Over the past eight months, between other chores and projects, I have been working on our mudroom. Slowly I got each wall paneled. (The work was slow because many of the boards were warped, the walls are not plumb, and the floor and ceiling are not level. It was, of course, a crazy idea to put straight lines on this room.)
Nevertheless, I persevered, wall by wall.
Last summer — when I actually started this mudroom project — my friend Tom and I had begun staining some of the boards “Ipswich Pine” before I thought better of it. I now decided to use those stained boards on a single wall. The other option was to buy new boards, and I couldn’t spare the cash. “It will be an accent wall,” I told myself hopefully. In mid-February Nick came in and over several days laid the floor. On seeing the terra cotta tile (bought on deep sale the year before) against the Ipswich Pine wall, I was extremely glad I had stopped staining the paneling. The effect was very orange.
In early April the paneling was basically done and I asked Tom if he would be willing to help me finish trimming the room. I knew I had to rip the last boards near the ceiling and I was nervous at the prospect of using my table saw, a creaking behemoth. I also had no idea how to trim the windows or door frames.
Tom kindly agreed to help, and suggested I should pick up some sawhorses for the job. I planned to go to the nearby city to the big box store, but we had a snowstorm. Instead I found a plan for a pair of quick and dirty stackable sawhorses and cut up the pieces on my chop saw.
When Tom arrived we screwed together the sawhorses in about five minutes.
Total cost, $25. I immediately loved those sawhorses.
Tom also oiled my old table saw and fitted it with a sharp new blade. “It’s a nice saw,” he said kindly. Tom is a very encouraging person. (And as you can see, we were working in a tight space with stacked clutter everywhere. He never complained.)
We started to trim the doors, beginning with the back door. This door had been poorly installed by Dean back in 2009 and the only way to keep it from blowing open was to keep it locked at all times. Not only was the frame slightly racked but the strike plate was in the wrong place. Naturally, Tom fixed it.
It took us the entire morning to trim that one problematic door. One morning the following weekend, we finished the other three. (Our work sessions were generally only a few hours. Tom typically works six days a week, so it was extremely generous on his part to give me so much of his free time, week after week.) The next time we met, we cut and put up simple ceiling moulding and baseboard all the way around the room. A couple of weekends after that, we started on the windows.
These windows had been a mess of insulation, house wrap, and cobwebs for nearly nine years.
I was happy to see it all disappear under fresh clean trim.
At one point this spring Tom and I drove over to the bed and breakfast lodge belonging to our friends Tony and Nancy, to inspect their mudroom lockers. Like us, Tony has a long experience with our school, and in renovating the lodge he had copied the student lockers, while upgrading them (not only are his lockers wider, for middle-aged bottoms, but the seat is higher, for middle-aged knees). For many years, I have coveted Tony’s lockers. Now Tom and I would copy his design.
May was so busy for both of us that we were only able to spare a single morning to frame the locker bench seat. Another month flew by with all its attendant chores. This past Friday I managed to get a friendly electrician to stop in and hook up the two outlets under the lockers before they became inaccessible under the finished bench. And yesterday Tom and I got the lockers framed.
It’s important to understand that Tom is the brains of our work partnership. I am merely his assistant. He measures to the nearest millimeter and runs the saws. I steady and catch the boards and use the nail gun. Here is Tom, ripping slats for the bench seat (in the usual disaster of the garage).
Tom showed me how to use a router to round off all the edges. I held the boards.
I nailed down the slats and slowly the bench grew.
Now we had to cut the plywood for the locker walls. Tom’s Makita is a lot nicer than my Skilsaw, so he made the cuts.
Tom is a great person to work with. He is extremely talented, quiet, kind, and patient — and so determined that it is easy to forget that he is 75 years old.
We cut the locker sidewalls, notched them, and toenailed each one to the wall.
By the end of the day the frame was in place — and Tom had to head out to his real job.
It may be another week or two before Tom can come back, but I have a list of chores to finish before then anyway (sanding, wood-puttying, putting up the rear coat hooks).
This mudroom has been a long project, and the end is not yet, but it is deeply satisfying to see it begin to come together.
Thank you, Tom!