What We're Working On: Break Room Overhaul
There’s a ping pong table in the break room on the 10th floor of the DoItYourself Building. That translates to dings, dents, scuffs and outright holes in the wall from (over) enthusiastic ping ponging DIYers. In some other building they might bring in a crew of outsiders to fix things up, but being who we are we took it upon ourselves not just to repair the damage, but paint the walls, install a chair rail and add some edge to the room with 114 square feet of chalkboard paint.
Replacing the Drywall
There were three holes in the wall. The smallest clearly came from a foot, right above the baseboard.
Next in size was from a trip and fall going for that ball. It was at about knee level but reportedly came from a shoulder, leaving a hole with about a 6-inch diameter. The big hole was made more or less on purpose with a full on body slam. The hole was about a foot across and 2 feet high, but the damage actually spread across two stud bays. Because there are metal studs 24 inches apart, that’s 4 feet of wall.
We attacked the big hole first, cutting a 4-foot by 4-foot square with a keyhole saw, careful to preserve the plumbing, electrical and noise dampening insulation for the kitchen on the other side.
This eliminated all the damage, and 4x4 happens to be the size of half a sheet of drywall, so it was easy to measure and cut a fresh piece to match.
Score the drywall on one side, following a straightedge with a utility knife. Then fold and snap the sheet along the score and cut the paper on the other side. Set the piece in the hole.
And then screw it to the studs.
The middle sized hole got the same treatment, but the smallest hole was actually the biggest challenge. Because this is an office, not a home (despite how much time we spend here), the baseboard is a vinyl strip glued to the wall. That means we couldn’t pry it back and then replace it as we would on typical construction.
Instead, we cut the hole from stud to stud, and then peeled about an inch of the broken drywall from the back of the baseboard. The replacement piece was cut to fit the hole, plus an extra inch on the bottom to slide behind the molding. It was screwed to the studs and then glued to the molding with construction adhesive.
The Mud and Tape
Now all the joints between the old wall and the new sheetrock needed to be covered up to make the repairs invisible. We used self-adhesive mesh tape on each joint.
If this was an all new wall I prefer paper tape, but since this was a repair the mesh was faster and easier to work with. Once the joints were taped, we filled in all the gaps with joint compound (affectionately known as “mud”), and feathered it out across the wall. Let it dry, lightly sand and mud again. Do at least 3 coats, with each coat feathering out wider from the repair to make it completely blended and level with the wall. Be careful not to sand too aggressively, or you’ll set yourself back a step.
Finally you can “wet sand” the joint with a lightly damp sponge to make everything nice and smooth.
When a ping pong paddle pocks a wall, it doesn’t just leave a dent. The color of the paddle is left behind as a streak. So even where there were no dings there were shooting stars of red, green, blue, black and yellow crisscrossing the walls. Even with the table moved out of the way, you could tell exactly where it had been. This is also a lunch room, and where there’s food there are stains on the walls. A coat of paint’s not going to cover that up.
We spackled all the dents and covered the walls with a stain blocking primer. That would keep any of the old marks showing through the new paint. The primer’s also recommended before putting down the chalkboard paint.
The Chair Rail
The chair rail serves several functions. First, it breaks up the room. These two walls are 19 and 20 feet long and 9 feet high. That’s a large expanse to take in and the chair rail divides the space into areas that are easier on the brain. It also acts as a bit of security, creating a physical fender between the paddles and the wall, and a psychological fender as well. Drywall will easily give if you chose to ram it with your shoulder - the chair rail will not. Finally, on one wall the rail is also a shelf for chalk and erasers.
The molding came pre-primed, but the extra lumber to make it into a shelf didn’t, so we primed the 1x3 boards and 1x1 square dowel that would be added on. While the primer dried we found the height we wanted for the rail and measured and marked it in the corner where the walls meet. Since neither the floor nor ceiling turned out to be level, we used a 4-foot level as a straightedge and scribed the proper height across both walls.
We glued and tacked the molding to the wall with a brad gun, breaking up the lengths with rosettes at the centers of the runs and in the corners.
On the rail where the chalkboard would go, we glued and tacked the 1x1, even with the top edge of the molding to provide extra support, and then glued and tacked the 1x3 shelf to the molding and the wall.
The joints between the chair rail and the wall were all filled with a bead of paintable latex caulk.
Extra lengths of molding were cut down to make some frames on the wall.
One wall was getting white paint top to bottom, the other wall only from the chair rail down. We actually rolled the first coat onto the walls before the chair rail went up. With the rail in place the second coat went on and the rail and shelf were painted too.
Two coats of chalkboard paint were rolled on above the rail and after it was cut in the last coat of white went on the rail, to cover any spatters and drips.
Once the chalkboard was dry it was time to decorate it, drawn freehand and also using a projector for tracing.
One of the frames became a ping pong scoreboard.
The other became a little pat on the back.
Leaving room for coworkers to add to the wall, we created spaces for deep thoughts and inspirational quotes and nonsense.
Finally, we included a Latin motto...
and a quote from Teddy Roosevelt...
...because we are very classy.