Saturday, July 14, 2012

Living Room Wall Progress

The wood of the flat moulding has weathered gray--it is stripped
Wednesday morning I used up the last of the Western Wood Doctor on the plain side of the screen door insert.  I ordered more Monday night, but it has to come by truck all the way from Oregon and the ETA is Tuesday the 17th.  That's given me the excuse to come back upstairs and work on the south wall of my living room.

Old filler plaster
Haven't touched it since just before my English friend Janet* visited in April.  Mental block.  See, on either side of the cased opening to the front room is a two to three inch strip of scratch coat plaster.  At least, that's what I have on the righthand side.  On the left there's broken blocks of scratch coat plaster, miscellaneous broken bricks set up on end, and other flotsam and jetsam filling in the space between the 2x6 support member and the proper mortared-in brick of the wall.  I know because some of those rectangular chunks of plaster were loose and protruding, and I pulled them out and laid them aside when I first got around to that wall.  Question was, what was I going to do with them?  More to the point, what was I going to do about the 1½" deep by 2½" wide by 18" tall cavity left once the plaster blocks were out?  Would the face trim be enough to hide it?  What if it showed?  I had some idea of using Liquid Nails to glue them back in, but how could I hold them tight to the back of the cavity while it was drying?  And how could I shave enough off the backs of the blocks so they'd go in flush, without breaking them to pieces?

Styrofoam blocking
Needed to be doing something on the house Wednesday morning, and all of a sudden it hit me that I was going too far with the authenticity.  The point is to fill the cavity, right?  So who cares what it's filled with, as long as it's a legitimate building material (e.g., not Kleenex) and it doesn't show?  So with a mingled sense of cleverness and shame, I cut the Gordian knot and trimmed down some old packing Styrofoam.  I mean, it's like insulation, even if it is on an interior wall, right?  Shoved the foam to try it and the pieces fit perfectly.  Glued it in with construction adhesive on Thursday (once I'd scrubbed the wall above it), and there it reposes and dares anyone to make something out of it.  (The old plaster went out with the trash Thursday night).

Gardz is shiny
Two coats mud &/or patching plaster
With that settled, I could go on to scrub down the south wall and the part of the west wall around the corner (the idea being to remove any loose or soft size from the previous owners' wallpaper job) and coat it with Gardz primer (to seal in all the remaining size).  Had that done by Wednesday evening, and the mornings up to today saw me patching the cracks and old nail holes in the plaster and wet-sanding them down.  One bad area above the lefthand corner of the opening needed taped and mudded; I've controlled myself and kept it to two coats of joint compound (24 hours drying time after each).  Typically I have a hard time trowelling it on; I keep leaving ridges.  I've found the more coats I apply and the more sanding I do the worse it gets.  The crack's not at eye level; get the paper tape well covered, wipe it down a little, and let it alone!

Finish plaster at bottom
Being in an intimate relation, as it were, with this wall the past few days has given me a good-enough answer to a house history question that's been tugging for years at the skirts of my curiosity.  My front room used to be an open porch, of course.  And that cased doorway from the living room used to be a window, probably a three-gang from the width.  But why all that filler on either side of the "new" supports?  Did the window used to be wider than the doorway is now?  The finish plaster above the lintel seemed to say No, but all those loose bricks and crap bothered me.  But when I was down on the righthand side cleaning the wall just above the baseboard line, I noticed that the original gold-tinted finish plaster went all the way to the inside line of the support on that side.  Of course, when the front room was a porch, that finish plaster went all the way under the window.  Maybe this doesn't make total sense, but something about it tells me that the window rough opening was built as wide as I see it now, and the width of the doorway is the width of the former window.    I think they stopped the coursed brick well short of the window jamb supports to allow installation room and to account for variations in the width of the windows they might get.  Most of the filler that's in now would have been put in with the doorway, but it was meant to be there, I think.

Seems odd that I would chew this over so much, but I guess it bothered me to think that structural brick had been knocked out when the doorway was put in.  And the face trim was installed out of plumb which made me wonder what else had been done carelessly.  Not that the structure has been compromised-- I've found evidence that the work may have been done in the 1930s and it's been fine since then.

Well.  Next on the agenda is to continue the fake natural wood shellac job on the painted cornice moulding, which is too narrow and cheap-looking but is not coming down at this juncture.

No comments: