A New Year, A New Project

It was the day before the Rose Bowl and I had a lot of pent up stress and had to channel it into something productive. So much to the chagrin of my wonderful bride, I decided to tackle the dining room. Admittedly it was a bit unplanned. But I also know that if I actually thought about how much work a room renovation really is I would never do it. So furniture was moved, plastic was placed, and the dining room rehab has begun.

Dining room sheathed in ominous plastic.

Dining room prior to a mess.

After wallpaper removal.

Evidence of wainscotting & plate rail as well as original size of the original built-in.

Evidence that there used to be a high window in the middle of the bump out (just like my neighbors house across the street).

As you can see, the wallpaper removal was, by all accounts, pretty easy. I have been peaking around at small details in this room for some time and, combined with looking at a few of my neighbors houses, had developed a pretty good idea of what the room was like originally. But I must say that upon confirming my suspicions, it definitely put me in a bad mood. To know that somebody purposefully went through the entire room and removed the stained wood paneling and plate rail along with a great window just hurt my soul. They did the same in the adjoining ‘music room’ as well. What were they thinking?!?!? And to remove the original built-in cabinet and replace it with a smaller 1950’s piece of garbage? Ugh.

The key word for this project is STAGES. Initially I will fix up the plaster and get it primed. I haven’t decided yet if I should skim the walls or not. For now, I am going put a fresh coat of paint on the box beams until some other point down the road I will hire somebody to strip them back to their original glory. The window and door trim all needs to be stripped and stained while adding in a few pieces that had been removed back during the first ‘remodel.’  I haven’t decided yet if the wainscoting/plate rail will be added back now or in stage 2 but it is definitely coming back. If anybody has some suggestions on the best method of building paneled wainscot/plate rail system then let me know. Also, a good place to source material here in Portland would help. I have my ideas but I’d appreciate your input.

I’ve uploaded a new photo set to document the progress. Wish me luck and Happy New Years!

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.

Trim Removal and Wall Repair

We have removed all the trim in the living room which, as usual, turned into a little bit bigger of a project than anticipated.  There were times when I seriously thought the baseboard and window trim was a structural part of the house.  The original builders used what felt like a billion railroad spikes to affix the trim which made removal a little bit tedious.  And the 100 year-old, dry, straight grain fir is prone to splitting so I had to go slowly.  I then decided that since the trim was removed, I should just have it all dipped at Houck’s.  They’ll do a better job and the fact that the process includes bleaching will save me a ton of time and be a lot better.

About 1/3 of the living room trim removed

But with the trim off I of course slightly altered the scope of the project.  Originally I was going to strip the sashes and re-hang them.  But I got to thinking…always a dangerous thing to do.  And decided to replace the windows.  The question is where to stop (just the living room? first floor? entire house?).  Any suggestions on which manufacturer?  At the moment I have narrowed it down to either Marvin fir windows with aluminum cladding on the outside or Milgard Fiberglass windows with a fir laminate on the inside.  All are double hung, fold in for cleaning types.  I’ll be staining the inside so the wood is a must.  Thoughts?

With the trim off though, we have tackled the walls.  I was fortunate that early in the houses history somebody wallpapered the room and I was able to remove all the paint and wallpaper in one fell swoop that took all of 20 minutes.  It honestly peeled off so easily in huge sheets.  I guess that slightly made up for the previous wallpaper removal fiasco.

Wallpaper pulling off in huge sheets

Our friend Chris stopped by and we set about removing loose plaster and fixing cracks.  Tomorrow we’ll be taping the entire wall and doing several skim coats to make them strong and new.

Plaster repaired and ready for skim coat

As always, photo gallery 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.

We’re In

We’re in. And we love it! As with any house from 1910 we’re definitely finding the quirks but we are still can’t believe we live here. Just the other weekend we walked all of 2.5 blocks to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. Saturday evening presented us with a block party. Our neighbors (all of whom seem to have young children) have presented us with wine, banana bread, gardening tools and plenty of offers for help. Great place for sure. First on the agenda of hidden annoyances was the dishwasher. It’s surprising that two dishwashers can occupy the same volume and yet hold drastically different amounts of dishes. And it was loud. And old.  And is gone. So while the kitchen is a hodgepodge of different eras, colors and styles, it is also home to a super pimp Bosch stainless steel dishwasher. It was purchased the first full weekend in the house and was totally unexpected and yet necessary.  It will be the only thing that survives to see a new and remodeled kitchen one day.

The new dishwasher looking slightly out of place but stylish

Other discoveries:

Low water pressure – fairly bad everywhere but particularly bad in the upstairs shower. Probably from old and corroded galvanized piping. I think I’ve figured out how to replumb the upstairs shower without too much destruction.

Electrical – don’t run the TV, refridgerator, and microwave on the first floor at the same time as the iMac upstairs. It will trip the breaker. For now. We knew it was underpowered when we bought it but we had to laugh when we discovered that half the kitchen, the downstairs TV room and all of the upstairs office were on one breaker.

Lawn – is huge. Surprisingly huge. The parking strip down the side is the big surprise. There is at least twice as much (maybe 3 times as much) grass to mow as our last place. It hadn’t been edged in 20 years but 5 wheel barrows of grass/dirt later and a borrowed edger and it is nice and square. Next spring will see a yard redesign and overhaul but for now Christopher and his bubble mower will have to work overtime.

Pocket Doors – the house used to have them and we were hoping they had simply been covered over in trim during the 1950’s remodel. I popped the trim and was unfortunately disappointed. The track is still in there  and working beautifully: sans doors. Maybe one day we’ll find some replacements.

Trim removed to expose where the pocket door used to be

The doors are missing but the sliding track still remains and works

Gutters/Roof – our inspector appears to have been sleeping on the job. He didn’t notice that the gutters were totally clogged and that when it rains, they create huge waterfalls that have been destroying the shingles on the roof below them. That will be addressed shortly so as to avoid a much larger problem.

Insulation – we think the house has been insulated at some point. We have barely needed to even turn on the furnace this Junuary and when it has kicked on, it has been incredibly short. Even the top floor seems to be staying cool during the hot days. A very welcome surprise. The existence of storm windows on every window probably doesn’t hurt.

Now that we’re for the most part in, we’re trying to devise a plan of attack. We need to paint everything (trim, walls, ceiling) but the scope is a little intimidating. Also hampering the process is the discussion regarding wallpaper. Most of the walls have been wallpapered at some point and then painted over. The overlapping wallpaper seems is not a good look in our humble opinion. Do we just paint over it and tackle it down the road or do we get ambitious and remove it slowly one room at a time so that we can truly be done with each room and move on? Any suggestions on removal of massive amounts of painted wallpaper over lath and plaster?

But to the good parts. The front porch is huge and a wonderful place to have a cup of coffee, rock in the porch swing and soak up the morning sun. The gas fireplace provides a great ambiance in the living room with a glass of wine in the evening. The dining room and it’s formal box beams is a great place for company. The house has amazing natural light no matter what the weather – being on a corner lot I think really helps. We have closets – in every room! It’s so nice to have your clothes in the same room as in which you sleep! The upstairs sunporch/office is probably the coolest room in the house. It feels like you’re in a treehouse surrounded by windows.