Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Next Big Thing

It’s not just the next big thing, it is revolutionary. Its’ beyond big. It’s bigger than big. The next big thing is my next project. It’s really not that big, relatively speaking. It’s only big because I’m actually starting a new big project. There was a time when I would squeeze out big projects like Octo-Mom squeezed out little kids. Not so much anymore.

It’s hard to say what happened. Things got in the way like winter, work and laziness. The thought of a new big project sort of lost its cachet. The old days are old and the new days are less house oriented. I’m pumped about this one though, and soon I will be psyched. No, wait, is it psyched and then pumped, or does pumped come first. I’m not really clear on the whole hierarchy of enthusiasm, but I can feel something stirring. It could be that foot-long green chili beef burrito I had for lunch or it could be the new project. Either way there is definitely something there.

So what is The Next Big Thing? It is the foyer and stairwell. If judged by cost or square footage it is not one of the bigger interior projects I’ve tackled. There are no cabinets to build, nor is there any plumbing, and maybe no electrical. What it lacks in cost and technical challenges though, it more than makes up for in mess, disruption, and verticality.

First the disruption. The foyer is the entry hall. Either I walk around to the backdoor when I enter and leave or I use the foyer. The real issue there is the alarm system. I must go in to the foyer to set or deactivate the alarm. The foyer also sits between the parlor and kitchen, two of the more popular rooms in the house, and it also sits between the front stairs and everything else. I can avoid the front stairs by using the back stairs, but the front stairs are much more convenient and comfortable to climb than the back stairs.

The verticality. The stairwell is tall. It basically ascends the full height of the house, which is roughly 20 feet on the interior. This means scaffolding. I’m going to need to erect scaffolding on the middle landing and that will make it that much more difficult to traverse the stairs. If I need to strip paint off the plaster before I skim-coat, then the scaffolding could be up for weeks, if not months. I also may hang a light fixture, which will only add to the time the scaffolding is up.

The mess. Plaster work and stripping shellac. There is no way around it, these things make a mess, especially the plaster. Putting the plaster on is not too bad, and the mess can be controlled. It is taking the damaged plaster off that makes the real mess. The dust goes every where. I don’t care how careful you are or how much you mask rooms off, there will be, at a minimum, a fine coat of plaster dust on every surface in the house. Fortunately, the 6.5 quake we had a few months back took care of a lot of the damaged foyer plaster for me.

The stairs are another issue. At least they have never been painted, but they need to be taken back to bare wood. They were shellacked back in 1895 and then nothing happened after that. There is also the issue that some of the woodwork has been marred by renters that just had no appreciation for anything, at all, ever! The place was rental units for 80+ years, so it could be worse, but I see a trip to a mill in my future to have a few pieces reproduced. This will no doubt be the largest expense in the project, but even with that, this will be one of the least expensive projects I’ve done on the interior of the house.

I just need to start. That is why I’m trying to get pumped and then psyched, or psyched and then pumped, which ever it is. It needs to be done. After this, the only rooms on the first floor that are left are the front and back parlors. These are essentially one large room, roughly 15X30. These rooms are basic stuff: plaster, paint and floors. Everything else has been done in there (wiring, telecom, stripping, millwork). Once I get this foyer and stairwell done, the rest of the downstairs will be a cake-walk.

I just need to start.


Northland Stories said...

Knowing what I know about you after reading your blog for many years, you'll have that stairwell done in no time .. and make the rest of us look like slackers! :)

LeighC said...

You have done a great job. I am looking forward to the start of the foyer. I have an old house too, but it is so much easier to live vicariously through another's restoration :)

Karen Anne said...

Trying to type after being overcome with old house envy from those photos :-)...

I have to work on my stairwell, removing wallpaper paste and then wallpapering or painting. I saw a ladder on someone else's blog that comes in sections that bend and so on so you can set up different working heights and different heights on each leg. I forget what it's called, but it's for working in stairwells.

As usual, I can't find my bookmark for it. I haven't forked out for one yet, because I need to figure out how to figure out the heights I can get. But I am thinking if you use that instead of scaffolding, you might have some flexibility about not having it in place all the time.

Greg said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Writing that I'm starting another project is a way of putting myself on the spot. Now that I've admitted to the blogosphere that I'm going to do it, I feel I really should do it.

Karen, I own one of those articulated ladders. In fact I used it in that stairwell when I stripped the wallpaper off the ceiling. If I was just going to paint I could probably get away with using it again. I need to do plaster work though, and that ladder just won't be enough.


G. Robison said...

Glad it's you and not me doing it, lol. I'm scared of heights.

St. Blogwen said...

O joy, foyers and stairhalls! I wonder, who'll get finished with theirs first, you or me? (I've been working on mine for over two years, if you don't count the early trim paint removal I started messing around with in 2004 or so.)

Getting around ladders and scaffolding in stairways is great practice at sucking in the gut. Be glad you have the back stairs available; I'm dealing with one staircase only and four animals I'll have to keep off of it.

Howard's Western Wood Doctor Refinisher is great for shellac removal. Plain denatured alcohol (grain, not wood!) can get things started, but is more work. Either way, you won't have to worry about raising the grain.

Kate H.

Greg said...

Hmmm, technically I guess I started mine about 5 years ago because that is when I stripped out the layers of flooring and wallpaper. Then 3 years ago I did a partial restoration on the stair treads. So really, you could still win if the contest is based on the time it takes start to finish and not so much by who finishes first.



Pandora said...

Wow - look at the detail on that woodwork! It is gorgeous! The finished project is going to be amazing :-)

Anonymous said...

If you start at the top and work down then the mess goes down with the work. That and as you work your way down, less stairs and ladders to climb day after day.

Albeit there is the psychological boost of the foyer first as your work your way up.

Eagerly awaiting the during and after pics.

Greg said...

I see it as one project, really. I will do all of the plaster in both the foyer and stairs as one project. I will then do the woodwork as one project. Then floors and stair treads as one project.

HPH said...

Oohhhh! I can't wait to see the magic worked on the Foyer at the Petch House!

On this site:
and scroll down the page to the "Third Floor Ceiling and Walls" you can see where a temp platform with a trap door was built to assist in demo. Maybe you can fashion a platform of sorts for your needs.