13 months later…

Progress in the dining room – I kid you not! Ironically enough, it was not the guilt, mess, or embarrassment that kicked this room reno into motion (okay, maybe a little bit). It was installing our beautiful Nest thermostat on the ugly wall and knowing we could do better.

With motivation in hand, I started at the top by cleaning and painting the box beams. As much as I would love to strip them and stain them – that is a project that I will hire out at a later date. Painting them (and painting them well) was enough of a project in and of itself. With the ceiling taken care of, it was time to finish up the walls.

As you may recall, I removed wallpaper, repaired some cracks, and then fiberglassed and skim coated the whole room. Well, let’s just say that sanding that down to perfection (and the prep and the clean up) is a messy job.

I’m obviously stoked about sealing off the room and the impending mess I’m about to make.

This photo does not do me justice. I was COVERED in dust! Maybe I’ll just wallpaper every room from here on out.

Walls sanded and primed.

All of the original remaining trim has been stripped, sanded, and stained while I added back header caps and stops to all the windows and doors.

Door and window trim ready to be installed.

Staining in progress.

The walls have been primed but the final wall color is still undecided…any ideas? We’re leaning towards either a green or chocolatey beige or cream or I don’t know. Remember, the bottom half (or 60%) of the walls will be covered in stained wood paneling topped by a plate rail.

Half of our color options. Creamy earth tones not shown here. Ugh.

We’re getting close! Complete room photo gallery is here.

Stained Glass Window

How often do we begin and finish a project in a single day? Almost never around these parts but today was an anomaly: I was able to strip and stain an old stained glass window and get it hung. It fit just right.

Stained glass window.

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.

Stripping Picture Molding

Stripping picture molding takes forever, at least when I do it. But alas, the heat gun and chemicals have been put away, the trim has been sanded and the first pass of stain has been applied.  Can’t wait to get the molding up in the room as it will truly help finish off Christopher’s room.

First coat of stain

The room picture gallery can be found here.

1 (of 2) Windows Completed

As with nearly all projects, the devil is in the details. So while the window is just a window, there are a ton of different trim pieces to strip, sand, prep, stain, finish and assemble. Along the way I re-weighted the windows and replaced the sash cords. There is some touch up painting needed and, as I’m sure you can see from the picture, I still need to strip and stain the picture molding (along with the other window in the room). But for now, I’m celebrating.

Before work began

Window (#1) Completed

101 year old, fully functioning window. And it's proud restorer.

Not shown in these pictures is the new light fixture courtesy of Rejuvenation. More to come…

The Marathon

Room is painted. Shoe molding is installed. Lighting courtesy of Rejuvenation is installed (over old gas piping as usual). Doors are stripped, sanded, stained, finished and hung. Picture molding needs to be stripped along with the windows but the room is once again livable. And while the room renovation feels like a marathon to me, I know that it pales in comparison to the actual marathon my wonderful bride will be running in tomorrow morning! Good luck to all the runners and go get ’em babe!

Room is painted

A little bit of decorating

Sanding down the doors and prepping for stain

Christopher is pretty proud of his door

The doors. Installed.

Complete room pics are here.


Kerri running the Portland Marathon. She did a great job and I'm so proud of her!

Lead Paint and Safety Precautions

A good neighbor of mine brought up some valid concerns about working with lead paint especially when children are around and I thought it would be helpful to share some notes about my process and resources to consult with. In looking at past blog posts, I’ve realized that in an effort to share my progress and tangible results, I sometimes exclude the prep work and safety details.

With that in mind, here are some great resources, tips, and suggestions:

First of all, securing the work area is very important. Page 12 of this pamphlet explains a great way to do this. Obvious points include wrapping the room, taping off all vents and air returns, and turning off your HVAC system so that you don’t circulate the dust throughout the house. With that said, protect yourself. Most importantly, use a respirator. I personally use this half face respirator with 3M 2091 P100 filters.

A couple of good links:

