First There Were Ceilings, and Then There Were Walls!


First thing’s first: MONO UPDATE! Since I know everyone gives as many shits about my health as I do (lately, more shits than usual)—I feel a lot better! The fevers are gone, the sore throat is pretty much gone…I feel alright! Mostly I’m just spending a lot of time being mocked by my unfinished dining room and unfinished library and unfinished entryway and unfinished house and being told by everyone to put down the joint compound and trying really hard to not do a whole lot. This is difficult for me, because I like doing stuff. The whole thing is basically excruciating, since it’s making me turn toward things like my horrendously untended email inbox and sorting through mail and other stuff I hate doing. Luckily, in an act of stunning forethought—prescience, maybe—we got cable about a month ago and I have been settling RIGHT into the fragile Victorian lady lifestyle I was maybe always meant for? If fragile Victorian ladies had HGTV?

I have seen so many people decide to Love It and even more people decide to List It. I have watched Handsome Scott McGillivray transform many an income property. I have literally spent countless hours debating whether those Property Brothers like boys. And that’s just the Canadian stuff! I’ve also re-watched a lot of Rehab Addict and even discovered that Daryl’s Restoration Over-Hall is actually a really engaging show, and I was totally FREAKING OUT during the auction on Flipping the Block. All in just a few week’s time! So I’d say this whole mononucleosis experience has been time well spent. I never knew more about the mass public’s love of “open concept” living than I do now. Nobody likes walls anymore. It’s all been very informative.

ANYWAY, whilst in the thick of my mono-ness, I awoke last Saturday morning at 7:30 AM (which is not so fun when you are a feverish mucus-y disaster FYI, but I soldiered through) because the magical skim-coater wizard man arrived to start working on the hallway walls! I let him in, dragged myself back upstairs, went back to sleep, woke up a few hours later, dragged myself back downstairs to assess the progress, then went back to the warm, safe embrace of Canadian Home and Garden Television. While somebody else fixed my house. It was the most luxe ever, maybe, except for the nausea and stuff.

I tried to explain to the skim-coater that I was sick with Mono, but I’m not sure he totally understood, which made the whole thing feel extra bratty and ridiculous. Like, “here, I have an idea! You do this awful task for hours on end by yourself while I lounge around! If you need me, I’ll be upstairs, lounging.” I was riddled with shame throughout.

In case you need a refresher on the past year, the deal with this hallways was this:

1. When we bought the house, it had a few extra walls and doorways (one that bisected the entryway to create a vestibule, one at the back of the staircase to create the entry to the first floor apartment, and one at the top of the stairs with a door to the second floor apartment that continued down the length of the hallway, wrapping the stair banister). The two doorways at the at the front of the house were also blocked off. All of that came down last summer in various fits of demolition madness. (here, here, and here)

2. Also last summer, I spend days and days stripping wallpaper off all the walls and exposing the bare plaster. BOY WAS THAT A GOOD TIME.

3. In all the intervening months, it didn’t really make sense to fix the hallway walls because we were messing with electrical and plumbing, and I figured since these walls were already in pretty rough shape, it made the most sense to try to contain all of the holes to the hallway. So the walls basically got more and more destroyed as each new electrical path got run, we re-routed heating pipes through the walls, etc. etc. By the end they sort of resembled Swiss cheese. EVERY SINGLE contractor/handyman/electrician/plumber/acquaintance who has walked through my door has informed me that I should just cover the walls in 3/8″ drywall and call it a day, but I never considered that. First of all, it would be too easy, and I like things to be difficult and miserable. Second of all, I want my plaster walls to look like plaster walls! Drywall just isn’t the same. So there.

4. All along, I was planning to fix these walls myself. I spent a long time teaching myself how do major plaster repair and skim coating in the little upstairs office, so I felt like technically I was capable. And if I am technically capable of something, I should do it, right?

WRONG. Sometimes that logic is just bad. After seeing what a bang-up job the skim-coater did on a section of the hallway ceiling, my basic thought process was this:

Me: Wow, look at that ceiling.

Me: Yeah, I bet you could never make it look that good.

Me: Shut up, asshole, I totally could. It would take me many days and be miserable and messy, but I could.

Me: You probably couldn’t. Also, note that it took that guy like two hours to do this. And it’s so smooth. He barely has to sand it or anything. You could never do that.

Me: I’ll show you! I’ll show you when I tackle these walls!

Me: You should see how much it would cost to just hire it out.

Me: Hire it out?? Are you high?? You disgust me. How will I learn? How will I grow? How will I feel the satisfaction of looking at these walls and thinking smugly to myself “you did that, you handsome fox”? Never.

Me: What’s that? I couldn’t hear you from up there on your high horse. Just price it out.

Me: OK, if it’ll shut you up.

So that’s what I did. And the quote was $500. For the entire hallway, upstairs and downstairs.

Now, $500 is good amount of money, don’t get me wrong. But this is a BIG job and skim-coating is one of those things that takes skill and stuff. I was expecting something more like 1-2K, so $500 to have someone come in and do the whole thing in a couple of days AND have it look really good?

I never said I was a role model. I thought it over for like a day and then I was like WHY IN THE WORLD AM I EVEN THINKING ABOUT THIS? YOU’RE HIRED.

