All posts tagged: PURPLE XP

Putting the Laundry Room Back Together!

Remember how I’m crazy and putting in my second laundry room in this house in the space of 5 years? Fun times with fickleness.

Step #1 was demolishing the chimney. We’ve discussed this. It was painful but worth it: otherwise my options were to have the machines side-by-side next to the chimney with no sink (where my floating desk was) or stack the machines and have a sink but no other work surface really, or demolish the chimney and have side-by-side machines and a sink. The last option won out, but left a big hole in the floor, the ceiling, and about a foot and a half of missing wall from floor to ceiling! Cute.

Step #2 was getting the electrical in place. Evidently I did not take pictures of this, but that doesn’t mean it just happened by magic! The room had two existing outlets, but a washing machine requires a dedicated 20-amp circuit and a dryer requires a dedicated 30-amp circuit, so both had to be brought up to the room. Luckily, this was very uncomplicated: my old laundry room was further away from my electrical panel than the new one, so it was just a matter of turning off the power to those circuits, pulling the wires back through part of the basement and up the new chase (where the chimney used to live!) and into that back wall. This kind of stuff is actually super simple to do yourself with the slightest amount of know-how, but of course if you have any concerns at all or even dead wires make you queasy, hire a qualified electrician. Duhzville.

Once that was done and my electrical boxes installed, it was on to Step #3: drywall!

Typically I would have tried to patch the missing section of plaster left by the chimney demolition, but in this case I had the depth on my baseboard to add another 5/8″ thickness to the wall, so I opted instead to just drywall over the whole wall. The biggest reason for this is noise: luckily my machines are pretty tame, but I’m still moving big laundry machines to the second floor, basically in the middle of the house, and on a wall that backs to my bedroom, so some additional sound-proofing seemed to be in order!

I wrote several months ago about the line of Purple XP drywalls, and National Gypsum was kind enough to supply the drywall for this project so I could test it out. This is the SoundBreak XP, which is essentially two high-density gypsum boards with a goop in between that blocks sound transmission that would otherwise occur through the wall. It’s also mold and mildew resistant, which is nice now that this room has plumbing! My thought was that leaving the remaining plaster behind it should provide additional sound insulation too, but otherwise you’d probably want to insulate the wall if things are all opened up.

Working with SoundBreak differs from more standard drywalls in a number of ways. First—both sides of the board look the same, but only one side (clearly marked) is supposed to face out. Second, SoundBreak should be installed vertically—not horizontally! Huh! I think it may be to keep seams contained only to where they’re backed completely by framing members. Third, SoundBreak—due to that layer of goop—cannot be scored and snapped like regular drywall can: you have to cut it with a saw! As you might imagine, this is very dusty and ideally should be done outdoors with a good respirator. A circular saw is best for straight cuts, but we were working in tight quarters and used my handy little oscillating saw to get the job done. Fourth, it is HEAVY. I can lift a sheet of 1/2″ lightweight drywall without too much effort, but I cannot lift a SoundBreak board—so be warned that hanging is likely a two person job unless you have Hulk-like strength.

And, since you asked: YES covering up that fabulous Hygge & West wallpaper was a sad moment. Don’t take it personally, wallpaper, I still love you so much! That being said, I still have an entire roll of it (first floor powder room, anyone??), and it’s still in production, and…ya know, there are worse sacrifices. There’s something I sort of like about hiding it behind the drywall, though, like a little time capsule! It’s gonna be OK.

Here you can see the part of the baseboard I had to patch. It’s behind the dryer so I’m not SUPER concerned about it being perfect, but…ya know, I want it perfect. In part because I do not trust myself and now that there’s no chimney in here, this room can actually fit a twin bed…QUIET DOWN, VOICES IN MY HEAD.

Also, that piece of plywood is covering the big hole in the floor where the chimney used to be! Without it, you could stand in the attic and look all the way down to the basement floor, which is just an odd new experience to have in your own house.

ANYWAY. Once the drywall was up, I patched the missing piece in the ceiling and then enlisted Edwin and his mudding and taping skills to get the walls and ceiling ready for paint. The finishing work here isn’t anything crazy, but he can do it so quickly and well that it usually feels worth it to save myself the headache. Normally you’d apply paper or mesh tape and 3 coats of joint compound to the seams and over screw holes, but I like to overcomplicate literally everything and skim-coat the entire wall as a final step, too. I find that this gives new drywall just enough irregularity once painted to match adjacent plaster walls, since those are never so perfectly smooth!

