Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A word...

...about drywall. (may not be suitable for those under 18)

I am working on our sad, sagging ceiling in an endless ordeal of plaster dust and sore arms. I haven't been posting, but I swear the photos have been taken and will be posted soon. The bedroom is also nearing completion and needs to be posted.

Back to the drywall... I love plaster, I love it's smooth almost-imperceptibly undulating surface, I love how it feels cool even on hot days, I love how I can strip wallpaper with obscene volumes of stripper and never worry, and I even love fixing it. That's right. When I have a plaster repair project to get into I know it may be a long and arduous road because supplies are hard to come by and it can be messy, but when my hands are on it I feel like an artiste. And when I'm finished, nobody even knows how much time or affection is contained in the wall.

This is why I get so pancake-flippin' angry when I'm working away and find a terrible drywall patch job. Nobody loves drywall, it's unlovable. People on the east coast call it sheet rock as though that makes it something more tangible or more sturdy even though it's only slightly more durable than corrugated cardboard (this may be an exaggeration). I don't know what the ceiling could've ever done to the POs to deserve this shitty treatment. First they put in an ill-fitting patch of drywall and then gob in some joint compound or maybe spackle even and then cover the whole thing with some disgusting texturized paint that doesn't hide the patch, but instead, clings to the spackle to highlight the outline of the terrible patch. I know from previous patches that this has been a DIY house for some years, I would hate to think that a professional would put spackle over wallpaper, but maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, the thing that set me off today is the fact that they didn't even bother to paint/texture the patch completely! You don't notice it unless you have work lights shining up there, but they didn't even feel bad about the drywall, they left it sticking out there for the whole world to see, like a g-string on a girl outside a gas station. I'm so embarrassed...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Garden Work

This post is a few months late, but I'm trying to do some catch up on blog posts (plus, I can use writing them as an excuse to procrastinate working on the walls in the bedroom).

Chris' mom and dad were here in May and first they plucked all of the dandelions and generally cleaned up the front yard while I watched from the porch while sipping a bloody mary. Then we transplanted some plants and shrubs from the backyard to the front because the dogs will apparently eat anything that they can tell we paid for. I think the results are really beautiful:

It's especially incredible considering this is what the front gardens looked like when we moved in: P1000050.JPG

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Surprises Along the Way

And the surprises in a 100 year old house are never good ones.

The wallpaper scraping in the bedroom is finished and for the most part the plaster is in decent shape.  I had high hopes of painting today, but those were dashed of course.  Here are some photos of the horrors I described in the last post:

This is where the plaster cracked and the PO's decided to put spackle or joint compound or something over the crack, over the wallpaper and then put a new layer of wallpaper over the whole mess.  This method was used for every minor crack in the room and as you can imagine it is hard to scrape off.  The thing is that there isn't a single crack in this room that is wide enough or offset enough to require this, a new layer of paper would've covered everything perfectly.

The most annoying thing by far is the decision to patch any plaster problems in this house with drywall and then papering over the drywall without priming it so you can't strip the paper off.  I just feel like mixing up some plaster and slapping it up there is way easier than dragging a whole giant sheet of drywall home and cutting off a small piece that sort of vaguely matches the shape of the problem area and then gobbing joint compound and mesh tape in the gaps and then having it not look that great so you end up putting wallpaper over the whole bumpy nightmare.  This is the worst one, they didn't even scrape the wallpaper away so they were taping and spackling the drywall patch to the plaster.  They just patched it to the wallpaper and hoped that the wallpaper bond was good.  Unfortunately, I'm just going to perpetuate the mess because I know that if I take that patch out I'm going to find at least another week's worth of work and I know that makes me a bad restorer, but there is a point where it's like pulling at a thread on a sweater and before I know it the house is laying in ruins around me.  I did scrape the paper off and I'll put a layer of finish plaster over the whole thing so hopefully it won't be noticeable and long after I'm gone someone will discover what I did and complain about it to everyone.
There is another annoying thing that I didn't take a photo of because it's just not that exciting, but someone pounded drywall anchors into the plaster that we are having a hard time digging out.  They may have to just stay there and then I'll push a piece a piece of furniture in front of them.

So here's what the walls look like now, there's a little paste left that needs to be wiped off, and then some finish plaster and then paint.  Hopefully soon we won't feel like we're sleeping in a prison and we will have a restful sanctuary like all of those home decoration shows tell me I should have.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Scraping Continues

I have finally scrounged the motivation to continue the wallpaper scraping in our bedroom and since it's a holiday weekend I'm dragging Chris down with me.  Since the last scraping extravaganza, we acquired a Paper Pirana (similar to Paper Tiger, but instead hunts in schools?) and also assembled the garden sprayer correctly, so instead of stripping with mostly tears as a solvent, the wallpaper stripper was delivered consistently and evenly to the paper.  I naively thought that this would make the stripping go much easier PLUS with the added benefit of an extra person this room would be finished in no time!

I don't know why I never learn.

There's too much paper on these walls for them to be easy regardless of methods or tools.  The stripping continued using this method:  1.  Dry scrape the vinyl paper and paint and (could it be?) skimcoating material until you can't stop muttering expletives.  2.  Score the remaining paint paper and joint compound and hopefully top layer of paper paper with the PP until the deltoid muscles on both arms ache.  3.  Soak scored paper with bad for the environment, cancer causing wallpaper stripping solution.  4.  Drink beer and sing along to various singer-songwriters from the 70's.  5.  Scrape.  6. Repeat steps 2 through 5 until the plaster is clean.   7.  Clean up the giant mess.

