Loft Renovation – No More Wood Paneling

War Zone

When we left off last time, the loft had become a bit of a war zone.  Paneling had been torn off, framing had been nailed into place, drywall had been screwn on and joint compound was drying in the seams.  In my head, these things take like an hour, but in reality it takes weeks.

Corner of Horror

I called this the Corner of Horror.


Yuck.  When you’ve lived with this paneling for a few years, there’s a part of you that doesn’t even see it anymore.  It’s like a disease without any symptoms, slowly killing you inside and you don’t even know why.


That white stuff is frass.  It’s what carpenter ants leave behind when they tunnel through wood.  It’s ant poop.

Tricky Trinagle

These triangles were tricky cuts.  Trickier still carrying the cut pieces up the stairs without damaging anything. And there really weren’t any good beams to screw it into behind it, I had to get a little creative sticking these to the framing.

Drywall Seams

I really only had one drywall seam on this install.  Most pieces were small enough I could just cut them out of a single sheet.  That bottom piece on the left hand side had four cut outs for boxes:  one electrical outlet, one phone jack, one cable and internet box, and a box for the rear speaker hookups.  I must have measured everything out six times before I cut that piece.  If I screwed it up, I wouldn’t have enough drywall to finish.

Paint at Last

Finally got some paint on the walls.  I had the trim all cut and finished before I even started painting, so the trim install went very quickly.


I even finished the inside of the closet.  It looks like there’s a light inside but that’s just my work lamp.  It’s an eight square foot room with a low ceiling.  I’ve seen refrigerators bigger than that.  It doesn’t get its own light.

A Frame

A lot of the big tasks are now finished, but there are still some major projects ahead.  I need to make windowsills for both windows, I have a special way that I’ve done to other windowsills in the house so it’s not as simple as nailing a board down and pouring half a bottle of shellac over it.  Which is how the current windowsills were done.

Desk Nook

And then there’s flooring.  The floor sags pretty badly in the middle and it’s a little spongy, so I have some structural work to do before I even put down a finished floor.  Currently, I’m walking on plywood panels that have been here since Nixon was president.  The good news is if it hasn’t caved in by now it probably won’t, but I’d like to at least try to shore it up a bit.


I finally have the desk fit into a little nook so that it doesn’t block any windows.  I not only have a nice view, but I get some natural light.  The green sleeping pad over there is for Inky, she loves it and sleeps there daily.

Desk Nook 2

With the desk in a nook, it’s really opened up some space in the loft.  It’s not a big room at all and the A frame limits moving around very much.  In small houses it’s really important to make the best use of your space.  Or, be very small.  In fact, I bet this house is considered fairly large by cats, squirrels and mice.

Hobbit Door

The Hobbit Door is at last in place.  I love it.  The whole thing cost about $60 and almost half of that was the hinges.


There’s a bit of an unfinished corner up there.  And speaking of doors, I need to make some pocket doors for those storage area.  And see where that cheap bookshelf is?  I’m going to put a nice built-in bookshelf in its place, a bit bigger and with some better storage spaces.

Monkey Hooks

And see that gap between the beam and the ceiling timbers?  The ceiling isn’t straight.  My guess is when they made the dormer up here they didn’t support the roof correctly.  They had to cut a load bearing beam to make this dormer so maybe that was their problem.  Anyway, it’s now my problem and I need to find a way to either fix that gap or cover it up.  There’s really nowhere to put the load of that roof anymore, so I’ll probably just cover it up.


Looks great from downstairs too.  Well, it looks better than it did.  And now the handrail and balusters look really awful so I guess they’ll have to go soon.  Very soon.

The Loft that Time Forgot

Loft Way Before

High above the shores of Orcas Island, sits a squat little chamber of small windows, low ceilings, and wooden paneling that has been left to rot in the salty air.  Its timbers are splintered by the wounds of a hundred nails, and wormed with holes from whatever insect was allowed to teem unchecked over the years.  Its floor is cheap plywood, worn down and prying its squeaky nails loose with every footfall.  Shrouds of cobwebs gather dust and dirt in aphotic little corners, unseen by the eyes of any warm blooded creature for many, many years.

Loft Before

A mysterious access door sits out of reach above the wood burning stove like the sally port of some old medieval castle.  It is a useless feature, it serves no purpose.

Swords Before

My daishō rest on the wall near me in easy reach, in case I would like to test their steel against the splintery wood paneling that surrounds me.  A rocking chair sits like a ghost in the corner.  There is no good place to set the desk.  There is no adequate light.  When people come up here, they touch as little as possible, and leave as soon as they get what they came for.


There is a closet up in the loft.  This was the inside.  They used corrugated cardboard for walls.  Cardboard.  They didn’t even have enough leftover scrap paneling to do the inside of the closet.

Loft Exposed

Let’s tear it all apart!

Silky Bigboy

That saw is the Silky Bigboy, a Japanese folding saw used for camping, cutting fallen limbs off of trees and as a weapon against monsters.  It cut through that beam in ten seconds.

Corner FramingI removed almost every piece of old framing and put up new framing for drywall.  There is a significant difference between the way you frame for drywall and for paneling.  For drywall, you need a solid, flat frame with good right angles and everything perfectly level and straight.  For paneling, judging by the work I tore out, you can hire blind men, get them very drunk, and give them hammers and a bag of nails.


It doesn’t help that the house doesn’t have any right angles in it.  And the load bearing beams are all twisted and out of plumb.  And the floor sags a little bit in the middle so not even it is level.

Laser Beam

These were challenges I was driven to overcome.  I was sick of the old paneling.  Sick of looking at it, sick of smelling it, sick of snagging my clothes on it.

Loft Framed

Instead of sawn-off hollow core doors dangling from a rusty rail, I’m going to make solid wood pocket doors to access the storage areas in the eaves.

I Love Drywall

I love drywall.  I can’t wait for that new paint smell.

Hobbit Doorway

Could that be a light socket and switch?  Could the loft finally have electrical illumination?


And there you can see the 2 x 4 door, resting in the corner.  We’ve dubbed it “The Hobbit Door” for reasons including but not limited to its short height.  It just really looks like a door made for a hobbit.


For a week, my desk was pushed against the opposite wall to make room for all this work.  To access my desk, I had to crawl underneath it and sit on its opposite side.  That was fun.  (And look on the right hand side, some paneling I haven’t yet gotten to.)


Should’ve just bought a boat.  Would have been easier.