Christopher’s Room Done*

Done! Or at least until this summer when I finish off the other window but I’m not thinking about that right now. What began in September and was originally going to just be a bit of paint and lipstick on my oldest son Christopher’s room turned into the classic rehaber project. But I must say, as with every room rehab we’ve done so far (Aiden’s bedroom, living room), this is my favorite room so far. It involved layers and layers of paint over layers and layers of wallpaper all on top of calcimine paint on top of plaster. There was paint on doors, on windows, on trim. Lots of stripping, sanding, staining. Cursing. New lighting (over old gas pipes). Some new hardware, some old hardware cleaned up. And for the most part, I actually enjoyed working on it. Christopher made for a good supervisor and the occasional assistant and is a great tenant (although his rent check is a bit late).

Take a look:

Isn’t this the point? My son Christopher playing and enjoying his recently completed room.

The two beautiful doors, picture molding, and new fixture courtesy of Rejuvenation.

Picture moulding finally reinstalled.

Christopher lounging on his bed. We’ll decorate soon but he does love his map.

The original 1910 wall color (green) and the first layer of wallpaper that I uncovered during the removal of layers of paint and wallpaper. The wallpaper has a bunch of names written on it and I thought I would preserved the whole find just for fun.

And a reminder of what it was when we bought the house:

The day we bought the house.

I’d like to say that I plan on taking a bit of a break but I’m pretty sure I’ll start another project. Potential projects include the dining room, entryway, upstairs hallway, or the sunporch/office. If you would like to see all the pictures documenting the rehab process of Christopher’s room, the gallery can be found here.

The Accidental Epic Project

Our oldest son Christopher will be turning 4 here in a couple of days and I thought it best that he finally get a room with a little character. Just like nearly every other room in our house, his room was covered with painted wallpaper. I am of the opinion that painted wallpaper is just about the most egregious sin one can impart on a house (besides painting original woodwork and installing a drop ceiling in the kitchen). Painted wallpaper is bad house karma.

But I am also a realistic man. And having removed painted-over-wallpaper before in my son Aiden’s room, I knew what I would be up against and (forgive me Lord) decided I would paint over the wallpaper. After all, Christopher wouldn’t know and I would eventually get around to doing it right in a few years.

So with the plan in hand, I set about removing the picture molding as I decided I would at least strip it and stain it…and my plan veered off course. As I removed the molding, I accidentally began to pull layers of paint and layers of wallpaper off with it. And hence began the epic room project under a short deadline that I had not planned on.

The beginning

Wallpaper removal has begun

Two walls down to plaster and calcimine paint

Walls primed with shellac

First coat of paint on the walls

Found these names written on the original wallpaper underneath layers of paint. Would love to know the story that goes with this.

I still have quite a way to go but we are making progress. It is my intention to strip the two doors, picture molding, as well as window trim and then stain them all.  But before we get around to that, we first need to get the base molding painted and walls buttoned up. After all, his birthday is Friday. This might be a belated present…

Complete pics here.

Spiraling Project

The baby’s room has turned into a slight ordeal (surprise, surprise).  Originally, it was the sight of painted wallpaper and the bad-house-karma that it provided that motivated us to start in on this room.  And the fact that it was small and should be easy.  “Remove the paint and wallpaper,” they say.  I did that and did so fairly easy.  To recap, I found 3 layers of paint (lead of course) on top of 3 layers of wallpaper, on top of 1 layer of paint on top of plaster.

Lots of paint on top of lots of wallpaper on top of more paint.

The 3 layers of paint nearly peeled off.  The wallpaper, with some elbow grease came off relatively fast.  I thought I was almost home free.

What remained was a green, chaulk like dust on the walls.

The Green

100 year old calcimine paint

I didn’t know what to make of it nor what to do about it.  After discussing this with some painting contractors and the folks down the street at Miller Paint, I learned that this is calcimine paint.  It needs to be removed in order to have our paint bond to the plaster.  How do you remove it?  Either wet it down and scrape it or sand it.  Scraping it is horrible.  It would take me 3 weeks straight to do a horrible job at it.  Sanding it would also take forever.  I’ve tried both. A note: we’ve got masks, dust collection and vacuums in the room and the dust in the air is actually almost zero.

I had read about skimming it but wondered about the bonding.  I’m against putting drywall over it for obvious reasons.  I thought about pulling the lath and plaster down and drywalling it.  I could have insulated/sound proofed the room and checked electrical.  But I didn’t.  I removed as much as I could without going insane and decided to try an awesome oil based primer.  It seems to have sealed and done the trick as long as one of the kids doesn’t decide to eat a wall.


Oil based primer seems to do the trick.

In the spirit of a Spiraling Project, I also discovered what the original trim looked like unpainted – it’s gorgeous.  A fair amount of paint had chipped off so I decided it would be best to strip the picture moulding.  This appeased my desire to get something down to bare wood without removing every single piece of wood.  At least not yet and not on this room.

Stripping Paint

Chemicals remove decades of paint


Stained picture moulding. A little dark but good enough.

At this point, it became obvious that the doors needed to be stripped and finished as well.  I dropped them at Houck’s Stripping and for $110 a door, they made them beautiful!  After a little sanding, they were ready to finish as well.

Stripped Doors

Freshly stripped doors. A little sanding and ready to finish.

This is the second major slowdown of the room.  I wasn’t blown away with the stain color of the picture moulding but I had already stained it.  Now I have these gorgeous doors and I have decided that however I finish these, I will carry the process through the rest of the house.  Clear looks amazing but might be too much clear fir.  I could lighten the stain a bit (I do like the contrast to the cream trim). Or some totally different, yet to be determined color.  The pressure.  Instead of deciding, it was time to mess with the hardware.

I salvaged all the old door hardware and vents and plopped them in a pot with water and soap.  Couple hours later and after some stirring, we had brand new (old) hardware.

Cooking paint

Cooking paint off the vent. The rest was done in a pot.

For the switch and plug covers as well as window pulls, we went with Rejuvenation’s oil rubbed bronze finish.  It looks sharp.  For the curtain rod, we went with the IKEA $14.95 special.  Hot diggity.  And nobody will notice the $110 I saved by not buying from Rejuvenation.  We also have a Jefferson light fixture on order (with two shades because I couldn’t decide).

Coming Together

Beginning to come together. Need doors and picture moulding.

Now we just need to decide what to do with those doors and get the moulding up.  I did decide to go with a danish finish on all the woodwork as I liked the look better than poly and figured that it would be easier to maintain and fix over the years.

Deadline: September 3rd.  Give or take.  Baby #2 will arrive.

I can see the finish line…

Complete pics here.

Update: the green chaulky substance is actually calcimine paint, not lead paint. More difficult to remove but slightly less hazardous.

Wallpaper Removal

I needed a break from studying this afternoon so I decided to see what I was up against in the baby’s room regarding the wallpaper.  It’s a work in progress, but it looks like we’ve got several coats of paint on top of 3 different types of wallpaper on top of two coats of paint on top of the plaster.

So far I’ve been able to scrape most of the paint off pretty easily down to the wallpaper. From there, it’s a lot of warm water and scraping and the wallpaper comes off.  The plaster appears to be in pretty good shape but I won’t count my chickens til’ they hatch.

Wallpaper removal in the baby’s room

See more photos here.