Because the thing about skim coating? It’s fucking miserable. Especially if you aren’t good at it, it’s just messy and slow and miserable and dirty and just not fun even a little. Then, since I’m not that good at it, I have to rely on a LOT of sanding to get everything smooth. Which is both tiring and also messy. And the space was so big and then the Mono happened and I was just like”¦UGH. I’d rather do ANYTHING else. Does anyone watch The Leftovers on HBO? A professional skim-coater is basically my personal Wayne. He could take my pain away. I just had to let him and also pay him money.


Just so you don’t think I’m a total pussy, prior to making this decision, I had actually started working on skim-coating the upstairs hallway, and it was going characteristically slowly and miserably. I started with trying to repair areas of the ceiling and this crazy area in the stairwell. I got into this a little bit back when we got into our box gutter catastrophe, but basically this whole wall of the house has bowed out over time, and since this is about the center of the house, the bow is the worst here. About a foot of the plaster at the top of the wall had totally separated from the lath and was just sort of hanging there, and the whole wall sort of coved inward and just looked super funny and wrong. Also, obviously, the main exterior wall has separated a great deal from the perpendicular wall at the top of the stairs, and the whole thing just looked AWESOME and totally not like a crumbly busted up mess at all.


Soooo, I started by using my oscillating tool to cut out fairly large chunks of the plaster (basically cutting out everything that had separated from the lath) and replaced the chunks with 1/2” drywall screwed into the lath and studs where possible. Since the big gap between the two walls wasn’t really big enough for a drywall patch (and there wasn’t really anything to screw into), I did a totally wrong thing and used spray-foam insulation, sort of to insulate but mostly as a rigid backer for my reconstructed corner. When the foam was dry, I used a utility knife to cut it back below the surface, and then constructed the corner using fiberglass mesh tape and joint compound (the 45-minute setting type powered kind).

Whatever, it totally worked. Sometimes you just have to do what works.

Then I had to use more fiberglass mesh and joint compound to try to blend the drywall with the plaster and make the corner look good, and all of this standing on a super high ladder super far above the floor and…ugh. This is what I’m talking about. I did this for hours, and it still looked bad, and needed more work, and it was tiring, and…I just hate skim coating.

So anyway. Handing over the reigns to somebody with more experience and more skill to finish off the mess I’d made just felt so GOOD AND RIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL. So sue me. Take away my DIY merit badges. See if I care.


I don’t even care, because LOOK AT MY WALLLSSSSS.

No seriously, open your goddamn eyes and look at them. They look like real walls. HALLELUJAH.

I know it’s just some joint compound and the walls aren’t even painted and the ceiling still needs some work (I hired him just to do the walls, so I still have some work to finish up there”¦) and the doors and the trim look like mayonnaise now, but MY WALLS LOOK LIKE WALLS!!! That corner above the stairs ended up pretty wonky (not as wonky as the picture makes it look), but whateverrrrr. Old house, don’t care.


Let’s remember what this looked like just a couple weeks ago”¦.


And now!! Words cannot even express, y’all. Not walking into the house and immediately seeing so quite so much craziness is so thrilling.


For those interested in the process”¦I was kind of out of it during this whole event, but I was paying attention somewhat to how things were happening. Basically…

Step 1: All large holes and voids were filled with 1/2 sheetrock, which were screwed to lath or studs. For smaller pieces, he had this special technique of making the piece of sheetrock just the size he needed, then removing the excess rock from the outer edges of the paper, so the paper sort of overlapped the seams. Huh!

Step 2. Despite all of the many holes, these walls were actually in really solid shape with very few large cracks. If I were doing it myself I might have tried embedding large pieces of fiberglass mesh screen at least on parts of the walls, but he just dig out the cracks a little, covered them with fiberglass tape, and skimmed over that. Let’s hope it holds up! Plaster is a fickle mistress and continues to shift and crack over time, so it’s sort of hard to say how this will look in 5-10 years. I hope good.

Step 3. Skim-coating! Interestingly, the pro just used a 6″ knife, a mud pan, and a 10 or 12″ knife for the whole thing—no hawk and trowel nonsense. That’s pretty much exactly what I do”¦he just did it a lot better and faster and had better control over everything. He also mixed his own joint compound using a mixture of pre-mixed all-purpose joint compound, water, and 45-minute setting-type powdered joint compound. I thought that was interesting”¦my guess is that mixing in pre-mixed joint compound gave him a bit longer working time and made the final coating a bit easier to sand. The powdered stuff dries REALLY hard, which is nice, but this is fine too. I’m not complaining.

Step 4. Sanding! Since he had so much control and skill during the application, the sanding wasn’t too terrible. Definitely hard, definitely dusty, definitely took him a few hours, but not terrible.

june2013 august2014 september2014

After over a year of feeling like the progress on this house has been sort of slowwww, all of a sudden it’s feeling pretty fast! I couldn’t resist going back to one of the first photos I ever took of this area and comparing it to today”¦it’s a HUGE difference! Even thought there’s still a very deceptive amount of work to do in this space (even just getting all the moldings ready to be painted is going to be an enormous task! And don’t even get me started on the stairs…), it’s soooo exciting to finally see the house really taking shape into what, I guess, it’s always kind of looked like in my head! I knew she’d clean up nice.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 9.10.14
    Pippa said:

    Wow Daniel! I have some experience of skim coating and I know your pain. I think they might make you skim coat in Hell. Love , love , love the beautiful wallness. How lovely that it’s in your entry and you get to appreciate it (and show it off) every time you open your front door. I think $500 is a bargain.
    That was a looooong post. Now get your arse back to bed and stay there.
    p.s it’s good to see you are as entertaining as ever, despite your illness.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Pippa! I am in bed! Linus is the best for mono. We’re competing over who has less energy.

