Still painting . . .

Just a short catch up. . . We are still in the master bedroom, wrapping things up to prepare for the floor rejuvenation!  We can’t wait to try our plans on the floor.  The whole house needs floor work, but this will be our first real test.

So far in painting, the master bedroom now has a fine coat of grey on the walls accompanied by a sharp looking off-white trim.

Check out the interesting floor pattern in this shot. ?? Several places in the house have the floor painted around what appears to be an old rug. Probably done to conserve paint.

Here you can see Bill rolling the walls after I’ve cut in around the edges and moulding.  It’s a beautiful warm grey, close to a French grey that will look great when the floors are complete.  I’m on the warpath to do some stenciling, but have run into an issue getting more than one stencil of the pattern that I’d like to reproduce.  However, I’ll be working on the ceiling trim later this week to complete the painting in the main part of the bedroom. Bill is still in process of priming the nook and closet.  Almost there!

We have been delayed a little more as we have been spending a lot of our time this fall with cool people.  We’ve had a lot of visitors over the weekends, and just last weekend, it was my sweet cousin and her hubby from Missouri.  I’ve also been spending some weekdays with a fun artsty neighbor friend and a new friend who is visiting family in Ithaca.  Not to mention dinners and games with friends from Golden, Bill’s company.  It has been a wonderfully social fall for us, especially being that we live in such a small town.  So, “thank you” to all the cool visitors we’ve had.  We’re looking forward to more!

For those of you that are just finding our blog for the first time, we’re in process of re-doing the entire master bedroom and sharing our step by step process.  You can see Master Bedroom Parts 1-5 in the archives of the blog, or click below for each part.  Thanks so much for following!

Master Bedroom Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five


Painting!! Master Bedroom Part 5

Things are moving along, we’re on day 26, I believe, of working on the bedroom.  Bill has completed all the plastering and priming and woodwork in the main bedroom, and he’ll be winding down the rest of the plastering in the nook this weekend.

All primed and ready for the paint

We were a little behind after I last posted due to finding some hairline cracks in one of the main walls after we had primed. . . which is really not cool.  We think that because of the painting and activity in that room that the hairline cracks became apparent.

So, we re-meshed and re-plastered and re-primed that entire wall, which added a few more days to the work run.  But, now, its all in pristine condition.  It’s just hard to keep in mind some days that we are still learning as we go, and that the house won’t be perfect.  But, it will be our work, and we’ll love what we’ve done, knowing that the small flaws are what enhance its character and show its age.

View into the nook

Much of the moulding that had originally been around the windows and floor was removed, due to the odd window coverings and makeshift closet.  So, we searched for substitutes and small pieces in the basement that would work.  Thanks to a super resourceful neighbor, Neighbor Dave, we were able to replace what was around  the windows, so we were just shy of the basecap moulding for the baseboards.

What we found in our lumber yard works, though it isn’t a perfect match.  However, the room is complete and very sharp due to Bill’s gifted wood-working abilities.

View from the windows

Now, on to what I actually can do.  Paint.  I don’t add a lot to the plastering except for moral support, and I didn’t prime much on this go. . . so now its my turn to lend a hand to the process.

For those of you that don’t know, my background is scenic art — painting for theatre.  And, I have spent a few years doing some home and business painting, both faux finishes and straight up wall painting.  (Bill has, too, actually, the multi-gifted man he is.)

Bill's sweet handy-work

So, painting is a real joy for me.  In this room, I took the time to make one of my favorite tools for cutting in the edges, a bamboo brush holder.  Unbelieveably, there was a stick of bamboo in the attic.  I sawed off the end to get a hole opening and then sawed slits around the edge.  With the addition of some rubber bands, the bamboo can hold a brush so that I can stand on the floor and cut in around the edges.  Voila!


Ceiling is painted

What you see here is the now painted ceiling, a pale grey that I mixed with some leftover wall paint and our normal ceiling color.  Though ceilings are not the most fun to work on, there is such a huge difference between a ceiling that needs work and a pristine, freshly coated ceiling.

Next, I’ll cut in the walls and paint them with 2 coats before doing any stencil work.  Stay tuned for those pics!

Master Bedroom. . . part 4

It is long overdue that I catch all of you up on the house work.  We have been working, but there aren’t a lot of photos to show for it.  So, I’ll catch you up on what I can.


Two cars fit in the one car garage


First, here is a shot of our newly re-organized 2 car garage.  In the last post, I wasn’t able to show how we could park everyone in comfortably.  We’ve spent a few days organizing and hanging tools to make room for everything, so I needed to share.  It’s a tight squeeze, but in the heart of winter,  might pay off to keep the cars snow free.

