Posts Tagged Plaster

Spare Bedroom Almost Finished

So I described my work on the wardrobe and even the light fixture, but I really should have first talked about how much work I’ve done to get the bedroom ready. In reality, the wardrobe and light were like finishing touches compared to how long I spent re-wiring, adding outlets, repairing the plaster, drywalling & mudding.

First off, this room is behind the bathroom, where there was a door-sized opening connecting this bedroom with the bathroom. Since the bathroom is (nearly) finished, the opening was closed in on that side except for the hole-in-the-wall where my medicine cabinet will eventually be installed. But because the tub/shower was previously along this wall, there was major water damage even on the bedroom side of the wall. The plaster was bubbled and crumbling all along where the tub would have been. Each time I tried to scrape it flat in preparation to mud over it, it just kept crumbling. The ceiling wasn’t in the best shape either, it was sagging in the middle and had major cracks from one wall to the next. I could have spent time scraping out each crack, reattaching the plaster to the wood slats, and then mudding and sanding.

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But in my mind, I kept thinking it wouldn’t last long and I’d be unhappy with the ceiling in just a short while. So I decided to drywall both the ceiling and the damaged plaster wall. No need to tear the plaster off (a ridiculous amount of work, dust, mess, and trash). I found the ceiling joists & wall studs and installed the drywall right over top, making sure my screws were long enough to reach through the plaster and secure the drywall to the framing.

First though, a friend helped me re-wire this bedroom to replace the knob & tube wiring and put the room on it’s own dedicated breaker (less electrical demand on the “whole-house breaker” of whoever previously wired my electric panel). From the crawlspace to the attic, we re-wired the ceiling light, light switch, and upgraded the room from 1 lonely outlet to 1 outlet per wall – meeting today’s standard of  every 6 linear feet. This was not really an attempt to meet today’s residential electrical requirement, but more for convenience in the future since most standard lamps and other electrical items have a 6′ cord. When it came time to add outlets, rather than today’s standard height in the wall, I am installing them horizontally in the baseboard. There are already several rooms in the house where a previous owner added outlets in the baseboard, so to maintain a consistent look I decided that’s where I would add them also. The baseboards in my house are 9″ tall, so this places the outlets about 4″ off the floor. And a brown outlet and brown cover almost disappear on the dark stained woodwork.

Back to prepping the walls & ceiling. Once the drywall was hung I began to tape and mud all the seams and corners. This was my first time mudding drywall on a ceiling. Now this sounds like it would be the same as seams on the wall, but trust me it’s not the same. There is so much more coordination required with managing drywall knives while stepping up and down the step stool, and a lot more accidentally dropping (or throwing) drywall mud – landing on my pants, shoes, and the floor. I’m glad I didn’t tear the carpet out until after all this work, it caught all my mess. Lots of thin coats of mud, lots of drying time, and finally a few hours carefully sanding.

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No, water resistant greenboard drywall was not required for this ro0m – I purchased more than I needed when I renovated the bathroom and couldn’t return it. At the the end of the day it’s still drywall, and once painted no one will know the difference.

One detail I included in this room was an access panel to the shut-off valves for the tub & shower on the other side of the wall. It’s a simple plastic frame with a snap off cover if I ever need to do repairs or for some reason shut off the water lines to the tub.

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While mudding  I also tried my best to fix any cracks, holes, or divots in the plaster walls. These two walls below are not drywall, but rather plaster – and there is maybe more mud on these walls than on the new drywall.

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I also sanded out all of the previous owners bad patch jobs, like where they slapped on spackling compound and didn’t sand it flat to the wall. Sanding is a messy job, and I always forget that until I’m covered in dust after just an hour or so.

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In the end, I was pretty impressed with myself for how the walls turned out. Priming is the real reveal.

P1040685 BP1040689 BThere is one corner that isn’t perfect, but I can live with it. Imperfection is character, or so I keep telling myself.

I already had the woodwork for the windows scraped, sanded, stained & poly’d, and I was eager to nail it back into place once the walls were painted and dry. I still need to fill & stain the nail holes, but I am so happy with how this room is coming together. It will actually be the most complete room in the house in another weeks time when I get the baseboards nailed into place – and take some after photos of the full room!

 

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The Scraping Never Ends

This post is written post-completion, kind of playing catch-up with the blog so it matches my progress on the house. For once the house work is actually ahead of journaling.

The laundry room, though the smallest room in the house, probably had the worst plaster of any room in the house. Lots of large cracks, peeling paint on every wall and the ceiling, and of course the woodwork had layer after layer of paint on it.

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I immediately took down the cabinet on the right, and not too long after that I ripped up the linoleum and 1/2″ plywood it was glued to. There wasn’t too much glue holding the plywood down, and underneath there was the original fir floors, although filthy and lots of stain. There is evidence of quite a lot of water leaking, from the flooring to the baseboards, but luckily they aren’t rotten, just stained.

