Thursday, February 18, 2010


It sometimes seems to me that there should be a word for the kind of changes you can make to a room that are neither redecorating nor remodeling. "Redecorating," to me, sounds like a job you can do in a day. It could range from something as simple as rearranging the furniture to throwing everything out and bringing in new furniture, but in either case, it doesn't involve any changes to the basic structure of the room itself. At most, it might entail repainting or replacing the carpet. "Remodeling," on the other hand, suggests making changes to the basic structure--knocking out walls, putting in windows, that kind of thing. It sounds like the kind of job that you expect to take weeks, if not months, and to make the room pretty much unusable in the meantime.

What there doesn't seem to be a word for is the kind of changes that fall somewhere in between, like the changes we're making now to our basement. Over the past few years, we've ripped out the paneling and the old vinyl floor, rewired the room and put in new light fixtures, built new windowsills, boxed in an exposed heating pipe, repaired and repainted the walls and ceiling, replaced the handrail on the staircase, and painted the stairs. We're on the home stretch of this massive project now, installing the brown-paper floor over the existing concrete. It certainly feels to me like we have done more than "redecorate" this room, but I don't feel like I can really claim we "remodeled" it, either.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to call this kind of work "refinishing." When you refinish a piece of furniture, you strip off the old varnish or paint or whatever and apply a new surface, while leaving the bones of the piece unchanged. That's kind of what we're doing here. Pretty much every surface in this room has been altered, but the basic structure--windows, walls, ceiling--is the same. I think this is a useful ecofrugal concept, because the kind of refinishing we've done in this room can have just as big an impact as actual remodeling, but it will generally cost less, use fewer resources, and produce less waste.

No comments: