Tag Archives: walls

Light and Laminate

September 5, 2007


I haven’t posted in so long because I’ve been hopping. The room is painted now! The ceiling is white, walls are beige. This new color scheme is a bit drab for me. I am usually painting walls and ceilings vibrant colors (my Dining Room is a brilliant ruby red, and the ceiling is wallpapered pink!). I opted for a more neutral, wood-tone friendly scheme this time. Plus, I was tired of dark green, which is what the Living Room walls were previously.

Eventually I will install crown moulding, but not for a while. Therefore, I put extra effort into making the ceiling and wall seam look nice and neat. I think I pulled it off.

The room is finally electrified! I was a little anxious about the electrical work, honestly. It was my first electrical job (I have since done several areas now) and I was nervous about it. I splurged and bought a chandelier, and it looks beautiful. Twin sconces balance the symmetry of the windows. The room is very bright and looks great.

Since we cannot refinish the floors (they had been pained with lead paint in eons past), we decided to cover them with a “floating floor”: laminate flooring. Home Depot was having a clearance on Traffic Master laminate, so I nabbed numerous boxes.

We’ve got the foam underlayment installed, and two courses of the flooring. It is a learning experience for us. Every cut and the placement of every plank must be carefully thought through before you begin sawing boards.

Before we set the underlayment down, we drew a few things on the boards, for posterity.

The whole family and other helpers have signed the studs, too. I also placed a newspaper in the studs as a little time capsule.

The room is coming together. I am hoping we can get the flooring in by the weekend, and I also must finish the furnace ducting and the telephone/internet wiring done. There are a lot of loose ends.

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Spackle, Spackle Little Star

August 28, 2007

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The spackling of the Living Room is finally complete! The room is beginning to look like a “real” room now. I have to sand it and perhaps do a few touchups. The primer/sealer and the paint (interior flat! something you could never use on old plaster walls!) is purchased. I am very, very eager to get to the painting stage.

My sweet husband told me he wanted to rent a drum sander for the floor. I was quite happy to use the little Black & Decker Sandstorm handsander, but he thought it would be too tedious and would take me too long. Use a drum sander for the big area, and my Sandstorm for the edging. And he volunteered to operate the drum sander! Sweet! So today, before calling the rental company, I thought I’d give my Sandstorm a try, to see how it would do.

I sanded a small area to practice. I was surprised to find dark green paint underneath the dark brown paint. I had thought the brown paint was original. Little red flags went up when I saw the green paint. It looked like very old porch paint. Better check it, I thought. I made a quick trip to Home Depot to buy one of those small lead testers. They are very handy– you crush two small tubes, shake the implement, and squirt a bit of yellow liquid out to moisten a swab. You rub the swab on the painted area, and if it remains yellow, you’re clear; if the swab turns pink, you’ve got lead. My swab turned dark red, almost purple. My heart sank.

I have to cover the floor. There is no way I can sand this stuff. Time for Plan B: laminate flooring. My husband agreed, so we are shelling out the bucks for laminate flooring. Home Depot has been having a clearance on the stuff, at 88 cents a square foot, so I can’t complain… I just didn’t want to spend any more money on this! Oh well, I do like laminate. But P.S. I spent $400 on materials for flooring, and then I had to pay $36 for TAX. Talk about theft!

Pictures to come. Tomorrow is sanding day, then I prime and paint for the rest of the week! The end is near!

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August 23, 2007


We’ve got all the sheetrock up in the Living Room! I am ecstatic with joy. Such speedy progress is due to my generous sister, who has been coming over with two of her kids to help us. They have been renovating their old farmhouse and know all too well the plights of an old-home renovation!

I sat down tonight and looked at the calendar. The past two weeks have whizzed by and I was stunned that it was late August already. School begins in about three weeks! If it wasn’t for my sister, I’d be a week behind schedule. We got the sheetrock done in TWO DAYS! God bless her!

The kids pitch in, too. My sis’s daughter helps with my gals upstairs, patching the large holes I left in the plaster where I installed electrical outlets. My sis’s son, a young handyman in his own right, helped with us in the Living Room. The room looks good. I am overjoyed at the progress! What a relief!

So all that needs to be done is the spackling, priming, and painting of the walls; sanding and refinishing the wood floor; adding the electrical fixtures; installing the furnace ducting and thermostat; and wiring up the ethernet Category 5 wiring. I will eventually add wall-to wall-carpeting and molding. We also hope to someday get new windows (and I will install new jambs and sills at that time). I can’t wait until it’s done!

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Decided to Install Cat5 wiring

August 20, 2007

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I am taking a break this afternoon. My breaks have become a little longer these days. My arms are in agony from all the heavy work! I have wimpy hands and wrists, and skinny forearms. They are begging me to stop working, but I can only give them rests between jobs. The poor limbs are speckled with purple and blue bruises, multitudes of splinters and abrasions, and all my nails are chopped and peeling. My muscles are in agony.

Aw, poor me! LOL.

I take an ibuprofen and keep plugging along. I only have about four weeks until school starts, and we need this room to be done!

