Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Damage Control

Oh, to go back a year and repair the plaster over my 3rd floor study stairwell, right after I bought my adjustable ladder!

Maybe then I wouldn't have the mess and hassle I have now.

But I didn't, and I do. And unlike the semi-refinished woodwork around here, the falling plaster refuses to let itself be ignored.

So yesterday I called Big Wally's Plaster Magic up in Brattleboro, Vermont, and got Lauri Klenkel, aka Mrs. Rory Brennan. She remembered me from the Howard Hall Farm class. I told her I had a mess on my hands and gave her the URL so she could look at Sunday night's blog entry.

Oh, yes, right. That is a mess, isn't it?

But not an irretrievable one. Rory had just stepped out, so Lauri was hesitant to give a final pronouncement on how I should proceed. But she definitely thought piecing the fallen chunks back together would be the best way to go. In the meantime, she said, I should affix some kind of lath or 1x material to the ceiling to keep the loose stuff from coming down. She'd give Rory the message to call me later to advise me what else to do.

That was yesterday. Mr. Brennan hasn't been able to get back with me yet, but that's okay because I was too busy today doing what I knew I needed to do anyway.

Doing, that is, what I ought to have done late yesterday afternoon right after I got off the phone to Vermont. I did use some spare plastic washers to anchor up one or two of the loose plaster pieces. That'd do, I figured, till I could get to Lowe's for longer drywall screws and the 1x's. Which I should have done immediately thereafter.

But did I? Nooooo! I got on the computer until it was too late to go. Today, I didn't even begin to do anything about securing the loose plaster until it was after noon.

But then I got onto it. I really did. Especially after I began to hear rustlings on the plastic dropcloth around the stairs, that were not made by any of my cats. Whoops! Keys failing!

Down I ran to the basement virtuously to cut some 1x3's I had to the correct length. Meanwhile, up on the 3rd floor, several square feet more of plaster were giving up their hold and coming down.

Okay, okay, I get the message! Definitely time for serious damage control. I was off to the blue and gray store; do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Bought four 1x2x6's and a box of coarse 2" drywall nails.

I cut the wood strapping to the right length (well, mostly. Don't know why that one ended up short) and brought it upstairs to screw it to the ceiling.

This was the point when my low blood sugar kicked in and filled me with woe, angst, existential gloom, and general consternation. I could not get the screws to screw in. And when I did, they weren't long enough to hold. Aaaagghhh!!! I can't do this! What is wrong with me? Why aren't I rich enough to hire somebody to help me do this? Why am I single-- if I were married, I'd have someone around who'd have to help me do this! What if all the plaster in the room falls down? Why are all my friends not available right now? Why? why? why? Woe! woe! woe!


Going back to bed and sucking my thumb wasn't an option. So I did what any normal DIYer would do in the circumstances-- I drove back to Lowe's for a box of 3" coarse drywall nails and more 1x2 wood strips and a packet of Phillips-head driver bits. My head was so woolly I couldn't verbalize what the last item was called and the clerk looked at me as if I were the world's worst ditz.

Never mind; I found what I needed and got it home. With the help of a late lunch (which finally kicked in) and my old corded drill (which still works, thank God, and has better torque than the battery-operated one), I got the strapping up. Hopefully the plaster will now cease its rain of terror. The worst gap around the edges is now down to a half inch. I can do something with that.

While I'm waiting for more supplies (the special washers, mainly) from Big Wally's, what I need to do is secure the loose pieces of lath. And fish out the broken plaster keys from between it and the plaster.

After that, I'm not sure. Lauri Brennan thinks it'd be easier for me to put the existing plaster pieces back up. But the more I look at this void over my stairway, the more I wonder if I'd rather take a crack at replastering it.

I mean, I did take that class, didn't I?


Anonymous said...

Just fill in with drywall and smooth together with drywall compound. If the drywall is not thick enough use furring strips behind it.

Todd - Home Construction Improvement said...

I would finish stripped that entire area and install drywall. You'll be glad you did!

Sandy said...

I'm betting you two don't know what kind of reaction you're going to get to THOSE suggestions!

Even though drywall would be easier, it wouldn't be what she wants.

Gary said...

That is not a difficult plaster repair. Buy some masons lime and slake it. Then email me and I will walk you through the process. Materials needed are medium sand, masons lime and some polypropylene fibers (available at a concrete supplier or you can cut up some polypropylene rope into 1" segments. You do not need a lot of this. A half a cupful would be more than enough). You could buy some wire mesh too if you don't trust you keying-to-lath skills. You also want joint compound to finish.

While you are at it, order some mahogany aniline dye that dissolves in alcohol. I will walk you through that at the same time.

Kate H. said...

Gary, I'm definitely thinking of something of the sort. The surface of the lath and the shape of the hole are both too irregular to mess with drywall.

Now that the perimeter is secured I'll probably let this repair slide for awhile while I tackle the paint and trim in the 1st & 2nd floor stairhall. It'll give time for the lime to slake and for me to pick out the busted keys from between the lath-- ideally without yanking out the fiberglas insulation.

Thanks for the walk-through offers. I definitely see myself taking you up on it. The aniline dye order is next on the agenda-- good grief, could it be that I'm actually getting to where my trim might be refinished and reinstalled?

purejuice said...

this is inspiring, the thing of just going back to lowe's despite everything and getting the right screws even though you can't pronounce them. and, i'm inspired about the plaster. can't wait (i keep saying this!!!!) to see how this cliffhanger turns out. (and, teeny font, there rilly are some numb nutz in this world, enh?)