  2. 9.10.14
    Kelly said:

    What progress ! Looks amazing. Makes me want to start working on my own walls that I’ve been avoiding.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Oof, good luck and stay strong! A little bit of skim-coating really isn’t so bad, it’s just when you start to get into entire spaces and huge patching work and all that that things become sort of nutty and overwhelming. There are still spaces in the house I plan to DIY, so I’ll do some more in-depth coverage then.

  3. 9.10.14
    Heather said:

    Moving that radiator by the stair was SUCH a good idea. Which I’m sure you already know, since it was your idea. Thanks for sharing your process – love seeing this space reborn!

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thank you!! It was such a last minute “what if we”¦” kind of thing, but I’m SO glad it got done”¦it makes a HUGE difference!

  4. 9.10.14
    cate said:

    Wonderful! Hope the speedy recovery of the house and you continues. :)

  5. 9.10.14

    You are an evil genius. But you probably already knew that. Do not for a freaking second feel guilty about the lack of DIY on these tall, messed up walls. You made the right choice and it looks fabulous! Plus think of all the HGTV merit badges you’re earning.

  6. 9.10.14

    I think I’ve commented on this here before, but I have an old house too, and I’m glad you’re embracing the wonky bits rather than obsessing too much about them. Your walls look WONDERFUL and it was the right call to hire out someone to help, especially when you’re sick and when the cost is so worth it. We haven’t had to skim coat anything in our house (although there are probably areas that need it – we have 92-year-old plaster walls), but it doesn’t sound like fun. I think it’s one of those things that is hard to get right, and frustrating to try and do yourself.

    Is it cathartic now to gaze at your walls and feel happy about them? It’s probably even got a medicinal healing effect! ;)

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Oh man, you’re lucky you didn’t have to skim-coat! Luckily now that the hallway is done, I just have to do a little bit in the pantry and three rooms upstairs”¦which maybe isn’t SO bad. The other rooms were already skim-coated yearrrsss ago, and for the most part they’ve held up OK, so it’s more spot and crack repairs than full skim-coating.

      And YES. I totally credit the walls with feeling better, haha! Not having to do it and having it happen so quickly was particularly medicinal. :)

  7. 9.10.14
    debbie in toronto said:

    oh Daniel…it looks fantastic….so fresh ….love, love it.

    step by step it’s going to be fantastic…AND in your lifetime!

    and gotta say Scott McGillivray ….yes our CDN hunk on HGTV…happy to hear you guys also get to enjoy him. He can come over anytime and tackle my basement..just saying.

    keep feeling better…you’ve got a house to work on!

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thank you Debbie! And yes”¦Scott can come over to my house too…I’m pretty sure he’d want to, like, tear out all the walls to “really open things up,” but I guess I’d let him do it if I got to watch.

  8. 9.10.14
    Ali said:

    Amazing transformation! And I am very glad that you didn’t allowed them to drywalled whole hall and landing upstairs as it lose the original and damaging the woodworks around it. Skim coating is the best way to restore damaged walls. Good decision!

    Yay, you’re getting better now :)

  9. 9.10.14

    Holy F*ing COW!!! I can’t imagine how many times you must have done the jumping-up-for-joy-while-squealing-like-a-little-girl dance once this was done!!! Loved your conversation with yourself debating the pros and cons of going DIY with this project. I’m SO with ya. My question is: why the hell aren’t you paying him to do the ceilings, too? Ceilings are AWFUL to work on! And man, that price! That’s got to be the best deal every for skim coating. I’m just in awe. And in love with your whole house.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I don’t even know, Zandra! Because I’m stupid? And stubborn? When I started the upstairs hallway, I actually spent most of my time working on the ceiling, so it actually doesn’t even need *that* much more work. I’m not planning to skim the whole thing”¦just repair the cracks and smooth out old patch jobs and call it a day. (But yeah, I know”¦I live to make things difficult for myself)

  10. 9.10.14
    Kristen said:

    I never noticed the badassness of your newel post until now. Was I blinded by the walls?
    Also, you now need someone to magically and cheaply strip all your trim, cause that task is gonna blow.
    P.S. my view on DIYing is such: If you don’t enjoy it, hire it out. It’s not worth it. Focus on the stuff you do like. Otherwise you will grow to hate the process. You don’t need to do everything.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I think that’s a very healthy attitude, Kristen! And yes, the newel post is one of the things that made me fall in love with the house! It’s amazing to me that it was never painted.

      Oh man, no WAY am I stripping all of my trim!! This trim was always painted anyway, so I’d just be stripping to re-paint. There are definitely some problem areas that are going to need some work (mostly where somebody got a little overly-enthused with caulk), but stripping everything down completely is just WAY too much for me!

