Coming back from the hospital with a new baby pointed out an important fact. We’re out of space. I know it’s a total first-world problem, but having five children in a two-bedroom house is, shall we say, snug. We’re falling all over each other.
I’m grateful that the kids get along so well (most of the time). I think it bothers them less than it bothers me. They don’t know any different, and what they’re used to feels comfortable. My kids are pretty resilient.
Our pressing need for more space meant that the two weeks of vacation that I took to help Mary recover was anything but a vacation. It was time to work.
While we were at the hospital, Frank came and worked steadily on finishing the drywall. He’d already put the corner bead on the windows, so he started working the joints and screws. He really does amazing work. The walls were looking very smooth by the time I brought Mary and the baby home on Saturday.
He had a few more things to finish up on Monday, but he was done by Monday afternoon. The time had come for the next big step: painting. I planned to use a paint sprayer for the first coat of primer. It’s supposed to be way faster. But before I could spray I had to clean.
I really had no idea how much dust finishing drywall creates. It’s phenomenal. And it gets everywhere. Into every nook and cranny, in every junction box, and all over every surface.
I started with vacuuming, then sweeping, then mopping. It took hours. Then I started wiping down the ceilings. I bought a sponge mop for that, a little speed tip I got from Frank. Then I wiped down the walls with a damp sponge. More hours. Finally, by Tuesday night, it was ready for painting. Which is good, because I’d reserved the paint sprayer for Wednesday morning.
Made white as snow.
I headed out to Home Depot at the crack of dawn to get the sprayer. While there, I also picked up the attic ladder that I planned to install. Right as I was climbing into the truck to head for home, my wife called me.”Ummm, there’s a truck here. Are you expecting something?”I was expecting something. All the doors and molding were supposed to be delivered that afternoon after I was done painting. Apparently, Maner put me on the “first load of the morning” truck.
I told my wife to ask her dad to help find space for the doors and molding. It’s such a blessing to live next door to family. He went right over and, by the time I got home, the truck was unloaded and my shed was filled to the brim with doors.
Larry showed up shortly after we got home and gave me a lesson on what we were going to do. Paint sprayers are marvelous inventions, but it takes some skill to get a nice even coat. Too much paint and it starts to drip and run. Too little, and you get spotty patches where the drywall shows through.
Larry and I took some time to tape plastic over the windows and showers. We didn’t want paint on them. Unfortunately, the only plastic I had on hand was some really thick 6-mil plastic that I used when we were pouring concrete. Blue painter’s tape barely has enough sticky to hold up 6-mil plastic. It was slightly more than mildly frustrating, but we eventually got everything covered.
After mixing up 5 gallons of primer, Larry showed me how to tape garbage bags around my feet to keep my shoes clean. Then I put on my sweet full head mask and was ready to go. Larry demonstrated the technique and then handed me the sprayer. I enjoyed seeing the walls go from spotty grey to pure white. The technique Larry showed me put on a nice even coat pretty quickly. Still, it was a lot of space so I had to stop a few times to rest my arm a couple of times before we finished several hours later.
It’s amazing what a difference a coat of primer makes. Suddenly, the addition looked less like a construction zone and more like a place where people could live. The kids were getting excited and so was I. It took me more than an hour to clean the sprayer enough to bring it back to the Home Depot where I had rented it.
One step back and one step forward.
The next day, Larry came over to help me hang the doors. That’s when we discovered our mistake. When we framed the walls, we made the doors as tall as the windows. Unfortunately, that meant that the rough openings for the doors were about 2 inches too tall for the door frames. Even with the casing that went around the doors, there would be a gap.
Larry apologized for the miscalculation and gave me instructions. I needed to cut a piece of 2×4 and nail it to the header for each door. Then I needed to put a 1 1/2″ strip of drywall on either side of the 2×4 and tape and mud it. Not what I was planning to do that day, but there was no way around it.
Here, my hard-won drywall skills came in handy. I knew what I needed to do and had the skills to do it. I just knocked it out. It was not a small amount of work but by the end of the day, I had finished my task.
Larry came back in the morning and we started to hang doors. The doors I bought are called ‘split jamb’ because the door frames come apart for installation. First, you install the side holding door and make sure that everything is totally plumb and level. Then, you install the other side and nail it all together with finishing nails and 2″ staples. It’s pretty genius.
To make sure that the doors fit the opening properly, we cut shims out to 2×4 that fit perfectly between the wall and the jamb. Yet again, Larry’s long experience came in handy. Instead of using the wedge-shaped shims that I bought from Home Depot, I went out and cut a bunch using the table saw my Uncle Tom gave me. I cut them four inches long and in a variety of thicknesses. This is the first time I’ve done carpentry with 1/16″ precision. On each shim, I wrote the thickness in 16ths. By the time we were ready to hang the doors, I had a bucket full of blocks labeled 5, 6, 7, etc.
By the end of the day, we had all 7 doors hung. Paint and doors made it feel even more like a home. I was starting to get excited. Some of the doors still had little gaps above them, but they weren’t so large that I couldn’t fill the gap with tape and drywall mud. I could handle that task myself, so I knocked it out.
The finishing touches.
I don’t consider myself much of a carpenter, especially when it comes to detail work. Framing with 2×4’s is about my speed because studs come precut to the right length. My next task required that step out of my comfort zone… again.