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I’ve tried heat gun and every chemical in the hardware store, but a sharp scraper seems to be the best tool for removing paint from the woodwork. Note the fan blowing dust outside, and the plastic taped around the doorway to the kitchen to keep any paint dust out of the living areas of the rest of the house.P1030954 BAs the paint came off the woodwork, I also scraped all loose paint off of the walls – which was a lot. The only thing missing is a photo of the paint chips on the floor, about an inch thick.P1030964 BAnd all the cracks. The plaster itself isn’t loose or crumbling, just lots of deep cracks. I think the roof must have been leaking down this wall where the windows are.P1030971 BThen it was time to throw more mud – drywall mud. I’m not the cleanest with it, I can get it semi-smooth on the walls, but I seem to drip quite a lot on the floors. I didn’t even bother to clean it up right away.

P1030979 BAlthough they didn’t all need it, I went ahead and applied drywall tape and joint compound to all of the corners throughout the room – walls and ceiling.P1030966 BI’m not perfect at mudding walls, but this was good practice with all the corners. Where it wasn’t perfect, a little bit of sanding when dry works really good. I found that very fine sandpaper on a square oscillating sander works good, but I have to keep it moving quick so not to sand off too much.P1030987 BThe ceiling was terrible. It looked like it had a skim-coat at some point in the past, and it took so many layers of mudding, sanding, mudding, and sanding. In the end, I wasn’t going for perfect. Just semi-smooth. I’ve already decided that in an old house, nothing should be “perfect,” or it won’t be an old house anymore. Character, I call it.P1030993 BAfter a long night of sanding… selfies in the reflection of the laundry room window:P1030998 BAfter a layer of primer and 2 coats of paint, voila! Not a bad ceiling after all!

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I stained the woodwork first before painting the walls. It is impossible, in my opinion, to stain woodwork and not get it on the walls. Two generous coats of stain, and then I use a trim brush to prime over the sloppy stain so that it doesn’t seep through the finish paint.P1040002 B

The woodwork started to look really good, but it just points out how terrible the window sashes still look. But those will be addressed soon!P1040010 B

Then it was time to paint. I wasn’t very picky choosing a paint color for the laundry room. It’s a small room, and there really isn’t very much style going on in there. My washer & dryer are white, the woodwork is mahogany, and I eventually plan to hang painted cabinets above the machines. But since the room opens into the kitchen, I want the two rooms to eventually feel seamless. So I picked a nice putty beige that will look good with the woodwork & the colors I already have picked for the future kitchen cabinets. The color is Loggia by Sherwin Williams (SW 7506). It’s a good neutral – not too yellow, not too pink – and the name, Loggia, brings back fond memories of my semester in Italy.P1040015 B

Two coats of paint went pretty fast with the now-smooth walls. Just a few areas needed touched up because I was still building up the repairs with layers of drywall mud.P1040016 B

(This is where I explain, yes, the cabinet in the wall which is supposed to be a broom closet is functioning now as a handsaw cabinet. Some people have gun cabinets. I for some reason have a saw cabinet.)

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I had removed the baseboards earlier before tackling the plaster repair, so I stained & poly’d them while off the walls – much easier this way. So all I had to do was nail them in place – and they fit really tightly to the walls. I didn’t feel like fixing the former outlet opening in the board above, because I knew it would be hidden by the washer. But I did purchase a brown outlet cover and screwed it overtop. A quick fix for an area that will only ever be seen during the short time it takes to switch out a washer or dryer if when appliances are ever upgraded.P1040034 B

The woodwork isn’t perfect, it still has some dings and scratches. But I didn’t feel the need to sand everything out. Once again, character.P1040057 BThen some finishing details. Like snapping on the trim piece for the washer connection box:

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And hiding the water heater shut-off access into the wall with this box and removable lid, and snapping the round covers over the water heater inlet and outlet pipes.P1040031 B

In all, I am thrilled with how far this room has come. I still need to refinish the door for the little wall cabinet on the left, but it should be a fast Saturday project. P1040346 B

And I am really happy with how clean the washer hook-up turned out. The inlet pipes and drain are all contained in the wall, just like in a new home.P1040350 B

For a light in the laundry room, I planned on just one fixture in the center of the ceiling. I really liked the shape and style of this Jar Pendant from West Elm, but I think I had less than their asking price in my total materials for the entire laundry room rehab. And I really didn’t want a pendant type fixture.

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Over the winter I hit a couple salvage stores in Fort Wayne and found enough pieces to make something similar in a ceiling mount light. I found the metal base at one salvage store, and the glass globe at another. P1040352 B

A little spray paint for the base, new screws to hold the globe, and tada! Similar, but less than $15 total.

