could be finished.
The dust from sanding the drywall was stopping us from finishing a ton of other things. It hangs in the air like smog and sticks to every surface. We couldn’t run the HVAC because drywall dust clogs electronics. We couldn’t tackle low-hanging fruit like painting more polyurethane on the tongue & groove because dust would’ve stuck to it, giving the boards a gritty texture instead of the silky smooth surface we wanted. We held off on assembling more of the kitchen so dust couldn’t sneak into the soft-closing drawer rails.
Did Someone Say Kitchen?
Yes! Thanks to a couple of our best friends, we started pulling together the bones of the kitchen in mid-March.
The IKEA kitchen process is no joke. In the 3rd barn update, I described a 7-hour kitchen planning session at IKEA Charlotte. A month and a half later, Chris drove 3 hours to Charlotte – fortuitously during the spring kitchen sale, the dates of which are a guarded secret until the sale begins – for kitchen pickup, while I stayed home to take care of one of our dogs<–long story for another post.
Because we’re full-time-job-having homeowner builders, pickup happened on a weekend, even though the kitchen staff warned that Saturday pickup can be soul crushing, and more so during a kitchen sale. Despite the hours I spent on the phone with IKEA to have the order ready for Chris to pickup, he was still at IKEA for almost 4 hours that day.
The 110 boxes of boxes of our small kitchen (sans countertops or appliances) weighed over 1,000 lbs and took up 35 cubic feet, the exact amount of cargo room in my CR-V, prompting me to wish I’d been bolder 1 1/2 months ago and tried to bring the kitchen home then.
The entire order wouldn’t have really fit, but to make sure Chris’ time and the U-Haul rental were worth it, I forced myself to commit to bathroom vanities, sinks, and faucets, and had them prepaid and pulled for pickup using an online-shopping option called “Click & Collect.”
Click & Collect only appeared on the Safari browser, not Firefox, FYI. IKEA’s disparate web tools are a big part of the stress of IKEA, whether the websites were confounding me or the friendly staff who wrestle with them on a daily basis.
Never in the history of IKEA has there been a perfect kitchen order fulfillment. Kitchens are full of strange and unexpected components. We only found 2 missing items on our first inventory: a power cord and set of cabinet shelves. It wasn’t until hanging the cabinets that we realized a full cabinet box was completely missing from the order and the spacer material was the wrong color. I spent another 2 hours on the phone and Chris another hour in IKEA on another weekend trip.
On one of my trips to CLT, I made a quick weekday IKEA run for a simple return and to make sure we’d collected all the discounts we qualified for. It was nothing like the weekend purgatory Chris encountered. I took a number at customer service, waited 5 minutes, and left with a handful of gift cards worth nearly $200. Instead of veering out of the sliding doors to the parking lot, I drifted up the escalator. “For lunch,” I told myself. “Just some salmon balls and a cup of coffee.” The CR-V looked like this when I left.
Who can help it? IKEA furniture is made for little spaces, and we’re building a little home.
Despite the time sink, the IKEA kitchen experience has been great, with the caveat that Gordian IT and crowds can make for a tangled customer experience. The kitchen staff has been efficient and supportive by phone the few times we’ve needed them, and assembly has been a breeze. Though we wouldn’t have known that without the help of friends.
Faced with a pile of cardboard freshly unloaded from the U-Haul, our first reaction was to bid out kitchen installation. Maybe that wouldn’t have been our reaction if the rest of the build weren’t so overwhelming. Then friend Shawn texted how jealous he was that we had so much IKEA to build. He wasn’t kidding. He loves putting together IKEA. Look at that smile!
The weekend after pickup, Shawn, wife Lauren, Chris and I descended on the barn with tools and a can-do attitude. The day ended with a stack of assembled cabinets and drawers (and the seeds for an IKEA kitchen-building tips post, coming soon).
That running start was the confidence booster we needed to build our own kitchen, and now barnbungalow has a kitchen built in friendship. Thanks, you two!
So much has happened since. Chris coordinated the completion of drywall and wiring updates along one of the kitchen walls before drawing the entire kitchen plan on the walls in pencil, measured to the 1/16ths. He cut cabinet rails to size and and attached them for perfectly level cabinets. Level things are a miracle and have been vital for success with next kitchen steps, which are in our next update.
50 Shades of White
With drywall finished, Chris also bid out painting for our interior walls, a huge step towards moving in. Painted walls clear the way for a marathon of milestones to hit before moving in, including final electrical and plumbing.
Paint was something I’d wanted to do ourselves, because we know how to do it, but Chris was focused on time. All non-tongue-and-groove walls and ceilings needed a full coat of primer (so the paint didn’t sink into the drywall) and 1-2 coats of paint. He didn’t think the 2 of us would make short enough work of it.
Before the painters came, we had to choose colors. We wanted walls light and ceilings lighter to make the space open and airy. It’s wild how many “colors of white” there are. Snowbound, Dover, paper, pure, perfect, pearly, China, alabaster, ibis, egret, origami, nice, gauzy, ethereal, everyday, fleur de sel, oyster, on the rocks, well, you get the picture. We stood in the paint section half a dozen times before narrowing to 2 finalists for the walls and 2 for the ceilings: pillowcase, divine, fundamental, and marshmallow.
It was too hard to make a final decision holding tiny chips up to the wall, so we dropped $20 on sample tubs of each of our 4 candidates and made giant chips out of posterboard.
Giant chips are the jam! They helped us see the pink in pillowcase and the green-gray in fundamental, neither of which complement knotty pine T&G. Divine and marshmallow were the clear champions.
See how they look in our next update.
Wait, this blog is called “Earth to Dome.” Are we still building a geodesic dome? Yes! Read this to find out why we’re building the barn bungalow first.