Knotty pine is back! Or so the New York Times declared in 2001. Chances are it’s probably out again now. Either way, it doesn’t fit in our house.
We have a mid-century modern – think clean lines, big windows, and lots of wood – of the Philippine Mahogany variety (aka nice-looking plywood). We think our kitchen was remodeled sometime in the ’80s; our stove broke down not long after we moved in and the repair guy said it was probably 25 years old, and the cabinets are certainly more modern than the rest of the house which was built in 1954.
We have always hated the knotty pine, but more than that I hate spending money on temporary solutions. I’d rather live with it in the short-term and save the money for the permanent fix. Two things happened recently to change my perspective for this particular project: we are getting a plan for our garden, which is going to be expensive to execute and will suck away all planned kitchen savings. And the seal around our facuet broke so it floated freely above the sink, suspended only by the plumbing underneath it.
Seems like it would be a minor thing to fix, and I could likely do it in a couple of hours with a few tools and $3 in parts from the hardware store but it’s a crappy facuet with a lot of ‘play’ in the handle and is hardly worth fixing. The sink is old and, worse, the butcher block around the sink has not been well-maintained (by the previous owner, not us…) and rotted out on one side and split in two on the other. So this became one of those “well if we replace the faucet we might as well replace the sink, and if we’re doing the sink we might as well do the countertops…and if we do the countertops we might as well try to make the walls look half-decent as well so we can actually live with this kitchen for another five years.”
Painted knotty pine looks good in some applications – especially Craftsman or Victorian-style houses that already have a lot of trim detail. As aforementioned, our house is not Craftsman or Victorian in style – I wanted the wood to look like Sheetrock, not like painted wood. There are a couple of tutorials (e.g. this one) out there on how to make knotty pine look like Sheetrock but none are really detailed enough to give someone with no drywalling experience the information they need to get this job done so I thought I’d create one.
Let me start by saying that I’m not a contractor, but I have a little more than no drywall experience. My first attempt was to cover up an ugly duct in our garage, around which I built a frame that I then Sheetrocked. Lesson learned: corners are difficult, especially convex corners.
When we moved our laundry to a closet down the hall I did all the plumbing (except glueing the ABS, which our friend Jeremy kindly undertook as I was pregnant at the time and that glue is nasty stuff) and sheetrocking myself, with a little help from my friend Sarah. Lesson learned: joint compound (aka “mud”) cracks when it dries if you put it on too thick, necessitating multiple coats. Also, latex paint doesn’t camouflage anything. If your mud isn’t flat you’ll still be able to see the flaws once it’s painted.
So with this experience in mind, I decided to mud the gaps between the boards to create a flat surface for painting. I was going to just list the steps here but Instructables is running a Before/After contest at the moment and I thought our project was dramatic enough to warrant an entry there, so head on over to view the instructions if you actually want to do this yourself.
Is this something you should try yourself?
I will say that I think this approach isn’t the right one for all situations. If the following criteria apply to you, you should consider trying this:
- You have a limited area to cover – applying the mud is time-consuming, and I wouldn’t want to do it for a whole room;
- You’re working in an area where you can’t get to all of the walls, and you don’t need to make the areas you can’t get to look pretty. I didn’t want to have to remove our kitchen cabinets, and also didn’t want to have to cut out the boards around the cabinets and then cut the sheetrock into a lot of crazy shapes;
- You’re not looking for a ‘forever’ solution. Maybe you’re planning a full-scale remodel in five years and just want the room to be livable in the meantime (like us). Maybe you foresee your life circumstances changing (kids growing up, old folks moving in) who might want to do different things with the room in the future. It’s hard to get the mud absolutely perfect, so it’s a better application for temporary solutions.
If these situations better describe you, you should probably just tear out the boards and put up some sheetrock:
- You are time-constrained. Sheetrocking isn’t a fast thing to do either, but if you have a lot of knotty pine to cover the mudding could easily take days;
- You have clear access to the entire room, making sheetrock installation pretty easy;
- It needs to look perfect – you aren’t planning to remodel for a long time, or you’re preparing a house for sale. Just put up some drywall.
Brush cleaning – effortlessly!
And, finally, a tip for cleaning paint brushes and rollers that I learned accidentally and have been using ever since: fill a small bucket with cold water and put your dirty paint brushes and rollers in it.
Be sure to use a shallow bucket for brushes; leaving a brush resting on its bristles in a high-sided container will bend the bristles. And be sure everything with paint on it is submerged, or you’ll get dry spots of paint that you then won’t be able to remove.
Come back in 24 hours.
Because the paint is heavier than the water, the paint actually sinks out of the brushes and rollers to the bottom of the bucket. Pour out the water, and wipe out the paint residue in the bottom of the bucket. Refill the bucket, replace the brushes and rollers, and come back in another 24 hours.
At the end of the second cycle you can do a quick rinse and squeeze to get the last of the paint out if you used latex; primers might need another cycle and a bit more coaxing. Either way, you’ll save a TON of water that you would otherwise run over the tools while you were trying to work all the paint out with your hands, and also a lot of time.
I first discovered how to do this when I left some brushes and rollers in a bucket of water meaning to come back and clean them up later in the day, but when I finally remembered the next day they had been practically cleaned for me!