Sunday, January 31, 2010

Plaster Solutions

Anybody wanna split a bag of Structo-lite?

It's weighing upon me that I'd probably better get the plaster on my 3rd floor study ceiling repaired before I get too deep into refinishing my 2nd floor hall floor. Last thing I need is plaster dust getting tracked into the finish before it's fully cured.

So this past Tuesday I had a contractor in, a plasterer used and recommended by an accountant whose new office I saw at our town's Christmas open house last November. The plasterer came, looked at the gaps, and said, "I can do that for $375.00."

This seems reasonable for the job; not as low as I'd hoped, but a lot less than the apocalyptic sums that sprang to mind last summer when it all started crashing down. If it weren't for the fact that he works on a cash or check basis and would want full payment once the job was finished, I would have signed him up then and there.

But I told him I'd have to look at my cash flow and see when I could schedule him to come.

That was last Tuesday. But yesterday I was reading Greg's Petch House blog, about the plaster he's repairing after the 6.4 earthquake they had in California early this month, and I got to thinking, Hey, maybe this is something I can do myself. If I give up trying to find genuine lime plaster and just go with Stucto-lite over wire mesh, I should be able to handle this, right?

I did a search on and read a few other people on the subject; unfortunately, the best source had pictures I couldn't view. But why couldn't I tackle it? The big thing is making sure I have all the equipment-- trowel, hawk, mixing trough, etc.-- I need before I start. Which I'm perfectly capable of organizing.

Well, yeah. But what's still worrying me is that bag of Structo-lite. The plaster guy told me it came by the 80 pounds. I used to be able to lift 80 lbs. I once could lift over 100 lbs.-- but that was more than twenty years ago. I've seen on-line you can get it in 50 lb. bags, but I doubt I can lift that, either.

So, does anyone want to split a bag with me? And I take only what I can carry?

And where do you get the stuff in western Pennsylvania, anyway?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Have No Business Posting at This Hour

. . . But I had to. Because I actually got some work done. For the first time since last August.

Hall closet floor Before

Hall closet floor After

Devoted this (yesterday?) evening and into the wee hours getting back to stripping the old shellac and miscellaneous careless paint spills off my 2nd floor hall floor. Denatured ethyl alcohol, steel wool, and a rag to get it started, heat gun with the scraper to go after the stubborn hardened paint drips and smears, then the Howard Refinisher with more steel wool and rags (and a certain amount of elbow grease) to get rid of the loosened paint and the rest of the shellac finish.

Yeah, I'm a little lightheaded by now. Yes, I raised the window while I was working, about 4" (Let's not get extreme; it's in the 20s out there). So yes, it's a good thing I got called in to teach in the morning, otherwise I'd still be at it and really messing up my brain cells.

But we have pictures. The new camera arrived today. I'm not 100% sure I like it that much. Focus either isn't that great or I haven't got the hang of it yet. But there are pictures.

The trim from Baird Brothers also got delivered, at 10:30 in the morning. I probably should have untaped the bundle and checked the shipment against my list, but I didn't. Didn't want the pieces cascading all over my front room floor. Better do it anyway.

But not tonight. I gotta teach third graders in the morning.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some Progress, No Pictures

The other day, I got an email from a friend who's building a house in the vicinity. Did I want to meet her on Monday the 18th at Baird Brothers Sawmill in Canfield, Ohio, to help her pick out trim? "I know you've been meaning to go up there yourself sometime," she wrote.

Yes, indeed, I was, and with the offer of mileage one way and a day free from substituting teaching due to the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, it didn't take much persuading for me to move my trim-buying plans up a bit and go.

It took a couple of hours to get through her business, after which she headed back to the office. Me, I was just getting started.

I'd done some research, looking for the right profile for the new chair rail in my stairhall. And the closest thing I could find in any on-line catalog from any area millwork outfit was Baird Brothers' No. B910, which isn't really chair rail at all, but window mullion.

