Monday, January 16, 2017

Dining Room Ceiling Project Par 4 - Wecome to my Hell

So the dining room ceiling project has kind of gone off the rails and spiraled into "hellish pain in the ass" territory. When working with old painted woodwork or walls, I tend to give the advice "don't pick at it", but sometimes I don't follow my advice. On this particular job, I HAD to at least chip off the unsightly chunks of paint in order to be able to do a quick patch job. I was originally just doing this near edges and in the V grooves. The plan was just to clean up the ceiling and then patch the chippy edges of the boards.

A preview of things to come...
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Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately? you be the judge) I ended up chipping off a big section of one board and then kept going.

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This is the result of just half a minute of work. The thick layers of paint in the centre of the boards came off quite easily. This leaves just a bit of white at the edges where the paint had previously chipped and they had painted over it. The paint film separated right at the layer of shellac over the wood. As it turns out, the entire ceiling is actually stained and shellacked solid birch. In today's world (and today's prices) this would be about a 1000$ ceiling to put in. There's at least 500-600$ in wood, plus the added labour to have it stained and varnished. Back in the 1920s, however, it was probably just a bit more expensive than drywall, or possibly close to the same price, since drywall was still a very new product.

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Here you can see a bit of an action shot (which was hard to photograph with my left hand) showing how the paint was coming off the boards.

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Some of the first layer of oil paint was not coming off as easily, but at least the first 10 coats was chipping off pretty effortlessly.

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This is probably and hour's worth of work. This was not fun, since you're working on a ladder with your neck bent.

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The original shellac under the paint seems to have had some kind of reaction over the years and it now has sort of a swirly frosted look to it. Reminds me of frost on a window.

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Here's a terrible photo.

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By far the worst part of this whole job is just the paint chip management. I vacuumed the room about 3 or 4 times but it's basically an unending mess.

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I think this is what I managed to scrape in one or two sessions (a few hours).

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Yeah, I think that's what I did on the first night, and this was the next day (the bulk of the ceiling scraping was done between about Jan 2 to 6).

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I also shot this terrible video for you guys. You might want to turn down your volume, as I had loud trace music in the background as I was working.



As of today, 95% of the ceiling is paint free. I have a few edges left to do, then I can patch and putty the damaged bits. There's one big saw cut to putty, and several nail holes.

Yesterday I went to buy BIN (shellac based) primer and some white paint.

And yes I did briefly consider trying to save and refinish the original wood ceiling, but it would be an insane amount of work. All the cracks are still full of paint, the new patched-in boards don't quite match the original colour, and to actually get everything nice I'd have to chemical-strip, sand, and re-stain the entire ceiling. That's just NOT going to happen. It's too much work, and in the end, it wouldn't match anything else in the house. All the other ceilings and trim have already been painted-over decades ago. I'm just aiming to have a nice white tongue-and-groove ceiling instead of the drywall. I will also fix the ceiling in the kitchen, but not yet. There's no sense in trying to do it now because I need to remove the chimney in order to patch that corner hole. I will also need the cabinets to be out of there because they do sit right against the t-g ceiling and there's probably many extra coats of paint on the inside of the cabinets.

Speaking of the cabinets, I've actually determined that they must be original to the house. They kind of look more like 1940s or 50s cabinets, but the way they are built and how they were installed seems to prove that they were put in at the same time the house was built. They but-up against the ceiling, and they finish on the original tongue-and-groove paneling that went around the kitchen originally (more of the same wood). Additionally, when I removed the plumbing stack, the exposed cabinet side was unfinished white wash, which is the same wood that was used for the casings. Anyhow, more on that later.

Lastly, I'm including this photo to give you an idea of what a dark wood ceiling would look like. Many houses still have them, but a lot of people don't like the dark wood, so the survival rate for these is getting lower every year. The craze for DIY renos and constantly wanting to stay "on trend" with interior design is also not helping.

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dining Room Ceiling Project Part 3 - Patching

It's late (3:20am), but this should be a relatively quick post to write.

With the old tongue-and-groove removed from the chimney cabinet, I was able to start patching all the damaged/rotten boards in the ceiling. This was the first of the two long centre boards:

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Second board:

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Staggered joints in the middle.

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Some of the short boards were attached with this scrap piece of wood which was installed with screws from above. The screws were installed using a small hand-held ratcheting screw driver.

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First two boards. Screwed from above, and nailed at the edge of the wall. A small clamp (seen later) helped keep pieces in place while driving the screws.

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3rd and 4th boards.

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The last few were nailed to the floor joist.

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I used the same system near the bath drain and heating duct corner.

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More in a few days!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dining Room Ceiling Project Part 2 - Demolishing the Chimney Cabinet

I have several posts (8 of them) ready to share over the next few weeks, and I will try to space them out every few days so that you don't get everything all at once.

I will be going back and forth between posts relating to the dining room ceiling I'm restoring (in my house), and the Victorian farmhouse posts.

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In order for me to be able to repair the dining room ceiling, I'm going to need to make a bunch of patches in the woodwork. Some of the damage was due to plumbing or heating vents, new electrical, and rot. I could make new boards to patch the missing ones, but the originals are alternating width tongue-and-groove boards in solid birch with beveled edges. I do have some router bits to make something nearly identical, but it would be very time consuming. Instead, I still have the existing chimney cupboard that is in the kitchen, which is made from the same boards. The plan is to eventually demolish and remove the entire cabinet and chimney, so for now, I just scavenged the exterior wood. This is how that went.

The first part to be removed was the wooden box covering the electrical wires that go up to the attic for all the upstairs electrical. This box had been made very sloppily from rough wooden boards.

