Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Papered House Project List: January - May Update

Back in January, I posted a list of projects we wanted to accomplish by the end of March. And now that it’s May (May!), I’m finally providing a long-overdue update on the progress we’ve made thus far. Summer is just around the corner, and we’re not yet finished with the things we wanted to complete by March. With each project, we're coming to the realization that everything takes much longer than expected. I suppose that delays are just a fact of life with renovation projects, particularly when working on an older home.  

Once I started to update this list, I realized that we actually have accomplished quite a bit. Obviously, we’re not nearly as far along as we wanted to be, but we’ve still made some good progress. Here’s where we stand as of today:

*Repair missing tiles on slate roof (hire professional): Done! There was a bona-fide hole in our roof when we bought this house. As soon as we moved in, we started searching for a contractor to repair our roof. It turns out that most roofers aren’t interested in working on slate roofs, so finding a contractor was more difficult than we had anticipated.  Every time it rained or snowed, I felt like crying. But we eventually found a roofer, and as of January, the hole is gone. This fact alone is worth celebrating.

*Repoint side chimney. Repair/install liner if needed (hire professional): In progress. The mason hasn't started repointing yet, but is evaluating the condition of the side chimney. He initially thought that it would just require repointing, but is now thinking that a full rebuild might be needed. He's going to examine it more this week and give us details. If a full rebuild is required, it will change the cost of this project considerably and we might need to go back to the city for another set of approvals. I'm hoping a full rebuild won't be necessary, but it might be. At this point, we’re not certain what work will be required on the liner, either.

*Rebuild rear chimney.  Repair/install liner if needed (hire professional): Also in progress, at this very moment. As I type this, the mason and his apprentice are chipping away at our rear chimney and preparing to rebuild it. We also have this awesome piece of construction equipment in our yard for the duration of the project:

*Install flashing on chimneys (hire professional). Outstanding; will happen once other chimney repairs are complete.  

One of our first realizations about exterior work is that it’s (of course!) highly dependent on the weather. We’ve had the permits and town approvals for the chimney repairs since late February. However, our mason wanted to wait for a stretch of warm, relatively dry days before starting repairs on our chimney. This is especially important since he’s using a lime-based mortar similar to what would have been used when our house was built in the 1880s. Apparently, this type of historic mortar takes much longer to cure than modern mortar, so one should avoid masonry work when there is the threat of inclement weather. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I thought we could have all this exterior work done by the end of March; my expectation wasn't realistic given that we were still getting considerable amounts of snow in late March.

Guest Room:

We've made decent progress in the guest room, which is fortunate since we're looking forward to having lots of house guests in June. The full post on our guest room progress can be found here.

*Paint Guest Room walls: Done!

*Repair plaster on Guest Room Ceiling: Done!

*Paint Guest Room Ceiling: Done!

*Decorate Guest Room (rug, artwork, curtains?): In progress. We purchased a new rug and curtains, but still need to hang some artwork. We have a number of art prints that are ready to be framed and hung (Impressionism, because I'm not that original), but we haven't wanted to spend the money to have them framed just yet.

* Install new molding around windows and doors: In progress. Baseboard molding is primed and painted, but not yet installed. My husband is still researching how to replicate the beautiful molding that appears around the windows and doors elsewhere in the house. He’s been playing around with a router and has gotten close, but it’s not right yet. More to come…


We've also made decent progress in the bathroom. This is an old bathroom and it will never be perfect. But the new wall color looks fresh and it's a clear improvement over the busy paisley wallpaper that was there before. The full post on our bathroom progress can be found here.
*Remove wallpaper: Done!

*Prime/Paint walls: Done!

*Bleach grout: Done!

*Decorate bathroom (new towels, artwork?): Mostly done. We may still add some decorative touches such as a shelving unit and a cheery vintage-inspired wallpaper trim.

Family Room:

Preserved wallpaper in family room.

This poor wall news LOTS of loving attention.

Our family room has a split personality at the moment. The wallpaper on two walls has been preserved and it looks pretty swell. The sealant lends the walls a slight luster that’s quite lovely (on the other hand, the seams are now more apparent due to the higher sheen. But I guess that’s to be expected). On the other two walls, we’re at that stage where I removed most, but not all, of the wallpaper. As a result, there are stubborn little bits of wallpaper still clinging to the plaster. At the same time, the cracked plaster is now readily visible, and it’s in very rough shape. In the picture above, you can see a rectangular outline of plaster that is whiter than the surrounding plaster. We've discovered that there used to be a doorway there, which was closed up at some later point. The two types of plaster must not have been completely compatible, which contributed to some deep cracks along this wall.

