Monthly Archives: September 2011

Renovating Old Plaster

Wallpaper removal is nearly done
Wallpaper removal nearly done

 Loryn: One of the downsides of owning a 100+ year old house is the 100 years of wallpaper layered on every surface. When I first bought the house, I had grand ideas of removing all of it and skimcoating. These delusions ended after it took a few months to strip four rooms—rooms covered in up to fifteen layers of wallpaper, wallpaper that came off inch by frustrating inch. The house has fifteen rooms total, many of them large Victorian rooms with ten foot ceilings, and even my helpful, crafty family just doesn’t have that much enthusiasm!

Since then, I’ve started painting over the already painted wallpaper as a compromise to make the house actually livable. There are a few places, though, where the wallpaper is already peeling and has to come off. The end of my upstairs hallway is one of those places. Above, you can see it in progress. I don’t have a before shot, because I started taking the paper down PB (pre-blog).

There are a lot of methods out there to remove wallpaper, and we’ve tried most of them. The top layer of paper scraped off easily, and I just used hot water on the last layers that didn’t want to come up. Since this is antique paper (not vinyl), the water brings it up pretty easily. (That’s easy on a wallpaper removal scale, which ranges from repetitive annoyance to utter misery).

Here it is, ready to begin patching the plaster. Most of the paper on the right wall was adhered firmly, so I’ll be leveling it out with drywall compound, rather than removing it all. Expediency rules! In this shot, you can see the back stairway, and the doorway to the guest room.

The first thing that I needed to do is to patch a large area where the plaster has pulled away from the lath. I’m planning to use this niche to display artwork, so I need flat, sturdy walls.

Here is the patch in place. The “proper” way to make this repair would be to cut a square out of the plaster and insert a square patch. I even have a Dremel Multimax that will cut plaster. One small cut in plaster, though, will ruin a $14 blade. Since plaster is hard to cut and drywall is very easy to cut, I’m taking this route! I pulled out the loose plaster with a hammer, and left the lath in place. I made a template by tracing the shape onto brown paper. I used 1/4″ drywall, which matches the plaster pretty well.

And here is the patch again. To fill in the gaps, I used setting compound or “hot mud.” It’s more like real plaster, in that you mix it yourself, and you have limited time to work with it before it sets. It’s good for filling in large gaps, because it doesn’t shrink like drywall compound. Also, it cures much faster, so you can keep working. I usually use 45 minute compound, but you can also get 20 and 90 minute. I also used paper tape over the seams.

Once that was done, I was ready to start using drywall compound for other cracks and to smooth out some old and uneven plaster repairs. Purists use plaster to repair old plaster, but I’m happy enough with the drywall compound, and it saves many steps. Expediency again!

And here it is with the cracks taped and rough spots leveled. I still need to tape the ceiling seams. A previous owner hung drywall on the ceiling in the not-so-distant past. Unfortunately, their finishing job was pretty bad. They embedded the tape, and never used any topping coats, so the seams look terrible. The tape was also on top of all the layers of wallpaper, so I just pulled it off. I’ll end up redoing all of the seams eventually. Tomorrow, I’ll do that seam and put the first topping coat on!

So, why fix this plaster instead of just demolishing it and putting in drywall? Well, I happen to love old plaster. New drywall just doesn’t compare with the substance of original plaster. This wall was in good shape, with two main vertical cracks. Overall, the amount of finishing I’ll do is not much more than I would if I put in new drywall. Plus, not having to haul all the old plaster out and carry in new drywall is a relief to my back.

I’ll be back tomorrow with an update on this project! If you’re interested in learning more, I used the site www.plaster-wall-ceiling-solutions.com to learn all about repairing plaster. His tutorial was very helpful!

The Big $15 Bulletin Board

Loryn: A really big bulletin board is a great tool for all crafters. Martha Stewart recommends using homosote board wrapped in fabric. It’s reasonably priced and comes in 4×8′ sheets, but I can’t get it without a truck and a 60 mile round trip. Luckily, there is a cheap and easy alternative.

I made this bulletin board using suspended ceiling tiles. They make a great bulletin board surface, can be easily wrapped in fabric, and they cost around $5 for a 2×4′ tile. If you know someone who is remodeling, you may even be able to scavenge them.

I used fabric from my stash to wrap these, and I cut each tile in half to make better use of the fabric. The tiles are so lightweight that I hung them with a finishing nail in each corner. They make a 4×6′ bulletin board from around $15. They’re great to hang over a desk, in a crafting area, or in an entry way for a busy family!

Notes from the Farm

Chickens!
I am filling the bird feeder. These chickens know some of the food will spill on the deck and are in their 'ready' position.

Lynne: I have been on a working vacation for the past few weeks. My grandparents had a farm and I have always held an affection for the rural life, but the thought of having a library nearby has kept me firmly within the city limits. Every now and then, however, I have the good fortune to be able to pretend I am a farmer.

The farm I pretend is mine sits on 140 acres of prairie and woods and has a large pond. I can sit on the deck and watch ducks, geese and even bald eagles go about their daily tasks. The night is so dark, I have to use my cell phone to see. There has to be a moral in there somewhere.

I have not been posting much because rural Indiana is woefully behind in its broadband coverage. Blogging is not possible on a dial-up connection. At least, I cannot do it. I begin to froth at the mouth when a page takes 30 seconds to load. It is hard to remember that the internet is really a new thing and not so long ago 3 minutes to download a page seemed a miracle. Anyway, I will be posting a few notes I have taken during my stay.

I get up in the morning and put on the clothes I wore the day before. I have found that changing clothes 3 or 4 times a day is ridiculous and wearing the dirty clothes for morning chores is the smart thing to do. I also put on rubber boots. It may feel weird to clump around in boots to your knees, but it is really necessary when you are caring for horses. Mucking out horse stalls is a good way to ruin even your oldest shoes. I have found also that I have to stop and put on socks with these boots because they will wear gurry sores on your ankles. (Captain’s Courageous by Rudyard Kipling is my information on gurry sores–the results of the chafing of oil-skins on bare flesh.) In this day and age, gurry sores are treated by antibiotics and a tetanus shot. (Has it really been 10 years since I had one? Ouch…)

I will continue my tales of the farm in more posts, but I will leave with this musing on the vagaries of chickens. If you have food in your hand they gather under your feet, if you don’t have food they are under your feet and if you are even thinking about food they are under your feet. I stepped on one this morning in my rubber boots. Luckily, the stable floor and the boots were soft and I only stepped on the chicken’s foot. I believe chicken feet are tough. At least, this one has tough feet, it squawked and didn’t budge an inch. I was giving grain to the horses. Silly chickens, they think the horses are going to let them have some.

Next time, I will muse on the the chore of watering…everything.