Cutting and installing trim takes precision and skill, neither of which I possess in any great measure. But what I lacked in skill I made up in necessity. There wasn’t anyone who could do it for me. So I set about cutting and installing window sills and baseboards.
My biggest challenge is measuring the walls correctly. I tend to be off by a sixteenth or eighth of an inch in either direction. So my process for each room was to draw a little sketch of the floor plan for the room and measure each wall. That gave me a cut list and also gave me a visual reference of the angles that each piece needed to be able to fit together. I’d take that out to the chop saw and cut all the pieces at once.
Then I took the pieces into the room and put all of the pieces into place. Invariably, one or two or three pieces would be a little long, so I’d take them back out and shave them down on the chop saw. Incidentally, I kept my saw outside so I wouldn’t have to clean up sawdust, which has a tendency to cover every possible surface. After all the pieces fit together, I’d go around the room with a finishing nailer to tack them in. I had to use a tape measure to figure out where the studs were because I primed over all the marks David Jude made on the floor. After a couple of days of work, my trim was finished. I was especially proud of the window sills because they look great.
At some point during this time, I finished the closets by building the casings. I don’t have any pictures of this for some reason… I think I was just in the zone of getting things done. My goal was to finish all of the carpentry before my paternity leave ended and time was running short.
The closet casement and later the attic stairs shared a similar process with hanging the doors. Shims in the rough opening made the finished product perfectly plumb and level by covering up any minor problems with the framing.
The attic stairs were just like a door except that the opening was parallel to the ground rather than perpendicular. We used a couple of 2×4’s across the opening to keep it in place while I shimmed it all around and screwed it into place with giant screws.
Caulk covers a multitude of sins.
Caulk saved my finishing carpentry. A little bit of caulk to fill the gap between the baseboard and the wall makes a huge difference. Same for those little gaps in the corners when the two pieces don’t quite meet. I’m sure that there are carpenters out there who don’t need caulk to cover their mistakes. I think Larry is one of them. Speaking on behalf of the rest of us bozos who have to do this kind of job without that kind of skill, praise God for caulk.
By the Saturday of my last week of vacation, I was caulking. Larry told me that if I did it right, I would get a nasty blister and should just move to the next finger. Lay a line of caulk, wipe off the extra with my fingertip. I only half believed him. Then, as I caulked one of the windows, a bright red streak appeared in the marshmallow white caulk. Ouch! I’d rubbed off two edges of my fingerprint smoothing out the caulk in seam after seam. I moved to the next finger until it eventually started bleeding as well. This was not the first time that my soft office worker skin struggled to survive in the harsh construction environment.
On Monday morning, Larry picked up the boys to drive them to carpool. He asked me how the caulking was going, and nodded approvingly when I said that I was almost done. “You got a blister?” I told him about bleeding all over the window jamb and he roared with laughter. He thinks it is so funny when I discover that some bit of construction wisdom he’s tried to teach me proves true.
The end in sight.
By the end of my paternity vacation, I had transformed the addition. No more studs are visible in the space. No more raw drywall. Doors and stairs are in place and the molding is almost entirely done. It looks less like a construction zone and more like a place where people can live.
Several big projects remain. Painting. Flooring. Siding. Bathroom fixtures. Light fixtures. Powering everything up. But that’s it. I can see the finish line. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get everything ready before Christmas, but it will be awfully close. Maybe by New Years.
Even though I worked very hard during my vacation and had a new baby in the house, I felt refreshed. I had reached my second wind and could see the finish line in the distance. I know that I still have a lot to do, but the end is closer now that it was a month ago. The projects fewer. And every project gets me one step closer to done. To moving in. It’s no longer exhausting, it’s exciting. I’m almost home.
Everyone’s generosity during this process has blown me away. The following people have helped to make this project a reality. I couldn’t have gotten this far without them: Mary Krupa, Larry Harris, David Jude Krupa, Joseph Krupa, Catherine Krupa, Jonathan Krupa, Jerry Germann, Joe Almeter, Nick Almeter, Lawrence Almeter, Michael Almeter (his son), Michael Almeter (his cousin), Tag Bussey, Leo Suer, Ben Suer, Matthew Suer, Pat Molitor, Tom Molitor, Hannes Molitor, Pat Muller, Nick Wingate, David Johnson, Jordan Goodman, David McGee, Glen and the guys at Maner, David Germann, Tom Krupa, Laura Krupa, Joseph Krupa, Joseph Muller, Philip Hatfield, Miguel Melendez, Maddox, Jared Miller, Fr. Jacob Almeter, Anthony Almeter, Bob Visintainer, Ross Ott, Noah Ott, Max Molitor, Peter Molitor, Mike Hayes, Gabriel Hays, Kolbe Almeter, Luke Almeter, Charlie Almeter, Eric Sterett, Gabriel Hayes, Wayne Johnson, Danny Johnson, Wes Swenson, Cohen Insulation, and Frank Leogrande.
If you don’t have time or tools to donate, but would like to help make the House of Krupa a reality, a financial gift would be a great blessing. This is kind of like a do-it-yourself GoFundMe. DIY is my style.
If you want to read more of my adventures building the House of Krupa, check out the archive!
Jesus snatched me out of the darkness and saved me from complete madness. If you want to hear more of that story, check out Demoniac, now available on Amazon.