Posts Tagged Woodworking
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the end, I was pretty impressed with myself for how the walls turned out. Priming is the real reveal.
There 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!
I did quite a bit of research before I embarked on restoring the windows, including attending a hands-on workshop to learn the process step by step. I blogged my decision on replacing v restoring in 2 parts, Part I at this link, and then Part II here.
Restoring wood windows is a process. Although the total working hours are maybe 10 – 12 hours per window, its all the time in between that takes so long. I let a glue-up or epoxy repair sit overnight to cure completely. Oil primer takes several hours before it can be painted. The glazing putty takes a full week until it develops enough of a skin to be painted. And then 2 good coats of paint at that. And then another full week to let the paint fully cure before I put the window back together.
So let me document my process. I learned a lot at a window restoration workshop, I’ve watched a ton of YouTube videos, and I even purchased a book from the Window Preservation Alliance. I should admit I didn’t follow the preservationists instructions to a T, but my goal was longevity and durability. My house isn’t going to be a museum. I don’t feel like I cut corners, but rather I made adjustments based on my past experience with furniture building & repair.
I’ll begin with an illustration that names the basic parts of a wood double hung window. This way I can document my process using the proper names for each piece, rather than my descripty thingy words I’m known for inventing. (Wordsmithing is a skill, after all.)
First steps first. I removed the interior stop, the trim pieces on either side of the window that keep the bottom sash from wobbling in & out. (Not defined above, the sash is the actual moving piece of the window that slides up and down. A double-hung window has 2 sashes, and upper and lower). The interior stops are basically the only 2 pieces that keep the bottom sash in place, other than being connected on each side to the sash cord – or not, because I found that more than half of my windows have the sash cords disconnected. They were either cut or the knots came undone. More on re-connecting those later.
The sash cords in my windows are only attached to the sash with a knot pressed tightly into a hole bored in the outside edge of each sash. Of the cords that were still connected, the knots pull out pretty easily, and I carefully let the weights pull the cord into the wall until stopped by the knot. If the knot was undone or too small, I pushed a nail through the cord to keep the cord from falling into the wall cavity. But I also removed the woodwork around several of my windows during the restoration process, either to better fix the already damaged plaster OR because the weight was already disconnected from the cord.
Reconnecting the weights later is so much easier with the interior woodwork removed, but that takes patience and skill to not completely ruin the plaster.
Next I carefully removed the parting bead, or as I call it parting stop. At first I was concerned about not breaking these pieces, but I later found that replacing this thin and pretty standard size piece of wood actually made my windows operate a lot better once reinstalled (I found new parting stop as a stock item at my local Ace Hardware). This piece is what separates the upper and lower sash as they slide up and down. Although they are supposed to be “tension fit” into place, I found most of mine had been nailed in place at some point, probably because they became loose over the decades. With the parting stop gone, the upper sash can now come out.
At this point it’s still fairly early in the morning on my typical “window Saturday,” so I would make a fresh cup of coffee and then begin scraping the paint on the outside of the window frame (but not drinking the coffee near the paint scraping – lead safety is a real thing). I haven’t restored any windows that have a storm in place, but otherwise these would have to be taken off at this point to fully scrape the outside trim. This way I could get the entire window frame scraped, removing nearly a 100 years worth of built up paint. I fill any major holes or cracks with wood epoxy, but I’ll worry with the small cracks and nail holes & sand right before I prime & paint. To secure my house, I simply cut a piece of plywood and screwed it into place to the outside of the window frame. For added “security” – I use that term loosely – I used star-bit screws so if someone tried to remove the plywood, they would have just a little more trouble trying to break in. Like, they’d have to make a trip to Ace Hardware to get the right bit and then come back to find I own very little worth stealing. So far I’ve worked on the windows at the back of my house, so they haven’t been very visible from the street. Next summer, however, I might work on a little better security so every car driving past doesn’t assume I’m an easy target.
I’m refinishing my woodwork to it’s original stained color on the inside of the house, so I spend the time scraping the paint on the inside woodwork as well. I am much more careful on the inside trim because I don’t sand it down to bare wood; scraping the paint mostly removes the original varnish, but the wood keeps a lot of the stain color underneath. If I would sand the color completely out, it would be more difficult to achieve an even rich mahogany color when I re-stain it. I find staining over whatever color is left in the woodwork achieves a beautiful color that is spot on to the woodwork’s original color (seen in the few spots where the woodwork was not already painted).
