I have to panel the mudroom walls before Nick can tile the floor. The first step is to put up the concrete wall board that will be behind the wood cookstove. (Actually the real first step on the mudroom was the one I find most loathsome: to paint the ceiling. I did that over two days in August.)
I have had the tools and materials to panel the mudroom all summer. I’m not sure why I haven’t tackled it before now. Partly no time, but partly, I think, shyness over working with tools in front of experts. It hadn’t bothered me to cut and hang sheetrock in the basement because the door was kept closed. But now the men are all gone and there are only the dogs to smile at my struggles.
Nick had marked the OSB panel where the stove pipe would go. I climbed over the towering piles in the garage to measure the cookstove. To be centered on the wall and not overlap electrical outlets, my wall board had to be trimmed from 5 feet wide to 4’6″. The wall itself needed a stud added as a nailer.
The wall studs are 2x8s, yet the wall is now full of wiring. I puzzled over how to work around the wiring for an embarrassingly long time before I realized that, of course, the nailer did not need to be that dimension, only flush on the front. I screwed in a 2×4, braced top and bottom.
The next issue was spacers. Nick’s father Mike and my friend Tom both insisted that for fire safety, the concrete board had to be set off from the wood studs with 1″ spacers. Nick didn’t seem convinced but I had read this myself and knew it was a good idea.
I merely balked at the price. Over $3 apiece and I would need around 40! I was discussing it with my friend Larry this fall and an hour later he returned with a rusty bread pan full of steel spacers he’d cut for me in his shop. The spacers were not absolutely even but I figured with the soft concrete board they would work.
Next I had to change out the blade in my Skilsaw for a concrete blade. I mention this step this lest you labor under the misapprehension that I am competent. I couldn’t find the blade lock on my saw and the owner’s manual was somewhere in the disaster of the garage. Naturally, I turned to Google. After a wasted hour of research, I was still mystified. Finally it dawned on me that my Skilsaw, though perfectly adequate, is so low-end that there is no blade lock. I jammed the saw with a stick of wood to hold the blade, unbolted it, and slid the concrete blade in.
I carried each sheet (heavy but at the same time extremely fragile and crumbling) to the mud room porch for cutting. After the first cut, when I was blinded by a cloud of white concrete dust, I wore a mask.
I had to work hard to keep the first board level, especially as the expensive 2009 concrete floor — and thus the bottom plate — and the ceiling are not perfectly level. I could have used a few extra hands. Screws and spacers frequently bounced off the floor, and once I was juggling so many pieces I dropped the drill.
It was even more challenging to drive each 3″ screw through the board and then cap it with a spacer before continuing into the studs and the horizontal cross braces I had added across the widest bay. I was drilling and reaching behind the board to feel for the point of the screws, then fumbling blind with the spacers. Here is the view standing on the ladder and looking down.
Nick looked at my progress over the weekend. “I am amazed you got that up with no help!”
“I’m part orangutan — long arms!” I joked, but I was pleased.
He left a diagram for the cutting the last board to leave a hole for the stove pipe.
First I cut the board to size, taking into account the ceiling slope. Then I trimmed the opening in the fragile, crumbling piece three times before I got it right, carefully taking it down, putting it up, taking it down, carrying it to the porch to cut again. Finally I struggled for an hour to put in the spacers in the very tight squeeze near the ceiling.
At 10 PM, at last it was done. Stash was patiently waiting for me to finish, so the dogs and I could head down to sleep in the basement.