Painting, Dehumidifying and Adding a Fan

This is one of those posts I wish I had taken photographs to show the absolute wretched mess.

Dehumidifying – I managed grab a goldstar dehumidifier for $100 from Overstock.com. Now, why not link to the version for $100? Because overstock.com’s shipping and customer service sucks. Their “super saver shipping” of $2.99 per item seems like a steal, especially given a heavy and bulky item like a dehumidifier. Here’s what they omit – they ship it UPS, you can’t get a hold of anyone in customer service who can make a decision, they ship it using the slowest method (over a week, for me) and it’s signature required with a witness. Which means someone has to be home. Since we live in a professional neighborhood where everyone (we trust) works, there was no-one to delegate the package to, overstock refused to drop the signature request, UPS didn’t honor the little yellow slip with my signature on it, and despite repeated requests to add alternative shipping methods, “It can’t be done!” Great. I had to send my wife down to West Chester to pick it up and when she got there thankfully her mother went along too because no-one wanted to help her lift it into the jeep. Thanks guys. Between overstock and UPS it’s hard to justify using either of them in the future.

The good news is that it got here in one piece and it works flawlessly for the basement. In fact, on the days it was raining I preferred to work in the basement because the dehumidifier kept it nice. While it’s been running nonstop trying to hit 60% humidity, it’s also been raining this entire weekend so I think it was an excellent test. I also just used a piece of tubing I normally use as a siphon for beer brewing on the nipple which kept the water out of the bucket and draining into the sump. All around – impressed.

Painting, however, didn’t go so smoothly. With 100% humidity (as in – raining) on Saturday and Sunday, the normal 15 minutes it took for the primer to dry was more like 45 minutes. Coupled with the fact that this idiot who owned the house before us had painted some walls with oil based paint and some walls with latex paint and things got to be a pain. To add insult to injury, some of the ceilings are painted with gloss white, some are matte. The oil based paint was really interesting to try to primer. A single roll-on of KILZ2 would leave mostly covered walls. But a second swipe or trying to overlap that first coat would pick the primer back up. I had to consciously make the effort to not overlap that first coat. All the practise of putting down primer in an eccentric path had to be put aside as I laid down primer in orderly stripes. 45 minutes later (between the humidity and the oil under it – it didn’t want to dry) the primer was dried to the touch and I put on a second layer in haphazard fashion which yielded good coverage without coming up.

My wife is good at choosing colors. The baby’s room was watersprout, which is a cute green.
The foyer (with it’s oil paint) is sandstone. We quickly realized, however, that it takes two or three coats for the lighter colors to actually come up. In the baby’s room, it took two coats. In the bedroom, which is a much darker shade, it only took one coat. The foyer currently has one coat and really needs a second one. The problem was it took forever for the paint to dry and our help was fading fast. I will probably end up doing it sometime this week.

Installing a ceiling fan is fun. First you have to take the light down, and in our case the tool who owned the house before us opted for fluorescent lights. Yup, not CFL fixtures. Not pretty wall sconces. Standard T8 fluorescent light tubes. To his credit, it had a diffuser on every fixture. However once we got the lights down we realized he painted around the bar. The ceiling previously covered by the light was bare. Great. We still had to cut a hole in the ceiling and actually install the fan bracket to install a fan in this room. The hole part was easy. Since the lights were never actually installed properly (drywall screws into the ceiling without regard to the studs) and only a pinhole cut where wire was run, we didn’t have to contend with a huge hole to patch. I simply held up the box and traced around it, then we used a hacksaw to open the hole to the right size for the box. The attic was a different story. Not only is it tight to the point of being laughable, but some idiot deployed extra popcorn insulation up there in a six inch layer over the existing popcorn fiberglass insulation. The new stuff isn’t quite as itchy but it’s pretty bad, the old stuff is itchy beyond belief. Thankfully the SEA respirator I had bought also does particles, so I didn’t have to worry too much about breathing it.