Then I focus on fixing each sash. The level of deterioration determines how much work the sash needs. I hear rumors that some window restorers only have to touch up missing glazing putty and then sand and repaint. Rumors, but not my story. I have windows where the glass is only held in place by the glazing points – almost no putty left. As carefully as I can I remove the remaining glazing putty with either a sharp chisel or another sharp tool. The glass becomes loose, but there are still metal glazing points holding it into the sash. I learned the hard way that missing even one of these little metal pieces will crack a window when you try to push the glass out. I remove each glazing point with a sharp pair of needle nose plyers, always pulling away from the glass and not putting pressure on the glass. The glass usually pushes out pretty easily, and I write on the exterior of the glass with a Sharpie so I know I reinstall it the exact same way. I’ve come up with a system:
04 Ext. ↓ ↑
04 is the window number (I numbered each window in my house, even with 2 windows tore apart it can get confusing). Ext means the exterior side of the glass. The first arrow (↓) tells me which sash (upper or lower), and the last arrow (↑) tells me “this side up,” meaning this is the top of the glass as it goes back into the sash. I know it’s old glass, but I find that Sharpie stays in place until I wash the glass with glass cleaner. It doesn’t accidentally rub off or fade while the sashes are being repaired & painted.
Now the wood sashes in my windows have not been in great condition. Very loose joints and even some rotted corners where some idiot before me used nails & screws to keep the frame together. Originally the sashes would not have had glued corner joints. Each corner was made from a very tight tongue and mortise join, with two small metal pins nailed into place.
But I use exterior wood glue and epoxy pretty liberally to make sure the joints are secure and the sash will last another century. In the sash above, I nailed 2 small brads to hold the joint along with the clamps, and then drilled a hole 3/4 of the way deep and glued a wood dowel into place. I haven’t yet had to do a “dutchman repair,” but there’s are several great online tutorials in case I find a spot rotted so badly that epoxy won’t cut it.
Then it’s more scraping paint on both sides of the sash. I fill any remaining nail holes or cracks I find, then sand it smooth.
Although I went ahead and stained & poly’d most of the laundry room trim and baseboard, there were some small pieces of baseboard left that were
lost – hiding – waiting in the garage. And the built-in broom closet had a busted panel in the door, so I removed it from the hinges and it was waiting in the garage also. Just like the woodwork had 50 layers of paint, so does all the hardware. The hinges are salvagable (although I destroyed the screws trying to scrape the paint off of them to back them out). The door latch was busted, but there are other examples in the house so I know what type to look for.
I was able to get the busted upper panel out pretty easily – the frame around it on the back of the door was split around the panel, probably when it was broken originally. I carefully scraped the paint off each of the 2 pieces first, I guess I was concerned that once the panel was glued back together there would be paint in the seam that I wouldn’t be able to get out. Once scraped, I glued & clamped the broken panel, and went to scraping the door.
The hardware was caked with paint. This picture is actually after the first soaking and scrub with a brass bristle brush. The secret for removing paint off of metal – hinges, knobs, handles – is a good soaking for several hours in very hot water with a touch of baking soda. An old crock pot works really well for this, set it and forget it.
The paint on these was so thick, no wonder the door would barely open or close. It took two soakings and a little bit of scrubbing.
But they came out perfectly clean. Some new screws and these will be ready for another hundred years of action.
I’ve got the first coat of stain on the door, the panel, and the miscellaneous baseboard pieces. But to achieve the rich mahogany color that was originally under the paint, I have to wait a full day between the 1st and 2nd layers of stain – the stain has to build. If I try to apply the 2nd layer too soon, it simply melts the first layer and I don’t get the rich, full color. I’ll piece the panel back into it’s frame before I brush on the polyurethane, keeping it in place with some thin pieces tacked around it on the back. I think something like screen door trim will do the trick.
One more layer of stain, and 2 coats of poly – and the door will be back where it belongs. And the laundry will be almost, almost, almost finished.