Home, Sweet Home

Family tackles improvements while self-isolating

April 29, 2020 Cranberry Living


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With nowhere to go and no one to see, some homeowners are turning their idle hands to construction.

When Mike Travis and his wife, Ashley, bought a house in the Boyers area seven years ago, they had a list of things they needed to fix. First, there were roof issues and as the years went by other repairs kept getting pushed back.

Now, Mike has decided to take advantage of the forced closure of businesses by tackling some things that have been on the family’s list all these years. Over the last few weeks, he has been replacing wood trimming in several rooms and completely redoing the flooring in one of the bathrooms.

“We originally wanted to do it within first year of buying the house,” Mike said. “But we had to take care of high-end things, like roof fixing. The little things got pushed off to the side ‘till now.”

With the coronavirus precautions, Mike decide to accept an offer from his job to be laid off.

“With the virus going on it was in our best interest to stay home and avoid the virus,” Mike said.

But sheltering in place had other rewards too.

“The things that we’ve done are amazing,” he said. “We’re into that rustic look farmhouse look.”

Mike said he didn’t consider himself a carpenter before this but when he saw that the price of hemlock wood was “ridiculously cheap,” he decided to take on the task.

One of the first things he tackled was to redo the bedrooms of his three daughters by white washing the rooms after removing the original walls.

“The walls almost had an organish color, ceiling walls were all wood,” Mike said. “It doesn’t fit young girls to have wood ceilings so we freshened that up.”

They gave the room a faded wood look, Mike said, “brightened up the whole room in general. It was all done with a 2-inch paint brush.”

Using two of those size brushes, Mike painted the walls of the bedrooms by hand.

“You get to a certain point where you’re like ‘my arm can’t take no more of this,’ so we did it in sections,” Mike said. “I’ve always been in the construction industry for 20 years. I just picked up these things.

“If you ever get into trouble, just resort YouTube. It’s fun to do things you’re not use to doing or have never done before.”

After the paint job, Mike went to an Amish family’s lumber yard called Hemlock Lumber, to buyunfinished cut planks that have not been sanded.

Using that material, he made baseboard trim and decorative ceiling trims in all of the house’s bedrooms. He did three bedrooms and one bathroom. Mike estimates that project took two days.

“It gives it that rustic look,” Mike said.

But he won’t stop there. Mike plans on stripping out the “old style” vinyl floor in their downstairs bathroom and put in a “paper floor.”

“It has a crazy looking design,” he said.

Mike explained the process:

“You can take paper bag from Giant Eagle or buy rolls of floor covering that is brown paper. Rip sections of that. You can make them 12 foot 10 inches.

“You wrinkle them up. Get cheap stain. Paint pieces of paper to give it different look. Let them dry.

“Dip it into water Elmer’s glue mix and you flatten it out on floor. Overlap it.”

Mike said he decided to do this for a two reasons — financial and artistic.

“I could do that floor probably for $50 bucks. It’s insane. It’s not like any other floor you’ve seen in your life,” Mike said. “And it’s unique to each person that does it cause every person will do it a little differently.”

And finally, he will slather layers and layers of polyurethane with a brush over the paper floor to harden it.

For those who are looking for professional expertise while maintaining physical distancing safe guards, The Home Improvement Center in Butler offers video conferences for customers with their employees.

“We’re here to help people make decisions during this time,” said David Wood, owner of home modeling company on Negley Avenue. “We’ve done all we can to continue doing that. I know the whole world is waiting to get a little more freedom out there.”

The store, like other home improvement shops, however, is still open since it’s considered, an essential business. To visit, however, requires an appointment, so that Wood and the others can manage the amount of people inside.

“But they don’t need to come here if they don’t want. Luckily we have a big showroom so we walk around with iPads and take pictures of things for people,” Wood said. “It’s amazing what you can do when you have to be creative about it.”

Wood said that while larger projects that require technical expertise are on hold, they still see a lot of people who are tackling smaller jobs like the Travis family is doing.

“When people are spending so much time in the house, you do a lot of stuff in the kitchen so you get people thinking about kitchen improvements,” Wood said. “It’s been a lot of flooring things.

Wood said the time at home has people noticing items that need fixed.

“People are chomping at the bit staying at home doing as much as they can in their pajamas,” he said.

But even for those projects that require professionals, Wood said home improvement experts can help plan and line everything up for someone looking to get started on a project as soon as the physical distancing measures are lifted.

“We have been through it all, thick and thin,” Wood said. “Things have been very different. The world has changed. You say normal but I don’t think there will ever be normal like we knew before. We’ll have a new normal.”

But for Mike and his family they are taking the virus precautions in stride, looking at the bright side as the closure allows them to spend more time together.

“Typically, at this point of year, we’re running around all over the place for softball with my two daughters but we’re not doing that,” Mike said. “We’d be running from softball field to field but that’s not real family time.

“Now we’re able to step back and look at what we’ve accomplished.”

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