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Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Garage Conversion Experience

One reason we decided to close in the garage instead of building a new addition (which we couldn't afford now) was that there wasn't enough turning room to get our pickup into the garage without making a wide turn through the yard. Also, two cars couldn't fit into it at the same time. Another reason was because the garage door didn't fit right, with a big, open gap around it. Might as well have had a big, neon "Welcome Critters" sign blinking on it. It didn't help that we lived on the edge of an open field between two creeks. Every time the wind blew, the attic trap door flapped up and down until it eventually fell to the floor. Then stray cats squeezed through the garage door gap and made their way into the attic. Mice in the attic make very little noise, but a cat in the attic - especially a cat chasing mice in the attic - makes a lot of noise.

The garage interior measures 21x21.5 feet, plenty of room to have living room and office space and then use the existing living room as a dining room. The walls were sheetrocked and had been finished, but had no insulation, shelves and brackets nailed to the walls, and the sheetrock on the ceiling was sagging, probably because of moisture in the attic and no insulation.

I spent one day pulling all the sheetrock off the ceiling, and then heard that a big warehouse near town was remodeling and giving away building materials. I made several trips in the truck and got enough insulation batting to do the ceiling, a couple of flourescent light fixtures, and enough wiring to do a small house. Once home again, I spent the weekend insulating and Hubby pulled the wiring for four can lights. Then one of Hubby's customers gave him a ceiling fan taken out of the house because paint splattered on it. Fine with us, we spray-painted the whole thing with black and installed it.

There had been a leak, like a miniature Niagra Falls, where the roof tied into the garage wall, and when Hubby was in the attic, he found that there was no flashing in that area. Thank you Moe and Curly. So he had to take off some shingles and siding to add the flashing. Leak solved. We also changed the mudroom into a closet and moved the door around to the den. Looking back, I wish we had left the closet door in the foyer even though another door would open against it. I'll talk about that another day.

Other than that, our only costs were new sheetrock, diy blown insulation for two walls, and a gas fireplace for heat. The room was habitable, or shabitable, at this point by Christmas 1997. I don't know why we thought it would be fun to celebrate in here that year because it wasn't.

Since it had been used as a garage at some point in the past, it had oil drip stains on the concrete. We cleaned them with degreaser until water no longer beaded up on it, but the stains remained. Hubby painted them with an epoxy concrete paint, mis-tint of course, and it was clean enough to walk on and put in our upholstered furniture.

We found four flush mount ceiling lights for a couple of dollars in a clearance bin because they were polished brass. A little burnished copper metal finish and they were better.

The next spring, we tore down an old house on my grandparent's farm and used the old boards as wainscot paneling in the room. We had seen this in someone else's house and it seemed so warm and casual. We did a soft faux stucco on the walls and painted, another mis-tint. This is what it looked like the following Christmas.

Dave Ramsey likes to say that when you have no savings Murphy will move in your spare room and bring along his brothers, Broke, Desperate and Stupid, and that's exactly what happened to us, only we had no spare room. It took a couple of years to pull out of that and begin working on the house again, and then it was with an extremely thin budget.

During those lean years when we put our financial house in order, and as I sat in this uncompleted den, I marveled at my grandmother. She lived in that two-room house built in the 1800's where the walls were the thickness of one board, no studs or even sheetrock. The entire house was smaller than the den this wood was now in. She didn't drive and was in this house all day with five children while my grandfather worked the farm, plus the school teacher boarded with them. The walls had newspaper and wallpaper pasted on the inside and pieces of tin and canning jar lids nailed to the outside, all in an attempt to keep out the wind. The wood probably wasn't as dried out and splintered when she lived in it seventy years before, but I can imagine her relief and joy when they bought a bigger house, two story, and with real walls.

The old wood had to go. It was impossible to clean, and spiders liked it way too much. So the first thing we did after booting Murphy out of the house was to tear the wood off the walls, stucco the walls to match what we had done before, and painted walls and ceiling desert tan, not a mis-tint, but a color I actually got to choose off a color deck. We put beadboard trim around the fireplace topped with a mantle Hubby made. This and the trim were painted white.

And then, finally, we bought carpet, a beige berber with brown flecks.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a home for the holidays,

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