Never mind. I want something symmetrical; I'd go with 5/8 x 2 or 2-1/2 material eased at the edges if I could get it; and this window mullion profile will do fine.

At least, that was my plan coming in. When I saw the sample piece on the display board, I was no longer so sure. It seemed awfully narrow . . . Maybe it wouldn't do after all?

Hate to say it, folks, but the sales assistant I drew when my number was called wasn't immediately forthcoming with ideas. "So what can I do for you, then?" responded he.

Well, he could bring me a piece of the B910 I could butt up to the piece of door trim I brought from the house to see what the effect would be with both together. He did, and thank goodness, now it didn't look so mimsey. I took another keek at the display board later: Ah, yes. I'd been thrown off by the fact that the samples are all clear-finished oak on a clear-finished oak board and kind of blend in. I'd change that, if I were they . . .

All right, that moulding profile will work. I got out my handy-dandy Excel tables I stayed up till all hours the night before working on, complete with all the actual lengths I needed for the hall and the (longer) lengths of uncut moulding I would get to cut them out of. Sales guy took down the figures and asked, What else?

Oh, about 118' of quarterround for the base shoe. What I have now at the perimeter of the fake Pergo is 5/8 x 5/8, and I stayed with that for the living room and dining room. But the floor and the bottom of the baseboard in the upstairs hall parted company a long time ago, and require something more substantial to bridge that gap. So it'll be 3/4 x 3/4 material in the hall, upstairs and down.

Except for one place, probably. I commented to him that I had a curve to accommodate and would probably have to do a lot of kerfing and steaming. And showed him the floor plan I'd brought with me.

Oh, why not try flexible base shoe?

Hmm, sounds interesting! He brought a coil out, and yes, it's plastic (kind of a putty tan) and it's 5/8 x 3/4, but he says it'll take shellac and affixes with the usual nails, and it'll be a lot less grief to install than the wood. But, I said, I would go ahead and buy enough of the wood quarterround to have a go at taking it around the curve . . . if I'm feeling that Authentic.

I picked out the chair rail lengths in the warehouse. That, after all, was the point of my original plans to come up to Canfield in person instead of ordering my trim on-line.

Now I had to feel a little sorry for the sales guy. First couple of pieces I liked pretty much right off. But they set a standard I had to match. We were going with red oak, since yellow pine is no longer available and English oak is what the yellow pine was supposed to be emulating. All plain sawn, of course, so grain mattered. Not too straight: that's boring; and not too cathedral-y: that's crude. Something interesting but not obtrusive; a grain pattern I'd be happy to see at eye level in my entry hall. Took awhile to get what I wanted. He said, "Don't worry about getting specific lengths, we'll cut them to measure." OK, good, that frees things up a bit.

But by the time I was done choosing, he taped them all up together, uncut. "Don't the shorter lengths need to be cut?"

"No, that's okay."

"But I don't need quite that much . . . " I faltered, not having the nerve to say I didn't want to pay for more than I needed. Happily, he knew what I was getting at.

"No, I'll only charge you for the lengths you asked for."

And so he did. I'm a little reluctant to mention this, because I don't want to give anyone the idea this is Baird Brothers' standard policy. But I have the feeling that he'd weighed the cost-efficiency of cutting the pieces vs. that of getting back into the sales room to wait on more of the customers that were flocking the place yesterday, and decided that throwing in a few extra feet of moulding was a better deal for the shop.

They have free delivery within 100 miles, and the truck is scheduled to come with my trim sometime tomorrow. Anyone want to make any bets as to how soon I'll get it up? When wagering, please consider that unless I do my shellacking in the living room, it'll have to wait till Spring. I can't be generating denatured alcohol fumes in a closed space with the gas furnace and water heater going.

As to why no pictures, my digital camera kicked the bucket on New Year's Eve. I have another one on order, but it ain't here yet.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Miseries of Renovation, 19th C Edition

In absence of anything to write about current work on The Sow's Ear (in absence of any current work being done on The Sow's Ear), here's some excerpts from a website I came across yesterday called Prints George. They're extracts from actual early 19th century letters, essays, and so on, and I, at least, can recognise my fellow house renovation sufferers in these doleful lines.