    • 9.10.14
      Jen said:

      Hey Daniel, I’m curious. Will you strip the stairs themselves or will you keep those painted as well? Inquiring minds want to know ;).

    • 9.11.14
      Daniel said:

      I go back and forth a lot on the stairs! I think they were originally painted with a runner, which I like the idea of, but runners are sooooooooo expensive and hard to get right, and I don’t like the idea of cleaning one! The budget option would be to just paint the treads dark and call it a day, but what I think I’d really like to do is refinish the treads and probably stain them to match the newel post and banister. Since the house still needs a lot of work and I’m worried the stairs will continue to take kind of a beating, I don’t want to rush into anything! Even though they look pretty lousy.

  11. 9.10.14
    Devyn said:

    Glad you are feeling better!
    Such a great feeling when you can see in reality what you have been able to see in your head for a long time. Skim coating scares me…. When it comes to the entry hall, this being the first impression people get when the first step inside, it makes a lot of sense to let a pro do it, besides the price was definitely right, and you didn’t have to do all the work.

  12. 9.10.14
    Laura C said:

    Wow. Everything is really starting to look amazing. Your house is going to be absolutely gorgeous once you get around to painting. Property Brothers…my friends and I were debating that very topic last weekend. They have to like boys, right? That’s my opinion. I’m sticking to it.

  13. 9.10.14
    Ashley said:

    WOW that looks amazing! As a totally lazy observer these are the most gratifying posts–I seriously get SO EXCITED when I see you’ve posted something, and the title clues me in to a completed project, because your before-and-afters are so beautiful :) I feel so accomplished and all I did was read!
    I kept thinking–nah, hire him out to do the ceilings! I binge watched some Restoration Home (on Youtube) for a while, about Brits doing basically the same thing you’re doing. There are some who don’t do any of the work, but there are a LOT who DIY it and still hire out the trickier bits. I think when you’re doing the best thing for your house in the long-run, your pride shouldn’t really take a hit. Those walls are BEAUTIFUL. I’m so excited to see this house in another year :)

  14. 9.10.14
    Sarah said:

    You don’t deserve to have such nice things.

    Just kidding. Total no brainer to hire it out. It looks AMAZING and it’s DONE.

    Glad you jumped on the DIFM (do-it-for-me) train!

  15. 9.10.14
    Celia said:

    I actually gasped. It looks great.

  16. 9.10.14
    mariane said:

    Wow! The dude is a magician! It really make your newel post the focal point, I had never notice it before, it is soooo pretty! Daniel, I never had mono but on your last post, the comments were quite alarming, you really need to take it easy for a while. Maybe if you stayed in your NY apartment you would be less incline on taking your tools to just do this small job, then judt this one,… Also, does Max have mono as well? Angway, take care, just as much as you take care of your house!

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I know, I’m trying so hard to calm down”¦but there’s just SO MUCH GOING ON. But I’m really trying. I don’t want to have mono forever! Our apartment is actually subletted (we’re trying out being up here full-time and seeing out it goes!) so that’s not really an option, but I can try to pretend. :)

      Luckily, Max has avoided it! I guess it has a pretty long incubation period, so he isn’t in the clear, but we’re both on the older side to get mono so hopefully he already has the antibodies even if he’s never had it.

  17. 9.10.14
    ann said:

    Wow! It looks great!

    How did you handle the area behind the radiator in the foyer? Did you remove the radiator to make the skim coat possible?

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Unfortunately since the radiator was already connected when this happened (and disconnecting and reconnecting radiators more than you really have to is not such a great idea), he just skim-coated around the radiator! I guess when we eventually disconnect it again to have it refinished, I’ll spend a little time smoothing out that area and painting it. No biggie! You can’t really see behind the radiator, so it’s pretty normal for those areas to be neglected in houses”¦it’s just how it is!

  18. 9.10.14
    Laurea said:

    Whoa! look at how the newel post just pops in the space now compared to the 2013 picture! It grounds the space so beautifully.

  19. 9.10.14
    Anne said:

    This is huge progress. Congratulations!

    It’s really gratifying to see this grand old house revived. It’s finally being treated with the care and respect that it deserves!

  20. 9.10.14
    C. said:

    Magnificent! The hallway and entry look like an art gallery, displaying that banister and newell post as a gorgeous wooden sculpture. You must be over the moon. Congratulations.

  21. 9.10.14
    Kate said:

    The answer to one of your question about the Property Brothers:

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Is it an answer, or JUST MORE QUESTIONS?!?! Haha. Thank you!

    • 9.11.14
      Laura C said:

      More questions, for sure.

  22. 9.10.14

    Lord almighty. It looks miraculous!!!

  23. 9.10.14
    zilredloh said:

    Oh it looks so wonderful!!! What great progress and it’s only been a year (ish). Sorry you have Mono, but glad to hear you’re feeling better.

  24. 9.10.14
    Shannon said:

    Looks so freakin good! Walls! Yay! *happy dance*

  25. 9.10.14
    Corey Ann said:

    It’s amazing how much this small change really made the beautiful details in your home pop! Now the gorgeous detailing above the staircase is strutting along with the staircase itself. So pretty – even without paint or primer.