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The next easiest board to remove was the long vertical corner board. It's at this point that I found out that this demo job was not going to be as easy as I thought. The cabinet appears to have been built BEFORE the ceiling tongue-and-groove boards were installed. This means that the boards go up into the ceiling about 6 inches, and they are nailed up at the top on a 2x6 or 2x8 beam that goes across the top of the chimney (where the floor is nailed around the chimney above). Because of this, there isn't a lot of room to wiggle the boards, or the lever the boards to free them from those upper nails.

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Eventually I was able to get the first few boards loose, and for the rest of them, I was able to slide a hacksaw into the gap and cut the upper nails.

I didn't want to see the packed dead leaves and sooty debris in the chimney opening, so I stuffed the hole with insulation. You can start to see how the chimney cabinet was framed and assembled.

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Long boards removed. You can also sort of see how the chimney is partially inset into the exterior wall. The chimney is 2 bricks deep (front to back), and 2 1/2 bricks wide on the front. In the photo you can see 1 1/2 bricks wide, with the other ~4" of brick within the outside wall. It's kind of an unusual setup. I assume that the chimney sits between two exterior studs, which have a 24" spacing between them. The framing for the cabinet is basically two rectangular frames that act as legs, plus a shelf on top.

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Front boards. There isn't a whole lot of wood to save on these pieces, but they will need to come out, and sometimes I only need a very small piece.

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There was a 3/4" gap between the cabinet front and the metal ring in the chimney opening. It was filled with some kind of hard white putty. It almost looks like plaster of Paris, but plaster of Paris is usually pretty liquid when you mix it, and this looks like it was pushed in the gap in thick blobs.

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I ended up leaving that last board in place for now. Most of the edge on this side is no good because the groove was cut off to make a flat edge. It's also nailed all along the edge and the drywall is going to make it hard to remove for now.

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The chimney lands flush with the interior centre wall (along the right side).

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Victorian Farmhouse - Part 21 The Refinished Floors, Before and After!

Alright peeps, this is the one you've all been waiting for. 50 glorious before and after photos, courtesy of Pierre (since I wasn't there). Pierre spent some time scraping the gunk out of the floor boards upstairs, emptying out the entire house, and puttying a few additional nail holes, and he took the time to take a whole bunch of before and after photos while the floors were being sanded and refinished over the period of about a few weeks. This was in late summer (before Halloween for sure, but I've lost track of exactly when).

For the most part this will just be a photo post without much dialogue. I may just indicate a few notes as to which rooms are shown, or where large patches were made in the floor, but it's mostly just for the photos.

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Not really discussed or photographed earlier, you can see that in the living room only the edges of the floor were painted. There was originally some sort of rug in the centre (for a while at least). This floor had been painted a few times. Yellow, orange, and brown at least.

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Upstairs landing and bathroom.

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Spare room.

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Note floor patch.

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Note that the closet was removed.

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Master bedroom.

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Note floor patch.

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I told Pierre to get a few photos of the floor while they were sanding it. I may have taken one or two of these, since I was there that one day when they started. The guy was only there for a few hours since they were working on a few flooring jobs, apparently. How cool is that old vintage floor sander?!?! It took 2 people to lift it. Edit: apparently the company (Galaxy) still sells this exact same sander, and according to the stats, it weighs about 237 lbs (107.5 KG)!

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Rough sanding done.

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This is where the patch was installed where there was a huge floor grate hole. How awesome is that! Blends in seamlessly! As it turns out, this floor (upstairs) is Basswood (aka Linden).

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Are you ready??? Here are the finished floors! On the main floor is what looks like Silver Maple (aka Soft Maple - which is not at all "soft" as the name suggests) in a slightly pinkish hue, and cedar on the other half in a slightly more mellw yellow tone (the half we had to rip up and carefully reinstall). Upstairs, as mentioned, is all Basswood.

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Something you will no longer find in new homes, or at any DIY store are FULL LENGTH floor boards. Most of all these are single boards with no joints (aside from a few rare spots and where we made repairs). This is something I really love about old floors. They don't look like hundreds of little brickwork tiles, which is all you can find these days. All the hardwood floors now only come in lengths of about 4 feet long or shorter. Why? Because they can use crappier wood and cut around all the knots instead of giving you nice long clear boards. It also means that the boards are less likely to warp or twist (which isn't a problem if the wood is seasoned properly).

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I was pleasantly surprised to see that the old paint within the floor gaps doesn't really show up very much. I had seen other refinishing jobs where it was very obvious that the floor "used to be blue, or pink, or whatever".

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Master bedroom.

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I find it a bit strange how they chose to lay out the floor upstairs. Still long length boards, but they put all the joints along the same stud, which gives the same effect into both main rooms.

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You can just barely tell where the patch was installed. This is why it's so important to use the same wood (same species, same age, everything). We used pieces from under the tub for the floor repairs.

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Spare room (note patch location).

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The next few photos are a few glamour and ambiance photos taken the next day with some beautiful sunshine gleaming across the floors. You might also spot a few paint samples and swatches on the walls. This post contains the last of the "before paint" photos.

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Is that not a gorgeous floor? Can you remember how awful it looked (with the paint). And remember that over the paint were two layers of linoleum, and then shag carpeting.

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Some of the putty stayed rather pale yellow, so I may go over all the light spots with touch-up pens.

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The bathroom.

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And a last shot of the spare room (in better lighting). I really love the Basswood as a flooring wood. It's not a wood I see often. It's generally used as "white wood" for paint-grade applications (similar to Poplar).

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