Now, on to where we are with the bedroom.  It’s now day 19 of the Master Bedroom work.  And, Bill is sanding as I type.  The plaster is almost complete, we’ll need a few touch ups right before priming.  The room is chalk white, except for some of the pink trim showing.  If the floors looked good, the room would be pristine.


King of plaster!


Bill will be finishing the sanding today and we’ll start priming.  We’re using a shellac primer, which allows us to paint over the old trim, the plaster, anything raw like wood, and have completely even coverage.  It’s beautiful stuff.  Once the priming is done, I can spend the week painting the ceiling and walls!!!  I won’t tell you the colors I’ve chosen yet, to share the surprise in the photos yet to come.

We will still need to touch up plaster in the “nook” and then in the closet.  We’re lucky to have a rather large closet in such an old house, but it certainly isn’t big enough for the two of us.  We’ll remodel it so that Bill has lots of room for  work clothes, and I’ll inherit the armoire that he is currently using.

The “nook”.  It is a small “room” off to the left side of the master bedroom, about 7′ x 8′ with a window and a cabinet built it.  Originally, it could have been a dressing area, or a place for a crib.


Master Bedroom floor plan, (each letter is a window)


Sometime since 1894, someone put a sheetrock wall between it and the main bedroom, with a window and door opening.  We left the sheetrock to divide the spaces, as ideally down the line we’d like to make a second full bath in that space (if the plumbing allows.)  I’ve put in a quick floor plan sketch so you can see really how the room is laid out.  (Technically, we don’t have a fireplace in the bedroom, but the chimney runs up through the side wall.)

Lastly, once the painting is done, I’ll stencil and we’ll do the trim.  But, we will also do the floors in this room to complete the whole thing.

The middle of the room is bare wood flooring, as in, never been touched with any sort of finish.  The outside, around the trim has a 2′ painted perimeter.  Clearly, a carpet was in the room, and everything not covered was painted brown.  The upstairs hallway and small back bedroom are the same.  However, the painted area is a mess, and we’re going to sand, condition, stain and finish the wood to protect it and make it sharp looking.  If we felt we could maintain an original oil and wax finish, we would.  But, we don’t really need more upkeep on this house than we already have.  I’m aiming to get started on the floor before Thanksgiving, but it will depend on how quickly I can get the painting completed.

I’m off to help Bill clean up sanding dust, hope you enjoy the update!

Master Bedroom Part 3

Getting Plastered!

The Master Bedroom is taking a fair amount of time and work to repair.  The walls and ceiling (not to

Cleaning up debris after sheetrock removal

mention the floor) all need resurfacing, molding is missing and windows are in need of repair and paint. We knew this room would take considerable effort since it’s the largest of the four bedrooms and upon first glance there’s more noticeable plaster damage in this room than any (not counting the stairway and upper hall areas). The master bedroom also has the primary brick chimney (nicely finished in plaster) running through it on the eastern wall. And chimneys, despite their massiveness actually like to move … and movement is what causes plaster to crack. The chimney was reworked about 6-8 years ago and is stable and in excellent condition. It’s very likely that at the time of building scaffolds and working on the chimney, the chimney’s surrounding areas were stressed and cracked.


It’s a very attractive chimney, only double flue but large and decorative. Many neighbors comment the chimney being the nicest in town but I digress. Future plaster damage caused by the chimney’s movement should not be an issue so on with the renovations!

We’ve chosen to renovate vs. remodel. While the difference seems subtle (since both terms have been bastardized by many websites and TV shows) the difference in approaches and activities can be significant. A neighboring house very close to us is being truly renovated and conserved. We are told the owner has been at it for over 15 years and will likely never finish. Honestly, we’re really doing something between renovations and remodeling however we try to lean towards renovation, the more conservative and less invasive approach while maintaining as much original materials and craftsmanship as possible (and as much as we can afford). Renovations tend to value the original materials and methods used while taking a conservative, less invasive approach. Remodels tend to allow major intervention and demolition with less concern and respect to materials and craftsmanship and tend to have more desire to modernize.

It is our opinion that the homeowner has a responsibility to the integrity of the home. That’s not to say they have to follow any specific guidelines or rules but they should steward the home as best they can, consider the homes original craftsmanship, materials and intent and make thoughtful choices.

One example to share pertaining to the Master Bedroom is the decision to stabilize the existing plaster on the ceiling as compared to taking it down and starting “new” or covering it up with sheetrock or another material choice. The decision to stabilize the existing plaster allows us to retain the original plaster and to a large extent is less work than the demolition and rebuild a new ceiling would require.

