Sunday, January 20, 2008
When last we discussed The Nursery, it looked more or less like this. Then I started scraping and sanding drywall. And scraping. Then sanding. Then putting up more mud, since I'd ruined it . . . . and then scraping, and sanding, and quitting, and wishing I'd never started. Drywall finishing is an art, and I'm not the artistic type. If I can't construct a jig or use a straightedge to make it happen, it'll probably look like I was drinking when I made it. Finally, I just decided that the perfect was the enemy of the good and set out to do it all one more time and then paint no matter what it looked like. Of course, what some of you old hands already knew is that you can't judge the wall by what it looks like without paint or trim, which leads us to the current photos:
This is what the north wall looks like now. The window turned out better than I expected. If you look very closely, you can see that the window is not quite aligned with the trim work. I can see it much more clearly in real life, but no one else has commented on it yet. The choice was between making the window work in the opening or making everything square, and I went with function. Then the choice was whether to skew the trim the same way to hide it, but it seemed simpler to make the trim level and get over it, so I did. The corners aren't perfectly straight, either, and never would have been, so rather than give up on having multicolored walls, I moved the transition two inches or so to the right in each corner. That let me use a laser plumb to make them just right, and you have to look closely to see that the corners aren't square since both sides are the same color. All in all, not bad. My grandpa taught me long ago that the difference between a professional and an amateur is that the professional knows how to hide mistakes. Grandpa was a pipefitter by trade, so that might not have been the healthiest attitude for him to have, but it's working for me so far.
Here's the floor, which also exceeding expectations. Way to be, floor! Most rooms in the house started life with really nice hardwood floors, but were covered with cheap carpet at some point. Then, as nearly as we can tell, farm animals were introduced into the house and allowed to lay claim to various portions of the home by urinating and defecating on that carpet. But there are few problems that can't be solved by careful and responsible applications of overkill, so one giant sander later, this is the result. There's actually some patchwork against the far wall, but it blended well and is hard to see in the photo. All these rooms originally had plaster-on-lath walls, which we tore out because A) they were sagging and breaking down in places, and you need to be an artist to repair them, and B) we needed to rewire totally in every room, so we figured we might as well go back to bare studs. Plaster-on-lath involves laying thin wooden lath across the studs, then slathering on layers of plaster "mud" over the framework until a smooth, uniform surface results. This means the walls are thick--tear it out, and your flooring might end two inches out from the studs, so if you just throw 1/2-inch drywall and trim up there, you have a gap. It also means nobody cared much about how square the fronts of the studs were, because they were going to slather an inch or more of plaster on top of them and smooth the plaster. That means that if you just hang drywall on the studs the way you would in a modern house, it will resemble a skate park seen from above. Some spots will be flat, others will gently undulate like the soft green hills of Dear Old Eire, and some may resemble nothing so much as a series of cliffs and ramps.
The upside is that I expect the next few rooms to be a lot easier to finish now that I've done this one.
Here you can see the pocket door peeking out of its pocket. The room really is as small as it looks above, and you can see that the hallway is not huge--it might be 40 inches wide. The pocket doors make this possible. That door is going to be painted blue this morning to contrast better with the green wall--too much of that green is overwhelming.
You can also see the back of some of that plaster-and-lath I talked about above. It's supposed to look that sloppy from behind; the first layer of mud is slathered on and allowed to ooze through the slats to "key" it--that locked it to the wall and made the whole thing pretty solid. The bricks are the chimney that runs through the center of the house. We had high hopes that there could be a fireplace on the ground floor, but it turns out the chimney was built purely for coal. I've been told that when this house was built, it was considered a sign of class to heat one's house exclusively with coal and not wood fires. Anyway, there's no fireplace at the bottom and the unlined chimney is disintegrating on us. This spring we'll install high-efficiency furnace and water heater and then start removing the chimney. That will give us more space in two rooms and a hallway, plus allow us to seal the last opening in our roof. With the bathrooms venting into the attic space with newfangled valves, the roof should last a long time.
And stepping out and to our left, we can see what's NOT done. :) This bathroom is next, followed by the back bedroom you can see through the doorway in the picture on the left. When those two projects are done, every member of the family will have his own bedroom within a few steps of a full bath. Life will be significantly less crazy . . . I think.