Coronalone: Week 25 - Happy Accidents

"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.

And we currently find ourselves halfway through the relatively monumental task of finishing off the upstairs of the cottage-- the space my grandparents always called "the dormer"-- so that hopefully Michael will have a permanent art studio space that can be heated and cooled as necessary, year-round. As with any renovation project, at first glance it didn't look quite as monumental as it (inevitably) turned out to be. When we first starting taking measurements and ordering the supplies for insulating and finishing off the upstairs space, I thought it would be a project that could be finished over the course of a few weekends. Mike had already insulated the gable ends and the front of the dormer, covering it with a nice tongue-and-groove pine, so all that was left was to insulate under the rafters and put in the ceiling. How long could it take to staple up and tape double-reflective insulation, then cover it with 4 x 8 foot sheets of fine grade birch plywood, right? (Yes, I can hear you all chuckling. Whether you have done any renovation work yourself or not, I'm sure you all know how delusional we can get about how easy a home improvement project is going to be!) The first lesson I learned was that installing long sections of reflective insulation is not as easy as one might think. Sure, it's not heavy, but everything is being held up over one's head, nothing seems to want to line up, and the staples we have don't like to go through more than two layers of the stuff, which makes overlapping per the manufacturer's instructions rather difficult where more than two sheets meet. Taping the seams was the least problematic part of the whole operation, and even that was made slightly more difficult by the convoluted positions one finds oneself in trying to reach all of the places that the pieces intersect. Once everything was covered in a wonderfully shiny insulating layer, we realized that we hadn't been quite thorough enough in marking where all of the rafters and nailers were placed-- you know, the rafters and nailers that were now completely obscured by what amounts to very shiny, silver bubble wrap. We did a whole lot of palpating and marking (did you know it's almost impossible to see black Sharpie marks on silver insulation?) and, for the most part, we were able to map out where the 4 x 8 sheets would need to be attached. But the course of renovation never did run smooth, to paraphrase a rather famous Brit, and we would find ourselves dealing with more complications along the way. Our original delivery of birch plywood from a big box store that shall remain nameless turned out never to have been scheduled-- I found this out two weeks after placing the order online-- so we were told to wait for a phone call a day before the now-scheduled delivery date as confirmation. When the call came, the first words I heard were, "I have bad news". They were out-of-stock on the plywood-- you know, the stuff I had ordered online and for which we had already been charged $800.00-- and had no estimated date for when they would have more. To give credit where credit is due, the associate who called did kindly offer to try to find us an alternative, but in the end she simply cancelled our order and refunded our money so that we could find what we needed-- or the equivalent thereof-- elsewhere. Once I got over the initial annoyance, I came to consider the whole thing a "happy accident" (credit to Bob Ross for that wonderful term) because what we found instead of the birch plywood is even closer to our original vision and, amazingly, slightly less expensive: 4 x 8 foot sheets of a natural birch bead board. The sections we've managed to install so far look pretty snazzy, I must say. Which brings us to this past weekend, during which I learned the definition of such interesting building terms as "in the field" (as in, "we need to put in the screws in the field after we get the ones around the edge) and "custom cut" (as in, because it is an old house and nothing is square, every single piece of the blessed stuff had to be custom cut). Yes, there is quite a bit more to be done, but I am proud of us for everything we've accomplished so far. I think my grandparents would be proud of us, too, since they were certainly strong proponents of hard work and doing things for oneself. And honestly, the fact that it takes an extra effort just to raise my hands high enough to type this is totally worth it, right?

© 2019 by MSP. Proudly created with

  • w-facebook