One of the most inexpensive ways to create stonewalls in your home/haunt is by using good-'ol cardboard boxes. Boxes laid flat and painted to the desired effect are relatively easy and cheap methods of creating stonewall effects.
The availability of the material is stunning. In fact, most people and businesses are more than willing to give up large, bulky cardboard boxes taking up precious space. It's incredibly lightweight and the amount of cardboard to re-do an average bedroom can be hefted by one person.
Another plus is that if your cache of cardboard is destroyed???.SO WHAT? More is always available, and except for painting time and material, free seems incredibly cost effective.
Cardboard is not only for just good for covering walls, it can be used structurally to create walls, columns, and facades and look good while doing so.
And the all so important off-season storage dilemma is covered here as well. Since cardboard is easily folded, it stacks well vertically or horizontally.
So right now you're probably thinking about you local grocer and how he helped you out with some boxes on your last move. Well unless carrots start growing six feet tall forget it!
We need square footage with as little piecing together as possible. Washers, dryers, water heaters, and cabinets are excellent boxes for wall work. Refrigerator and freezer boxes are the crème-de-la-crème of cardboard scavenging.
The best place to find ALL these kinds of boxes is in new residential construction. It's hard not to tell when the plumbers have "topped out" all the fixtures in the building as a huge stack of boxes appears in the waste heap. That's right ???Waste. I refer to these occurrences as "Box Days"
You may want to ask permission from the sites superintendent to avoid unneeded arrests, but I can almost guarantee that nobody's going to object to you removing bulky waste from the housing tract.
Kitchen and bathroom cabinets that have been purchased from major production outlets ship boxed. They tend not to be cut like someone was chewing their way out, like some washer, dryer and water heater boxes are, as the heavy appliances are maneuvered out of their boxes and into place. Keeping an eye out on a tract or two of new houses is key to discovering box days.
Box days also occur when people move into their new home as well. You would be surprised at how many people clean through their stuff AFTER the move to the new house. Usually these boxes are either driven or carried around the corner to a trash heap and left there.
You can also score bonus finds in move-in rubbish such as motors, trim, paint, gears and old household stuff to turn into Halloween goodies and nobody really cares if they are removed.
Actually they're not even supposed to be there in the first place.
By all means explore other venues where large boxed items are opened frequently, such as freight warehouses and import companies, but in this authors opinion, new and developing housing is the source worth watching.
The GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY
Corrugated board usually consists of outer flat sheets (veneers) of puncture resistant paper, sandwiching a central "filling" of corrugated short fiber paper (fluting), which resists crushing under compression and gives cushioning protection to the box's contents. The cardboard has high end-to-end strength along the corrugated flutes, so the box is normally designed with the corrugation running vertically for stacking strength.
The veneers and corrugated medium are glued together along the outsides of the peaks and valleys of each flute, normally using starch adhesives. The starch adhesives are usually derived from corn, wheat or potato.
We are concerned with the double face cardboard because of its availability. Occasionally building materials such as sheetrock mud, lacquer, and cement will splash onto the sheets of cardboard and dry while in the trash. Most substances will come off with a simple brush of the hand or with a stiff broom. You can remove more stubborn areas with a square nosed shovel, inverted so the underside of the scoop is up. This will prevent the shovel from digging into the corrugation.
Cardboard that has been exposed to water, rain, or other moisture will separate and delaminate the veneers from the corrugation.
So first thing you want to do to get started is to cut the flaps free at the top and the bottom of the box so the flaps remain intact. Find the seam where the machine glued the box together and cut along the crease originally made when the box was assembled. Don't bother trying to save the flap here as it usually tears the veneer from the corrugation.
Lay the box flat on the ground so all of the flaps are visible. Notice the notches die cut into the sheet where the flaps once folded? Run a piece of 2" masking tape, starting from the outside edge of the box, all along the notch, plus about 2-3" beyond and into the field. Repeat for all the notches then walk or slide your foot along the tape to secure it well then turn the sheet over. We are going to tape these same notches again only a little bit different.
This time start your strips of tape about 2-3" inside the field, similar to the other sides ending point, but when you reach the outside edge, run the tape about 4-6" longer than the boxes edge. Secure the strip with your foot then carefully fold this extra tape over and onto the tape from the first side.
This will strengthen and fill the gap created by the notch. The extra tape that is folded over the edge to the other side prevents it from tearing into flaps again.
Delaminated cardboard should be trimmed back to areas where the glue still adheres the layers together. Using a sharp razor knife and a long, strait cutting edge makes this a simple task.
Trim any holes up by cutting a square or rectangle area around the damage. Then cut a scrap of cardboard that fits inside this area loosely(1/8" gap). Taping both sides of cardboard with a 4" overlap beyond any 90 degree angled corners is good to secure it in place.
Most rips and tears in cardboard can be re-joined simply by pushing them together, and taping both sides with 1" overlapping strips of 2" tape until the piece feels sturdy along the tear As always, any rips that tears through the outside edge should be taped with a 4-6" overlapping strip.
Whatever you do, don't spend more time taping together small pieces than you could finding a decent box! Before taping up sheets like jigsaw puzzles, stop and evaluate the overall useful square footage you have to deal with. Is there more than 80% of the box intact? Do I have to fill a lot of punctures and tears?
A box with 20% fill and repair is almost too much work considering the availability of boxes. YOU have to ultimately decide if a box is worth your efforts or not.
Shortages of money for tape can be a factor. I always keep on the lookout for discarded rolls of partially used tape while digging through the construction rubble. A lot of contractors leave behind all different kinds of tape. Ductape (not very paintable but strong as hell!) is always in abundance around tract home sites. The tape the stucco lathers use around here to seal their 3/4" foam board is THE BEST for our intended application. It is pretty much a veneer with adhesive and it paints just like cardboard.