It’s getting there! It’s getting there! Luckily I had a scrap of baseboard that was large enough to patch in the missing section, and old pieces of subfloor to patch the floor. It’s nice when the house provides the material to fix itself! The patched floorboards are the same dimensions as the originals, but the joints are tighter so things don’t quite line up. Don’t care! It’ll be covered anyhow by the dryer, but I don’t really mind funny staggered patches like that in wood floors.

Speaking of wood floors, now is the part where I openly admit: I cannot have white painted floors. My god, they are not for me. Some people (Swedes, primarily) seem to have no problem keeping white painted floors looking great for years, and I admire them. But the combination of dogs and a house under construction and frequently using the window in this room a couple years ago as an entrance while Edwin and I tore down additions and worked on restoring the exterior of this side of the house left these floors pretty destroyed and terrible looking. Even before that, they drove me crazy. Never. Again.

But…remember how I mentioned that this renovation is really just about getting the major players in place without draining significant funds, time, or mental energy? I mean that very seriously. For a while I was so hung up on needing to install a tile floor or run the wood flooring from the adjacent room into this one that I would get overwhelmed by the whole project. It would cost a lot! It would take a while! And it’s such a COMMITMENT and I don’t even really have a fleshed out design plan for this space so I don’t even know what I want! And I refuse to let this become a big project so I don’t even really want to have to know what I want! WOE IS ME!

THEN I realized I could actually just re-paint my fucked up white floor and nobody was likely to die as a result! Isn’t that something!

Sometimes reigning it in is difficult for me. Like all the time.

So. I patched a bunch of the larger gauges with Bondo, caulked here and there, chose a color off a paint chip (seriously, why in the world I think I can do this but would never advise anybody else to is beyond me), thoroughly cleaned the floor, and painted it!

Immediate Uh-Oh I Hate This. The color is a color-matched version of Farrow & Ball’s “Setting Plaster” and it’s roughly the color that would result if dried Bondo and a Band-Aid procreated. As a frequent user of both, this was not exactly what I had in mind.

While I stewed on that, I painted the walls and ceiling. I did not exactly think this through—I actually intended to just paint the new wall and touch-up just where necessary in the rest of the room (because restraint!), but once I got into it I realized how much everything would really benefit from a fresh couple of coats (because perfectionism!) so I ended up repainting the whole thing! Had I decided this beforehand I probably would have gone with a different color, butttttttt whatcha gonna do! On the plus side, I still had enough leftover paint from the first time around to eek out two coats! The paint is Clark + Kensington flat finish, and the color was called Casa Blanca but I cannot find it on the internet for the life of me and I think maybe it’s no longer part of the color deck. I’ve had the can for 5 years; who knows.

Unexciting color choice notwithstanding, there’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint. Even at this stage the room felt kind of…pretty?

I repainted all the trim Benjamin Moore Simply White which I’ve used all over the house (and also had the paint already!) and then forged ahead with the floor, figuring worst case scenario I’d just call this the primer and do something else…and then a great miracle occurred! I LOVE it! Context, man. It changes things. By the way, that’s the little teeny closet door for the little teeny closet under the attic stairs. It’s one of the cutest things in the house and makes me happy. Also, the laundry room is going to have its very own little closet! For stuff and things!

So. My quick n’ easy just-make-it-function laundry room got a little more TLC and time than I was even intending to give it, which honestly at this point I was pissed at myself about. BUT! It really feels like a whole new space, and ultimately I think I’ll be happy I went the extra mile for it.

Or, ya know, at least like a few blocks.

Ask for PURPLE! The Best Drywall for My New Kitchen.

This post is in partnership with National Gypsum Purple XP! #askforPURPLE

I feel like I tend to think a lot (overthink?) about the materials that go into a given renovation project. At this point, my brain is essentially trained to think about this stuff as I fall asleep every night: I picture a room I’m going to be working on, and then I toggle between combinations of beadboard and shiplap and beaded shiplap and tile and plaster and natural stone until my brain just sort of dissolves into a puddle and I drift off. The options are endless, so this method tends to be effective even when it takes hours to kick in.

One thing I never really thought about until very recently, though? DRYWALL. We all know it, we love it, we live with it, we might have even installed and/or finished it and/or patched it at some point. As a building material, it’s about as ubiquitous as 2x4s and nails…both of which I’m pretty sure I could come up with a few compelling things each to say about, but ask me about drywall? It’s…drywall. It’s what the walls are made of. What else do you want from me?!

Until very recently, a piece of drywall has been a piece of drywall in my mind. Some of it’s grey. Some of it’s green. Some is 3/8″ thick. Some is 1/2″. Some is 5/8″. But really, it’s all pretty much the same. Right? RIGHT???

