It’s 2017! I’m a sucker for a new year. In spite of a long-held suspicion that compiling a list of new year’s resolutions is just another way to feel like a failure down the line, I totally do it anyway. I’ve already been successful about remembering to take my anti-depressants everyday and—unpleasant as it may be—have managed to use my Neti Pot* several times, so MAYBE THIS COULD BE THE YEAR?! Not to put the cart before the horse or anything. But I do think/hope/pray that this is a year where intentions will manifest as actions followed by results, and loose ends on a lot of things get wrapped up. I EXPECT this to be the year when large swaths of my house really start coming together, which could not be coming soon enough. I’m sure you’re about as tired of reading about demo and destruction as I am of writing about it. Can we just make stuff pretty again?
*as a chronic allergy-sufferer who’s constantly stuffed-up, it really does seem to make a big difference. I have this one which I like a little better than the more traditional teapot-style ones.
I’d hoped to have my bedroom put back together by the new year, but…well, it didn’t come to pass. I’m trying! If there’s one thing I’ve learned about renovating my house, it’s that it’s good to have goals but bad to get too tied up in super-specific deadlines. I find that if I look at things in much smaller chunks (painting a wall vs. finishing an entire room, that kind of thing), it helps me feel better about the progress I am making rather than deflated about not being able to hasten the process. The process is always so much simpler in your head than when you really get into it!
Where we left off, I’d installed a fourth bedroom window, insulated the exterior wall, patched in some flooring, and cased out the new window in an attempt to make it match the three original ones. Just that was a lot of work! Aside from getting Edwin’s help with framing/installing the new window, I’m tackling this room 100% solo which of course means slow going.
I touched on it in the last post, but I thought a lot about how to redo the wall that got gutted with the window installation, and this is what I came up with: install two layers of 1/2″ drywall—one on top of the other—tape and mud the seams, and then skim-coat everything. In the past when I’ve had to replace plaster and lath with new drywall, I’ve furred out the wall framing so that the 1/2″ drywall would match the roughly 1″ depth of the original plaster and lath. This has worked out just fine, but I wanted to see if I could get closer to the tactile experience of the original plaster by doubling up the thickness of the sheetrock. If you’ve lived in a house with plaster walls, you might know what I mean. A plastered room looks a bit different than a typical drywalled one, since plaster carries a certain amount of imperfection inherent in anything that’s hand-applied rather than machine-made like drywall is, but it feels different, too. Sound travels differently and reverberates less in a plastered room (and perhaps especially between rooms), and I think that solid quality is part of what makes living in an old house feel different than newer construction.
ANYWAY. Somebody kindly pointed out in the comments that evidently double-boarding wall and ceiling surfaces is super common and often required in much of Europe, and a bit of research seems to indicate that it’s also fairly common practice in the States, although I think more for commercial applications. I thought I was being so inventive and smart! Way to take the wind outta my sails. But if it’s good enough for Europe, it’s good enough for me. They do all kinds of things better there.
So in the picture above I have the first layer of sheetrock up (I used scraps for the first layer, so that’s why there are so many seams), and the second one with full-size sheets went up a day or two later. I used fiberglass mesh tape to tape the seams of the second layer, mudded the seams with joint compound, let that dry, and then came back to apply a thin layer of joint compound over the entire wall to try to mimic the ever-so-slight undulations and imperfections of a real plaster wall. I typically use powdered joint compound with a 90-minute set time because it allows for a working time that I’m comfy with but dries much faster than the pre-mixed all-purpose joint compound you’d buy in the bucket. Then I knocked down bumps and ridges, skim-coated again, then again, then sanded everything.
This sounds so easy and nice when I’m sitting here typing it, but good lord I hate skim-coating. It’s messy, it’s dusty, it’s a lot of work, and I find that it’s difficult to get the kind of results I want even after several applications and a ton of sanding.
One thing I’ve found a little helpful is throwing a tiny bit of dark paint into the joint compound mix for final patching after your last full skim-coat and sanding. It’s really hard to spot imperfections when everything is that chalky white color and texture, so this way you can see exactly where you need to go back and do a final sanding before you paint. This room had the new drywall, two walls of plaster in very good condition, and one wall (the one to the left in the photo above) of plaster in pretty poor condition, so each received a different level of attention and amount of taping/patching.
Unfortunately I didn’t give it a ton of serious thought until after I was well into the skim-coating process, but next time I’ve resolved to nix the joint compound altogether and try my hand at using hydrated lime plaster. Hydrated lime is very different in a number of ways from gypsum powder-based joint compound (or even gypsum plaster veneer), but it actually sounds like a pretty approachable DIY, it’s better and more authentic for the house, there’s NO SANDING(!!), and it’s sooooo beautiful. Also—real plaster! How badass! The very friendly folks at Master of Plaster based out of South Carolina have been giving me a real education and I’m so excited to give it a try!
But back in the land of joint compound, by this point my walls were looking insane so I was super duper excited to finally break out some paint! I started with two fresh coats on the ceiling, and MY WORD what a difference!