*Strip paint from basement door: Done...sort of. Door has been stripped of its 147 layers of paint, then painted in a fresh coat of glossy white paint. However, the white paint that we used looks too stark, almost as though it has blue undertones. It's hard to tell from the picture, but it's just not working with the brick-red wallpaper. We'll be repainting the door a creamy white at some point, but it's not a priority just now.
*Remove paint from door hardware: Done, but we still need to reattach the hardware to the door
*Remove existing wallpaper from two walls: Mostly done
*Preserve existing wallpaper on other two walls. Done!
*Repair plaster on family room walls: Nope
*Repair plaster on family room ceiling: Nope
*Prime/paint family room walls: Nope
*Prime/paint family room ceiling: Nope
*Decorate family room (hang pictures): Nope

Master Bedroom:

The master bedroom is another space that looks like it had a run-in with the Tasmanian Devil, particularly since it’s serving as both tool storage and an active work area at the moment. In addition to the projects that are listed below, we’re also prepping all the woodwork in the master bedroom to be repainted.

*Remove existing wallpaper: Done! (admittedly, this was the peel and stick wallpaper, so removal was a breeze)

*Repair plaster on master bedroom walls: Done!

*Repair plaster on master bedroom ceiling: Done, but still needs to be sanded

*Prime/paint master bedroom walls. Outstanding; we're hoping to prime this weekend, and paint if we have time.

*Prime/paint master bedroom ceiling: Outstanding

*Remove carpet: Outstanding

*Refinish wood floors: Outstanding

*Prepare for growing season: Done! Our garden is coming along really nicely. We planted about 80-90 varieties of plants/flowers, so if all goes according to plan, we should have a really lush, colorful garden in a few months. That is...if the deer don't discover our plants first. They've already decimated several of our vegetables, which upset me more than it probably should have.
*Purchase lawn mower: My in-laws generously gave us a lawn mower, which was such a thoughtful (and useful!) gift.

 I'll write a separate post exclusively on the garden. My husband has put a lot of thought, planning, and hard work into our garden, and it definitely deserves its own post.


View of the entry hall, from the living room

View of the stairwell from the second floor hallway

*Prime/paint walls: Mostly done. The entire entry hall is painted, with the exception of the wall with the radiator. We'll be painting that soon, once we can remove the radiator.

After the long process of choosing a color for our foyer, we’re thrilled with how it looks so far. As recommended by the paint store owner, we used a coverall product that was specially formulated for the color paint (Stagecoach from Historic Colors of America) that we chose. The coverall is essentially a very thick, opaque basecoat that approximates the color of the finish coat. With this coverall, we only needed to use two finish coats for full, even coverage. I understand that walls often need six or seven coats of red paint before the coverage is satisfactory. We were very pleased with the performance of the coverall. It’s more expensive than ordinary primer, but definitely worth the added cost. In the pictures above, we had applied the coverall plus two finish coats. The pictures below show how the wall looked along the way.  

In order to paint the stairwell, we needed to purchase an adjustable telescoping ladder. We ended up with the Werner 22' model, which I highly recommend. It's sturdy, easy to use/adjust, and feels safe. The only downside is that it's a bit heavy at ~50 lbs, so I enlisted my husband's help to reposition it every time I needed to move up or down the stairs (not only because of the weight, but also because our stairs are somewhat narrow and there wasn't a lot of room to maneuver with the ladder. We found it was easiest to have one person holding each side while moving it). By the way, we shopped around before purchasing this ladder. Lowe's was selling it for $199 in store. Home Depot's in-store price was $129. Use that information as you see fit : )

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  1. It's coming along so well! I'm with you. Everything takes so much longer than expected. One of our chimney is going to get rebuilt next year. Right now, I am so happy it is spring that I don't want to do any work. I just want to lay in the grass. :D

    1. Thanks so much, Stacy. It's hard for me to see the progress on a day-to-day basis, but when I look back over a few months, it becomes more apparent. And I'm in complete agreement about spring. I keep heading outside to weed or water the garden, even though there are a million projects inside that should be a higher priority!