NOT RIGHT. WRONG. I WAS WRONG. I’m often wrong. It’s one of my many charms.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel down to Charlotte, North Carolina to learn all about drywall with the folks at National Gypsum Company. National Gypsum has a fascinating history: they’ve been producing drywall since 1925, the production of which is still done entirely in North America. As I learned, the United States is naturally rich in gypsum—the main ingredient in drywall—which I suppose is part of why drywall was adopted so quickly and has remained the standard wall and ceiling material in this country for almost a century. At least in the States, it’s almost unimaginable to do any interior renovation or construction project without it.

More or less, here’s what drywall is: a slurry of powdered gypsum, water, and starch, between a couple sheets of paper. The slush dries and hardens and then it’s drywall! After hanging it onto your studs, the seams are taped and “mudded” with joint compound to create a seamless, flat surface that can be painted.

Fun fact: did you know (I did not know) that National Gypsum is one of the biggest recycled paper manufacturers in the country?? The papers that coat the front and the back of drywall have been produced by recycling old magazines and newspapers and cardboards since the 1960s! Before it was cool! I dig that. They’ve never especially made a point of this in marketing their products, but I think it’s so awesome!

Another fun fact: some of the gypsum used in National Gypsum’s drywall is mined from the earth, but a lot of it is actually synthetic gypsum, which is chemically the same compound. The cool thing about synthetic gypsum is that it’s essentially a manufactured by-product of other manufacturing processes, capturing stuff that would otherwise pollute the air and instead turning it into a useful material. What happens is coal-fired power plants work with National Gypsum to enact a flue gas desulfurization process in their coal stacks—basically allowing National Gypsum to clean their emissions before they go up into the air by combining Sulfur Dioxide in the emissions with lime (Calcium Carbonate) which forms pure gypsum through the !!!MAGIC OF CHEMISTRY!!! So that way, the emissions get way cleaner and emerge from the stack mostly as steam, and National Gypsum gets a lot of gypsum to use in drywall that we put in our houses. I just thought that was super cool.

ANYWAY.

Like most renovation-inclined folks, I rely heavily on drywall…so I’m not sure why I never took the time to really consider what type of drywall I was using. I have a lot of gutted spaces in my life right now (let’s think…my kitchen, the room above my kitchen, my 1/2 bath, soon my laundry room, the entirety of Bluestone Cottage—which, yes, is still happening—this other house I started renovating last week, another couple in the pipeline…let’s stop before the panic sets in?), and most of them will need a lot of drywall. And I have to confess something: I’ve pretty much always bought 1/2″ lightweight drywall and never given it another thought. I neither love it nor hate it, but I’ve tried to work around the realities of it by doubling up layers of 1/2″ drywall and skim-coating the whole thing to mimic the look and feel and sound-proofing qualities of plaster, which has been ok. But that’s really because I had no idea there were better products out there that already pretty much do that. WHICH IS SO EXCITING! Those products are called PURPLE XP and they feel so right. Also I really like writing PURPLE in all caps, like I’m screaming about it because I AM.

Taking a step back, let’s think about lightweight drywall for a second. Over the past decade or so, the market has largely dictated a huge rise in the popularity of lightweight drywall—which is a fine product, but also one with better alternatives. As one member of the National Gypsum team put it to me, “the only way to make lightweight gypsum board is to take the gypsum out of it,” which is essentially what all drywall manufacturers have done. Less gypsum, and more…bubbles! Quite literally, in order to make lightweight drywall, the gypsum-water-starch mixture in the core of drywall is cut with soap to create bubbles, which harden to a board filled with tiny air pockets where there would otherwise be gypsum. Of course, this leads to a product that’s less sturdy, less sound-proof, and has lower insulation value than a denser drywall board. Is this what we really want on our walls? I want my walls dense and solid and sturdy! If you really think about it, the only person lightweight drywall benefits is the contractor who buys and hangs it…so if you don’t Ask for Purple, that’s what you’re more than likely to get. It may have to be ordered at your hardware store of choice, but you can also find retailers here. Just ask!

So now that we have that cleared up, what is this magical PURPLE XP?  For starters, it’s what National Gypsum flew my ass down below the Mason-Dixon to discuss. It’s a line of drywall products. There are several different ones, and they each have their own drywall superpower. National Gypsum can probably explain this better than I can, but that’s never stopped me before from trying to stumble my way through talking about things I just learned about with feigned authority. Here goes.

