Thursday, March 8, 2012

Oh, Fudge

I've been working on resecuring the plaster on the south wall of my living room since this time in February.  I'd been contemplating repairing that plaster since July of 2007 at least.  Now, a major cause of procrastination is the fear that a project won't come out the way you hope and visualize.  A major cause of depression is when you discover that your fears very likely were right.

The only problem with the plaster, as I originally perceived it, was up at the righthand corner of the cased opening between the living room and dining room, where the doorway jamb and head casings come together.  When I pulled off the trim to strip it, lo these many years ago, I found that the plaster protruded beyond the room face of the casing a good half inch.  Meaning that the face trim gapped more than a little.  Previous owners had fudged that over with spackle and paint, but I'm going back to natural wood. 

When I learned about Rory Brennan's Big Wally's PlasterMagic® system, I knew it was just the thing to take care of that protruding area and make the plaster nice and flat to receive the newly-shellacked trim. 

But things have not been that simple.  Back on the 9th of February when I started drilling the holes for the conditioner and adhesive, I noticed, for the first time in eight and a half years of living here, that the entire top fourth of the south living room wall bulges outward.  On the righthand side, especially, the protuberance was a half inch and more.  Clearly, I was going to need more Big Wally's adhesive than I had on hand.

Insert interval while I got around to ordering more tubes, while it shipped, and while it sat in the box in my dump of a living room waiting to be used.  All right.  So this past Sunday, I got to work.  And noticed two odd things:

First, that the plaster bulge on the righthand side, where I started my operations, went in a little with the washers and screws, but not as much as I expected.  Only a quarter inch at the most.  But the plaster wasn't flexible and it didn't give, and the wall developed no cracks as I drilled the washers in, though that's what you might expect if the keys where pressing against the lath.

Second, that up at the crucial corner the plaster wouldn't move in hardly at all.  At this point I did have cracking before and the washers caused more yet.  It wasn't salvageable.  So I pulled some goodish-sized chunks of it out, and saw-- And saw that up there the lath sits at the most an 1/8"back from the room face of the wood casing.  Seriously.  I poked the lath and it's in there solid.  It has no place to go.  Around that area the plaster thickness ranges from 3/8" to 1", and it's no wonder the door trim needed some fudging before!  It's going to need some fudging again when it's time to fill in the holes--but I'll describe that when I get to it.

But what did this mean?  That maybe the plaster at the top of the wall is thicker and the old wallpaper concealed the problem?  No idea.  The plaster I'd treated seemed well-secured enough, and I let it go because I was out of washers anyway.

Well, now.  Give it a few days for the adhesive to try and for me to take care of other business.  So Monday night I'm up there on the ladder snugging up the areas above the doorway and on the lefthand side.

And what's this?  In these places, where the bulge wasn't as bad, the plaster moved in a good 3/8" or more, with a soft, subdued, stomach-squeezing whhummphh!   What the dickens?  Why did that pull in but not the worse area to the right?  Was there something wrong with my drill bit, and did I not drill the holes deeply enough on the right-hand side?  Did the whole wall actually need    to be done?  After all this labor and material, was I still at risk of it failing and falling down?

Not to mention that where I power-screwed the anchors in too hard, the plaster just crumbled.  But the surface of the wall looks fine!  What's up with this?

Oh, fudge.  Aggrieved, aggravation, frustrated, crabby.  Last night I tried the conditioner and adhesive in a few more places on the upper righthand part of the wall, trying to pull that bulge in a little farther.  Drill penetrated more than an inch, inch and an eighth even, but the pull-in when I tightened the washers was a fraction of that.  Maybe the plaster is extra-thick at the top of the wall.  Or maybe the big hairy plaster/lath gap is there-- full of keys cushioned by all the Big Wally's I pumped in.  However it is, I can't do anything more to true it up-- and no, demolition and drywall is not an option.

This is not what I had in mind nearly five years ago.  I'm holding my breath that a lot of joint compound and the new wallpaper will disguise the mess.  I even have visions that the wallpaper will end up holding the wall together.  But I have no call to throw rocks-- or chunks of plaster-- at my fudging previous owners.  It's a pot we're all in together.

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