Staining Window Trim

In the past I’ve always painted the trim in the other rooms of the house.  However for this room the wife decided that she wanted the trim to be all stained.   We picked out a nice dark walnut colored stain and proceeded to order all of our windows and skylights in unfinished pine.  I’ve stained pine in the past, and generaly have had good results, although it can get a bit blotchy.  I know you can use a wood conditioner overwash, however that also makes the end result be lighter, and we wanted it to look nice and dark.  All of the other molding we stained turned out acceptably, and the skylights turned out beautifully.  The Andersen window we got was quite the disappointment though.  The main rail looks terrible, and the bottom rails are quite different shades.  I suspect this comes down to the poor qualitly of wood used by Andersen in the construction of the window.    The good news however is that the center rail is acutaly just a trim piece tacked on with a few brads.  That meant that I was able to pop it off, and I can replace it with a higher qualitly piece of wood that should look great.


Well after spending almost a whole month taping the dry wall, I’m quite excited to finally be painting the walls.  When we moved in, knowing I would be doing lots of painting I bought a 5-gallon bucket of Valspar Primer from Lowes.   I didn’t really have any complaints about it, but everyone seems to use Killz instead so I thought I’d give that a try.  Used almost all of a 2-gallon bucket (on sale at Home Depot, woo!) for this room.   It didn’t seem noticeably different than the Valspar stuff.  I’m very happy with how the paint came out, there are one or two spots that I need to go back and touch up the spackle, but on the whole it looks great.  I was rather upset when I noticed two quarter sized bubbles, that turned out to be voids in the middle of the sheetrock.  I didn’t notice them while spackeling, but it seems that the primer caused the paper to expand there a bit and they now pop out a little.

Cutting the Molding

I rather dislike doing molding.  All the measuring, cutting, measuring again, trimming, sanding and finishing is just a bit repetitive and tedious.  So when my lovely wife offered to do some work, I was quiet happy to let her get started getting the trim ready to be installed.  This works out wonderfully as it means I can concentrate on the joys of spackling, while she gets the trim all ready.  Since we’re going to be staining the trim, Jess is not only cutting it, but also staining and applying the polyurethane.  Hopefully once I prime and paint the room the trim will be all ready to go and it will just be a matter of nailing it on.  Just to prove that not only did she measure all the trim, but also used the miter saw to cut it, here’s another picture.  Doesn’t she look hot with her painting clothes and safety glasses?

Wired for sound

The family room is going to double as my home theater.  As such, the tv and speakers will be taking a central role in the room.  The big main speakers will be sitting on either side of the tv, but the placement of the rear surround speakers was something of a quandary.  Normally I would just put them on either side of the main couch.  However to the right of the couch is a doorway.  That meant that the left rear had to be moved all the way to this wall.  The speakers are rather large (as bigger speakers provide better sound) which also complicates the placement.  To that end I’ve made a little cubby hole for each one to sit it.  This will allow the speaker to only stick a few inches into the room, as well as hide the wires for it.

Taping the Drywall

This is easily my least favorite part of any remodeling project.   Turning those nice sheets of drywall into a finished surface ready for paint is a tedious, messy job.  First you have to put some joint compound down and then embed the paper tape.  Then you have to cover the tape, and the screws with a few coats of compound.  Ohh and unless you’re really good you have to sand it after each coat.   Which puts a nice coat of white dust throughout your entire house.  It sounds easy enough, and doing it for a small area is pretty easy.   Scale it up to a whole room though, and its a pain, particualrly when half of its on the ceiling.


This past weekend Jess and I spent most of our free time hanging Sheetrock.  This is a great step because the room is finaly starting to look like its getting close to being finished.  Of course this also means that I’ll soon be doing lots of taping, sanding, and spackling, which is the least fun part of the whole process.  We got almost all of the walls done, and would have been able to finish, except we ended up being one sheet short of drywall.  Although I had orginaly bought what I thought was five sheets extra, that was before our plans included the skylights, which ended up using three sheets each.  I’ve used 1/2″ drywall for the whole room, attachign it to the studs with 1-5/8″ drywall screws.  I started using just a cordless drill but after a short time I bought a Bosch drywall gun.  Certainly one of the more useful tools I’ve bought recently, it makes sinking the screws to the perfect depth a cake-walk.