The page is titled The Miseries of Life, being "The Groans of Samuel Sensitive, and Timothy Testy":

(T.) In a state of extreme lassitude, throwing yourself on the support of an old easy chair, before you have recollected that the arm on which you principally relied has been lately amputated at the shoulder for the cure of its infirmities, and is still under the hands of the operator; during which interval, the title of said chair remains in abeyance.

(T.) Fumbling in vain at a rusty refractory door lock, of which the hasp flies backward, and there sticks---so that you are at last obliged to leave the door flapping and whining on its unoiled hinge, and fanning you into an ague---your own fury furnishing the fever.

(T.) Beginning your residence at the country house to which you have just removed, before the repairs are finished---with the comfort of picking your way from one ruined room to another, through fragments of pealed mortar, broken bricks, scattered axes, adzes, chisels, &c.---and at length, being invaded in the fortress of your Study, and there pursuing your meditations to the sound of hammers, files, saws, tumbling walls, &c. &c.;---not to mention the manner in which you drag on your domestic existence for a long time, before half the furniture, utensils, &c. from your late house, have arrived; to wit---bed chambers blocked up with matted trunks, bureaus, &c.---not a curtain or carpet, to cover the nakedness of the sitting rooms, &c. &c.---Then for your eating accommodations;---dinner dressed by the housemaid, with extempore spits, saucepans, &c. &c.en attendant the arrival of the bona fide cook, and her apparatus---every dish, as it is brought in, carrying a “noli me tangere” on the face of it, and, such as it is, being served up on the kitchen table, with a set out of cookery, from the same apartment---teaspoons to the saltcellars, or rather eggcups, as their proxies---a man’s white knife, to a child’s green fork, &c. &c.---no alliance, as yet formed, with the butcher, baker, carrier, &c. &c.---and lastly, when your time, with all these loads upon it, begins to hand a little heavy upon your hands---neither a clock to strike, nor book to kill it!

(T.) In default of a turnscrew, labouring with the back, or battering edge, of a good knife, at a notch infamously wide and shallow; so that it slips out of its place an hundred times over, without moving the screw an hair’s breadth. Likewise, Hammering your own fingers, instead of a very short nail which you fumblingly hold in them---said nail, when you do hit it, curling at the point, instead of entering the wall---or losing its head, so that you cannot extract it:---likewise, the head of the hammer violently flying off, so as to break a looking glass---a friend’s skull---&c. &c.

(T.) Hearing the ill-pasted paper of your apartment cracking and breaking away from the plaster, on a hot day; till in due time it swags half-way down from the ceiling, and fully indulges any curiosity you may have as to the nature of the wall behind.

(S.) A door so tight at the bottom, that it calls for your shoulders, as well as hands, as often as you enter or leave the room---and even when you have forced it to move, insists upon the company of the carpet every inch of the way.

(S.) The interval between breaking a pane of glass, and the arrival of the glazier:---N. B. The aspect of the apartment (your constant sitting room) E. N. E. and the wind setting in full from that quarter, at this crisis of the affliction:---glazier a drunkard, living seven miles off.

(S.) Cleansing the Augean stables;---or in other words, undertaking the labour of digesting into its proper place each of a thousand different articles, of as many different uses, sorts ,and sizes---(books---phials---papers---fiddles---mathematical instruments---drawings, and nick nacks without end---) which have been for weeks, or months, accumulating upon the tables, chairs, and shelves of your library, and which no servant is able to set to rights---so that you have been, yourself, obliged to await the tardy conjunction of activity and leisure, before you can enter upon the dreary drudgery of subduing them into arrangement.

(T.) The screws, nuts, pivots, and other loose appurtenances of a door-lock coming off, and dropping all about the room, as often as you turn the handle in an innocent attempt to open the door.

Well, at least modern DIYers don't have to worry about the servant problem . . .