A "Lack of Progress" report

House work has still been at a minimum this week... Shayne got all of the furring blocks off of the ceiling, though, and the drywall guy is coming tomorrow. No, we're not going to drywall the living room...! He's going to skimcoat the ceiling and walls for us. Tomorrow is just a "let's see what we have here" day, since the plaster washers haven't arrived yet.

I stripped a little wallpaper this evening, but I'm taking it slow, since I don't want to anger my shoulder. It's still a little achy. I was planning on doing more work today, but got interrupted by being called into work. I'm on the Detention Response Team (basically the jail's SWAT team), and we're on-call 24 hours a day. I got 4 hours of overtime out of it, though, so I really can't complain. I have tomorrow off too, so hopefully I'll have some more progress to report.


It's cold!!

According to the Weather Channel, it is currently 22°F (feels like 7°F with wind chill factored in). Now that it's this cold, you can really tell: this house is drafty! Many of the windows have weather stripping already, but it's from the 80s (at best). The front and back doors leak really badly. No wonder I'm chilly!

Shayne and I have been looking for arts and crafts style area rugs. We've found several that we really like (one even with a ginkgo design that looks really authentic), but they're all at least $2500, and some are as much as $4500. I don't have a problem paying for quality, but I think that's a bit excessive for a rug. I really don't want to spend more than $1000. Maybe I'm being unrealisitic in my expectations, but I just can't see paying as much for a rug as our bathroom renovation!

Winter comes to Michiana

No, that's not a typo. Our little area of Indiana, as well as nearby Michigan, is collectively called "Michiana." It's used on the news, weather, radio and TV ads... After a while, it even starts to sound normal. And, it's even pretty accurate, since I could see Michigan, if I were to climb up on my roof. They don't even bother putting up "Michigan" signs when you enter Michigan, except on maybe 2 roads, so you can unexpectedly find yourself in another state.

But anyways...

Progress on the house has come to something of a standstill. I haven't been able to strip wallpaper, because my shoulder is acting up. I injured it playing basketball in the 7th grade, but it just hasn't been the same since. Shayne's been working a lot of part-time hours, so he's been too busy or tired to do anything with the ceiling. His friend Phil, who does drywall work, will be coming over next week to take a look at the ceiling to see what it would cost to skim-coat it. We'd be helping, but we thought it would be a good idea to have someone along who knows what the heck they're doing.

I've been thinking a lot about the bathroom again. I think we're at a concensus that it will be our next project. Both of us love baths, and we're really starting to feel the lack of a real bathtub. The one we have is maybe 6" deep. When I fill it to the overflow and sit in it, it doesn't even completely cover my thighs. And I'm not big at all!! So, in order to have a bathroom that will accomodate both a big, clawfoot or pedestal tub and a stand-up stall shower, we're thinking of expanding the bathroom into the hall closet, which has a lot of wasted space, due to the strangeness of its design. Here is the floor plan as it is now:
The hall closet is situated between the bathroom and office, and has doors opening into the hall and the bedroom. Not shown in the picture are the shelving unit at the back (on the bathoom wall) and the clothes rods (on the bedroom wall). There is also another hanging rod directly inside the hall door. The shelves are really not being used, since the clothes rods block them from both doors. So... we were thinking of taking up the wasted space taken up by the shelves and using it as a bathtub alcove, like in the plan below.
We could still use 18" or so of the space as a closet, plus, since we will be replacing the wall between the office and master bedroom closet, we could add a second closet in that area. The current master bedroom closet has about 4 or 5 feet of space that is all but inaccessable, due to the placement of the doors, so the new closet would utilize that space.

The purist in me is rebelling against adding/removing/changing walls. The logical side (as well as the part of me that wants a nice, big bathroom) is reminding me that 3 of these 5 walls were added to begin with and have nothing to do with the original plan of the house. And, we'd reuse the current original closet door in one of the new closets, so we wouldn't be losing character.

It's definitely worth thinking on.


Living room update in pictures

Shayne bringing down the ceiling

The finished product

One of the two bad ceiling cracks

A light fixture revealed under the ceiling tiles

The PO's fix for everything: nails!!


