How to turn a yucky spare room into a bright home office.

It can be really hard to find the time to work on projects like this, but by breaking it down into mostly smaller, 3/4 hour tasks we have completed it. I am so happy to have a calm space to work in, mostly free of distractions! It will also double as a spare room when we move in the sofa bed, so a great double use of the space.


We estimated the total cost of this work, not counting our labour time as a cost, as around £250 :

  • £100 for plastering work (very good deal!)
  • £50 for skirting boards (from BnQ)
  • £60 for paint (various)
  • £7 for mitre box
  • ~ £33 for sealant, glue, sandpaper, dust masks, etc.
  • (we already had brushes, rollers, tools etc. from other work)

Here are the steps we took to get here:

  1. Remove yucky wallpaper
  2. Remove skirting boards
  3. Assess plaster – if good use, if not, re-plaster
  4. Clean/bleach and paint ceiling
  5. 2 coats paint on wall.
  6. Cut and fit skirting boards (using a mitre box)
  7. Fit curtain rail and new curtain.
  8. Seal skirting, and clean up!

The first step was stripping all the old, dirty yellow wallpaper off the walls; our now seasoned technique of ripping off the topside, spraying warm water on the underside (stuck to the wall with the glue) and after 5 to 10 minutes of soaking, gently peeling the gluey paper off. Satisfying, but at the same time wholly unsatisfying. If you are going to try this technique on your own depressing, ugly wallpaper, it’s worth noting that you really have to soak the paper through, sometimes I even had to rub the water in with my hand, to make sure every inch was saturated. You can use a filling knife to push the paper away from the wall, but you’re going to want to avoid any stabbing, jerky motions because that’s just going to leave loads of marks in the plaster below – you just have to be patient.

When we removed the wallpaper from two of the walls, the plaster underneath was in really good condition, but sadly the other two were really patchy – there was no way they could be fixed in filler so we paid a friend to plaster the two walls for us – we got quite a good deal partly because my boyfriend helped throughout (thank you BF!!). Plastering is hard work (sore arms!), and if you’ve never tried it before and you only have a small space to plaster, I would say pay someone to do it. If, on the other hand, you want to learn and save some money, maybe take a class, and find somewhere less noticed in the house to practice. Plaster done well looks great, but plaster can go wrong quite easily; if you have an uneven plaster mix, then as it dries it can become very uneven, and you might have to start from scratch, or do a lot of sanding.

We also took all the skirting boards off the walls before painting – they were glued on AND nailed in every six inches which was annoying, but we managed to get them off using a screwdriver, power drill and hammer, breaking them carefully around the radiator pipes.

Because one of the main reasons for the renovation was the horrible smoke/nicotine residue in the room, we cleaned and bleached the ceiling before painting. I would recommend this step if you are facing the same problem; again it’s a tough job (you get bleach dripping everywhere! not nice!) but nicotine staining can seep through paint quite easily, and you don’t want to have to paint the ceiling again in six months! If the ceiling actually looks OK, I would say just go over it with a damp rag to remove dust/dirt, and then give it one coat of paint.

Painting the walls is definitely the most fun and quickest job with most decorating projects. It only took an hour or two for each of the coats, and because you have to leave them for 4 hours, it gives you time to get away and have a break. Make sure the space is well ventilated, and leave it so for a few hours after your finished (while you get out of the room). To paint the room, mark off areas you don’t want to paint with masking tape, “cut in” the edges with a paintbrush (cutting in just means painting the edges carefully, and getting a good line of paint up to the edge) and use a roller for the big spaces. Getting a telescopic roller is a godsend if you are short like me!


Next up was fitting the skirting boards; neither of us had ever tried this, but I saw this video and I thought it didn’t look too hard. We measured all the wall sections in the room to figure out how much we needed, and then bought our skirting boards from a big DIY superstore. We chose a style thats similar to the other bedroom, but it really depends what look you are going for in the room. I got a mitre box from our local DIY shop, and I got one specifically for skirting boards – but I would actually recommend getting one for coving or skirting boards – you will probably want to use it for both so it will save money. We screwed it down to a spare piece of wood from the shed (always worth hanging onto for projects like this). The videos recommended cutting in profile for the internal joints, but due to the fact that our skirting board had quite a complicated profile, I thought F that! and did mitre joints for the internal and external joints. I’m glad we did this for the internal joints, it worked fine. It was harder than I expected to get a good cut on the external joints – I would say cut slowly and keep lining up, making sure the saw, wood and box are in the right place. Also the walls we were fitting on were VERY uneven, which does not help – be ready to sand down the uneven plaster a lot if you find the skirting board sections can’t fit properly.

Only time will tell if the joints shrink or grow; if they do, it will just be a little job to tidy them up later in the year. We were told that the glue would work better on the plaster rather than a painted surface – but this was a load of rubbish!! Plaster is so fine and even after brushing off as much dust as possible, the glue was still not sticking perfectly. So I would say, do at least one coat of paint on the walls before fitting the skirting.

Another huge thank you to my boyfriend for fitting the curtain rail – it involved drilling some holes and putting in rawl plugs, and he is a lot keener on using the drill than I am. Meanwhile I was doing the sealant on the skirting boards, which I seemed to get the hang of a lot quicker.

We are also hoping to fit coving in this room, and there are two plug sockets and a light fixture that need to be re-secured to the walls, but I am so happy with it, and to be able to use the room again!

Are you planning any jobs like this? would you give skirting boards or plastering a try? Let me know how you get on.

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