Some other good tips:
  • Use a utility knife to score a line through the paint so that when you pry up moldings the paint won’t crack/chip irregularly.
  • Sometimes it is best to toss the piece and make a copy of new/clean wood.
  • If you need to sand, wet sand. When rolling up your plastic drop clothes – wet it down with a garden pump spray bottle to prevent dust from escaping.
  • Leave all of those dusty clothes, shoes, hair coverings etc. in the protected area. Wash any contaminated clothes separately and rinse the washer when you are done. Don’t do things with children until you have showered.
  • When doing demo use a damp towel or buy a foot wipe tack pad to keep dust from tracking. Close windows, cover up your ducts and vents and turn off your central heat to prevent the dust from being circulated.
  • For stripping paint off of trim look into an infrared heat plate such as the Silent Paint Remover or take the trim off site to somebody like Houck’s Process Stripping.
  • Instead of heating a pot of water and possibly inhaling the steam,  clean painted hardware by just soaking in Simple Green. It takes a couple of days but it works great. You can strain out the paint (discard safely) and reuse the solution for more hardware.
  • Don’t scrape your walls: try scrubbing Calcimine paint from the walls/ceilings using a stiff bristle brush dipped in hot water with a little ammonia or TSP in it. They often used glue as a binder and the hot water melts the glue and the ammonia then cleans it. Change your water often.
  • Typical shop vacuums are horribly inefficient for capturing dust. My neighbor suggested that the best place to buy good sealed FEIN vacs with a HEPA filter is Coastaltool.com out of Massachusetts. The Turbo II is a great vac and a perfect size.
  • Lead Check swab kits are great to know what you are up against. If you use a Lead Check, by squeezing the fluid onto Q-Tips and swabbing with them you can greatly extend the amount of surfaces 1 Lead Check will test.
  • Be aware that asbestos is in most linoleums and floor tiles from before like 1975 and the adhesive too (referred to as ‘cutback’). Also in many ceiling tiles and “popcorn” ceilings. You can send away a sample to testing labs to be sure. Be very careful with what looks like insulation and paper tape on plumbing pipes and on heating ducts and registers. It’s usually asbestos tape and needs to be wet and removed carefully.

This by no means should serve as your only research but as a good place to start. Any other suggestions or references out there as I’m sure I missed some obvious items?

Living Room Odds & Ends

We’re making progress. The walls are done and primed. The trim has been stripped. The windows have been ordered. It’s still a disaster but that’s progress, right? RIGHT?

Mudding the living room

After fixing the cracks and loose plaster, we ended up taping all the walls with a fiberglass mesh. The plaster was in pretty good shape but hopefully the fiberglass will prevent any future cracking (and yes, I know it’s total overkill but I had to do it at least once). Once cut and applied we set about mudding the walls. This was my first time mudding and it definitely took awhile to get used to but after applying 1/3 of the compound to the floor, I finally got the idea. We knocked off the ridges, gave it a second coat, and were able to sand that down to the smoothest wall I’ve ever seen in a 100 year old house.

I then set about stripping the window stools in place as if I had tried to remove them I’m pretty sure I would have cracked them into pieces.  With 100 years of hideous paint removed, Christopher and I then sanded them down.  They should look great!

Dad and Christopher sanding in the living room

We finally submitted our window order. We ended up choosing the Marvin Ultimate Insert. We were torn between the Marvin and the Milgard Wood Clad window. They were both great windows but the Douglas Fir Marvin was that much more period appropriate – we were even able to get them with ogee lugs on the top sash.  We opted for a two tone window on the outside with a different colored sash from the trim. The inside will of course be stained fir. After much debate, we decided to tweak the large middle window in the living room.  Instead of the typical, equally tall sashes, we went for the short top sash and tall bottom sash (oriel style?).  I think it will break up the huge expanse of windows nicely and add a little more flair (always need more pieces of flair).  The only drawback to awesome windows: the wait. Hopefully they’ll be installed by Christmas. Luckily we’ll be able to take advantage of the tax credit which equates to 30% credit on materials that qualify, up to $1500. Needless to say we will be utilizing the full credit.

The only known distraction left (that is planned) will be the addition of some some in-ceiling speakers. Thanks Bungalowcious for that inspiration.

I’ll begin sanding and staining the trim this week as well as purchasing some trim which was removed during some horrible late night party back in the 1950’s.  If I’m real ambitious, I’ll finish painting the ceiling…but I hate painting.  Especially ceilings.

Christopher wearing ear protection while Dad sands with the vacuum

The Living Room

Project #2 is underway.  And more ambitious than the first (baby’s room). Welcome…to our living room.

Before the Destruction

We have lots of painted woodwork. I mean lots. Besides the obvious base molding and trim package around door openings, there are five windows! All painted shut. Painted shut 9 times as a matter of fact. We’ll be slowing stripping all the wood and prepping it for stain. While we’re at it, we’ll also be adding back some original trim that was removed at some point. Along the way, we’ll remove wallpaper and get back down to bare plaster. We’ll fix some cracks and skim coat the walls before painting the room for the first time in 30 years.

Tentative deadline is Thanksgiving. That should be doable but one never knows.

On Day 1, Christopher and I began by removing most of the trim around the front windows and freeing the windows so that we can begin the stripping. While we were at it, we discovered that somebody had crammed old newspapers around all the window openings to prevent drafts. The windows were then painted shut. Best as I can tell, they were painted shut back in the 1920’s as I found multiple references to July 15th and one piece that mentioned 192X…where the last digit is missing. Unbelievable that somebody would paint them that long ago and that nobody has started the restoration until now. (As a side note, these old papers remind me of the huge stack of super old papers we found in our previous house.  I’ll post on those in the near future.)

Freeing the Windows

Old Papers for Draft Protection

Time to Strip

See the full Living Room photo collection 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.