Good News, Bad News

June 26, 2007

house history, remuddling

Well, the bad news is that we aren’t going to rip apart the whole place all at once. It is just too expensive and too messy for us to handle. Doing the house piece-meal has its drawbacks, but on the good side, we can go at our own pace and avoid debt. So right now we are handling the most crucial of repairs: water damage and mildew growth from a leaky chimney.

We’ve removed the one wall from the Living Room, and part of a wall in the Kitchen. I’d wondered if the chimney was original to the home. We’ve discovered it is not. Bummer. This means that the chimney is of a lower-quality build. The original builder was very careful and thorough with his work. All owners after him were not. This is classic remuddling.


The chimney was built over an existing plaster wall. The plaster wall still has the original wallpaper. I can’t believe they built a chimney on top of a wall with wallpaper! All it took was a little leaking, and the paper rotted. Mildew growth all around the chimney must be removed.

You can see in the above picture the lathe and the plaster. The wallpaper is that brown papery stuff behind the bricks. That blue stuff is paint. After they built the chimney, they smeared joint compound all over the brick, then painted it over. Through the years, they painted it sterile white, then mustard yellow, then pink, then that Eisenhower blue. In the 70s, they smeared paneling glue all over it and stuck fake-wood paneling on top. I could scream in agony.

After days of indecision, we decided not to remove the chimney (yet). It would be a much larger and more expensive undertaking than we are prepared for. I also need my Kitchen and Living Room back soon. We will install an interior chimney liner to vent out hot-water tank vapors. Then we will remove all the plaster and lathe around the chimney, replace the walls with drywall, and paint. I have no idea what I am going to do with the actual chimney, how to cover it. That joint compound is like concrete. I could try scraping off the paneling glue, but that would be weeks of painful work. I sure am open to suggestions.

Here are some close ups of the wallpaper.

Actually, that wallpaper is not even the original wallpaper. There is another layer of wallpaper beneath what you see (it is hard to peel the two apart, but the original looks flecked). I think the layer that you see was put up in the late 1910s or early 1920s, as it has that Art Deco/Art Noveau look.

Even the layers of wallpaper border, at the top of the wall, remained intact.

The good news is I can finally install some electrical outlets since we have the walls open.

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