Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Or is that "one step forward, two steps back"?

No priming got done in the 3rd floor Study today, and none will till sometime on Friday.

Or not.

It's not so much that I've gotten perfectionistic about the ceiling patches I've been working on.  It's true that I've wet sanded and reapplied at least two more coats of spackle today, but that's because in the stark light of day I was able to see a lot of irregularities I missed last night.

No, something else is causing the slowdown.

Ever since the Great Plaster Disaster of 2007-2009, I've had the nervous habit of pushing on the sloped plaster ceiling of my Study wherever I notice a hairline crack.  I've had enough of crashing plaster for one house, and while I enjoy the pillowy, organic effect of my 3rd floor ceiling, I need to know, and know right away, if any curve or bow actually means key failure and imminent doom.

Enlarge to see cracks.  Sort of.
So I push, and I wonder, "Did that give, or was that just my fingers flexing?"  Worrywart!  It's just the fingers.  But early this afternoon, I was going round with the wet sponges smoothing out the spackle I applied last night, and there, towards the bottom of the ceiling slope on the northwestern side of the room, I saw a horizontal crack I hadn't noticed before.  Actually, it looked like some previous owner had used paper tape for a repair, and it'd picked now to begin to come loose.  Should I peel it and see what happens?  No!!  Give it the push test.

Oh, dear.  That gave.  That plaster definitely gave.

All right, I know what to do.  Time to call in Big Wally.

Downstairs I go.  Plastic dropcloths from the back porch.  Painter's tape and the unopened box of PlasterMagic adhesive from the living room.  Drill, drill bit, caulking gun, Big Wally's conditioner and anchors (with screws) from the basement workshop.

But wait a minute.  Where was the 3/16" masonry bit?  It should be in the top drawer next to the workbench.  And where, o where did I put the rest of my Big Wally's supplies?

Eventually I found the latter in their box underneath the workbench, safely out of the way.  But I could not find that drill bit anywhere.

O well.  I needed to go to Home Depot anyway to exchange that 10' length of copper tubing (that's another story).  So off I went, and while standing in the tool aisle consulting with the clerk, I realized that, Idiot! I'd been suffering from some sort of brain glitch and visualizing a three-eighths inch bit when I'd searched that drawer.  My 3/16" bit had been in plain sight all along.

No matter.  It was probably dull anyway.  It certainly is dirty.  And there was that copper to take care of.

Once I got home, I had the target area of the Study ceiling drilled and conditioned in good time (something to do while the oven was preheating for my supper pizza).  Earlier, I'd been happy to find one full tube and one partial tube of Big Wally's adhesive in the box under the workbench, the latter still in the spare caulking gun.  When it came time to inject it into the holes, I gave the handle a good hard squeeze to clear out the dried stuff from the tip, asking myself, "I wonder if this adhesive is still good and liquid?"

Gray smudges are on the camera lens, alas!
Whoop!!*  Yes, judging from what ended up spattered around the wall and on the file cabinet, it was.  That's when I realized that the bucket of water and the sponge needed to be brought back upstairs.

But that didn't take long to clean up, and I had the adhesive injected and the anchors screwed in in time for me to go down and eat my pizza.  And for my boikitteh Huw to get the oven door fully open and steal a piece, but that's another another story.

Got the repairs done a little before 6:00, which, if I gave the adhesive the minimum twenty-four hours to cure (directions say 24 to 48), would mean I could remove the anchors tomorrow evening, spackle over the holes, and maybe prime on Friday.

But now that looks doubtful, doubtful indeed.  For later this evening, I was doing the push test again.  And even though I indulged in what surely is overkill in the spacing of my holes and anchors, I was still detecting some give.  And then I let my nosy fingers range to the left, especially around another, vertical, hairline crack.  Push, push.  Oh, dear.  Let's put the drill bit back in and check.  Oh, dear, oh, dear.   That bit was going in way too far.  In a lot of places.  Definitely some significant plaster-lath separation along that crack, and in the field between it and my earlier repair.

It's treated now, and the only thing flexing in the push test is my fingers.  But the earliest I could think of taking out the anchors would be sometime Friday morning.  And the way spackle tends to sink in holes, that'll mean at least two applications to get them smoothly filled.  So Saturday, maybe, at the earliest, to be thinking about primer?

I can always amuse myself teaching myself how to sweat copper pipe in the meantime.
*Not the word I actually used.

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