Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dining Room Remodel, aka Jason's First Blog

I have had a hard time falling asleep the last few months.  What has been keeping me awake, you ask?  Trying to come up with something really special for Stephenie's birthday -- that and Mayan doomsday prophecies (sometimes I wish the calendar had never been invented) -- Oh and the mysterious powers of the Magic Eraser.

An idea for this year's birthday gift has proven to be so difficult ironically because of my own birthday.  Back in September, Stephenie caught me completely off guard with a huge surprise party.  Fifty of my closest friends and family members packed my house to help me celebrate #34.  I was about three weeks out from the start of my new career as a stay-at-home dad of two (which, by the way, is the best job ever!).

Stephenie planned the whole thing as a way for me to re-connect with all of my friends I might not see on a regular basis given my new path in life.  It was amazing and incredibly thoughtful.  How do you top that?

I thought about throwing Steph her own surprise party but that seemed like the easy way out and totally unoriginal, and store-bought gifts pale in comparison to the gift of the people you treasure most in life filling up your house.  There was only one avenue that I could think of that would come close - I must create something for her.

I thought about all the things she loves.  

Our kids.  I could put my college education  to good use and paint her a portrait of our children.  Not a bad idea and a definite possibility.

Shoes.  I could get advice from a local cobbler and hand craft a pair of size 7 1/2 stilettos.
Not gonna happen.

Then it hit me . . . I could do a blog post for her. 

Stephenie loves to blog and recently hasn't had the time to post all that often.  She constantly asks me to write a post -- pretty much weekly for the last two years.  I usually come up with a lame excuse or tell her I will one day, but never do.

I do help a lot with the projects you see on this blog, but honestly, I guess I see  myself as the man behind the scenes hammering nails and cutting things up with saws.  Stephenie is the creative genius and the brains behind this operation we call home improvement.  I am content with bringing her vision to life but I guess she thinks I have something to say as well.  She won't leave me alone about it, so here goes . . . Happy Birthday Honey.

So I need a project to blog about and the first thing I think of is our dining room.  Recently, we sold all of our dining room furniture and purchased an old farm table and chairs from antique shops.  Our Raymour and Flabby dining set was the first big purchase we made as a couple. 

We were super excited at the time as we jammed it into our small two bedroom apartment.  Then we bought a house and started to fix it up and really started to get a sense about what we like and appreciate and the kinds of things we feel good about filling up our house with.  The more we worked on our home, the more we grew to dislike our dining set with its factory finish and mass-produced construction. 

I love everything about our new table -- its weight, its age -- everything. 

Let's celebrate with a dining room makeover!

As you can see, our dining room has a piece of chair rail dividing two different colors.

Steph left last Monday for a business trip to Las Vegas.  She comes home on her birthday, Friday, February 3.  I am a little nervous about having enough time to finish the project before she returns.  It's hard to say how much time I will really have when you factor in the needs of a 10 month old and an 11 year old.  Hopefully, Noah will take two good naps during the day and I will be able to get Imani in bed by nine.  What I plan to do is install a board and batten trim on the walls of our dining room and hit it up with a fresh coat of paint.  I love trim work.  LOVE IT.  Steph has had to stop me in the past as OCD got its hands on me.

She was finally able to stop me as I finished up the bedroom above.  I think what I love the most about trimwork is how it can transform the look of a room for such a small amount of money.  The project I am about to embark upon costs less than 200 bucks including paint and a few tools.  The two big tools for this job are a mitre saw and a nail gun or a hammer and nail punch.  I will need to pick up a new coping saw and a file as well.  Those two things combined are like 10 bucks. 

I did a little research on board and batten online and found a few photos for inspiration:

The first thing I determined was how high I would like the trim and thought 2/3 of the wall would look nice in a dining room. I also decided on a shelf to cap off the trim.  From the photos I looked at online, the shelf provided a nice area for decorating and just gave the trimwork that little something extra. 

Next, I measured all of my walls to determine how many vertical boards I would need.  I really liked the images that had boards spaced around 12 inches apart.  To get the correct even spacing between boards you will need to take into account the width of the vertical boards you will use.  I will be using boards that are 2 1/2 inches wide.  As an example, the first wall I measured was 113 inches.  If I use seven vertical boards I will essentially create 8 uniform panels between the boards.  Seven 2 1/2 inch boards = 17.5.  If I subtract 17.5 from 113, I get 95.5 inches.  95.5 divided between 8 panels is 11.9375 per panel or 11 15/16.  Starting from the right, I mark the wall 11 15/16 from the door railing, then 2 1/2 inches for the width of my board, another 11 15/16 and so on until I reach the end of the wall.  Not super complicated and way better than "eyeing" it.

So I packed the kids in the car and headed to Home Depot.  I somehow managed to get everything I needed into a Jeep Liberty.  This was the first time I really missed my truck since selling it in August. 

When we got home, I made dinner, put Noah to sleep and watched a little DVRed American Idol with Imani before reading with her and getting her to bed.

Nine O-Clock and I am ready to roll! I began by removing the chair rail we installed a few years back.  I used liquid nails and finishing nails to install it an the liquid nails ripped part of the wall off.  Nothing a little spackle can't fix.  I still love you liquid nails!!