Today was a busy day for house work. We pulled up the remaining 6 feet of carpet and removed about 60% of the nail strips. Just FYI, the last bit of carpet had to wait until I had unloaded two very full bookshelves. The entire acoustic tile ceiling is now a pile of rubble, as is the trim surrounding it. And, between yesterday and today, a full wall of wallpaper has been removed. That leaves us with 2 more walls in the living room, one of which is mostly doorway. There's a little wallpaper in the upstairs hallway, but most of that area is doorways, so it shouldn't be too much work. I'd say about 8 more hours, and all of the wallpaper will be gone (Hallelujia!!!).

Tomorrow, Shayne will begin working on removing the furring strips, which are actually more like 1 by 2s. And of course, they were attached with nails. Big nails. And lots of them. He's going to be using a cutting bit on a Dremel, which worked well on our test strip. He cuts the board on either side of the nail, then uses vise grips to pull the nail and remaining little piece of wood out of the ceiling. We didn't want to use a pry bar; since there are so many nails we thought it would just damage the ceiling more, and we had to get a little creative. We'll see how well it works tomorrow.


Thank God for 3-day weekends...

And not just this week - all the time! Of course, I have to work a 6 day week, but I get 20 more days off per year than a 5-and-2 schedule. I'm hoping to get some serious work done on the wallpaper removal. I'd have to say that I'm about 50% done as far as the amount of paper is concerned. Labor-wise, maybe 30%. that last coat is a beast, even with the sander. It's going SO much faster than before, though, so I'm thrilled.

Walking downstairs to a hardwood floor every morning is making me so happy... It makes a huge difference in the character of the house. It actually looks like an old house now, instead of a 80's explosion. Every time I look at it, I just imagine how nice it will look with all the moulding stripped, and the walls and floor looking fresh and new...

Is there really anything more fulfilling than restoring your own home?


Spontaneous demolition

Last night, we spontaneously ripped out the living room carpet. It started out as removing some woodwork, but somehow Shayne started picking at the carpet...

This is what our living room looks like now...
The floor is in excellent shape, but (as with everything else in this house!) there's something a little odd. It looks to me like some previous owner (probably the one who built walls out of paneling) had an oriental rug in the room. And instead of refinishing the floor, he only refinished around the edges where the rug wasn't. So... The floor has the old finish in the middle and a new finish in an 18" border around the room. Whatever. We have to sand it all down anyways.


It *was* a nice house...

And then we got a hold of it... It now looks something like a crack house. Just about all of the unpainted wallpaper is off, so we moved forward a bit on the whole project. Shayne removed the paneling from the stairway, the trim from those two windows, as well as all of the curtains/curtain rods, and the trim from the front 3 windows. Pictures will be posted tomorrow, but there's no doubt now that we're working on the house. Seems ironic that to make the house look better, we're making it worse. And right now isn't even as bad as it will get. Pretty soon we'll have naked plaster, falling-down ceilings, no woodwork, and no carpet. I'm so excited :)

I need to start a "Why?!" file on the house. Today we found the old sash weights in the windows when we removed the trim. The old wood windows were replaced in the 70s or 80s, but they just left the weights. So we now have 8 (soon to be more) 10lb weights in the office. They're free to a good home, if anyone wants them.

'Why?!" #2 - While removing the curtain rod, we had some problems getting the nails out of the wall. It didn't help that they were 5 inches long... What were these people thinking?

I also found some newspaper in the wall from September 19, 1957. It was behind the paneled section, next to window trim. There's an ad for the Tivoli Theatre in Mishawaka, which was knocked down this past year (I'm still upset about it). It was a movie theatre in 1957, and there are showtimes listed for "The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm" and "Dino". Beiger Furniture was having its 56th anniversary sale. Round Steak was 19¢ per pound at O'Bleni's (which I've never heard of).

I wonder if in 50 years, people will be looking with interest at things that we have in advertently left in this house...


My dilemma

So now we know what the plaster underneath the wallaper looks like. It's really not in bad shape at all. There are some hairline cracks, but nothing wide. No chunks falling off. It's a little bumpy and uneven, but if I look half that good at 80+ years, I'll be overjoyed.

