The Washington Post

My Home Renovation Saga: The home stretch

The drywall is up, and our basement guest room project is nearly complete. ( Anne Marie Borrego )

I was giddy when we learned we had passed inspection and quite amazed at the swift pace that new drywall appeared on our walls. The room, it seemed, was becoming a reality. The last couple of weeks, however, have felt like torture. I’ve compiled a list of things that have taken longer than I expected.

Drywall done right takes time: It seems that getting drywall up is easy. It’s the finishing that’s the pain. Contractors need to apply several coats of various types of compound to ensure a smooth finish. A tape coat ensures that the pieces flow seamlessly. Fill coats will then help smooth it out. A finish coat goes on after that, followed by sanding and priming.

If done correctly, it takes at least four days to complete. But basement jobs can add to that time, because it’s hard for the compound to dry in cool spaces that don’t get much of a cross breeze. Mine took more than a week. It’s not something you want to rush. A bad drywall job will be obvious even after the paint goes on the walls. For larger jobs and when contractors have other things to do, they can simply add a layer then move on to other projects. In my basement, however, it’s meant a few hours’ work each day.

Paint, then repaint: I’m really excited about my new paint color: Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore. My decorator Preston suggested that we do a slightly lighter hue on the ceiling to add height to the room. You can accomplish this by purchasing a separate batch of color that’s a lower saturation—in our case, 75 percent.

Our contractor put one coat on the walls before installing the floor, but as is the case with most remodels, things get dinged. So, he will add a second coat after he’s finished the rest of the room. I think that’s smart.

Be prepared for some delays with furniture and décor

We’re almost finished with the construction—now we come to the fun part. The deep, espresso-colored engineered hardwood floor went down on Friday. Our contractor will be doing much of the finishing on Monday, which is good, because my new guest bed is already here and in pieces downstairs. We’ll be robbing my son of his full-size mattress and replacing it with a new twin platform bed and mattress, both of which are coming on Tuesday. I sincerely hope we’re able to start placing items in the room. Otherwise, I’m not sure where I’ll be putting everything.

Even if it all goes in on time, I won’t be able to have a “big reveal” like all the design shows I love so much. In fact, our renovation would make horrible television, because all the fun stuff is coming in piece by piece. Our nightstands won’t arrive until the middle of April, and the Dwell Studio rug is backordered until May. I had forgotten to order a shade for the window, and I haven’t even picked out the fabric for the window seat. And my great uncle’s desk hasn’t even gone out for its paint job yet.

We’ll get there. After spring break, after we pay our taxes, and in between our hectic two-career, one child life.

Gearing up for the finish: For now, I’m trying to focus most of my attention on that pesky little thing known as the final punch list. I’d love to hear from readers on things to look for before writing that final check. I know the basics, but if you’ve got ideas on making sure the room is finished to perfection, I’d love to hear them.

Anne Marie Borrego is the media relations director for a non-profit organization and a resident of Alexandria.

Do you have a tip for working with your contractor that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments section.

Do you want to share your renovation saga? Email us at

Read previous installments of this series:

Making adjustments

Renovation lessons

To permit or not to permit?

The demolition

Our basement project



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Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul