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  • Writer's pictureColleen R. Carpenter

Should Mamas Lay Mud?

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Are you interested in DIY home improvement projects but hesitant about actually doing anything about it? Shame on you. The topic of home improvement is hot, and if you have dreams of sprucing up your place despite a limited budget, I’m here to show you it’s possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, you can do it. All it takes is courage and a willingness to learn.

If your next thought is, “I can’t afford to take classes,” stop right there. That excuse doesn’t fly anymore. I learned all I needed to know about masonry projects and how to lay mud by watching tons of YouTube videos. (Shout out to all the guys and gals on YouTube who taught me how to get this job done.) I love YouTube almost as much as Haagen-Dazs Butter Pecan ice cream and believe me, it’s a tight race.

This is a follow-up to my prior blog, “Lowes vs. The Home Depot: Who Does it Better,” published on January 19, 2020. My comparison of the differences between the two retail giants is how this saga started in the first place.

I’ve been doing interior house painting for many years and love it. One day I decided to paint our basement walls which were a dull, dreary, dirty-colored grey. It didn’t make for the best atmosphere when going down to do laundry.

Did you know that wall color affects your mood? It’s scientifically proven that it does. According to an article on HGTV, “Color is a powerful design tool that can make the rooms in your home feel more calm, cheerful, comfortable or dramatic.” (This includes your basement walls too.)


DIY Basics

The steps in any DIY project are usually the same:

  • Study

  • Plan

  • Prepare

  • Execute

  • Enjoy your finished project (hopefully)

Reaching Out to Others for Help

No man (or woman) is an island. There are times when you need to get feedback or instruction from other people. Don’t be embarrassed about doing that. Once I started our basement makeover, I was immediately faced with obstacles I’d never faced before, and certainly didn’t expect.

My original plan for the basement was a fresh coat of paint. That’s it. However, in clearing things away in preparation for painting, I noticed the mortar was crumbling on three of the four walls. There were a few cracks too. Being the painting perfectionist that I am, I knew there was no way I could paint without doing something about those walls first.

I considered whether I could repair the walls myself. After all, how hard could it be?

I reached out to my Construction Contractor Facebook Group and shared my dream.

One of the first comments I received was that I should “hire a professional.” Unscathed, I pressed on asking questions about trowels and other tools I would need. I wanted to at least do some research to see if it was possible.

Resourceful and inquisitive by nature, I headed straight for YouTube where I was educated on everything I needed to know, and then some.

I learned about the difference between mortar, cement, and concrete. I was introduced to bonding agents, and what trowel worked best depending on what you were trying to do. Some trowels are great for the actual mixing of mortar, others do an awesome job when working on corners, and some work great for smoothing things out.

Did you know there are different types of mortar for connecting bricks, repairing basement walls, laying a sidewalk or patio, filling cracks, or stabilizing a post for a mailbox or fence?

Trust in Yourself and Just Do It

About 10 YouTube videos later, I had learned quite a bit and felt I was ready to take on the project. I think my sister, Marshelle, on the other hand, was a little nervous for me. On my start date, she called a handyman friend of ours and asked him to come over and talk to me.

I could understand her hesitation, but by this point, I was going in no matter what. If the guys and gals on YouTube videos could do it, I believed I could too.

The handyman (our friend, Mr. Burnis), came to the house. I showed him the horrible, crumbling basement walls and gave him my spiel. He looked at me and smiled… even chuckled a little.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten that reaction from some of my male friends when I tell them about my home improvement exploits.

Mr. Burnis asked me if I had a bucket so he could mix up a little mortar. I left and came back with a large, plastic, mortar mixing tub. He was visibly impressed. (I guess he thought I was going to return with a mop bucket.)

He mixed up a batch of mortar, put some on the trowel, and slapped it on the wall. Then he let me try it. Although I’d already seen this demonstrated on YouTube many times, it was nice to have a live presentation done right in front of me. I was off and running!

The Final Project

This project was a lot of work and took about 2 months working a few hours a day. The full project included:

  • repairing crumbling walls;

  • purging unwanted items and junk from the basement;

  • priming and painting;

  • organizing and cleaning;

  • sewing curtains (I’m a seamstress too); and

  • purchasing a few decorative items

The basement renovation project was a big job for someone who had never attempted mortar work before, but I was inspired by the masters on those YouTube videos who generously shared their skills and knowledge. Most importantly, I believed I could do it and was willing to try.

That’s all I’m asking of you, my friend, just be willing to make an effort. You'll be amazed at what DIY projects you’re capable of achieving.

Before & After

Here are some photos of our completed project:

I’m also sharing a video snippet of our basement update journey to inspire others to think about trying DIY projects themselves. You can do it!



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