DIY House

The Chap’s Room – part 2

So there I was, knocking down a fitted wardrobe to make the Chap’s bedroom bigger.

In the previous post, I got as far as removing the back wall of the fitted wardrobe, which left a hole between the two bedrooms where the wardrobe doors used to be. Now I need to re-use the removed breeze blocks to fill up this hole.

If this were an exterior wall, or were to have visible brickwork, I would’ve fretted about getting the new blocks to line up with the old. Thankfully this wasn’t something I had to worry about as the whole lot would be plastered, and there was no way they could’ve lined up anyway, as the existing brickwork was out of whack.

I still had the problem of how to tie the new bricks to the existing walls. I found a thing called a Wall Starter Connector Kit, which was a long metal strip that you screw securely to the existing wall such that it will be sandwiched between the old bricks and the new. The strip is shaped so that horizontal metal ties can be clipped in at different heights up the length of the strip. Then, as each row of bricks is laid, a tie is fixed in place just above the top of the brick. These ties are then cemented into the wall between the brick layers, and hold the new wall securely against the old.

Laying these bricks took me a little while. As I said, they were heavy, and one thing I was worried about was that the wet cement would be squashed out in the bottom layers as I added more on top. So I laid three rows each day over a long weekend, giving some drying time for the lower layers each time.

In went the first three rows…

And finally, in went the last row…

Not bad work, I think.

Next job was to begin the plastering. I bought a job lot of plasterboards (not the biggest size available – I couldn’t transport those) and taught myself how to do Dot And Dab. I found a selection of videos online by searching “How To Stick Plasterboard to a Brick Wall”, and followed their advice. Dot and Dab, it turns out, is not entirely unlike tiling a wall. It’s handy that I’d practiced that a fair bit in the past.

(Apologies for the poor focus on that one – I should learn to check these things before going back to the work)

And soon the wall was covered.

I then followed some more video advice on how to fill and seal the joints between the plasterboards. This involved Scrim tape, and a Plaster Jointing Filler. Scrim is basically a strong web that you attach down the length of the joint between the boards. You then cover this tape with layers of the jointing filler. The filler is quite soft, and gets pushed through the webbing, setting solid all around it. It thus bonds the webbing to the boards and so bonds the boards together. Usefully the webbing can absorb movement of one board against another, and of the wall against the ceiling. So it will prevent cracks appearing in the plaster surface.

Then I took a look at the gaps in the existing walls where bricks had been removed. I used a chisel to get rid of raised lumps and loose sections in the remaining plaster, then filled the gaps with plaster cement.

The next piece of advice I then followed, was to call a professional plasterer in to do the finishing skim for me. I can fill little holes and finish off small repairs, but making a nice smooth surface over an entire wall is a mystical superpower that I don’t possess. Our plasterer came in, covered the various walls with a wonderfully flat finish and was gone again in what seemed only a matter of minutes. The next day he came back and did the same to the ceiling. Excellent work!

Next came a new Skirting Board. And as seems typical of me, as soon as I have something related to wood to do, I forget to take any pictures. Sorry! Anyway, I found some lengths of skirting board in our wonderful Reclaimed Wood Store, nailed this around the room and gave it a good coat of primer. Now I could move on to the carpet and the paint.

Ask a small chap what colour he wants, and the answer is “Red”. If not red, then “Silver”. Ok, so let’s talk about this…

We went to the local carpet shop, but didn’t see a suitable red carpet. However, we did see an end-of-roll of a silver-grey carpet that he really liked and that was just the right size.

Laying carpet is not that difficult, though it’s quite strenuous trying to stretch it all out and get rid of wrinkles and sagging. First, go with some good underlay. Then nail down Gripper Rods around the perimeter of the room, aim for a 1cm gap between the gripper rods and the skirting board. Spread out the carpet so that it fills the area, with overlap all round. Now you can begin to stretch it out over the gripper rod pins and cut it to size.

I usually start by trimming one corner to fit nicely. You can cut carpet with strong scissors or a knife, as appropriate. Then with one point fixed, I pull and stretch and tug the carpet across to an adjacent corner, trimming and securing the section between the two. Then I work from the middle of this wall towards the other two corners in turn, pushing and pulling the carpet away from the secured section and towards the unsecured sections. I push the carpet using a length of wood that I can grip in both hands. I put my weight onto this wood and push it down onto the carpet while at the same time pushing myself away from the wall with my feet. Doing this several times will get the wood to drag and stretch out the carpet, getting rid of creases and bumps.

Bit by bit, with lots of stretching and pushing, I work my way around each edge in turn. Using strong scissors and/or a knife, I cut away the excess carpet. I aim to leave a couple of centimetres of carpet up against the skirting, which can then be tucked under the skirting board to finish of the edge.

Oh, and one last thing with laying carpets. I’ve found it’s best to save painting the skirting boards until after the carpet is in place. This sounds odd because of course you run the risk of getting wet paint on the new carpet. I’ve found in past efforts though that, when hauling carpet around, it’s easy to damage the skirting board’s paintwork, requiring a repaint anyway. When it comes to painting, tucking pieces of paper or strips of masking tape over the carpet and under the skirting board will let you paint without getting any where it shouldn’t be.

Now I can paint the walls. Before the colour goes on, the new plasterwork needs sizing. Sizing is basically a coat of thinned/watered down paint that is applied before the proper paint is used. The thinned paint will partly soak into the plaster, and give something for the regular coat to hold on to. If you go straight to a regular coat of paint, it might not actually bond to the plaster, and somewhere down the line you find it just peels off.

So, about that red… The chap was quite adamant that, in the absence of a red carpet, the room would be painted red. After a lot of persuading, we eventually got him to acquiesce a little, and accept that a single red wall would be sufficient – the colour would reflect off a light yellow used on the other walls, giving a red effect but without being quite so overbearing.

He decided to help with this coat. He was only small at the time though, and couldn’t reach much, but he did his bit, in his matching dressing gown.

And here’s a (slightly distorted) panorama for the finished wall.

The newly expanded room had space for a few other projects that I’ve previously written up in blog posts. First, I built him a Desk to fit in one corner:

Then in the other corner I slotted in a maths-themed Bookshelf:

There will probably be more work to do when he outgrows his cabin bed, but for now, he’s happy.

By nickcnickcnickc

I spend my working life staring at computer screens, so in my spare time I look for things to do with my hands, preferably involving wood. It's a little ironic then that I've now starting writing a blog about my woodworking, and thus introducing computer screens to my main hobby..!

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