Sunday, September 03, 2006

Thinking Ahead

Even though I am months away from finishing my current little project - painting the house - I’m already formulating ideas about the next little project. I think after I finish this next project I may actually try and gain some of my life back. This house has just dominated my life for 4 years now. If I can keep it up for one more year I think I can then sit back and relax a little. There will be plenty of work still to do, but I can take it in smaller chunks and not have it be so all consuming.

The next little project will be most of the downstairs of the house. Right now I use the front parlor as my living space. The dining room is largely empty, and the back parlor is sort of used as the dining room. I really only use it for dining when I have guest over for dinner, which isn’t that often. The last room is the foyer, which I’ll include the front stairs as part of that room. Of course, I use the foyer all the time coming and going from the house. The plan is to do all of these rooms as one large project. Because they all adjoin each other I think it’s the way to go to try and limit the amount of dirt and dust. Rather than try and finish one room and then isolate it from others, I’ll just do everything at once.

No doubt, this will be a huge project, but a lot of the grunt work has been done. All of these rooms have been stripped of old wallpaper and flooring. The dining room has been stripped of paint. The foyer was never painted, but the woodwork, especially the stairs, needs a lot of work. The parlors have 5 large windows and one small window that needs to be stripped, but because of the modifications in the 1920s, and some butchering during the 70s, I had to have all the door casing, corner blocks, and plinth blocks re-milled. All of that is brand new, sitting upstairs under plastic. The baseboards also need to be stripped. It sounds like a lot, but really, if you take all the woodwork in the 4 rooms, I would say about 80% does not need to be stripped. The electrical has all been upgraded as well, and all the lighting and plaster medallions are also sitting upstairs waiting for installation. Any doors there are, have mostly been dealt with already.

There will be a zillion small jobs that will consume months of time. There are always going to be a lot of little things that will consume time but not a lot of money. If I look at just at the big jobs that will really be labor and money intensive, I’m left with the list below.

Strip the last of the paint & refinish woodwork
Rebuild the dining room cabinets
Repair Plaster
Refinish floors

Refinishing the floors doesn’t sound like a big job compared to the rest, but the parlors have been painted around the perimeters and I’m not sure how bad it’s going to be to get off. I’m thinking about renting a floor sander and see if I can grind as much of it off as I can. What ever way I do it, it’s a lot of floor space and it’s going to be a big job. Also, the dining room has a tinted shellac around the perimeter and there are a few boards that need to be replaced in there. The foyer floors are bare wood and in good shape. The stairs treads have been dealt with.

Stripping the last of the paint from the parlors is going to take several weeks. I honestly don’t know what the original finish was in these rooms. The foyer and dining room were shellacked, and one could assume the parlors were as well, but you know what that say about assuming things. If they were originally painted I will strip them anyway to get the Jackson Pollock like paint drips and drizzles off the wood and regain some definition.

Rebuilding the cabinets in the dining room will really take a lot of time and be the most costly. I’m not going to be painting these cabinets, so I won’t be able to hide my mistakes behind paint and putty. I want to make them out of curly and burl redwood and prices I’ve been getting range from $15 to $26 a board foot. I still have hope that my fantasy will come true and Norm is going to come to my rescue like a knight in shining plaid armor and help me build these things. Fingers crossed.

Of course, the 800 pound gorilla on the list is the plaster repair. I’m batting about 500 when it comes to plaster repair. The upstairs bathroom came out great, and the kitchen……no so great. For those two rooms I used gypsum plaster. For the rest of the house I want to do the traditional lime and sand plaster. This is new territory for me, but others have gone before me and hopefully I will have learned from them before I start this adventure.

Some walls are in near perfect shape and only need a little patching here and there. Other walls need to be completely redone from scratch. There is one wall the back parlor were the plaster has almost completely separated from the wood behind it. It’s as if a large sheet of plaster is just leaning up against the wall. I have no idea what keeps it from falling down. There are some repair jobs on walls in the foyer that look like they were done by a 4 year old who was practicing his finger painting skills. I swear to God the person did the patching job with his bare hands.

The thought now is to move everything out of these rooms and set up a living area in one of the spare bedrooms. I can close off the kitchen and the top of the main stairs and isolate this entire area from the rest of the house. If I need to, I can use the back stairs to go from bedroom, bathroom, & living room upstairs, down in to the kitchen, and even use the back door to get in and out of the house.

Right now only one of the bedrooms has a door on it, so I’ll need to have some doors up there. No matter how well I isolate the downstairs area dust will be an issue. I also need to run cable and phone to one of the rooms. This is not a big issue because I ran 2 coaxial and CAT-V cables from under the house up in to the attic a few years ago when I rewired the house. I just need to pick a spot and run it the last few yards. I’ll want to do the plaster work first since it will be the messiest. Once that’s done, if it turns out good, I think the rest will be downhill. If the plastering doesn’t turn out good, I can always just sell the house and walk away.

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