First off, lets cover some of my frugal basics of paint and painting supplies. Never throw away rollers unless you absolutely have to! Remember that most Halloween paints are black and grays, so washing out the color is near impossible. If enough paint is washed out the roller it becomes soft and fluffy and totally re-useable. It will still be black or gray but rinsing out enough paint to save some money isn't that much work.
Most hardware stores, back in the paint section, have what they call an "oops" area. An oops area is where all the custom coloring is done.......sometimes twice. The quart, gallon, and five gallon containers from the employees first attempts at the customers colors are usually reduced price steals. Where else are you going to find five gallons of black 30 year exterior latex enamel for $15.00? Concrete paints, porch and deck polymers, and the always abundant latex varieties are all victims to colorant errors. This is something I do faithfully every time I enter my Home Depot or Orchard Supply Hardware stores. Always seems to be a gallon black or a shade of gray in there all year long. Beware of the paint Nazi who thinks she can tell you how to paint and with what. PVA primer CAN be pigmented.
First thing you're going to do roll on the mortar color first. For the mortar I use a lighter shade of gray than the stone color.....which is best black. Very dark and forbidding. You're going to want to get an extension pole for your roller or this might get hard. Broom handles work in a pinch and are even the right thread count. I then park all the vehicles on the street to free up room in the drive. You want fairly firm ground so the job of rolling paint evenly goes easy. Concrete is ideal but I've seen some dirt driveways that will work just as well given all the small stones are raked or swept so as not to poke through the cardboard and to insure even paint coverage. What will not work well is the lawn or your neighbors lawn so just use his driveway instead.
When all the cardboard has been laid out on the driveway and in the garage, I roll a heavy single coat on, being sure to roll the paint into the creases created from the folding of corners in it's previous life as a box. The advantage to mass painting is the dry time alone from opening up a can again and again. As of this writing, the Home Depot in my town doesn't stock them anymore since they informed me that they are just going to hire some teenagers to use the forms to make the pre-made concrete stones they sell now.....hmm.
Orchard Supply to the rescue once again. The concrete molds have been in stock there forever. So get a walkway mold and align it with on one side or the other of your painted sheet. It's easiest to use a colored pencil similar in color to the color of your base coat. This makes it not so noticeable and you don't always stay within the lines so much, right kids? I tried using a Sharpie on one sheet and I hated myself for all the dark, heavy black lines left to cover. Using the mold upside down, trace the contour of the stones out onto the cardboard. Now, lightly scribe the two outside flanges where the pattern forms a "v" on one side and an "a" on the other side made by the mold's outside shape. These will be the keys to line up the next areas to be scribed since there's no concrete to line up the mold with again and the mold shape itself makes it hard the judge the distance from the last stone to the next to keep the mortar thickness the same. Once I can see the rocks I can't help but miss the ass in my face....yummy.
They best part about this next phase is you get to sit down and paint the stones. The cardboard isn't all that uncomfortable, so the whole family can pitch in and help. I use one of those small foam bushes with soft little angled bristles. It is set on a curved handle with comfort in mind because painting this way with a standard brush would require you to post your wrists while painting to stay within the lines. By posting I mean setting your wrist down on a surface much like when you write with a pencil. but this is like moving a matchbox car with a tight turn radius around the rock patterns we scribed earlier. Another plus of this curved handle is it allows you to dip the brush directly into the paint can to wet the foam pad. This eliminates the pouring of paint into other smaller containers which wastes paint.
In no time at all you'll have each stones outline down to a rhythm. Most all the stones can be completed in two independent outline strokes and one more stroke to fill. Try to have an adult go first, stenciling ahead of any children. We know how eager they can be sometimes. Once the mortar coat is dry to the touch, you can stack all the sheets into one pile. Try to complete one sheet at a time. Stencil all of it then paint all the stones as well. Trying to complete a dozen at once is way too overwhelming of a task, believe you me. The stack is way soft now and everyone shouldn't mind painting for a little bit. No need to have perfectly painted stones because "The Powers That Be" didn't waste His/Her/Their time making them identical so neither should you.
This is one of the greatest tools ever overlooked. see Figure 5. The grommet installation kit. Stores like Harbor Freight sells kits like this for about $4.99 and comes with something like 100 or so grommets.
The grommet gives us a strong anchor point without worrying about any tearing or ripping or having nails or staples pull away from the wall from it's weight. A small round punch is used to make a perfect circle. I use a small scrap of plywood underneath the cutting operation so as not to dull the cutter. A steel base with 1/2 the grommet poking through the hole is placed below the cardboard. The other 1/2 of the grommet is placed on top of this with a steel punch made to curl the soft metal grommet in the base then smacked with a hammer till it seats down. Do not beat the piss out of it since the grommet since it crimps itself onto the cardboard. You would wind up with an even bigger hole that I'm not quite sure they make grommets for.
Another large plus of grommet is that while you are happily making holes for nails and hooks you might not realize that you are also putting in holes made perfect for bungee cords, the grommets intended purpose. Now you can suspend your cardboard walls overhead and make them ceilings. Shifting walls and ceilings are easily made by stretching out a sheet of cardboard so it is suspended mid air. Using a PVC or 2 x 2 lightweight frame to stretch and anchor the bungee's to. Moving the frame can easily be accomplished with air rams or motors. Even easier is to suspend the sheet on a frame and have it anchored so you can manipulate the cardboard itself. Probably somewhat safer as well.
Cardboard is very versatile and very common. Let's give a real haunted look instead of those shiny black plastic bag ceilings all too common in towns everywhere.
Douglas Trouette is owner of SIC Productionz. SIC Productionz provides D.I.Y. Halloween animatronics and other inexpensive holiday animatronics as well as Halloween haunted props.
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