Today I bit the bullet and shelled out the cash for rigging up Cat5 internet wiring between the studs. I was really undecided about it for weeks. It just seemed more like a luxury, an added expense that would detract from the necessary needs of sheetrock and paint. But I decided to go for it because I know I will appreciate the effort in the future. I imagined what my room would look like with stringy yards of ethernet cable hung across the walls and over the doorways…I shuddered, and decided to install it. The installation went very easily. I haven’t actually installed the wires to the plugs yet– I only installed the boxes and strung the wiring through the walls and basement ceiling. Rigging up the wires to the jacks doesn’t look too hard.

I started spackling the ceiling sheetrock, just to get it done. We don’t have the walls up yet. My husband is going to do the walls, as that is truly too hefty for me. He works a full-time job, however, and therefore must squeeze in the drywall installation between dinnertime and bedtime. I must finish the ceiling as soon as possible, to get a light fixture hanging in there. Days are becoming shorter again, and the floor lamp we have been using isn’t sufficient.

I hate spackling, so I figure it will be less tedious if I do small jobs at a time. I have almost half the ceiling done (first coat). Tonight Hubby will install some walls, and I’ll spackle them tomorrow, as we go along.

No wiring projects for me yet, although I have a long list of them. The new washing machine circuit is working great– the house’s lighting voltage no longer drops when the washer kicks on! I have to wire a separate circuit for our sump pumps; that’s another small project to do. I’m saving the bigger projects (the lights for the stairwell, and wiring for the Kitchen, Bath, and Laundry Room) for when I finish the Living Room and we get moved back in there.

I am procrastinating! I have to swallow my cup of coffee and get back to the spackling.

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Rolling Right Along

August 18, 2007

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Things are really starting to roll now. Thursday, the electrical inspector said that everything looks very good, and that day I installed fiberglass batt insulation and the vapor barrier.

The next day, we rented a sheetrock lift and installed the ceiling drywall. My husband did most of the work– and what a job that was! Our ceilings are over 9 feet high; we were up until 1:30am to finish the job!

I haven’t done too much with the electrical. My arms and hands have been so sore that they are swollen and the veins are showing through! Yuk! The carpal tunnel gets unbearable at times. This explains why I haven’t blogged much, even though I have had lots to blog about. I am taking it easy this week and focusing on getting the Living Room done. My full-time rewiring projects will continue after we finish that.

Yet I did spend a little time today making a new circuit for the washing machine. I’d discovered that the wiring was 14/2 gauge (a lightweight gauge meant for lighting fixtures, not appliances) with a 15 amp outlet. My computers, television, refrigerator, kitchen outlets, porch lights, and DSL modem were all on that same circuit. It took some time to rip out the old washing machine outlet (I dated it to the 1940s, judging by the old powder-blue paint all over it), but snaking it down to the basement and stapling the line to joists and to the circuit breaker panel was a piece of cake. I am very comfortable working in the circuit panel now, and I actually like it! I like to organize, and my panel shows it. I hope the next owners of the house appreciate all my hard work!

The girls have been working on their own projects, too. I showed them how to repair plaster walls with sheetrock. Their bedroom walls have a dozen big holes punched in them, from the electrical work we’ve done in there. They are doing a very good job with the repairs, and becoming quite proficient with the tools.

Things are rolling right along. My husband is going to handle the bulk of the sheetrock installation, which is a big relief for me. He is elated that I will spackle the seams and he won’t have to! I now know why some people hire out the drywall installation… ugh. But for us, this endeavor is 100% sweat equity.

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Plaster Blaster

July 21, 2007


In two days, we completely demolished the Living Room. What a dirty, tiresome job. One 15 x 17 foot room shed enough plaster to fill 10 32-gallon trash cans, with some to spare. What a mess, but well worth it. I am relieved to be rid of the junk. There IS a reason why someone invented sheetrock, and why it is so popular today!

Plaster Removal UGH

In between all the studs on the first floor are mortared bricks. The bricks do not continue into the second floor.

Use Your Noggin

We consider the bricks (“noggin” as they are called) to be a blessing and a curse. For one, they do have some insulating qualities, in restricting air flow and dust. And they keep the downstairs cool in the summer.

More Noggin

However, they disintengrate with the introduction of water and/or movement. In an old house, water and movement are a given. Thus, some bricks have deteriorated. Also, previous owners punched holes in the brick to install electrical outlets.

After much agonzing, we are going to keep the brick intact.It would be too cost prohibitive to remove it and replace it with insulation, and I think it also helps to keep the studs straight.

I found out many things after we removed the plaster. I found out why previous owners had installed an ugly cardboard drop ceiling: one part of the plaster ceiling had cracked all the way across when the center beam of the house settled. I don’t know why someone would go to all the trouble and expense of installing a horrid drop ceiling instead of removing the plaster, but, oh well. I am so happy to have that drop ceiling in the landfill now.

The wiring is frightful. Mice have chewed through wires still active. I don’t quite know what to do with them, as these wires go somewhere into the flooring abyss in the second floor.

Well, now that we have torn apart the walls and have seen the guts of the room, we can finally begin to make plans and set some priorities. I am determined to redo not just the walls and floor, but to redo the very bad and aged wiring, and reconfigure the furnace ducting (which is a disastrous tangled mess and dirty, to boot).

More later!

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Good News, Bad News

June 26, 2007

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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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