    There is NO SHAME in hiring this step out. My husband (and I… a TINY bit, kind of like the “I helped” kid in the Shake-and-Bake commercials) hired out the drywall/skimcoat on our house when gutting/remodeling and we’re going to do it again as we finish up the two rooms we didn’t touch the last time. There is a lot I’m willing to do to save a coin but mudding, sanding and all that? For the small amount of money they charge, sold. It’s one of the few things we hired out but it was well worth the $900 FOR THE WHOLE HOUSE INCLUDING CEILINGS.

    Hope you are feeling better soon!

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Wow! Now THAT’S a deal!

  26. 9.10.14

    You are hilarious and it looks amazing! I feel soothed just looking at that smooth expanse.

  27. 9.10.14

    “No seriously, open your goddamn eyes and look at them.” That had me laughing. I looked end and they are awesome. Proceed.

  28. 9.10.14
    AnnInSF said:

    Ceilings and cable and walls, oh my! Glad to hear you’re feeling better and as entertaining and informative as ever. But back away from the Property Brothers and nobody will get hurt! They’re mine, all mine! Well, technically I’m old enough to be their mother, but I wouldn’t mind adopting them.

  29. 9.10.14

    SEND ME YOUR SKIM COATERS NAME. I need 5 ceilings done!!!!! And we so don’t want to do them. Thank you and I love your new hallway.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I’ll email you!

  30. 9.10.14
    Susan said:

    WALLS! What a bargain you got at 500 bucks for someone to do all that work!
    So fun to follow along as you give this gem of a house her much needed makeover.
    I bet she’s almost glowing at this point.

    We always name our houses-our last one was The Peony Palace ( someone had planted heaps of them before us; they are my fave flower). Our rental that we are in now is Casa De Feliz ( happy house)

    Does your place have a name/nickname?

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I lovingly call it Gay Gardens!

  31. 9.10.14
    Annie said:

    It looks SO good I could just cry for you. It’s going to be so beautiful when its done!

  32. 9.10.14
    Care said:

    DIY merit badges intact! This looks amazing!
    I know continually walking into a mess like you had there for a while would just make me feel anxious all the time. I can practically feel the serenity from here now :)
    Can’t wait to see what you do with this space next!

  33. 9.10.14
    Rachel said:

    That was $500 well spent! It looks wonderful and it’s so worth it even if it just gives you some extra recovery time. The house is coming along fantastically!

  34. 9.10.14
    Laura said:

    Daniel, your walls look fab! Congratulations. I absolutely love your writing, I laugh at least once in every one of your posts.
    Thank you!

  35. 9.10.14
    Lindsay J said:

    Looks great! It seriously makes my day when I visit your site to find a new post. I’m weird. Whatever.
    Just curious- what are you thinking in terms of crown molding for both the upstairs and downstairs hallway? I realize you don’t have it now and wanted to know if you planned on maybe adding it in the future? You’re so good about keeping the house accurate in the “Greek Revival” style, I’m not sure if adding molding would be appropriate or not. So, I’m just curious. Whatever you decide will be genius, I’m sure. Thanks again for making my day.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Ya’know, I’ve thought a lot about crown molding in this house, and I think we’re going without it! Having taken out three ceilings now and exposed the plaster in the hallway (and a bit of the original wallpaper in the dining room, which went all the way to the ceiling), I’m pretty convinced that this house NEVER had crown molding originally! Many Greek Revivals did, but I think this one is definitely on the more modest, un-fancy end of the spectrum. As nice as I think crown molding can be, I’m actually really glad I don’t have the pressure of trying to find something (and pay for it, yikes!) that would work well here. It’s SO SO hard to find appropriate crown molding for old houses when you’re working with original moldings on doorways and baseboards and windows and stuff”¦it can so easily go bad and just look brand new and added yesterday, you know? So anyway. No crown!

    • 9.11.14
      Lindsay J said:


  36. 9.10.14
    Anna said:

    OMG, get out of here with those walls! What a huge difference for only 500 bucks. Amazing.

  37. 9.10.14
    Anya said:

    A wise DIY’er knows when to hire out and you my friend are a Wise WISE DIY’er! The before and after shots are amazing. I’m wondering if I could lure your Skim-coater/Magician to central Illinois because the quote I got for my bathroom was about $400 and its tiny compared to your space.
    I can’t wait to see the ceilings done, till then I will just drool and admire your walls from a distance.
    Keep up the good work, I’m always so impressed by everything you do.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I’m going to go ahead and guess he won’t travel THAT far, but get a few more quotes! Although I WILL say, I think mine was pretty low and maybe not a good/realistic benchmark. Also, it’s a gamble, but you can also always ask if you can pay hourly instead. This job broke down to about $20/hour, but I have no idea what the normal going rate would be. Like I said, it’s relatively skilled work so it can really only be *so* cheap.

  38. 9.10.14
    Kym said:

    Good lord!!!! AMAZING!!!!

  39. 9.10.14
    Jeanna said:

    It looks awesome, the best $500 you ever spent! Feel better soon :)

  40. 9.10.14
    Andrea said:

    So glad to hear you’re on the mend and your walls are mended! Even you can’t do everything. Glad you hired out, glad your house is starting to look like your vision. And I literally laughed out loud about the Property Brothers. I totally agree but had thought I was the only one!

