Q: We just bought a house in Alameda, Calif. It was built in the 1930s and hasn’t been touched since. We got it for a good price and are viewing renovations as a long-term project. We had a termite inspection, a roof inspection and a home inspection.
A little termite work was done under the house, and the home inspector pointed out some problems, mainly with the electrical system. The roof has a few more years of life left and no evidence of leaks. The wiring is old knob and tube, so plugs are not plentiful.
Our plan is to move in and renovate as time and budget allow. We’re a bit strapped now, but want to make the house our home as much as possible.
We’d appreciate any suggestions you guys might have since you’ve both walked a mile in our moccasins.
A: We wish you good luck and a lot of fun with your renovation. When you’re done, the pride in having done it yourself will be huge.
Before you do anything else, have a licensed electrician give the place a thorough going-over.
Besides the knob and tube, our guess is that you have an undersize service panel with fuses instead of circuit breakers. Modern appliances, such as a microwave or a hair dryer, put more of a load on the wiring than it was designed for. You probably will have to part with several thousand dollars for a new 200-amp service. So, take a deep breath and write the check to get your wiring updated and safe.
Now it gets a lot less expensive.
The easiest way to make a house a home is paint. Painting with your colors makes the house fresh, clean and yours. Do one room at a time. Like everything, there’s a right way to do it. Here’s how:
- First, cover the floors with drop cloths. This part can be omitted if you’re going to replace the carpet or have hardwood floors to be refinished soon.
- Wash the walls and woodwork with a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) to remove any dirt or grease. Rinse the walls with clear water to remove any TSP residue.
- Use painter’s masking tape (blue or green) to mask the edges of baseboards, door trim and window trim. The blue and green versions are less sticky and won’t take the paint off when removed.
- "V" out any cracks in the walls or ceiling with the point of a teardrop-shaped paint scraper. Vacuum any plaster dust from the floor, edges of baseboard and the cracks. Fill the holes with Spackle or patching plaster. Sand the patches smooth. Vacuum again.
- Spray the patches with a primer such as Bulls Eye.
- Fill any holes and repair any dings in the wood trim. If the paint on the trim is chipped, feather the edges with sandpaper.
Now it’s time for paint. The rule is to work from top to bottom: ceiling first, walls next, finishing with door frames, window frames and baseboards.
If the walls and the ceiling are to be the same color, use a 2 1/2-inch angled sash brush to paint a 6-inch-wide swath of paint on the sides of all corners of the ceiling and the walls. If the ceiling and walls are going to be different colors, just cut in the ceiling, making sure to cover the joint where the wall and ceiling intersect. Don’t worry if you get a little paint on the walls. You’ll be using masking tape on the ceiling to give a straight line for the walls. The wall color will cover any overage.
Paint the rest of the ceiling using a 3/8-inch nap roller. Start in a corner and roll out a 3-by-3-foot square. Draw an "M," then roll across the "M" to get uniform coverage on the square. Smooth out any edges left by the roller by lightly rolling over them. Continue with this method, always working to a wet edge.
If the walls are a different color, use masking tape on the ceiling to ensure a straight line. Use the same technique to paint the walls. Cut in the corners with a brush. Paint a 6-inch patch at the base and around window and door openings. Paint an "M" with the roller, fill it in, smooth out irregularities, repeat and work to a wet edge.
The final step is to paint the doors and windows. Make sure the walls are dry. Mask the edges and paint the wood using the same sash brush you used to cut in the corners of the walls and ceilings. Remove the masking tape, take up the drop cloths and you’re done. The room is now yours.
Happy renovating, and let us know how it goes.