To manage my anxiety, I’m thinking about this as sort of a Phase 1 renovation of this room, because there are two major things about it that I just didn’t have the heart to address right at this moment: the ceiling, and the missing mantel. See where that electrical outlet is in the photo above? The original chimney is behind that, and it appears that originally there was some sort of mantel on this wall. You can kind of see how the baseboard is patched in. This is directly above where I added a fake mantel in my living room to replace the missing original one. I toyed with doing something similar in here, but decided to wait and do it down the road since it’s not as though there isn’t enough to do without adding that into the equation.
As for the ceiling, it’s old drywall over furring strips that are nailed into the original plaster and lath, and it’s in kinda lousy shape. This was done when drywall was nailed up rather than screwed, and I guess the previous owner decided the solution for popping nail heads was to smear a bunch of caulk or something over each individual nail head. It’s not particularly noticeable unless the light is hitting a certain way, but it’s annoying enough that it’s something I’d eventually like to address. Of course, this could be as simple as giving the ceiling a nice skim-coat or new thin layer of sheetrock, but my version of addressing this problem will most likely involve removing all the drywall and the furring strips and either trying to repair or replacing the plaster, so I can get that stupid 2-ish extra inches of ceiling height back.
This is why this house will never be done. Ever.
ALL of this to say that 2 fresh coats of flat ceiling paint (I think it was semi-gloss before, which is almost always a horrible idea with a drywall ceiling, but maybe the worst idea when it comes to one in bad shape) made an enormous difference and I can survive and maybe even thrive with that ceiling a while longer. I even think I’m going to add a medallion because the cost and effort is so minimal and it’ll make the room immediately more complete, even if I don’t think of the ceiling as permanent. Also I already ordered it.
Once the ceiling was done, it was time to start on the walls!
WOAH WOAH WOAH! Do not adjust your monitors or call the police: that paint isn’t white! I’m a loose cannon in 2017. Also I think my style is getting progressively more traditional and I just don’t know how it’s all going to play out so bear with me while I navigate these confusing new waters.
For real though, I’m psyched about this color! I know it might look like kind of a non-color, but I swearrrrr it’s not just grey. It’s called Oil Cloth by Benjamin Moore, and it’s one of those delicious blue-green-grey colors that changes all day and probably looks completely different in every space and light. At least here, it definitely reads more as green than blue, but it never looks sage or mint or something like that. If this room ends up being ugly, it’s because I didn’t know what to do with this color, not because the color is bad. It’s so, so nice.
When I took this photo I was hoping you’d be able to get a sense of how this new double-boarded and skim-coated drywall ended up looking, but I don’t think it’s really accomplishing that. Well anyway. It looks really good. I don’t think you’d ever be able to point out that it’s a new wall of drywall.
Oh right, where’s the window? Somewhere in there I decided there was no time like the present to begin restoring my original windows, so these two sashes were my first victims!
Restoring old windows is a whollleeeee process that I want to get better at before I attempt assembling my own tutorial, but here’s a fun and exciting progress shot! I used one of those fast-acting paint strippers and immediately hated myself for it. It all worked out fine, but those quick strippers are always such a gloopy mess! I find that they take so many applications and time spent cleaning and picking away at old layers that they end up being one of the most time-consuming ways to strip paint rather than the speed and efficiency promised on the can.
This window only needed two panes replaced, and I opted to just do spot-repairs to the existing glazing putty on the others rather than removing ALL of the paint and putty and all of the glass and truly refurbishing everything. The old glazing is mostly in solid and stable condition (even if it isn’t the neatest glazing job), and with a couple new coats of paint I’m hopeful it’ll last for many more years. I used Rust-Oleum’s oil-based High Performance Protective Enamel for the exterior of the sashes, but I think in the future I’m going to try an exterior latex enamel because the oil-based took forever to dry and made the entire process take so much longer.
Aside from tacking the stop back onto the jamb and installing a new sash lock, check it! One down, only 30-something to go! This is the first window in the whole house that I’ve done a full restoration on, so it’s pretty exciting. I think the ultimate goal is to be able to remove the unsightly and inefficient exterior storms altogether in favor of some fancy custom-fitted Indow Windows, but in the meantime the exterior storms do an OK job of protecting the sashes that are in need of repairs until I can get to them.
Now that the walls are painted, I’m a lot closer to having a completed room! I threw up a little trim paint on this little section of molding just to see how the two colors would look together (the trim is BM Simply White), so if you only look at this little section it looks like the room is done, ha! Preparing all the moldings for paint is a big job—even though I don’t strip the paint, I do try to smooth out any lumpy and bumpy areas, scrape out old poorly-applied caulk, fill holes and cracks, and give everything a thorough cleaning before breaking out the paintbrush at all. Look at that molding, though! So worth it.
So I didn’t make New Years, but maybe I can be sleeping in here again by the end of the month? It’s so exciting to be at the point of thinking about furniture and rugs and art and light fixtures, finally!