The COVID-19 Office Journey – Part 2

Repurposing a home space for work.



Or at least it was Mud, with a capital M and for what seemed like an eternity. Mud. As in drywall joint compound. I knew from the many odd angles and preexisting structures in the COVID office that this would not be the easy part of the job. But I digress.

important facts first

Fact One: My neighbor has already finished his garage COVID office. He started about the same time we were beginning ours. No, it wasn’t a competition, but good motivation for us to finish up. Fact Two: We’ve now passed our framing, rough electrical and drywall inspections. Hence, the muddy phase followed by the white powdery phase which, with spring allergies was a sneeze-fest throughout the house. N95 mask? Check.

the pros make it look easy.

I have great respect for the building professionals who turn ideas into substance and make it look easy. This project has reinforced that respect. The framing was rather straightforward. The electrical was not difficult. Slow and tedious, but the three-way switches work flawlessly. The small amount of plumbing was brief chaos. That round cut on my thumb? It coincidentally matched the inside diameter of the ¾” copper pipe that needed extending. Where was that water coming from? But the Sharkbite™ connector worked as promised and we needed to mop the concrete floor anyway. Drywall is heavy and awkward, but the drywall lift is a marvelous creation. After that, we got stuck in the mud, but eventually achieved marginal proficiency with tape and corners.

The end is now in sight and it continues to be a learning experience. We’ve called a couple audibles that would have been foreseen by a good designer. First, we didn’t think fully outside the box. The new wall that partitioned the office didn’t plan for electrical on the garage-facing side. Easy fix but it meant adding a retrofit box to the 5/8” drywall that was already screwed into place. The second was the in-wall soundbar I’d planned for just below the window where the desk will go. Given that the sit-stand desk will be mostly stand, the soundbar will often end up below desk height – not a practical option. Instead, we’ve opted for a couple of Niles CM4s in the soffit that conceals the plumbing, powered by a SpeakerCraft amp (ex-Nortek, what can I say?). The lighting plan was the other area where a designer would have provided important guidance. We’ve replaced one ceiling box and added a second, but haven’t yet selected fixtures, meaning we haven’t fully thought through the ambiance of the room – even if it is the COVID office. A few lessons learned, but we’re feeling good about progress.

hidden treasure

It wouldn’t be a retrofit without a surprise, and this was a good one. We knew the garage space below the bedroom wing had new support columns and garage wall footings. What we didn’t know was the extent of steel beams that frame the garage door. This upgrade from a decade before we purchased the home is comforting in earthquake-prone California.

impatient to the core

The room has the final touches to go – door, window trim, final painting, light fixtures and flooring – but I couldn’t resist doing part of a Zoom call in it this week, giving my team members a quick tour.

Progress is steady.


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