Plaster is Officially the Bane of my Existence

I told you I would let you know. Well...

As you know, I started out covering half a wall with dry plaster that I mixed with water. It set up really quickly, and was almost immediately impossible to spread. I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with the record-breaking hot weather we're having. I sanded it down after it took all evening and night to dry. A wasted day.

The plaster package recommended using pre-mixed all-purpose patching compound for jobs that required more working time, so I went and bought some of that and applied it to the same half wall. It was runny and gloppy. In other words, just as difficult to work with. Another night gone, I sanded THAT layer down. It had bubbled and cracked. By this time, I am really discouraged. I miss Bren, who has no cell service wherever he is in Canada, and I wanted to make a lot of progress in his absence.

I thought, "I thought this would be easier; I've had so much success with the joint compound." BING! The stuff I've been using to seal the seams in the cement board in the bathroom, which is also used with drywall, is the perfect texture for spreading smoothly, and it's totally meant to be sanded and painted. I don't know what the difference is between it and regular plaster, but when I gave it a shot on the other half of the wall, it turned out SO much better (And it's $2 a gallon). So I went out and bought 5 gallons, which I had to roll to the front door, it was so heavy.

I went over the whole wall with the joint compound, and I just need to sand down some of the imperfections before I can call one wall officially done. I have put a thin, hole-filling coat of it on two more walls, and they are ready for the smooth coat. And sanding.

This is a much larger undertaking than I had anticipated. I had really hoped to finish it before Bren came home -- maybe even have it primed.

Not so much.


While the Boys are Away...

...the girls will...plaster?

Renovation has been on a temporary hiatus this week, with kidney stone recuperation, a visit from Grammie and Al, and now Bren and TVFH are on their way to Vancouver, British Colombia, to provide the soundtrack for a week-long national YoungLife retreat.

With Bren gone, I plan on distracting myself from the eeriness of an ill-lit, relatively unfamiliar, somewhat creaky home by tackling a huge project.

We have plaster walls. They are very porous, and have been patched poorly over the years.

Paint will undoubtedly make these flaws even more obvious, necessitating a "skim coat" of new plaster in the living room, dining room, and on one wall in the Master Bedroom.

In addition to being uneven, the walls are dirty.

Ammonia only goes so far against 80 years of smoke and neglect. At least we don't have to stew about where to hang our pictures.

What you see here may look like a poorly executed 80s faux finish, but it's really a thin coat of plaster in various stages of dryness. I'm applying it with a rubber grout floater, and it's remotely reminiscent of the days when I did this for a living:

Ah, good old Baskin & Robbins. Ladies, all you have to do to lose weight while eating all the ice cream you could ever want is walk a mile to and from work in 115 degree, 85% humidity Oklahoma heat. That, and come home every night smelling like curdled milk. I digress.

When the manufacturer's instructions say this stuff hardens quickly, they mean it. However, it's taking forever to dry on the wall. Hopefully tomorrow after work I can sand down the portion of wall I covered today and see how I did. I'll let you know.


A Small (4mm) Setback

Yesterday, Bren and I took an unexpected trip to the Emergency Room. No, it had nothing to do with the plethora of power tools or toxic building materials within our grasp, it was...

Bum bum BUUMMMMM...

A kidney stone. The passing of which is equated with childbirth. Luckily, our first born came into the world this morning, and Bren is feeling fine, but tired.


Yes, We Actually Live Here

So, I know I've posted this picture before, but it's relevant.

Back when I was patching that first hole in the hardwood, I had the fridge and the TV on. I went to activate the shop vac, and shorted out half of the outlets upstairs. Ummm...yeah. This house is wired for 1927.

We've gotten a couple of quotes in the past few days for replacing the fuse box. We knew we were going to do it eventually, we just didn't know how immediate the need was. Now, every project depends on it. Electricians are ridiculously expensive.

At any rate, I found it highly amusing when Bren called me after the first electrician viewed the job, and said "I think he was surprised that we're actually LIVING here."

Yes, many renovations of this magnitude take place while the renovators have respite elsewhere. Not so for us. But we do have something of an escape. The converted garage/bonus room. Before, it looked like this...

...fake brick and all. We kept it as is, so that we could live in it while restoring the rest of the house. Now it looks like this:

The curtain, painstakingly basted this evening and hung on electrical conduit, hides all of our earthly possessions, and Miles' too. What you don't see amounts to about 6 feet more of room, and three more windows which we are glad to sacrifice due to their torturous easterly morning brightness.

The path to/from the bonus room was (surprise!) poorly hewn by the previous owner.

Again with the drywall cornering. As carpet edging? COME ON! The stairs are pretty unlevel, and Bren has to take a good 9 inches off his stature to move through this opening. Oh, well. It's nice to retire to a room that isn't a construction site. Yet.

I also made a curtain for the unsightly water heater/furnace room tonight:

A decent day's work.

Regarding my wonderful sister Cory's comment:

The hanger. Mr. Rivera, previous owner, managed to take every outlet cover in the house, along with every other fixture that may or may not have been worth something, but he left his one hanger. Perfect for hanging Bren's coveralls, since he won't wear them after initially trying them on...

Chest: 48"
Length: Tall

...and a few beers too small in the middle.


The Land Down Under

Today roll-off dumpster #2 left. So yesterday, I went to town on the basement. I pounded off a roughly 8X8 slab of tile set into the concrete floor, and removed the last remnants of mirror tile and dark wood paneling. Then we swept, vacuumed, and mopped with ammonia. The 70s are officially over in our house.

When I got home from work today, I was determined to bring everything upstairs...downstairs, so that we can refinish the hardwood floors as soon as the master bathroom is done. Since our 15 boxes of books have been packed away for some time, I slid a few of our bookshelves across our bed and down the stairs to the basement. And made:

The ultimate work station out of the corner where the bar used to be. Probably not organized the way Bren would have done it, but it's not going to stay organized anyway. What? Not every 25 year-old woman does this on a Monday night?

At the opposite end of the basement sits our temporary living room:

Have I mentioned that the brand of insulation used down here is "MANVILLE?" I laugh about it often.


We Get By With a LOT of Help From Our Friends

I finally got all of the layers of linoleum off the bathroom floor, and now Bren is cement boarding the room so that we can tile. It's a laborious task. Luckily, a couple of Good Samaritans have come by to alleviate the workload:

Levi volunteered last weekend to get the project going. Happy Birthday, Levi! This weekend, Miles swung by. Check him out, ladies!

And check out roll-off dumpster #2. That's 20 cubic yards of crap we've yanked, scraped and hauled out of this house. Interestingly, it seems to have inspired the neighbors to clean up. One guy across the street mowed his waist-high lawn, and spray-painted one of the VW Beetles he has hanging out on the side of his house. Sweet!

As the guys hang the cement boards, I go in and tape and slather the seams with joint compound.

I also did some laundry today.

It was actually kind of soothing to be outside hanging our unmentionables, listening to the chatty birds and squirrels and smelling detergent and these:

The tea roses that dot our fence. A nice break from pounding tile off of the concrete slab in the basement.

Finally, I think we have reached "scratch." There's no more linoleum, no more mirror tile. Thank God. It seems that we have done all the demolition we can do. Now on with the overwhelming duty to put it all back together again.