Most commonly, a remodeling approach would be to “hide” the current ceiling behind a new sheetrock ceiling, maybe tearing out the original damaged plaster (including the plaster that is stable) and installing a new sheetrock ceiling or worse (in my opinion), hide the damaged plaster behind a “drop ceiling” and hope it never comes down!

I researched several approaches to stabilize ceiling plaster that has already partially separated from the lathe. This becomes a key concern (pun intended … keys are the plaster that gets “smooshed” between the pieces of lathe which create the physical mechanism for the plaster to adhere to the ceiling or wall) … ok, I digress again … The keys being damaged is an important factor in the renovation process and must be dealt with first. Any subsequent materials applied to the surface of the ceiling will only weigh the ceiling down and further damage the plaster. The existing ceiling has to be stabilized before anything is added.

I chose a fairly new method using some “modern materials” I appreciated because it was less invasive and focused on the damaged areas while allowing a complete resurface at the same time

Scraped ceiling crack

First, the cracked area is carefully scraped as clean as possible of any loose chipping or peeling paint. Sometimes, as it is with this damaged area, there may be some water damage from previous roof leaks. Water damage often causes paint to delaminate from its substrate so thorough removal of the poorly adhered paint is best.

I had to work carefully as to not upset the plaster much more. It’s already damaged and more damage due to my scraping is not wanted!

Many methods suggest that gouging out the crack to fill it with plaster is best. I’ve tried this method on walls and while it can work, I wanted to try something less invasive on this ceiling. So to some extent, this is a test for me personally!

Instead of removing plaster along the entire crack, the new method suggests drilling 3/16th holes every 3 or so inches (about 1 inch from the crack) along both sides of the crack being stabilized. Most of the holes drilled will hit lathe, some might be located between the lathe in the plaster’s keys. Either is acceptable but the lathe holes are preferred.

After the holes are carefully drilled, each hole will be liberally filled with Liquid Nails construction adhesive. Now this is where we could easily argue that Liquid Nails is not a historically accurate material to use on an 1895 home. We could argue but I’m not going to … like I said … somewhere between renovation and remodel. Seriously, I have no problem using modern materials to attain safety, security and an aesthetic that replicates the original or helps me preserve the original materials and appearance.

Crack repaired with Liquid Nails and Screws

After the holes are filled I use sheetrock screws outfitted with large plastic washers to “clamp” the plaster in place while the glue sets. Depending upon how concave the surface is will influence if the screws stay or not. In one area near the chimney the screws are far beneath the overall surface so they will stay! If it seems that the screws will protrude proud of the surface I may remove them after the glue dries.

I then work stone and tile adhesive into the crack as well as I can. This helps “glue” the actual crack line more strongly than plaster or joint compound. At this time, this is exactly where the ceiling repairs have been left. The next steps are to apply the reinforcement mesh and skim coat with joint compound mixture. We are working on the walls at the same time and have don some mesh and plaster work we can show and explain. It;s the same procedure that will follow for the ceilings.

We treated the walls as we did the ceiling. Instead of tearing out the wall plaster (which was more stable than the
ceiling plaster) we used a self adhesive stabilization mesh that acts like thousands of tiny “bridges” creating
a strong matrix of old and new plaster. The wall cracks were very slight with no damage to the keys so there was no need to do the drilling and gluing and screwing to these walls.

Karyn applying reinforcing mesh onto cracked wall

The wall pictured here with Karyn applying mesh had several “large” cracks and many “smaller” cracks with no separation from the lathe. Very stable really, just cracked significantly.

The mesh is self adhesive but the real strength of the repair comes from skim coating several coats of plaster or joint compound into the cracks and filling the texture of the mesh. these coats of plaster sandwich the mesh between the old wall surface and the new … a very strong matrix that will resist future cracking and provide a smooth wall surface to paint or wallpaper.

Skimcoating the mesh on a wall

We’re still skim coating joint compound on every surface in the master bedroom. There are a few repairs left to make on the ceiling and all the walls need at least two more coats of plaster to make them smooth. Karyn was practicing her plaster technique in the closet (yeah, the plaster in the closets need some help too) and she’s just about ready to plaster more public walls!

There’s a lot of surface to cover still so stay tuned for at least another one or two posts for this room! We still just dreaming about painting in here but Karyn has the color picked out and I’m not spoiling the surprise of her finish choices in this post but let’s just say I’m lobbying for a very fancy decorative finish!

Master Bedroom Part 2

We’ve put in about 10 full days of work so far on the Master bedroom.  That might not sound like much, but ultimately those are weekend days with both of us working on the room.  And, we’re likely not even halfway done.

Cleaning up debris after sheetrock removal

To give you an idea of how we have spent that time so far. . .

Day 1 & 2:  Dad and Bill pulled out sheet rock covering windows and removed faux closet and shelves.

