HOUSE: Newburgh

Paint zombie.

Remember my pledge to finish the back room by the last day of the year? Well, that’s not going to happen. I could blame the fact that the snow melted, but the truth is that I am human, and there are only so many hours in a day. I’m pretty sure I can finish it before I go back to work on January 5th, though.

I’ve been working on that room for 15-16 hours per day, every day, and it’s still not finished. I have to accept the fact that I’m hosting a New Year’s party for 20 or so people in two days, and I have to get the house ready and do a bunch of cooking to prepare for it. My guests aren’t going to care about whether or not I’ve finished that room.

Here’s what my Back Room Renovation to-do list looks like now:

scrape/repair/caulk and paint windows (2)
scrape loose paint from woodwork
patch holes in woodwork
sand woodwork with orbital/mouse sanders
demolish old closet shelving/cleats
repair damaged wall areas in closet
sand walls
pull excess nails in floor
scrape carpet glue off floor
dig 125 years of grime out from between floorboards
patch holes/fill gouges in floor
remove rotted areas of floor
fill rot-holes with epoxy
sand floor with orbital sander
vacuum like there’s no tomorrow
nail down shoe molding all around room
set nails; fill/sand
wash woodwork with TSP substitute
prime all woodwork
caulk everything
→ paint walls/ceiling (1 coat done)
→ paint woodwork
paint closet interior gray (2 coats done)
paint small dresser for closet
→ scrape, patch, sand, caulk and prime/paint doors (2)
→ mount ceiling medallion (caulk/prime/paint)
→ install new light fixture
→ wash floor like there’s no tomorrow
→ prime floor (2 coats)
→ caulk any large gaps/cracks in floorboards
→ paint floor (2 coats)
→ live in fear of walking on painted floor

I’m posting this list for the sake of other people who own old, un-renovated houses. It’s NEVER as simple as “just painting a room”. The rooms in my house have never been painted properly, nor has anything been maintained or repaired over the years. It’s a lot of work! (Note that this list doesn’t include removing two layers of glued-down carpeting or plaster repairs to the walls/ceiling, all of which was done THREE YEARS AGO, back when we were filled with ambitions of finishing everything in six months. Haha! HAH! Haaaa.)

I started writing this post at 2:00am last night (this morning?), but was too exhausted to finish it then. It’s now 6 hours later, and it’s time to get back to work.

My arms hurt. I’m exhausted. But the view out those back windows is nice, and it’s going to be amazing/weird to have another whole room to use.

p.s. Apartment Therapy is about to close off nominations for The Homies, so you’ve been thinking about nominating Door Sixteen, now is the time to get over there!

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  • Reply H.H. Hannah December 30, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Congratulations on getting so much done and accepting that you can’t always meet deadlines. I painted two rooms in my (old) house last week, right before Christmas. I really wanted them done before the holiday. It mostly got done but it was absolutely exhausting. I will not choose to spend a holiday that way again. Or at least not for a long long time.

  • Reply Regan December 30, 2008 at 9:20 am

    The sanding is what gets me. The never-ending sanding. I especially love when you find nails that have painted over more than once. Or thumb tacks. Really, how hard is it to remove a thumb tack before you paint? Thumb tacks!?

  • Reply April in CT December 30, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Anna, I’m so thankful you blog about your renovations and that we’re able to follow along. I find the process fascinating and envy your dedication. I always have grand plans, but I’m a procrastinator so it’s motivational to see how far your home has come. Since we live in a rental now (and will until the hubs retires from the military) I miss being able to do things to the house and your blog gives me a fix.

  • Reply mrslimestone December 30, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve done so much. The room will be ready for you to paint it when you have the time.

  • Reply whitney December 30, 2008 at 10:00 am

    It’s going to be beautiful, hang in there.

    My house was built in 1886 and I know what you mean about “it’s not just painting a room.” So much grime to get through. I think you’re going above and beyond what I’ve been willing/able to do though and I give you big hi-fives for it.

  • Reply Lonnie December 30, 2008 at 11:58 am


    You amaze me. You’ve got so much done already. You’ve worked so hard. A lot of people hire someone else to do this kind of work, but you’re doing it yourself… damn, girl!

    I can tell just from these few photos that this room has a really nice feel to it. I love the view, the windows, the moulding, etc. I can’t even imagine how nice it will be to soon have this extra space.

  • Reply Bea December 30, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Wow, that sounds like a TON of work. It looks great — thanks for all the inspiration!

    Where did you learn to do all this? I’d like to do some painting in my own 1920’s house, but know nothing about home repair or reno (it’s my first house). Is there a book or other resource you could recommend?

  • Reply DiP December 30, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    “My guests aren’t going to care about whether or not I’ve finished that room.”

    This one will!!! ;^)

  • Reply Anna at D16 December 30, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Alright, DiP, I’ll get back to work!!! 😉

  • Reply wendy December 30, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I’m going to print out this post and show it to my brother-in-law when he comes over for New Years Eve! Finally, validation–in print–to show to him. I bought a Victorian 2-family FIXER-UPPER in Jersey City and after a year, we finally finished enough of the downstairs to stop camping out upstairs and move in downstairs and hang pictures like normal people. For the last 6 months, all I’ve heard from him is “You’re not done yet?!” He thinks I’m slow as a snail and too much of a perfectionist (which I probably am). I try to explain the level of work involved and his eyes just glaze over. So glad I found your blog. Love it.

  • Reply Benita December 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    hahaha… I just posted about my mad painting going on today so I COMPLETELY understand what you’re going through. Minus the beautiful modings and lovely features. Mine is more like a (very) white box.

