Hard Day's Work

Some highlights from our long day of work today. For those house bloggers considering having a work party: do it. The usual situation would be getting about a quarter of this work done and spending a month nursing achy joints. Instead we got most of the work we planned on done and with less effort on our parts than usual. If what it takes for me to do this much work is a few more days of making homemade pizza and cookies, sign me up.

And much thanks and love to all our friends who showed up and helped out. Bob, Charlotte, Elaine, Gene, Gina, Haldis, Jim, and Richard, you are all awesome and wonderful people.

We started somewhat slowly, but attacked some obvious locations straight off. First, Gene and Richard made the most amazing dust lock door into the kitchen and sealed off the parlours and the hall closet with tape and paper. Gene thoughtfully sealed the dining room heat vent with plastic, saving us a painful lesson on duct cleaning.

In the hallway, somebody started taking down some patched drywall and noted that it had been taped in place with duct tape. Not the nastiest use of the stuff in the house (which would go to "leaky toilet drain repair," not to be discussed in poltie company), but not cheering, if you know what I mean.

Duct tape used as drywall tape

Shortly thereafter, we found the first of three desiccated dead mice that would eventually come out of the ceilings.

Dead mouse #1

Our ceilings below the attic are like historical pinatas. This is one of many items to come tumbling out as we pulled down sheets of drywall.

Home permanent kit

Here we have Gene pulling down the ceiling in the dining room, which he did pretty much single-handedly. I'm used to running cleanup on that sort of situation, but this time we were able to run cleanup, solve problems, make lunch, and make decisions while actual work got done. It is such a relief to be able to just make things happen for once.

Also: the awesome pink hard hat? Our "souvenir" of the day (one comment on the pink woodwork: "You really can't appreciate how pink it is in the photographs"; same deal for the hard hats).

Ceiling coming down

Before lunch, we had taken down the drywall ceilings and were contemplating a future that involved a lot of plaster repair. Also, take a look above Jim's head here: that's an arch hidden in the dropped ceiling. You'll see it better in a moment.

Hallway ceiling removed

Removing the framing for the dropped ceilings took longer. We ended up spending a lot of time wrestling with the wood that the previous owners nailed up and trying not to totally mess up the existing plaster. It worked better in some cases than others.

Dining room work

The most amazing part of having a bunch of people over to work was having everything get cleaned up fast. Even somebody who showed up for only a portion of the day or was able to only do a small amount of work could help with cleanup, and the very best part about this work party was that at the end of the day, we had a relatively clean space, rather than a ridiculous amount of work to do.

View to the front of the house

People spent their time going back and forth between tearing stuff down and removing wallpaper. This was pretty cool. We need to remove all the wallpaper, eventually, so any work that got done was a bonus.

Hallway ceiling

Two terrifying discoveries: asbestos paper insulation in the cavity for the old gas heater in the dining room (this is an "encapsulated" application and low-danger to the household), and the mustard paint in the dining room (a reminder of how even somebody as happy about colour as myself can be pretty timid about the bolder hues).

Old gas heater location

Also. Consider a room entirely pink. With pink molding. Just take a moment and contemplate that.

Uncovering the layers of paint on the walls was fascinating.

Many colours of paint

After lunch we took down the upstairs ceiling in the hall. Our neighbor Richard climbed up into the dropped rafters and knocked down the drywall. I'm going to use this photo to blackmail him should he ever get rich and famous.

Upper hall ceiling

A more clear photo of that hidden archway in the lower hall. They took out the corbels and the side moldings, but seeing this explains a lot about how the back of the hallway is arranged.

Hidden archway

I swear we didn't give Richard any kind of drugs or excessive alcohol before we let him climb this ladder arrangement over the stairwell. He was removing the framing from the dropped ceiling. Since I have discovered in my old age a startling nervousness about heights, this was very welcome.

Richard is a crazy man

Old friend Bob took his mystery tool (purchased for $5 at a yard sale) and knocked the top of the old chimney chase from the dining room out. Plaster and lath flew everywhere.

Knocking out the chimney chase

Noel got up and carefully disconnected the lamp wiring from the remains of the medallion. We're still trying to locate the guy who restores these.

Removing wiring from the medallion

As we ended the day's work, here's our dining room bay:

Dining room window, opened up

And one weird item that came out of the dining room ceiling: an empty can. It felt empty when we moved it around, so we opened it.