Wiring the Lights

Once we figured out where to put the lights, I had to go and wire them all.  Wiring is something thats really easy to do if you have the right tools, and everything is easily accessible.    Happily after doing it a few times, I’ve gotten the right tools, and although everything is technically fairly easy to get at, the 100+ degrees in the attic made things significantly less pleasant than they could have been otherwise.  Other than the heat, the only other difficulty was getting all of the switches wired.  This box has three switches, which are hooked up to 5 wires (the skylight lights are on a separate wire from the ones over the fireplace) and that ends up being alot of wires in a rather small space, and they all need to go to the right spot.


Lighting the family room has proven to be a real challenge.  The new skylights and window do a great job of letting light in during the day, but at night we obviously need something artificial.  With the skylights taking up a rather large portion of the ceiling and the ceiling also being rather low, that limited our options for light placement.   I’d been hoping to get some sort of fancy indirect lighting fixtures, and mount them inside the skylight tunnels, making it seem like natural light was shining down even at night.  However this abstract concept that I had floating in my head didn’t really seem to exist out here in the real world.     Although Lowes and Home Depot have a pretty good selection of lights, we initially couldn’t find anything we liked there.  So I hit up the phone book and it turns out there is only one other lighting store in my area, and after a quick trip over there we found that they didn’t have a significantly better selection than Lowes.  I then hit up the intertubes, and although has a vast array of lighting options, without being able to see them first hand we didn’t want to get anything.

Fortuantly we started thinking about lighting pretty early on, and that gave us plenty of time to mull over our choices.   We finally decided that a shallow ceiling fixture would look ok, and provide the most light.  We also found these wonderful little 3″ recessed lights at Lowes.   We decided to mount three of them over the fireplace, and two in each skylight tunnel (see the picture below).  They are adjustable, and that meant we were able to aim the ones in the skylights so that they hit the opposite wall and reflect down.   Each one takes a 50-watt halogen bulb,  which combined with the center light, makes the room nice and bright.  The best part was that these recessed lights, including the bulb and the the trim (it all comes together) were only $12 a piece.   The only bad thing is that they aren’t airtight, and they aren’t IC (insulation contact) rated.  This means I’m going to have to do some extra work to insulate around them.

Insulation, the final chapter

In an effort to make the family room as cozy as possible, I’ve used some Great Stuff expanding foam to seal the walls, some fiberglass bats to insulate the walls, a giant pile of cellulose to insulate the ceiling, and some rolls of fiberglass to insulate the skylights. This is the last part of the insulation, and also probaly the most worthless, but I’m doing it anyway. After bolting some wooden furring strips to the brick wall to hang some drywall to, I noticed that there would be a 3/4″ gap in between the drywall and the brick, a perfect spot for some more insulation! This time I’ve used foam board insulation, which has a nice foil backing to help reflect the heat into the room. The foam only adds a few to the R-value, and considering the brick (which is an excellent insulator by itself) is in front of a insulated 2×4 wall, this was undoubtedly overkill, however it was only a few bucks to put in, and it was easy to do.

Cornerbead around the skylights

Well I haven’t been able to get much done on the family room in the last two weeks since I was getting ready for a friends wedding.  However now that he is all happily married and off jaunting around the Mediterranean on his honeymoon, I get to go back to work!  I’ve started with finishing the drywall on and around the skylights.  I already put a layer of joint compound on the inside corners, and now its time to do the outside corners.  I’ve added some metal corner bead on them to keep the corners looking straight and sharp.  Next I’ll cover them with a few coats of mud, and then sand them up.