Day 3:  Bill and I worked on the front window sash cords.  All of the windows in this house are double hung, meaning they open from the top and bottom.  Most of the sash weights are in place for each window, except those two windows in the front in the master bedroom.  So, I had to dig around the attic and basement looking for stray weights.  Then we had to pull out all the insulation alongside the sashes in order to put in the cords so the windows would work.  It’s a beautiful system and easy to do IF there isn’t insulation stuffed in the pockets.

Sash weight and pocket

As you can see to the right, there is a pocket in the woodwork seemed in beautifully.  It removes with a single screw and then each weight for that side of the sashes can be accessed.  So, the old cord needs to be cut, and a new cord fed through the pulley at the top and tied to the weight at the bottom.  The windows open easier than the new vinyl ones once the cords are working.

Day 4:  Bill puts on the front window moulding.  (All of this was completed before our inspection at the end of May.)

Day 5:  Bill took down the lovely bright red shelves in the bedroom nook.  Eventually we’d like to make this part of the room into a master bath, if we could get the plumbing to work.  It’s about 8 x 7 feet, so it could work as a nice HUGE walk-in closet, too.

Red shelves, don't they go nice with pale pink walls?

Day 6:  I cleaned, vacuumed really while Bill began to stabilize the plaster in the ceiling.  There are mostly cracks, but some lose plaster that needs to be adhered before we can really start plastering over everything. Bill is the king of plastering, so I’m sure he’ll explain the process more thoroughly in another post.

Day 7:  I put in sash cords on the other two windows while Bill finished putting up the base moulding and repaired the moulding in the interior window.

Day 8:  Bill painted sashes. . . and I was likely doing laundry, but I can’t remember

Day 9:  Bill finished up all the moulding he could and I started learning how to plaster.  In the afternoon, Bill plastered and I began priming all the woodwork.

Plastering and moulding

This room originally appeared to be a light turquoise.  When it was re-done with all the sheetrock and fake closets, it was painted pink, from ceiling to floor and all woodwork in between.  Below you can see a closeup of the lathe under the original plaster (which was horsehair) and the reason why we need to do so much more plaster on top and repairing the moulding. . or at least filling in the moulding.  When the closet was put in, the owner removed a lot of the moulding and we’ve had to scrounge around the corners of the house to find stuff to fill in.  Thankfully, there are years and years of stored goodies in the recesses of this house.  And, I’m married to a wood working wonder.

Day 10:  Bill plastered like a mad man and almost the whole first coat is completed.

We won’t even start discussing the floor.  That will be a whole new adventure, as this room will have the first floor that we’ll redo from scratch.

Master Bedroom (Part 1)

The master bedroom is going to take a fair amount of work thus the “Part 1” portion of the title. I expect to turn this room into several posts just to keep it moving along nicely. In all fairness the work has begun but has stalled just the same. The master bedroom is one of two bedrooms on the front side of the house. All four bedrooms in the house are on the second floor, two on the front and two on the back.

The wall which hides two windows

The Master bedroom is the room which had two of it’s three windows covered by a sheetrock wall on the inside. Yes, completely covered over by a wall which was built by the previous owner to the owner we bought the house from. We needed to at least have the windows restated as part of the rehabilitation mortgage agreement’s final audit and inspection. After all, these are two of the most prominent windows on the front of the house!

From the outside, the windows simply appeared to have their shades drawn and closed all the time. From the inside … they were non-existent. The photo titled “The wall which hides two windows” is the wall being torn down (by my father-in-law and I) in the photo titled “Exposing the windows”

Exposing the windows

To begin we carefully measured outside to find the windows inside. I took very shallow stabs with a sheetrock saw to be sure I was not cutting near the window glass until we were confident we could locate the windows.

The sheetorck was backed by foil covered styrofoam insulation panels nailed through the plaster wall. And unfortunately to fit the sheetrock and insulation neatly into place, the installers of the wall stripped the inside windows of all its original trim, moulding and the portion of the sills that protrude into the room. A very sad discovery of what I’d say was a poor choice in the first place. I am happy they didn’t glue the insulation in place!  That would have been very damaging to the plaster wall.

Windows complete!

As luck would have it, our neighbor Dave Lieb who works on old houses and furniture for his profession had some old moulding salvaged from a demolition home that came extremely close to matching the other windows in the room. Dave graciously gave me three bundles of the matching moulding for me to use. All that was left now was rebuilding the sills (which I was able to do from some 5/4 white pine), scrape, prime and paint the sashes and re-hang them with new sash cord!

In upcoming posts, Karyn and I will walk you through each day of work on this pink room, from plastering to putting in sash cords, priming and finishing the floors.