Is trhis can actually empty?

And yes, it was empty. Why it was in our ceiling, and why it was empty? Unknown.

It's an empty can

And finally, the panorama, wallpaper removal in progress. We have a promise to provide assistance with removing wallpaper over the next couple weeks. And in that time we also need to decide whether we are going to try to repair or just replace the plaster on the ceiling of the dining room. There is significant water damage there, and it may not work to try to fix it.

Dining room in process

All in all, a long day of work but a really great one. Much thanks to everybody who came and helped out, and we're sure to try this again when we have our next big project. It's easy to forget, working on the house, how much fun it can be to show up for only one day of work. We tend to see the long, terrible slog ahead rather than how much fun it is to tear things apart in the short term. In the end we filled a dumpster and had a pretty good day. And I still have two pizza's worth of dough in the fridge.

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posted by ayse on 03/28/09


Pink hard hats and pizza...perfect.

Those arches are lovely.

The rooms have better proportions with the drop ceilings removed.

Is that pink line, that appears to be 24 inches down from the ceiling, picture rail molding?

Looks great and it's not demo unless a few dead animal carcasses are found.

So did they park the lowered ceiling on an existing picture rail, or did they just pick a line and then stick molding on afterwards?

It looks totally awesome, by the way - I'm glad the day went so well! And I loved your line about the "historical pinata" that is your ceiling.

p.s. did my comment the other day about what makes red paint not cover, with a link in it, get eaten by the aether?

Jessamyn, the picture rail looks to be original. It's got gold leaf on it, too, which should make stripping the layers of paint off it not impossible.

As for you comment, I never saw it. It just dug through the spam trap thinking it might have gotten stuck in there, but couldn't find it. I'd love it if you'd repost.

Jan, that pink line is indeed picture rail (or a molding somewhat like it; I haven't gone up and checked it out to see if it could really hold pictures or not). And it's surprising how much more right the rooms feel now. Especially the dining room, which has transformed from a room that felt just too wide to a really nicely proportioned space.

Apparently, there are two problems with red paint (and a couple of other specific tones). One is that cheaper paints use red pigments with poor opacity. The other, and bigger, issue is that it takes a much larger percentage of pigment to the base paint to create red paint than other colors - and the base paint is what's actually providing most of the coverage. Essentially, you have to use so much red pigment, it actually thins your paint!

More details on pigment:base percentages in red paint here: http://www.how-to-faux-finish.com/red-paint-tips.html

I had a blast, and enjoyed meeting everyone (woof out to Rosie and Goldie!) Getting to do demo work and having other people do a lot of the clean up? That's fun in my book :-) The pizzas (and cookies) were awesome.

The trim isn't big enough for a picture rail, but it's got some lovely details that are visible when you get down to the gold leaf. There's a ton of paint (pink, of course) on top of it, that probably helped protect it over the years. Besides the dark faux wood paneling and the brighter-than-Pepto pink trim, the real crime was the little support that they the POs who'd lowered the ceilings destroyed part of the plaster ceiling medallion to install. It would have made no difference in strength (the rest was sketchy enough) if they put it two inches over and missed the medallion, but no. Arrgh!

Let me know how the drywall sanding sponge works. I've only used a regular sponge before, but it's way better than dry sanding and the dust that gets everywhere.

You have some awesome friends!

The mystery tool is an ice chopper. For chopping the ice off your sidewalk or driveway, should you happen to live where such a thing occurs.

Oh Noooooooooo please don't tell me you opened the can!!!!!!!! Noooooooooo not the cannnnnnn....

That can held the trapped soul of the evil muse that convinced the previous owners that rooms all painted pink and mustard yellow were a good thing. Now its free to wreak havoc with your sensibilites....

Feeling the urge to paint the place chartruse with magenta trim???

Blame the muse.

Lavender walls with orange poka-dots sounding good?

Blame the muse...

Daniel, I think it was actually the angry spirit of the architect who designed the house, bottled up by the previous owners to keep him from haunting them after they painted the woodwork pink.

"Whooooooo painted my hoooooouse piiiiiiink? Whoooooo? Whoooooo?"

They finally had a secret ceremony and canned him up so they could sleep at night.

oh my so so beautiful, I cant imagine why anyone would cover up the arch or the ceiling medallion, all i can say is wow and wow amazing house

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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