WARNING: There are some photos at the bottom of this post of an injury I suffered during but unrelated to this project. They aren't really bad, but I know some people don't like to see x-rays of broken bones.

If you're a regular reader, you may remember a few months back we went into great detail about our custom cherry built in desk and the process we took to create it. Though we covered the various aspects of the desk build in depth, we never really talked all that much about the process that took the room our desk resides in from cramped and hideous, to a place we enjoy working. In order to get you all caught up on this project, we'll do a little rundown of our major tasks in this room in a several part series, and we'll also be sure to point out the various lessons we learned while taking on some of the things we had never accomplished before this project.

Before our office was an office, to meet our needs, we used our back bedroom as both a room for a guest (as there was only room for a twin bed) and our office space for computers, bills, and the like. This less than ideal setup was mildly frustrating at times, and infuriating at others. Forget about a normal sized bed in the back room, or the ability for a pair of guests to stay upstairs.

The space that we currently refer to as our office actually started life as a part of our oversized and gross 1980's guest bathroom and a small closet. This inefficient use of space ate up nearly 1/3 of our upstairs, and limited our ability to have separate guest and office spaces. Here's a look at what our now office looked like on the day of our home inspection.

Hmm. Carving out an entire hallway to get to a nasty grey toilet? That bad boy had to go. I'm sure it's hard to picture the former layout, so here's a birds eye view at what we started with, and where we were headed.

Wendy and I got to work on converting the poorly used space to an office, but we had our fair share of difficulties along the way. The walls weren't insulated or even sheetrocked, the floor was seriously damaged, and we wanted to expose the brick on the back wall behind the desk. Despite these challenges, we dove right in and made quick work of removing all traces of the 1980s.

Our first step in the whole process was actually the horribly dirty process of removing the broken and falling off plaster from the rear brick wall to give that wonderful exposed brick look. Though the brick started out covered in a thick layer of plaster and sand (shown in the photo above), we ended up with a pretty good looking wall in the end. We quickly went from plaster on the wall to this...

...and then with a lot of scrubbing, we went to this...

I know, it actually looks a bit worse in some places in the second photo, but you'll have to trust me on this one. We needed to take a step or two back to make forward progress. Also, do you see the hold in the chimney? That chimney is not longer functional, as it's been cut off just under the roof, but at one point this hole served as a coal or wood stove's exit point for the house. It looks like there was probably actually a stove in every room upstairs as we've seen similar evidence in other rooms.

After the dirty work of plaster removal from the brick was complete, we needed to start putting things back together, so we decided to add just a little insulation to the walls. Since the exterior window wall of the office is right on the exterior brick wall, this area needed just a little help. We didn't want to lose much if any space in the room, so we attached 2x1 furring strips to the masonry with masonry screws and filled the voids between the furring strips with polyisocyanurate insulation.

If you're not familiar, polyisocyanurate is the rigid foam insulation you've probably seen at the store. It was perfect for the type of insulation since we knew exactly how thick it was and that it could easily fill the areas as necessary. We also tapes all of the pieces in place with a foil insulation tape. Sure, this isn't R-16 or anything, but it still helps an awful lot. We were then able to attach the drywall right to the furring strips to skin the wall.

Oh, and can you believe this is the same window that featured those nasty pink curtains? We were already feeling like the space was improving. Though more exposed brick may have been nice, the extra insulation and the fact the bricks were painted white in many areas made the drywall a better option.

The drywall we ended up using in this room was actually the fiberglass based DensArmor Plus. This was all the rage back then and you could find it at Lowes. You can actually see the back of it in this photo of Wendy looking oh so DIY cute.

I really liked this drywall and how easy it was to work with, and I liked the idea that it is mold resistent. I don't know why they don't sell or carry it anymore, but if you know, drop us a comment and let us know why.

Once the walls were in place, we turned our attention to patching up the awful and falling apart ceiling. Using our trusty plaster buttons, we secured the various sagging and cracked areas of the plaster.

Once secured, we were able to use our plaster skim coating skills and cover over top to give ourselves a beautifully smooth ceiling and walls and install our crown molding. Ahh, the things DIY dreams are made of.

As you can see form the photo above, we did put a speaker in the ceiling, and we were able to also install the window and door casings to match our original along the way. It's funny, after the tedious skim coating work, the various finish details like molding seemed to move right along.