What’s next? Well, I’m gonna enlist my mother’s sewing skills to create some window coverings. I don’t really need privacy in this room, but introducing some fabric will soften the edges around the woodwork and introduce texture into an otherwise all-wall room. Cotton drop cloth, leather straps, and metal grommets – something like this:laundry curtain inspiration

But I’m most excited to start dealing with my beautiful but inefficient original windows – glazing putty, bronze weatherstrip, and new sash rope – here we go!

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Getting A Little Wired

Although I do admit to keeping cold beer in the fridge, no, this post is not about my social drinking habits. I’m referring to the work at the house over the last few weeks. It started like this:

I have 2 great friends who had previously committed to helping with any renovation-related tasks; “just ask,” they kept saying. Up until this point, I mostly knew what I was doing or was able to watch instructional videos through YouTube or This Old House to learn what I needed. But it was getting time to wire up new light fixtures and outlets in the bathroom. So I called in the big guns, aka Paul and Dennis. Paul is a former trade electrician, and now part of the maintenance department at a local manufacturing company. Dennis has every construction tool known in the industry, along with knowing all there is to know about construction and especially electricity; he now owns a printer supply store here in town. They both showed up the Saturday before last, toolboxes in hand, and scratched their heads simultaneously at the sight of the existing electrical panel.

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The rats nest of wires was enough to make me dizzy, and they felt the same. Now here’s the interesting part: only 1 breaker in this entire panel is in the “on” position, yet throughout the entire house every outlet and light fixture is working – including the garage and outbuilding. Other than the range, dryer, and heaters, I have no idea where or what the remaining 7 breakers must serve.

So while Paul taught me how to install outlet boxes and the tricks of the trade for running Romex wire, Dennis went to town stripping out the panel box. They both agreed the 200 amp service box is in good shape and enough space to serve the house, they wanted to organize the wire maze and distribute power in the house onto multiple breakers, the way a new house would be wired.

In the bathroom, I thought I had a reasonable electrical layout planned (2 outlets near the light switch), but both of Dennis & Paul’s wives and another female friend agreed that I should plan on additional outlets for all of the crazy hair and beauty products women use everyday and apparently need a half-dozen outlets to power. I settled on a double outlet box on either side of the vanity mirror, a straight line down from where I had already planned for light sconces flanking the mirror.

3D Bath Layout

This quick 3D model was made in SketchUp, a great tool for quick rendering to plan out a space or construction detail.

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This photo shows the double sets of outlets, with the light fixture boxes above each one, and the light switches on the wall to the right. One switch will control the light sconces beside the mirror, the other is 2 small switches so I can independently turn on and off the ceiling exhaust fan & light. The bathroom did not previously have an exhaust fan. Putting one in was just a matter of finding the center of the room and then finding the nearest ceiling joist. I drilled a hole from up above so I knew where the edge of the joist was, then used that as my starting point for drawing a square on the ceiling the size of the fan housing box. A jigsaw cut the plaster and lathe, and the box dropped right into place from above the ceiling. Paul held the box flush with the plaster ceiling down below while I used drywall screws up above to secure it to the ceiling joist. Once it was wired, I left it go until just yesterday when I finally drilled a 4″ hole in the gable end of the house and vented the fan outside using a dryer vent cover and 4″ flexible dryer hose.

Opposite of the bathroom in the laundry/utility room, we wired a GFCI outlet for the washing machine, a 220 volt dryer outlet, and rewired the laundry room ceiling light using 3-way light switches. I can turn the light on from the kitchen doorway like before, but now I can also turn on the light as soon as I come into the house from the back door. In the same bay at the back door, we left space for additional switches for a new back porch light, outdoor light, and outlet for the utility room. Having all the switches in one box will look so much more organized than 1 beside the door and 2 others on the adjacent wall, all at different heights currently.

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In the process, Dennis made sure everything was split onto appropriate amount of breakers in the electrical panel, and even labeled each breaker space! And did I mention that we are using outlet boxes? As in, every outlet or switch is housed correctly in a box. Why do I emphasize that? Of the entire house, we have only found 3 or less receptacles boxes. All the other switches or outlets are simply a hole cut in the wall, bare wires touches plaster, lath, wood paneling, baseboard, etc. That’s perfectly safe, right? NO! Even our local Fire Chief remarked that he isn’t sure how the place didn’t catch fire at some point. I know why: because this house was waiting on me.

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And here is how the breaker panel looks now – complete with hand-drawn breaker diagram on the plaster wall to the right. Each wire has a purpose and a home. Don’t ask me where those additional wires at the bottom must lead, because the whole house still has power even though those have been pulled out of the box. They are probably individual baseboard heaters, but I still need to trace each one. Eventually, Paul and Dennis assure me they are going to help me get the entire house re-wired. From what they’ve taught me so far, it shouldn’t be too bad; the majority of it seems finished with the bathroom and laundry out of the way. The rest of the rooms will just have regular outlets, light switches, and ceiling lights – replacing what’s already there – and adding all necessary receptacle boxes!

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