    Happy New Year by the way! Take a bit of time off to enjoy your party 🙂

  • Reply Cassie December 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    That work sounds like it would take me a year. I don’t have your dedication.

    I’m exciting to see the finished product, especially the painted floor!

  • Reply Adam December 30, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Wow! You have accomplished so much and it looks amazing! Reading your list totally made me flash-back to this summer, I can totally relate! Except my room took me 4 months to complete. I can’t wait to see it finished, and hopefully I will get to see it in person sometime in February! Have a Happy New Year and a fabulous time at your party!

  • Reply pixie December 30, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    oh I hear you….on and on and on it goes. I’ve painted my bathroom 3 times now. 3 times. that’s what you have to do, right? It’s going to be great, I keep telling myself, it’s going to be great. So hang in there, keep going, but remember to have a life, don’t get burnt out. It’s okay to have a day off!!

  • Reply December 30, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    I’d say you got a lot crossed off. Looks great and i can’t wait to see the finished product.

  • Reply emily December 30, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Oh do not worry about not finishing the room by New Years. Look at everything you have accomplished! Not only over the past year but since yo started working on the house. Take a day off and enjoy yourself. If you finish it by the 5 than that is just a bonus.

  • Reply SoCalHouseHunter December 30, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Just added my nomination for your site to those of several others. Hope you win! Have a great party & good luck with the room.

  • Reply Meg/dialmformarvel December 30, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    I, too, live in a OLD place – and our original idea of “just painting the kitchen walls & cabinets and replacing the hardware” turned into two days work of scraping off old paint, to reveal several layers of wallpaper, vinyl tile, contact paper, more vinyl tile, more contact paper, another handful of layers of paint, and more wallpaper. Yeesh.

  • Reply Kara December 30, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Where did you learn all the steps to fixing up a room in an old house? We have painted some of the rooms in our house and I think we skipped some of them!

    Also, what is the orbital sander that you mentioned? Is it easy to use? We need to do something with the floors in our attic. I’m not sure if I want to stain them or paint them, but they need to be smoothed somewhat either way.

    Great progress on the room! Your perseverance is inspiring.

  • Reply Caity December 30, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Oh my gosh, it’s looking amazing! Even if you don’t finish it by New Year’s you got a heck of a lot done! That is quite the accomplishment!

  • Reply suzanne December 30, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    wow. serious kudos to you for your perseverance and hard work!

  • Reply josh (in wonderland) December 30, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    as much work and frustration as it is, i really want to fix up an older house. i bet it’s incredibly satisfying in the end.

  • Reply donna December 30, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    If it makes you feel any better, you’ve managed to accomplish more in a week than we have in over two years!

  • Reply lauren December 31, 2008 at 11:07 am

    yikes. that list is terrifying. congrats for even making it.

  • Reply panyizsuzsi December 31, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    WOW! You are fantastic! I do not even know how to do many of this things. I know one thing if you want ti to be perfect you better have a lot of money, or do it yourself. I did my son’s room myself, now it is the studio to come.

  • Reply Purple Area January 1, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Looks like tough work, I bet it will look great when youre done, thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply puck January 1, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    I am up to my elbows in trying to do the same to my upstairs hallway floor… it is painted with 3487247892 layers of white paint.

    I bought the biodegradable stuff. But after weeks of working on it, I am bout to go to the store and ask for something that is known in the State of California to kill baby seals with a single whiff yet miraculously removes old paint with a single wipe. (lol… not really!)

    I will post some pics on my blog when I get all the stinking paint up. Sometime in 2014 maybe. 🙁

  • Reply Anna at D16 January 1, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Regan: Oh, I toooootally hear you! Someone who lived in this house long ago had, at some point, covered the windows with plastic attached with dozens of nails (!) to the interior moldings (!!!!). When they took the plastic down, they didn’t take the nails out — they just ripped it down, leaving little bits of plastic and a ton of nails all over the moldings. THEN SOMEONE PAINTED OVER IT ALL, about 8 times. Uggggghhhhhhhhh. WHY???

    Bea: I learned what to do from watching 9000 episodes of This Old House (and reading the magazine). Yeah, that and reading a ton of home renovation blogs. I learn everything from TV and the internet. If I don’t know how to do something, I look it up and read everything I can find, and then just jump in. Also, the Reader’s Digest DIY Manual is very handy. I have a current edition as well as one from the early ’70s — quite useful, since a lot of “outdated” older material was dropped from the more recent editions.

    Kara: I have a Bosch orbital palm sander. It’s FABULOUSSSSS. I wish I’d bought it sooner! It’s great for sanding small areas, but if you’re doing a whole attic, you probably want to rent an orbital floor sander.

  • Reply Richtsje January 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Mán, you have been working enormously hard I think!
    And true: all these old houses are always strange to paint or to redo.

  • Reply heather January 5, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Anna – I know exactly what you mean! It’s never just paint a room – it’s those hundreds of other small things that everyone always overlooks that take so much more time. And most people just can’t understand why you’re not just finished yet (I understand!)
    I feel like a zombie after 12 days off from “work!”
    It is looking good – I love your baseboard molding and that little corner thingy??

  • Reply Courtney January 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Even if you didn’t get this all finished before you headed back to work today, from the looks of it, you have accomplished a ton! Surely the rest, if not already done, will fall into place soon.

  • Reply Brent January 6, 2009 at 1:03 am

    How nice to find another old home renovator with To Do lists posted on their blog!

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