Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reviewing the Situation

In Lionel Bart's musical Oliver there's a scene where the old scoundrel Fagin is considering what to do with the rest of his life. But to every scenario he envisions, there's a drawback of some kind or other. "I think I'd better think it out again!" he sings.

And there it is, the story of my front room at the Sow's Ear.

The idea was that I'd let the woodwork in there alone until the dining room, living room, and stair hall were done, all except for the ogival, S-profile trim on the front room face of the cased openings from the living room and stair hall. Kind of have to tackle that now, since it's all contiguous.

But today I tried again removing the first piece of that for stripping. But I couldn't. And why? Because at some point in the house's history some previous owner faced the whole front room with drywall. And the drywall returns into and butts up perpendicularly against that profile casing trim. I can't pry it out without destroying the wall surface.

So what shall I do in the short term? If the trim won't come down, I'll have to strip it up. But that'll mean removing the wallpaper at least from the five inches of so of wall that returns into the openings. Can't use the heat gun with the paper there.

But what about the paper surface of the drywall itself?

I think I'd better think it out again!

I knew there was drywall on the exterior walls of the front room, at least. It comes practically flush with the aprons of the windows. I had the idea I'd shim them out when I put them back up, so they'd overlap the wall surface like they're supposed to.

But will I be able to pry them loose at all? Or any number of other pieces of window trim in that front room? But it'd be hell on wheels trying to strip it in place, the refinisher being so runny.

I think I'd better think it out again!

Then there's the facing pieces I removed yesterday from the opening between the front room and the living room. I stripped one of them today, and no more. Turns out it's quarter-inch plywood. And unless I load the stain and finish on as dark and heavy as it was before, that's going to be very obvious, especially with the exposed edges and the grain not matching. Should I chuck it and buy some other kind of solid trim to cover up the 2x jambs with the knots and what looks like roofing nails in them? Or put back what was there and hope for the best?

I think I'd better think it out again!

As far as that front room goes, when I first moved in I had some idea of leaving the trim in there painted, making it light and airy like a sun room. It's a converted porch with windows on three sides, after all. But the window stools were already chipped and scarred from the toenails of the previous owners' Weimaraners and most of the rest of the paint came off easily when I took the scraper to it. I've gotten used to having the woodwork in there dark. Besides, I'd have to finish stripping it to get a decent surface for repainting.

But what should I plan to do with it, and what will that mean for what I need to do now?

I think I'd better think it out again!

But not tonight. This evening I gave up and avoided reviewing the front room situation altogether. Instead I worked on mending the two dining room piano window stools that split when I took them down last week, and removing most of the trim from the piano window in the front hall, just as you go up the stairs.

Prying off the lintel and cornice, I came across a couple more artifacts, two ancient unused library cards from the 1st Presbyterian Church here in town. Now these, I'm willing to bet, were there simply as shims, along with the strips of wood I found attached to the cornice. But why would the contractor have Presbyterian church library cards handy? . . . Unless the gap was shimmed and closed much later, well after the house was built, and before that some young person of the family thought it'd be amusing to drop the cards in as he or she came down the steps? But were there children young enough to do that in the Wilkinson or McLaughlin years?

There's so much I can't make sense of in the chronology of this house!

I think I'd better think it out again.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Oh dear. What a predicament! I am hoping that there will be an easy solution.