Before we wrap up our first in a series of office recaps, I may have forgotten to mention the stupid thing I did that really threw a monkey wrench into our plans of office renovating. It seems that I'm no longer 18 and invincible, and I learned this the hard way. Just a short while into our office renovation work I was invited to play with a local softball team. Everything was going fine, I was having run, playing right field. Someone hit a popup into shallow right field and I decided I was going to go all out and try and catch the ball. As I got close to the ball I decided to dive, but realized in mid air I wasn't going to make the catch. I adjusted in the air, and tried to trap the ball and roll into the ground as I had done over a hundred times before, but something didn't go as planned. 

Instead my left shoulder hit the ground with all of my body weight behind it and I didn't roll. My collar bone took the brunt of the force and I heard a tremendously loud pop/crack. I jumped up to my feet and realized I couldn't lift my left arm and that my shoulder area hurt. When I put my right hand up on my collar bone and shoulder, I could feel things weren't right and the jagged edge of my bone was forcing my skin up like a tent pole. Here is what it looked like from the outside a couple of days after the incident. Though the bone already started to fall into place, you can see the bruising where it had really pushed up quite hard.

And here's a view of it from the inside.

I had severely fractured my clavicle, and this put a serious damper on our home renovations, ruined a planned trip to the Bahamas, and made Wendy have to care for me like I was an infant. When talking to my orthopedic surgeon, I told him how eager I was to get back to work on the house. Given the severity of the fracture, and the fact that he understood I wanted to be up on a ladder sooner than later, my surgeon recommended surgery to correct the break. About a week after the my stupidity, this was the new look I was going with.

And here it is again from the inside.

Can you believe it? A simple softball game turned into a titanium plate, eight screws, a month in a sling, and six months of physical therapy, not to mention about $13,000 in medical bills. I'm very glad I have good insurance, though I still don't have complete range of motion in my left shoulder.

Thanks to all of my foolishness, Wendy ended up doing some of the heavy lifting along with a very helpful friend. Can you see the glare of death Wendy is giving me in this photo? Yeah, she wasn't happy.

There you have it, that's how we kicked off our office renovation with a bang...or at least a really loud crack. We were on our way to a funcional home office, but we were slightly sidelined along the way. 

Have you ever started a renovation project only to be sidelined by an unrelated injury? Were you as frustrated as I was that I couldn't work on the house? Please share to make me feel like I'm not alone.

Comments 14


6/21/2012 at 2:39 PM
Huh. That's the same drywall we used in our bathroom in February/March and we and everyone who worked with it haaaaaated it! Maybe it's made differently now?

Our drywall guy found it difficult to cut, our mudder commented on how rough the texture was, and I can still tell where it was mudded in some spots after 2 coats each of drywall primer and paint with built in primer!

Maybe we just got a bad batch or something, haha.
Oddly enough, I think I liked it because of the texture. Since I like to skim coat the entire thing to give the plaster feel to the walls, I just felt like it gave more for it to grab onto. I also found it very easy to cut and work with, you just had to make sure you wear long sleeves or you'll end up with fiberglass cuts, which aren't fun.
6/21/2012 at 7:10 PM
I've used several hundred of those plaster washers in various places in my home. Definitely an artform!
Karin K
6/21/2012 at 7:16 PM
I first started reading this post on my phone, and thought "Oooo ugly bathroom!" But when I came home and checked it out on the computer, you did a really nice job with it before you tore it out - cute curtins, and the poster looked great. Anyway - Alex! Dood! That looks painful. But at least it is way more exciting than me breaking my ankle running across the street in the rain wearing flip flops. One minute I'm running, and the next I'm sitting flat on my butt, cringing at having to continue my journey to my car with a giant wet spot on my fanny. Just like you, I jumped up, and that's when I realized that my right foot was no longer connected to "the leg bone".... it was just flopping around. THEN the pain hit. I have some very cool xrays myself..... Oh, and the Bahamas? If you were headed to Grand Bahama Island, you did yourself a favor.
Karin K
6/21/2012 at 7:19 PM
Oh geez... I DO know how to spell curtains.
Hey now, no need to be polite on that bathroom, we think it is pretty ugly too (and what was pictured was the previous owner's decor during the home inspection).