  41. 9.10.14
    bean said:

    The walls are lovely. Mono is sneaky–do not do too much now that you are feeling better, or it will come back. I will let Mayo Clinic talk for me: “The more rest you get, the sooner you should recover. Returning to your usual schedule too soon can increase the risk of a relapse.”

    Seriously–start your novel (or your non-fiction piece) and stay in lounge mode for a good long while. If you do a page or two a day, you will have it half written about the time you are finally well enough to take on stress. (I think the skim-coat guy should do the ceilings–you can take the pictures and write the blog entry).

  42. 9.10.14
    Sterling said:

    The walls look amazing. Glad you’re not sidelined with mono anymore, either.

  43. 9.10.14
    Sarah said:

    As a girl in skimcoat hell herself, I salute your amazing new walls. I’m working on a 1920s Craftsman with crumbling coved ceilings, and seeing all your hard work at restoring an old home is super inspiring. You’re like the honey badger; don’t care, do what you want, and you know the end result will be amazing even if seems a little crazy up front. Favorite home repair/restore blog out there, perfect blend of practicality, humor, and style. Working on restoring old houses is a labor of love and sheer stubbornness, but it’ll be totally worth it once finished. Feel better soon!

  44. 9.10.14
    Bonnie said:

    You’re even funnier when you’re feverish!

  45. 9.10.14
    Darcy said:

    You know how when a few of your friends have babies and they are so cute and squishy and for a hot minute you go all baby-fever and your brain tells you that you need one in your life? I get that same feeling when I read your blog, with old beautiful house rehab instead of babies. That transformation is just incredible and it is going to be so beautiful.

    Between reading this blog and Anna’s, and the ridiculously cheap, beautiful and in need of saving homes in Newburgh, I might give into that baby-house fever one of these days.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Ha! Be careful”¦once you start looking, you’ll probably end up buying!

      (and hey, Kingston is full of those houses, too!!)

  46. 9.10.14
    Kerrie said:

    It looks so clean and bright – an amazing difference. It suddenly feels like I can see the decorating elements now all the construction is done. Can I ask why there has been a gap left between the ceiling and the top of the front doors? Is that so you can work on the door moldings?
    I have never had stairs but your photos made me wonder how the ground floor ceiling is finished off around the opening for stairs”¦. I’ll have to google :) Hope Linus is taking good care of you, cheers

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Good eye! The verrrrrry small top piece of door molding either never existed or was removed last time the ceiling was replaced (which was ever so slightly lower than this one, since it was done on top of the original lath), so I wanted to leave a little gap so I can try to replicate that little piece of molding and complete it. It shouldn’t be horribly difficult and I think will make things look more finished than they did with the old ceiling, where it looked like the ceiling was covering the top of the molding.

      If I understand your question correctly”¦you can kind of see that curved piece of wood trim with the appliqué details in the fourth photo in the post (the “after” pic of the upstairs hallway), and that’s how the opening is finished off here. The wood molding extends about 1/4-1/2″ below the ceiling, and the ceiling is butted up against it, if that makes sense. It’s different in different houses, though!

  47. 9.10.14
    Lorna said:

    If you want to watch a completely nuts renovation programme you have to see The Block (Australian). What they do in 10 weeks is just crazy! They’re in series 9 now and it’s addictive. This time 5 teams are renovating something silly like a 3 bed, 3 bath apartment with a terrace in 10 weeks. So many home shows, so little time…..

    More recently I had a crushed left foot and spent my time reading lots of blogs. I was bedridden and had bugger all to do so I ended up reading all of your posts about the house. It’s amazingly beautiful. Get well soon .

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Oh! That sounds like the new show Flipping the Block on HGTV. It just finished its first season——it was 4 teams of 2 renovating a 2 bed 1.5 bath in something like 6 weeks”¦it was fun!

      I’m glad my blog helped you get through the crushed foot saga! Hope you’re doing better now!! :)

    • 9.13.14
      Lorna said:

      Ok so I just binge watched Flipping the Block (binge watching is a real term, it was added to the oxford dictionary and so must be true!) and they did a whole room in an episode! The Australians drag it out much more- we’re on episode 40 in week 6. Episode 40!!! And they have 3 judges, on of which is from the equivalent of Elle Decor and he is a fussy bugger.

      Just thought I’d let you know, Mono is a bitch – I’ve had it – and 40+ episodes of home programmes might help ease the pain!

      The foot is much better thanks, although now I’m back at work my binge watching is limited.

      Ps there are some hot Australians on it. All that surfing, sun and beer must be good for them.

  48. 9.10.14
    Kristan said:

    The walls look so good I want to cry. And they aren’t even mine. I always feel awkward when I have people working on the house, even if it’s something I have no idea how to do. Should I be doing something? I feel like I should be doing something. But there’s no need to torment yourself on terrible tasks when you can write a check, support a trade, and have tear-inducing walls.

  49. 9.10.14
    misa said:

    GLORIOUS! the walls look incredible! we just moved into a new house and i hired movers for the first time and it was worth.every.cent. now i want to pay someone else to do everything for me.

    did you watch flip or flop? they have this fascinatingly flat intonation. i can’t stop watching it.