Sounds great, eh?  Generally we got about 1.5 layers of wallpaper off with each scraping.  I've been telling anyone who will listen how there's no good reason to strip wallpaper as long as it has a sound bond with the wall surface.  Well, I found a good reason.  Stripping one layer from a room this size probably wouldn't even take a whole day, stripping 4 or 5 may take the rest of my life.  OK, not really.  We worked hard yesterday and it's probably 2/3rds finished, but the joy of wallpaper stripping is that you never really know how it's going to go.  In the same room you could spend an hour working on a 2 sf section and then zip through a whole wall.  I'm remaining positive about the work we have to do today, it's going to be the easy kind... I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Feeling Down? Scrape!

Things around here haven't been great, I try to remind myself that there are a lot of people who are worse off than us right now, but on days like today I just let myself wallow in self pity.  I lost my job a couple of months ago and I thought this would be an ideal time to get back into the swing of things working on the house.  This would be especially useful if we are forced to sell it due to unemployment, but since nobody is buying houses in Albany or anywhere else for that matter, that's not really an issue.  So, unemployment began and there was a week or two where I was decompressing and making calls and I wasn't ready to start house work then.  Then my sister got married and we had to travel so that ate up two weeks what with all of the packing and laundry and planning and then unpacking and laundry and recovering from too much cake and booze.  Then right on the heels of the wedding, we had to travel to MI for some godparent duties for my niece and nephew, so that's another two weeks especially considering that I caught a nasty chest cold the week before.  I made a miraculous recovery in time for the 4 hour Easter vigil and then we drove back home and the chest cold returned.  Then the cold turned into something much more nefarious... pneumonia, so I'm unemployed and had to pay a gajillion dollars in copays for emergency medical care and regular doctor visits and prescriptions.  THEN, as I started to feel like death was no longer imminent, came our 5th wedding anniversary and the party that we have been planning for months complete with out of town houseguests, AND I developed thrush.  The party was fun for everyone, but my mouth hurt and I was exhausted and I just wanted to go home.  Anyway, that's a really long and boring way of saying that now that I've been unemployed for nearly two full months, I'm ready to get my teeth into a project.  

SO... I waited until it is 90 degrees and the house is hotter than outside and I am working on scraping the wallpaper in the bedroom.  Last summer, I peeled away most of the top layers of paint and paper, there are posts about it, but now I'm actually getting down to plaster and committed to finishing it.  On the advice of a friend who has a beautiful Dutch colonial I'm using something called DIF.  On the front of the bottle it says, "The only one that actually works".  How's that for a slogan?  Maybe if I put something like that on my resume I would actually get some calls.  Anyway, you put it in a garden sprayer and then cover everything in the room with it including yourself and then wait 15 minutes and viola!  layers of paper peel away like magic.  That is... if magic feels a lot like regular old elbow grease.

Monday, August 4, 2008


For the porch floor paint I went to a local paint company.  I've always wanted to start using them to better support the local economy, but Sherwin Williams is so darned convenient and I already own the fan deck of colors and they have such a nice selection of A&C appropriate shades that I hadn't actually bought paint from them.  I go in there and bug their designer and I have ordered wallpaper and they used to make a nice spar varnish until NYS outlawed it. 
Anyway, we went in the shop and I asked the super friendly guy for the chips for the porch and floor paint.  They could custom mix anything, but for some reason I didn't trust myself choosing a color for this.  Chris and I chose the red color which was called patio red.  The porch was already red, so I figured I'd stick with it.

As I was painting I kept thinking that my fingers were bleeding because this red paint could be used for slasher films.  Then I got some on my toe, so I was constantly distracted by my 'bleeding' toe.  I also kept thinking of other names that would be more appropriate than Patio Red.  Clearly this paint should be called Sangre de Christo, or Oxblood.  Then I started thinking about how this must be some sort of evolutionary thing, if we didn't notice that we were bleeding we wouldn't survive long enough to propagate the species, and my constant distraction by the paint on my toe must mean that I'm either more highly evolved, or less highly evolved, and I wonder which is the case.  This sort of thing is always going on in my head.  Chris never asks what I'm thinking about.
Here's how it turned out:
It dried lighter than oxblood, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.  I put three coats on the uncovered portion of the porch.  Sears called this area the terrace, nice eh?  Hopefully I won't have to do it every year and hopefully no one falls into the root cellar under the porch anytime soon.

Adult ADD - PPS

Lately I haven't been able to work on a project without thinking about all of the other projects that I hope to have completed by the time the snow flies.  These projects have seen lots of snow in their current state, but every year I hope to have them finished.  

Many of the projects or maintenance activities around here don't get finished because I want to do them bigger and better than they currently are.  For example, the porch floor.  Ever since we moved in I have wanted to tile the porch floor, but then there are other things I would rather spend money on and a tiling project would undoubtedly require at least one new tool and I wouldn't be able to run over to the Depot and pick out tile because nothing would ever be that easy and on and on it goes.  Until the porch floor is crumbling and I break down and paint it.  It looks good painted, that's probably why the porch at this house has had a painted red concrete floor for decades.  It occurred to me while I was painting all of the bugs and dust (reinforcement for crumbling concrete) that this must be some kind of learning disability, maybe a form of ADD which I suspect I suffer from anyway.  This inability to just perform maintenance activities in a timely manner without worrying about how great it could be if I only added this extra detail or that special touch.  Another symptom could be project pile up syndrome which is when you start thinking about one project and that leads to the next project and then you realize that you have a lot to do (before the snow flies) and before you know it you have a tall bloody mary in your hand and you're sitting on the porch looking to the other houses in the neighborhood for guidance.  Generally the other houses and I agree that this house isn't so bad and that nothing actually needs to get done at all.  And the terrible aluminum storm windows weather another winter...