Sunroom Reno – Plans and Progress

I had originally planned to post about this project before we started but then one day I decided “just to see” what was behind the faux wood paneling in our sunroom. Spoiler alert – it was nothing good!

Just a reminder of what our sunroom looked like when we moved in:


You can see all the before photos and my initial thoughts about this room 2 years ago here.

When I started to tear off the wood paneling, I quickly realized that it was nailed in behind all of the molding (crown, baseboards, window sills and window molding (!)). I tried really hard to pry the trim off gently, but whoever built that room did not skimp on the nails. All of the pieces of molding broke while I was prying them out. The built-in radiator cover and shelving (which I had planned to remove and rebuild eventually) also had full sheets of paneling behind them. It took me three days to get all the paneling out, and what I found behind it was roughly pieced together hunks of drywall that had been put in for the sole purpose of supporting the paneling. The joints and screws had never been covered and plus, all of it was covered in construction adhesive. New drywall and molding were both in my future.


I had originally thought that the ceiling was wallpaper, but while taking off the paneling (and the crown molding with it) I found out it was actually foam ceiling tiles glued to the ceiling supports. Another candidate for new drywall!


And to round out this series of unfortunate events, the floor (another thing I had planned to replace eventually) had been tiled around the built-ins SO, that had to go, too! It was a quick escalation from a peek behind the paneling to full demo!

One positive discovery during this process was a little sliver of brick peeking out from behind the plaster on the inside wall of the room. I knew that wall was the chimney, but I had never thought of exposing the brick. When I saw how pretty it was and how seemingly easy the pieces of plaster at the bottom were coming off, I knew I had to try to get it all off.  (Terrible picture, I know.)


I started by using a screwdriver and a hammer to chip off the plaster, and soon moved to a chisel, then to a crowbar. The crowbar did the job, but it was hard work to keep swinging that hammer.


My dad, the savior that he is, offered to let me use his air chisel (it’s like a miniature jackhammer powered by an air compressor), and that made the job go much faster.


You can see in the video that some pieces just flaked off and others were really stuck on to the brick. I had to use the air chisel to really scrape the plaster (and I think mortar, underneath) down to the brick, without damaging the brick.


It was a dusty, physically difficult job, but after two 4 hour sessions of working on it with the air chisel, the plaster was down and we had this beautiful brick feature in the sunroom.

After cleaning up the rubble, I used the air chisel to remove the tile floor, which was a really quick job. That air chisel is my new favorite tool.


Under the tile floor, there was a thin layer of 1/4 inch plywood that came up easily with a crowbar.

Under that was both plywood and hardwood. The hardwood continued from the living room into the sunroom about 1/3 of the way. The rest of the floor was 3/4 inch plywood.


Don’t mind the random shoe.


I considered just leaving the hardwood and having the rest patched in, but the hardwood was water stained in some places and I knew we could do all that work only to have stains in the end. So I took out the hardwood and the plywood. I had to saw through the plywood with the circular saw set to 3/4 inch to make smaller sections because it was very heavy and nailed down with huge nails.

My original plan for this room was to do a brick floor.

Later on, I was really attracted to the idea of a black and white floor like The Makerista’s kitchen.

But the brick chimney threw me for a loop design-wise and neither of those choices would work anymore. I quickly realized that I needed to do a wood floor that continued from the living room, and I was immediately drawn to herringbone. I don’t think there is any floor as beautiful as a herringbone wood floor. It looks so rich, interesting and textural. It’s one of the reasons (along with gorgeous moldings and big, bright windows) that old French apartments look so beautiful decorated in a minimalist style – the floors do all the heavy lifting design-wise.


For a room that is going to be a little more utilitarian and have less furniture, I knew those floors would be perfect. Plus they would compliment the brick so well.


I called B&M Hardwood Flooring, who did all the floors at our last house and the playroom floor for the Fall 2018 One Room Challenge. I was surprised to find out that installing herringbone floors is quite a bit more expensive than regular floors because all the wood has to be specially milled with tongue and grooves in all four sides. But Steve said go for it, and when your husband says go for it, you call the flooring guy that second.

While we were waiting for the wood to be milled and delivered, we had an electrician friend come in to work on moving some switches and adding sconces on either side of the windows across from the chimney. Currently, the switch for the ceiling light is on the far side of the room when you come in the door, which is inconvenient when you’re coming in at night. The switch for the sconces will be right by the door, which will be so practical.

Since the electrician is a friend who does the work on the side and it’s the holiday season, we weren’t able to finish the wiring before the floor started going in last week (which means we didn’t have drywall on the walls or the fireplace repointed – two things I would have preferred to have done before the floors went in, but c’est la vie). We were able to put up drywall on the ceiling and wire brush the brick to get rid of any residual loose chunks of mortar and plaster – two messy jobs out of the way before the beautiful floors were there.

On December 6, two days before our annual Christmas Party, the wood for the floors arrived and we were told it had to acclimate to the house for a week. I just put up some curtains with tension rods to rope off the construction site of a sunroom during the party.

Then, last Thursday, a very nice installer named Dennis came and worked his magic. He had some trouble at first because our old house is not square, but he worked it out and created this beautiful work of art on the floors.

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He finished early the next morning, just in time for Mike from B&M to come in and sand them down. Then he stained them in the same Dark Walnut we used in our first house and in the playroom. There is something about that stain that brings out the tones in oak so beautifully. Here it is stained:

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And here it is finished, with three coats of water-based satin poly:

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From here, we need to cover up the floors with plastic (we were told to let them cure for 3 days before covering them and not to tape anything to the floor because it can rip up the stain), to protect them while we finish the rest of the room. Two of the walls can be drywalled, then the electrician needs to work his magic, then the other walls can be drywalled, then the messy joint compound stage, and then on to trim, building out a window seat and shelving, and paint. Then, finally, we will be able to uncover our beautiful floors again and start the fun part — decorating!

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