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      HAHAHAHA, I have totally watched too much of that show! I hate it!!! That awful guy! That awful lady! Their awful taste! Their awful granite! (but I’ll watch anything, so like if it’s on, count me in!)

    • 9.10.14
      misa said:

      and their eyes! their eyes are so dead!

    • 9.10.14
      Daniel said:

      yes! hahaha. I’m so glad I’m not alone.

    • 9.12.14
      TinaF said:

      Their bratty kid! Who is this Grandma who is always conveniently available to take the kid? Except when she’s not, and the kid is climbing over drywall piles?

      Also can’t stop watching.

  50. 9.10.14
    karin said:

    Daniel, your house is starting to glow! It’s so beautiful! It’s a lot of fun to watch this unfolding.
    Feel better soon!
    I love the newel post, too, and the upstairs hallway has a new glow/stillness that is very pretty. Love the trim around the doors.


  51. 9.10.14
    Harper said:

    DAMN. Those are some sexy walls. They look awesome! And I would never even noticed the wonky corner if you hadn’t pointed it out. :)

  52. 9.10.14
    Lindsay said:

    Looks awesome……..can’t believe how much you’ve gotten done in such a short time!
    Now for my HGTV commentary: John Gidding, Curb Appeal The Block…..hubba hubba.
    I don’t care if he’s gay, I just gaze into his dreamy doe eyes and stroke his glossy hair (while he
    re-designs my yard!)

  53. 9.10.14
    LD said:

    Another check off the list. Roof, garden, walls. Home!!!

    Glad you are feeling better.

  54. 9.10.14
    Sasha said:

    I just hollered ‘DANIEL AND MAX HAVE WALLS!!!!’ – and my other half didn’t quite understand why that was so exciting. Walls AND ceilings?! That’s pretty friggin great. Are you doing that thing where you find excuses to wander into the hallway just so you can admire it?

  55. 9.11.14
    Steph N said:

    So nice. Definitely worth the money on that nonsense.
    Glad you’re feeling better!

  56. 9.11.14
    kathyg said:

    Agree about flip or flop…and all that whining drives me crazy.
    I gasped too, I knew it would all come together at once (been through a few reno myself) but this fast-forward is spec-@#%#-tacular! Moving the radiator really opened it up! Agree with others, i never even noticed that beautiful post before…now its a star. And I will bet it will function better for keeping house warmer too. Is priming/painting next? And IYDMMA, what is that door at end if hall- kitchen? Any plans to just remove it?

    • 9.11.14
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Kathy!

      The door at the very end of the hall with the painted-over transom is actually the first floor bathroom (it originally led outdoors, and then I think later to a very small covered porch—the bathroom was put in in the 30s)! The door to the right of it is the door to the dining room. Obviously removing the bathroom door isn’t an option (ha!), but I actually really like that all of our doorways in our house have their doors! I think they’re pretty (and pretty remarkable that they’ve made it 150 years without being removed!), and it’s actually really functional to be able to close off rooms to contain the dogs, keep demo dust out, help heat various areas up in the winter, etc. So I think the doors stay! :)

  57. 9.11.14
    Stephanie said:

    It’s amazing what almost-finished walls does to the space. I’m excited for you!
    I totally empathize with your hiring-out shame. We had an electrician come move some stuff around in our bathroom remodel, which has been about 95% DIY, and the whole time he was here I felt like some snobby brat lounging on the couch surfing the web while he worked. So I baked him some pork buns?
    Here’s a tip that might make your future skim-coat endeavors less dusty. We just hung some drywall and I gotta say, the smartest thing I did was get a shopvac adapter for my orbital sander, hook up the shopvac, stick some earplugs in, and go to town on that drywall compound. SOOOO much faster and hardly any dust!
    Can’t wait to see more progress from you :)

  58. 9.11.14
    Megan said:

    OMG wow, it looks amazing! I think it looks amazing even unfinished! Before it just looked like some hot mess but now it looks sophisticated and like a true architectural work of art. These transformations are amazing, I can’t wait to see more!

  59. 9.11.14
    Charlene said:

    Holy Smokes! It looks amazing! I’m glad you’re feeling better.
    On another (related) note, I read an article on design and personality types and how introverts hate open concept living areas. My kitchen area will remain hidden. I don’t want to look at a messy kitchen while I’m trying to enjoy my dinner.
    A Canadian introverted fan.

  60. 9.11.14
    AnnW said:

    Would you Please let us all chip in $5 or $10 to hire this skim coater to go crazy in your house? We don’t want you to start working again and sink into a miasma and then get sick again. Please, let us help you. View it as a subscription fee. We get more entertainment from you than we get from Netflix! Really. Take it easy, please. Ann

  61. 9.11.14

    Hey Dude! This looks so awesome! I am so happy, and excited for you. Seeing that before and after photo of the front hallway really illustrates how far you have come over the last year (and a few months). I’m selfishly excited to see what you start doing with all of your spaces now that you have walls, and ceilings, and plumbing, and heating, and electrical all done up so nice.