After emptying my pockets (nothing like digging around for your wallet in fiberglass) and putting enough screws in my pocket to redo the roof, I crawled up there with my drill, a flashlight and the “easy mount” bracket I bought. Rather than cutting up a 2×4 to make a brace, the brackets claim to fame is that you open it up, and then screw it in. The westinghouse one I linked to isn’t the one we bought – there’s one with boxes on the end with pre-drilled holes I felt would work better. The problem we ran into after I shimmied myself along the studs was that the bracket was the “correct” size for houses built with much smaller studs. Apparently, 16″ is the standard. Which is great because these things start out at 18″ and let you “size them up”.

I crawled back out of the ceiling and brought down tons of happy-fun insulation which the cats, confused by what monsters lurk above, were absolutely delighted to pick up and start batting around. Why do they put attic access holes in closets anyway?

After a bit of measuring and “Why doesn’t this work?” we figured out it had about two extra inches on it. Keep in mind this device is a fairly standard sleeve-and-post design, there’s nothing really special going on here except that bending the boxes on the end would hurt their ability to hold onto the rail assembly. We figured out you could take it apart if you whack the plastic. Now, my father in law has every tool conceivable for the house. I’ve got every tool conceivable for the car. Between the two of us we plan on rebuilding the earth in our own horrible image after we get done the painting. You’ve got time, don’t worry, we suck at painting. We started to cut on this thing using the hacksaw and we decided it wasn’t coming along enough. Out comes the saws-all. The new problem is that the saws-all can out-torque both our grips. I get out my grip-master clamp set, and we clamp it to the ladder. It still kicks around, so I clamp it with another clamp from the other side. Now the ladder kicks around, so I stand on the back of the ladder. Finally we manage to take enough play out of it the first one cuts like butter. We took out three inches. But, if you’re doing this at home with your 16″ studs, you will have to to this twice. Reason being there’s a post and a sleeve and cutting down one side without the other means it still has that minimum width of 18″.

While we were trying to cut the second one, my mother in law and wife come tearing up the stairs. “Oh god we heard cutting and we thought one of you fell through the ceiling and had to be cut out!” No, but now that the blade on the saws-all is dull and bent you get to hold the three inches of post still while I anchor the ladder. We ended up cutting it nicely but we’re not going to win any awards for aesthetics.

Back into itchytown, dragging the drill once again behind me along with the flashlight and the clamp, I worked my way along the beams to the hole. This time we also shoved an extension for the shop vac in the hole as the tube was almost the perfect width to keep the insulation in the attic and give me a flagpole to find. Plus it projects a light onto the ceiling. This is miserable work, as the roof line is low enough that it’s hands-and-knees. The new, shortened brace goes right in as advertised and we got the box right where it belonged, snug in the hole. The screws that came with it are the self tapping type. Although I drilled pilot holes, they really didn’t require any effort to install. Mission accomplished, I tossed the flashlight down the ladder and put the drill in my pants, ghetto style. After unplugging it, because I’m not an idiot. Unfortunately I had to toss all the insulation back into place, plus the panel for the ceiling in the closet. Which of course, doesn’t fit.

Home Depot has ceiling fans on sale now, the prices on the website don’t reflect the prices in the store. We picked up a hampton bay fan from them for $50 which included the quick install kit (not the support for the fan which goes in the ceiling) and the lights, which are CFL which is classy for a fan. The fan itself has excellent construction and I have no major gripes about them. They also include clearly labeled wires so you can wire up the fan or the lights individually and generic pulls for adjusting everything. Since we’re replacing the lights, we just wired the hole thing to the light switch and the job was done.

Oh no wait it wasn’t. The ceiling, which now had bare drywall around the old lights, needed to be painted. Fortunately ceiling paint is “matte sheen” (what is with paint gloss-codes? How can something be matte, and have a sheen?) which doesn’t match the full sheen white ceiling paint this guy used. God, why would you put glossy paint on the ceiling? It just makes it look dirty as it reflects the wall and floor. Thankfully the fan trim wasn’t up yet, so it was easy to roll paint on the ceiling. Plus I’m tall. With no primer, the paint covered surprisingly well with no drip. It did have a small amount of spray, but my facemask took care of it. With one coat, it looked great and more importantly dried consistently. Good stuff all around.

Ask me anything about fans and paint. I am the expert now.

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