My dilemma now is whether or not to continue removing the wallpaper/liner. It's stuck to the plaster *everywhere*, and it takes about an hour to uncover 4 square feet. The room is about 17.5 feet by 11 feet. With 7.5 foot of wall from ceiling to molding, that equals 345 square feet of wall (1 wall is paneled with heaven-only-knows-what under it, so I didn't even add that one in). Subtract for windows and doorways, and I'd venture to say we still have at least 220 square feet of wall. That's 54 hrs of wallpaper stripping. Plus the stairway and upstairs hall, which adds maybe 50 square feet of wall space.

I feel like I'm taking the easy way out (which I would be) if I cover it all with Nu-Wal, but I don't think I have the time to de-paper the living room, stairs, and upstairs hallway. Since they all flow together, there would be no way to Nu-Wal some of it while leaving the original plaster in the rest. In a way, it would still be historically accurate, since the walls were originally covered before painting. I just don't know... I'd never rip the plaster out, but is it acceptable to cover it in order to expedite the process of having a finished room?

It's definitely cheaper to strip it and paint it. My heart is telling me to have "virgin" plaster walls, but my practical side wants to see a new room ASAP. But restoration isn't about ASAP... It's about patience, love, and hard work. It's about peeling off the crap to uncover what things whould look like. And they shouldn't look like Nu-Wal. They should look like plaster.

In other news, I found the plaster ceiling underneath the acoustic ceiling tiles. This is the plaster I was expecting on the walls; it's cracked, textured, and kinda scary. It's also punctuated by "furring strips" every 12 inches. The reason furring strips is in quotes is because they aren't real strips. More like chunks. They're about 3/4" thick and maybe 1" wide. Solid wood. They're nailed down with what look like roofing nails. What were the previous previous owners thinking?!

A face only a mother could love

I always knew this, but I'm realizing anew that it really does take a special kind of person to own/restore an old house. Do you honestly know many people who could be excited about walls that look like this:


I have plaster! (somewhere...)

It didn't feel much like Halloween yesterday, probably because I can't really do anything to celebrate. How can you when you're at work (and at a job that absoloutely requires a uniform...)? We didn't even bother to decorate, what with the wallpaper project and all. I was hoping to put a few things up for fall in general, but there's really nowhere to hang or put things where they won't be in the way.

All things considered, the wallpaper removal is going well. It's much more time-consuming that I had anticipated, but I'm very pleased with the progress. Last night I finished the front wall of the living room. It was probably the most difficult wall, since it has a set of windows as well as the front door. Until my next 3 days off, I can only work on the wallpaper before and after work, so progressis slower than I would like. There seems to be 3 layers of paper, then a layer of painted paper over the plaster. The first layer came off very easily, but after that, it's all scraping and peeling after wetting it down. I'm laving the final, painted layer of paper on for now, since the plaster underneath is "naked". I was expecting ugly, cracked, patched plaster after feeling all the bumps and uneveness under the wallpaper, but our plaster managed to surprise me. It's actually in very good shape. There are cracks, of course, but that's really about all. Except for the fact that it's missing its finish coat. This was done to save money and time, and I've heard that it's fairly common. Only, instead of painting, it was papered, which was more popular at the time, but has caused a snafu in our plans. The final layer of paper is VERY stuck to the plaster, and I have no idea how to get it off. I'm afraid to use chemicals, since the plaster is porus, and I'm afraid the primer won't stick to it if we do that. I don't want to scrape too much, because of the sandy texture. It's much softer than a finish coat, and I'm afraid it will just come off the wall. It will look nice once we paint it, judging from the upstairs closet that was painted, but I have no clue how to get that last layer off. Here's a pic of the painted paper with the plaster showing underneath:The picture doesn't show it too well, but there is sand and horsehair right on the top layer. it's actually very interesting to look at.

Funny thing: I thought that the wallpaper was up because the plaster was in horrible shape. It's great to know that the plaster is fine, just kind of unfinished! :)

Next step: remove the baseboards and window/door trim. Get that danged paper off the walls, and start stripping the woodwork. The ceiling tiles will also come down and we'll deal with whatever is under there. at the same time, we'll also pull up the carpet. It's helping to keep the dust down right now, but it really has to go. We'll then paint the walls and ceiling and have the floors refinished. It's exciting to make progress, no matter how small!