Preserved in amber
This is how Eric responded to my last blog post on Facebook. Well … I wasn’t in the room during most of the sanding effort (although I remember well how much fun it was to sand the living and dining room). Every now and then I’d pop my head in to check out his progress and offer helpful suggestions (“Hey, looks great. Want to go get a Starbucks?”) If he wants to read about his hours of sanding, I suggested he write a guest post. I’m still waiting.
The floor looks terrific … ready for stain. But I’ve been focused on the walls.
After all the paper was gone, we were left with walls that looked, well … 100 years old. They’d been gouged and patched (poorly) and abused. Add to that, plastering is not a perfect art. Looking closely, I noticed many small trowel marks that all angled from upper right to lower left. (The plasterer was right-handed.) I think it’s kind of cool that the marks of his craft are still visible on my walls, making me wonder, a century later, who this person was.
I grabbed my tub of plaster patch and worked my way around the room, skimming over all the areas where the paint had pulled away with the wallpaper, evening out old lumpy patches, sealing cracks, and filling gouges. Yes, I even filled some of the plasterer’s marks, although plenty are left. I did a reasonable job of disguising the big crater where I pulled that chunk of plaster off the wall. Quite the work of art, by the time I was done!
The next day, after everything was thoroughly dry, I sanded the entire wall surface with the mouse sander. Although this sander has a dust catcher, it did little good with ultrafine plaster dust. The green powder covered everything and swirled in the air like the Oklahoma Dustbowl. Yes, I wore a mask. This is not my bra. It’s a used mask next to a new mask.
After all the dust settled (literally), I blew my nose and vacuumed the walls and floor, then I mopped the walls with a damp sponge mop.
As an old boss of mine used to say, “It’s not good, but it’s better.” The low spots were higher and the high spots were lower. In fact, this room hadn’t been so smooth and clean in decades—maybe ever.
Finally, I was ready to paint! It was late in the afternoon, but I still had time to paint one wall for a color preview … only to find that I had no paint rollers. Life can be so cruel!
While I was smoothing things over in the main room, Eric was in the closet making a mess. When he removed some wood pieces that had supported a closet pole and a shelf, some of the plaster came with—a large enough chunk that he would have to replace it with drywall. Not a big deal. But when he carved out a neater shape to fill, a hairline crack grew clear to the end of the wall … and the plaster surrounding it wasn’t attached to anything. The damage went from this …
To this …
We have recently learned about keys—those globs of plaster that ooze out between the strips of lath. That’s the base coat of plaster pushing through the lath and getting a good grip. When the plaster fingers, or keys, break off, the plaster is no longer attached to the wall. You then have a choice of removing the plaster and replacing it with drywall, or going through a whole bunch of rigmarole trying to glue it and screw it back into place. We’re not into rigmarole.
In the meantime, we (well … I) got excited about our chosen rug and could put off the purchase no longer. We started to wonder if we really needed the 8 x 10 size. By the time we put the furniture in the room, the floor space effectively will be reduced, and we want some wood to show around the border of the rug. We put tape marks on the floor where the rug will go and discovered that the 5 x 8 version is the one we want … and the one we rushed out to buy, coming home with it sticking out the car’s sunroof. We won’t unroll it until the floor is finished, but it feels good to have another piece of the puzzle at the ready. And I was not sad to pay less for the smaller size.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the paint. We (well … I) decided to go with the Light Amber. This Valspar Signature paint-and-primer is nice and thick, like painting with yogurt. The real breakthrough came when Eric offered to tape the trim for me. I don’t tape much when I paint because I can cut in a clean, straight line (and I hate prep work), but these bumpy walls required trim taping. I have found the secret to effortless painting: Have someone else tape the job for you! (Thanks, hon!)
I knew painting a lighter color over pea green would take two coats, regardless of the paint+primer claim. (I always use two coats, anyway.) I liked the sample, but I was concerned the color would come out more yeller than amber. I didn’t want yeller. A lot of green showed through that first coat, and we stood back, tilting our heads and reserving judgment.
The second coat made all the difference, and soon the room was looking as I’d envisioned. I had to do some of the painting at night with the dim single-bulb overhead light and one work light. The incandescent lamps turned the color yeller, but it’s easy to buy color-correct LED lighting these days. Which reminds me, I have to pick out a new ceiling fixture.
It’s hard to accurately capture the color in photographs. The second one is truer. What do you think?
I’m particularly pleased with the color during the day, with natural light pouring in from the windows. I pop in every morning and afternoon to admire its golden glow. It’s bright, it’s neutral, it compliments the woodwork, and it feels right in our old house. Okay, walls are done—next, we hit the floor!