Liquid nails is one of the most useful products on the planet.  I have fixed high heels, created school projects, secured eight miles of trim and used it to stop an air leak once.  I firmly believe if the dinosaurs had liquid nails, they would have beaten extinction. 

Okay, back to the project.  After removing the old trim, I leveled and installed the plate rail and began installing the vertical boards with finishing nails and . . . you guessed it -- Liquid Nails!  The liquid nails will give the boards more sticking power as it is unlikely that your finishing nails will always hit a stud.



The first wall went up in about an hour.


My shelf was installed next and is the same 2 1/2 inch board I used for the vertical panels.


Crown molding was then installed under the shelf.

The mitered return is a relatively easy way to give the shelf a finished look.

The next day, I used wood filler on all of my nail holes and hit it up with 100 grit sandpaper as soon as it dried.

After that, I used paintable caulk to hide all cracks and give a seamless finish.

Finally, I used a little spackle to fix any blemishes.


The only tricky part of this entire installation will be the corners for the crown molding, but with the right tools it is not all that bad.  I had two inside corners to deal with during my installation.  One piece of molding is cut flush and runs directly into the corner. The other piece of molding is cut using the following steps.  Place the crown upside down and against the fence and set the angle to the correct 45 degree angle. 

Use a coping saw to cut along the profile of crown.

Use a small file to get as close as possible and to clean up your cut.

This piece will now fit over the installed piece to perfection.


So that is pretty much it for install.  I just repeated the same process on the other walls.

Time to paint! I love painting.  It is right up there with trim for me as an inexpensive way to renew a room.  I choose to return the primer you saw in one of the earlier photos and used one gallon of enamel semi-gloss paint/primer by Behr instead.  It was a good paint but I still needed three coats in some difficult areas.

The painting was the most time-consuming part of this project. I found my OCD rearing its ugly head as I began painting trim leading out of the room that looked grubby next to the brilliant new white. 

I highly recommend picking up some Magic Erasers when using this much white paint.  The equation for the number of boxes you will go through in a month goes something like this:

Gallons of white paint times number of infants to the tenth power times age of adolescent in the house divided by showers per week = total.

Using this formula I will be buying about 16 boxes of Magic Erasers in the near future.  For any of you that have never used a Magic Eraser, they are amazing and can take any mark off a wall with one swipe.  Where it goes, I have no idea.  Mr Clean claims it is magic but I think something else is going on here as well.  Everyone knows Unicorns are pure magic so in my opinion a sponge could only be like 75% magic, tops.  My theory is the other 25% is alien technology found in the Roswell crash.

The final touches for my project are 20 red tulips, Steph's favorite flower, a birthday cake that I did not make, a few antique dishes I picked up at a local store and birthday prizes!!!

 I can't wait to see Steph's face. My hope is that she is so overjoyed I will will be able to convince her to use her birthday wish to help my Giants win the Superbowl.

I truly hope you like this gift. I love you Steph.

Happy Birthday.



  1. I think having you for a husband would be gift enough for anyone!! What a brilliant job, what a thoughtful surprise, and what a great family you are. Happy birthday to Stephenie and happy life to all of you : )

  2. What a very very special Birthday! Now I look forward to hearing how the birthday/coming home party went! You are a lucky lady Stephanie....

  3. First, happy birthday to Stephenie! Congratulations on your great birthday present and your first post. I think both are a huge success. I've tried to get my husband to do a post and he still won't do it. The room looks great. You even picked out some beautiful plates to put on the rail.

  4. THAT IS AWESOME AND SO VERY SWEET! I love this post! Happy Birthday Stephanie!

  5. Oh my gosh, how sweet!! You did such a great job with holding down the fort and creating a beautiful dining room, complete with pictures along the way and all. What a lucky girl you are Stephenie!!

  6. Jason,

    Our internet has been sporadic at best {a tradeoff for living here} and non-existent this past week. So, I am sorry my birthday wishes to your sweet bride and my wonderful friend are belated. I have no doubt she was thrilled beyond words {an almost impossible feat for an English major} when she saw the dining room make-over, tulips, antique plates, cake and other gifts as well as this blog post. {We've been discussing you blogging since you were dubbed the Coupon Cowboy!} The true gift does not go unnoticed -- the love you share with Stephenie and your two beautiful children.
    Thank you for an informative {and humorous} tutorial!


  7. You can create a dining room that brings friends and family together in an elegant and inviting atmosphere. The style you choose should be complementary to adjoining rooms in your home so there is a sense of continuity in your home’s overall interior style. Dining is usually a social event, so appropriate lighting is very important. Choose a light fixture that coordinates with the style of your room. Thanks a lot.
    Scarborough painters

  8. Oh my goodness, I missed this lovely post. All I can say is... Jason could you be my husband too. I love the wood paneling and the new lighter paint colour and of course, the red tulips on the table. How sweet!!!

  9. Not much might have changed but, it still looks so pretty! I wish that you've changed your dining table though. I like the old dining room with the caption of "This old house" in it more. It looks modern and contemporary, but your new kitchen seems cozy and inviting.

    Kristopher Diss


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