What makes PURPLE XP, well, purple? Dye. Dye and clever marketing. Ha! But it’s the only purple drywall out there, so when you see it (and now that you know about it, I promise you’ll start seeing it!), you’ll know there’s actual awesomeness behind the color. First of all, ALL the PURPLE XP drywall is mold and moisture resistant (XP stands for “extra protection” and don’t ask me why it’s not “EP” because I’m only one person with only so much knowledge). It’s also all Greenguard certified for indoor air quality, which is a huge priority of mine up until the moment I inevitably start spray-painting something inside in the middle of winter and get high off fumes. Anyway, I aspire to high indoor air quality standards, and luckily it’s built-in with PURPLE.

There are four main types of PURPLE XP and they’re all totally cool:

1. PURPLE XP! Here is me in front of an enormous tower of it at the plant. YEAH, I GOT TO GO TO THE PLANT. Jealous?? Thought so. It was awesome. I love a factory tour.

PURPLE XP is basically your all-purpose PURPLE drywall and can be used anywhere, but especially anywhere where mold or moisture are even vague concerns/considerations. As a person with mold allergies who has also torn out my share of moldy drywall, I would absolutely use this in a whole house top to bottom. Except for where I wanted to use…

2. PURPLE Hi-Abuse XP! See that machine up there? I drew a handy arrow pointing toward the important part, which is a super rigid steel-bristled brush with a big weight on top of it, and its whole job is to scratch things really hard over and over again. There are actual machines for this! You go, little scratchy machine.

So on the left you have PURPLE Hi-Abuse XP and on the right you have regular lightweight drywall. Both went through the same test, and you can see that the brush didn’t even get through the PURPLE paper all the way whereas it literally dug through the normal drywall. Nuts! I am clumsy and constantly renovating, so I often accidentally scratch something against the walls when carrying materials around or tools down to the basement. I can totally see how awesome this would be in a space like an entryway or hallway or mudroom that might otherwise get scratched up. Rad.

3. PURPLE Hi-Impact XP. And hey look, it’s Kim! Hello Kim! But the point of this picture is not how adorable Kim is, it’s what she’s checking out, which is a sample of the fiberglass mesh that runs through the entire sheet of Hi-Impact XP drywall. Maybe you have a terrible temper and tend to kick and punch the walls? If so, seek help. But also seek better drywall, in the form of Hi-Impact XP because it is SO STRONG.

It looks like I’m pretending in this picture but I swear it’s real! They let us try this fun thing where we got to hit a hanging Hi-Impact board with this wooden bat, with the goal of making a hole. I have demoed lots of drywall in my life. I have accidentally made holes in drywall in my life. I couldn’t do it! It’s seriously intense.

That being said, it’s still drywall! It’s designed to withstand impacts like errant hockey pucks, the end of a pool cue, some bro’s angry fist, but it hangs just like drywall with regular screws and you can still hammer a picture hook into it and all that stuff.

4. PURPLE Soundbreak XP. The drywall that cannot really be appreciated in photographs but HOLY COW I’m so BEYOND happy to know this exists and to use it. It’s the one I’m most excited about, and makes me want to replace every stitch of inferior drywall in my house with this.

See how that image kind of looks like two sheets of drywall? It’s not—what you’re seeing in the middle there is a thin layer of special super magic stuff that’s designed to absorb and dissipate noise. And it works stunningly well. At the National Gypsum Technology Innovation Center, they have a little closet for demonstration where one side is finished with regular drywall and the other side with Soundbreak, and then they have speakers outside of each respective side that play loud sounds so you can hear the difference on each side. The difference is HUGE!

So, of course this would be great for multi-family buildings, nurseries, home theaters, wherever your teenager holds his jam-seshes with that friend who thinks he’s Led Zeppelin, that kind of thing, but my brain immediately went somewhere else that I find much more exciting. One of the best things about old plaster walls is how well they insulate noise—I really believe that you can often stand in a room and just feel whether it has plaster walls vs. drywall ones, just from how the sound reverberates and travels between rooms. Does this not seem like the PERFECT solution to addressing that difference?? I  have a feeling I’m going to be dealing with a LOT of Soundbreak XP in the future…it makes me want to put up drywall RIGHT THIS INSTANT.

Thinking about my kitchen (well, the room that was once and will someday again be my kitchen…yikes), I think I’m planning for tile around the room from baseboard to about 5′ high, and then drywall above that up to the ceiling, where I’m leaning hard toward beadboard! Since it’s not a space that sees direct water contact (like a shower or something), I’m planning on using PURPLE XP under the tile and Soundbreak above it. Evidently tile + Soundbreak is somewhat pointless because essentially the sound waves don’t penetrate the tile (physics, or something), so that’s why I think mixing products makes sense here. If all goes according to plan, the Soundbreak will make up for the fact that there’s no more plaster left in this shell of a room. Obviously there’s just a littttttle work to do before hanging drywall can happen, but I’ll keep you in the loop on how it goes down!

 

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