I know just the feeling you explained. When I jumped up I just thought, "Shoot, I missed the ball and then looked stupid on the ground...oh wait, my body is broken." You have my absolute sympathies.

We were actually going to The Atlantis, but it was for Wendy's work and I was just tagging along for fun. She had no choice to miss it, and I needed her help for things like bathing, so I still ended up going. Now I know my ideas of how nice of a place The Atlantis is may have been skewed by my misery, the fact I couldn't go in the water or in the sun, and the fact that two of the three days we were there had a tropical storm hanging over the island, but $14 for a Johnny Rockets hamburger? Are you serious? So you're absolutely right.
6/21/2012 at 10:49 PM
I hope you will show what you've done with the guest bathroom, as well as the office. Your "revisits" to past projects, before you blogged, are very interesting so please keep doing them.

Yeah, it's not hard to delude oneself that stellar softball playing abilities are not eroding with age -- ha! Some years ago the coed team I was on was short of players in key positions so I, a woman, volunteered to play third base. My throwing arm was up to the task -- otherwise no team in its right mind would play me at that position -- but my fielding wasn't. A guy on the opposing team hit a screaming grounder in my direction which I was too slow to field or knock down, resulting in a huge lump on my leg which stayed swollen and bruised for months.

I've since had two gardening accidents affecting the same spot on my leg. Not one to be slowed down by that, I shook these off and kept on doing heavy-duty yard work. Unfortunately this year's injury was more than a cut and bruise with swelling; my leg was actually gouged out, it got infected, the antibiotic treatment basically poisoned me, and the damn thing is still under a doctor's care. Nonetheless, I'm still rocking the gardening (and in denial about advancing age).
We'll definitely reveal all the nitty gritty details of the bathroom renovation, and I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying our projects past. :-)

That's terrible about your leg. I remember you mentioning it before. I hope it heals soon!
6/22/2012 at 11:41 AM
OUCH! I've broken bones before and they are no fun at all. I got hit by a car when bicycling once and some where between the point where I hit the handlebars after a hard brake, the car hit me and then the bike landed on top of me, I broke a rib. So you have my sympathy.

Love the plaster buttons......
Oh my gosh! A broken rib doesn't sound like any fun, but I think you were lucky not to have had additional injuries. So glad you're okay!
6/23/2012 at 5:46 PM
My dear husband started building a tiger maple hutch for out kitchen this March. He had the legs and frame for the hutch bottom completed. He was attempting to clean out the dust catcher in the attic of his shop and spilled saw dust down the steps. When he started down the steps he slipped and fell eight feet. He sustained a compression fracture of the L1 vertebra. Fortunately, I was in the shop with him when this happened. He didn't have surgery, but was in the hospital two days and flat of his back for almost six weeks. He's up and about now and doing physical therapy. Not a renovation project, but an injury just the same. We are so thankful his injuries weren't more severe. Before retiring he had been in 2260 attics as a home inspector and never had any injuries while working, yet another blessing.
Oh my goodness. So sorry to hear about his accident but glad he's on the mend and no surgery was needed!

I'm sure that tiger maple hutch will be gorgeous when he feels up to working on it.
Old Owner
6/27/2012 at 1:30 PM
It is pretty rude how you like to complain about the decorating choices made by the previous owner. Maybe they weren't your cup of tea, but it's a bit insulting to keep harping about how all of their design choices were gross or disgusting.
Since you've not signed in yet, you will need to fill in your name and email below. If you have a Facebook account, save yourself a step and use Connect to login.

Denotes a required field.

Please enter full URL, including http://

You can use Markdown syntax in your comment. And you can also use lots of Emoji!
  • Search

  • Login
  • Follow
  • Advertising

If you're looking for information on advertising and sponsorships, head on over to our sponsorships page. You can purchase site sponsorships in a few easy clicks. 

Toolbox Tuesday
Open Housing
  • We're Featured!

Old Town Home has been featured in the following places and publications:

The Washington Post
Washingtonian Magazine
Old House Journal
Apartment Therapy House Tour
Washington Post Express Feature
Home & Garden Blogs
© 2024 OldTownHome.com. - Privacy Policy
Login Below
Sign in with Facebook

Unexpected Error

Your submission caused an unexpected error. You can try your request again, but if you continue to experience problems, please contact the administrator.