When we bought our first home 18 months ago, its charming sunroom was one of the features that sold us on the house. Little did we know it would turn into the monster of all DIY projects. Though the room was a bit outdated on move-in day, we fell in love with its rustic beadboard ceiling and ten sun-filled windows. But during our first months in the house, I noticed a spongy-looking wall near the entrance to the kitchen. Daisy saw it, too, and proceeded to play with the water-damaged drywall as if it was a giant chew-toy, ripping a nice new hole in its side.
the sunroom, before
In September, Jon and I decided to tackle reno on the room. I’m not sure what we thought would happen when we started busting down walls, but the more we demo’d, the more we found. Soon it was apparent that three of the room’s walls were completely water-damaged, and that its support columns were starting to rot as well. We proceeded to rip the room apart, Daisy-style.
As gung-ho, hardworking, and outdoorsy as I believe myself to be, I learned that demo is not for me. With half of Jon’s strength and no idea how to handle a crowbar, my efforts at tearing down walls were dismal. The showers of dirt, rotting wood, and ants (which had made our wet walls home) sealed the deal. I left the destruction to my husband and turned to designing the sunroom’s new look.
Our first year in the house taught us that we needed more downstairs storage. I began to think of the new sunroom as a mudroom as well as a place for my coffee in summer. It’s our daily entryway into the house, and I wanted a sturdy room that could stand up to snowy boots and wet paws while giving us a spot to hang our coats and leashes. As Jon installed studs and hung a new door, I started eyeing plank wall tutorials on Pinterest.
sawdust girl’s plank wall tutorial got us started.
We sealed up the walls by winter and used the colder months to focus on finishing the inside. We followed Sawdust Girl’s tutorial on plank wall installation, with a few tweaks. Instead of using regular primer, my local paint guy suggested we use Zinsser B-I-N to hide the knots in the wood. We primed all four walls in the stuff, which was thin and drippy but gave us great coverage. We painted the walls with Benjamin Moore Kitchen and Bath paint, in Decorator White, since the room is high humidity and water tends to condense on the windows when the temps change.
We’d planned on painting over the concrete floors with a fresh new layer of epoxy. But Jon convinced me that tiling it instead would be worth the effort in the end. I immediately started dreaming of herringbone and filling up my Pinterest with images of gorgeous slate mudroom floors.
I’d read that a painted concrete floor couldn’t be tiled. We did some further research and found that we’d need to “scarify” the floor (manually grind away the paint) if we wanted the mortar to stick. Jon rented a machine from Home Depot, bought a blade, and got to work on the grimiest job of his life.
dust protection on & ready for scarification action
It was awful. The entire floor took less than three hours, but it sent dust EVERYWHERE. Through two sets of closed sunroom doors, up the stairs, through closed bedroom doors, and onto every surface of the entire house. Weeks later, we were still cleaning off dust. There’s a reason they call the job “scary.”
But the paint was gone, and we were ready for tile. We relied heavily on Young House Love’s outdoor tile tutorial. Since our sunroom saw dramatic shifts in temperature, we thought it best to go with a porcelain indoor/outdoor tile that could stand up to the cold. I fell in love with the slate-like Ivetta tile at Lowe’s, which, amazingly, was under $2.50/sqft. We took on the challenge of herringbone, a pattern that requires many, many cuts. One tool that made it easier was my beat-up triangle square from my art school days. And we took YHL’s advice once again and splurged for this amazing wet saw. It was $300, y’all, but man does it cut tile like butter! We plan to do more tiling projects in the future (all three bathrooms need floor updates), so the tool seemed like a good investment. By the second weekend, I was cutting and laying tile like a pro. Something about it felt a bit like icing a cake…
First weekend laying tile
Three weekends later, we finished laying the pattern, grouting the floor, and repeatedly wiping it clean — just in time for Easter brunch guests to walk through the door. We are tired, our fingers are chapped (wear GLOVES), but we are loving the new room. All that remains is to add some molding and tile the concrete step leading into the kitchen. For now, we’re taking a break. Woof!