    Question: I have a stairway similar to yours. I see in the stairway-progress-photo that you tilt your ladder from below to get at the high corner, but how do you reach the stuff in between the top of your staircase and that corner with your ladder? Do you tilt your ladder 45º and lean it against the other wall, in that case do you need a special ladder extension to make your ladder level on the stair treads? Maybe you are some sort awesome monkey man who can just hang himself out over the stairway with a bunch of joint compound and a putty knife in one hand while your other hand hangs on to the ladder. Maybe you never got this far and just had your sweet skim coat dude do that hard ladder stuff. Just wondering if there is some sneaky trick to it?

    That’s all, keep feeling better!

    • 9.17.14
      Daniel said:

      Hey Alison! Thanks, friend!

      I have one of those ladders where both sides adjust independently (like the Little Giant, but different brand), so I can use it on the stairs by setting one side higher than the other. So the short side goes on a higher step, and the long side goes on a lower step. I don’t know why this is hard to explain, haha. Does that make sense?

    • 9.18.14

      Totally makes sense! I need to get one of these cool ladders. Thanks for letting me know your trick – I had no idea this was a thing!

  62. 9.12.14
    Luna said:

    That mad ‘me’ monologue was some of your best work ever. As always, you brighten my day. Walls look fantastic!

  63. 9.12.14
    Ileana said:

    All I can say is: Wow.

  64. 9.12.14
    Luca said:

    Daniel, this looks incredible. I am so enjoying seeing your house take shape! If you haven’t already seen it, you *gotta* watch Rehab Addict. It’s the best house makeover show on TV!

    • 9.12.14
      Daniel said:

      Rehab Addict is my fave! I wrote half a post about it once!

  65. 9.12.14

    I vote for Rehab Addict also, that show is in impeccably good taste. I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling improved, and that the house matches your health at this stage. Plaster is such a pain to work with, and you’re brave to have gone the way you did. I’d have pulled out all the lath and broken out the plaster, and put up drywall against the bare studs, but it would have taken a lot of the restoration part out of a beautiful old home. Great work, whether it was your own or paid for, your ideas drove it and it’s clear to see how this place is going to be a palace.

  66. 9.13.14

    So if your skim coating was Wayne, that makes me Tom (the son), unwilling to accept the hug from Wayne to take his pain away. I am very happy to know that:

    1. Other people are watching the show because it really needs to keep going, but not turn into a terrible show like Lost did.
    2. The pros don’t mess with the hawk and just use a knife and trowel, as that’s what I’ve taken to.
    3. And that a pro is using some of the ready mix compound with other stuff mixed in. I feared I had made a major mistake in some areas. Now I tend to use the setting type stuff in bathroom/high moisture areas and possible high traffic tight areas, but still the ready mix elsewhere, especially ceilings.

    So now that you’ve done some of your own skim coating, and then lost your merit badge by hiring it out, do you have the same feeling when you sit there and look at the finished product? Mixture of relief, pride, excitement, and dread of the next steps?

    • 9.17.14
      Daniel said:

      1. Me too! I wasn’t really so interested in it the first few episodes, but I think it really picked up toward the end of the season. I’m into it!
      2. Me too! I tried the hawk and trowel and it felt completely impossible. I’m convinced it’s witchcraft?
      3. Me too! Every time I used ready-mix I felt like I was cheating and doing something terrible and wrong, but it’s a nice luxury sometimes. Easier to work with, easier to sand”¦I just hate the dry time!!

      You know, it really is a totally different feeling. I’m glad I hired it out because I know I actually don’t like skim-coating at all, and because he did it quickly, and the results are good, and all that”¦but I guess I’m more indifferent about the walls since I didn’t personally do them, you know? If I *had* gone DIY, I know I would have been, like, FOREVER PROUD AND AMAZED THAT I DID THAT, but instead I just feel sort of relieved that it’s done. I don’t know. Both are good feelings, I guess, but I do sort of feel a tinge of weird guilt and weirdness about the whole thing.

  67. 9.13.14
    Billy said:

    you are such a beast.

  68. 9.14.14
    Heather said:

    You cuss far to much! Your walls look Beautiful!!! Love watching someone w/ talent do any skill. It is almost beautiful!! A hair cut, a painter, a subway sandwich artist…beauty I tell ya!

  69. 9.17.14
    Melissa said:

    I have my fingers crossed that your temporary booger factory status isn’t a result of all the hazmat work you did on your fab front door. You are doing an amazing job, and I love your blog. Big hugs to you, your man and the pups. Get better soon!

    • 9.17.14
      Daniel said:

      Ha! I don’t think you can get Mono from lead exposure! :)

  70. 9.17.14
    Monika said:

    Nothing like getting a pro to do some dirty work. Sometimes you just have to step back, get in bed and hand off the project to someone else. And then enjoy the results while petting something furry that gives off comfort every time you touch it. The walls are , indeed, lovely.

  71. 9.19.14
    Janna said:

    Hey! I think we have twin banisters! We got rid of all our plaster….it wasn’t worth saving, but still soooo much work! Love seeing your progress!

    • 9.20.14
      Daniel said:

      Holy Guacamole, your stairs!! They are VERY similar, yes! You did an epic job restoring all of that”¦wow wow wow! And seeing that you successfully removed the sides of the treads, the spindles, and got it all back in place and looking perfect gives me hope! Our stairs need pretty much the same treatment, although I’m considering staining/sealing the treads instead of paint. But we’ll see! Love how the black treads look in your place. WOW!