Friday, September 26, 2008

The joys of refurbishment

As readers know, I had a house fire a few weeks back, and the house suffered additional damage during Hurricane Gustav. I've been busy the last couple of weeks supervising repairs and refurbishment. It's been an education!

This house was built about 60 years ago, shortly after World War II. In one sense, that's good, because a very high quality of materials was used: but in another sense, it's an archaeological time capsule. There have been renovations and/or expansions on at least three occasions, using different techniques and materials each time. These were hidden beneath wallpaper in two bedrooms, the bathroom and the kitchen: but the process of stripping off the wallpaper and revealing the bare walls beneath has uncovered them. Removing the old ceiling tiles has also revealed the plank ceilings, which actually look rather solid and well-made - except that additions and renovations have also resulted in an assortment of styles in some rooms!

The previous renovators used a range of materials. Some of the walls are drywall; others are a sort of imprinted board often found in mobile homes; and some are hardboard. There were several older repairs (including a door that had been blanked off), gaps left by the removal of old gas wall heaters, and cracks and crevices hidden by the wallpaper that are now exposed.

To prepare the walls for painting (I'm not using wallpaper), a huge amount of patching and repair work has been necessary. The contractors have spent this entire week doing nothing but scraping off up to four layers of wallpaper; spreading what they call "mud" on the walls, filling holes and gaps; repairing drywall with a special gel that refinishes the surface, preparing it for painting; and trying to figure out what to do with the imprinted board walls in the bathroom. It looks like the latter may have to be covered with a special wallpaper that's designed to be painted over, because the holes and gaps in this funny board can't be properly concealed any other way.

While they've been doing that, I've been doing load after load of washing, trying to get the smell of smoke out of my clothes, towels and bedding. I've also used the opportunity to sort out older clothes that I no longer need, so that I can donate them to Goodwill (after washing them, of course). I'll come out of this with a much reduced wardrobe. I'm going to do the same with my books as I re-sort them into their bookshelves.

Today, at long last, things look like they're beginning to come together. The contractors spent the day sanding the dried "mud" patches on the walls, painting the woodwork with a primer, and preparing to start the real paint job next week. The walls look like a crazy-quilted patchwork, but at least the deficiencies in them have been repaired. The workmen assure me that preparation is a good two-thirds of the job, and the painting should go much faster than the work up to now.

They'll paint the kitchen, living-room, bathroom, passage and one bedroom, and put up the new ceiling tiles: then I'll have to move myself and what furniture is still in the house into those rooms, while they tackle the last two bedrooms. Once all the painting's finished, the flooring contractors will move in to do the vinyl and carpeting, while the general contractors tackle outside work. After five weeks and over $30,000 worth of repairs and refurbishment, I'll have a completely renovated home.

It looks like another two-and-a-half to three weeks work to finish the interior . . . then I can get all my belongings back from storage and begin the fun, fun job of sorting them all out again! Lawdog's threatening to come up for a visit in late October, so I might rope him in to help me re-sort my library into alphabetical order. It'll be good to have a visiting slave volunteer to help out!



Don Gwinn said...

That's a true adventure. We've also found some neat old stuff in our walls--there seem to have been some pack rats living between the studs in years past. Shotgun shells, fabric sample books, numerous pasta boxes from around the turn of the century (I guess everyone has their favorite--these were all the same brand) and even a letter from the turn of the last century describing a local cholera epidemic have surfaced.

But every time we strip a wall, we all chant "Tommy gun! Tommy gun! Come on, Tommy gun!"

Anonymous said...

You may want to consider having the bathroom wall stuff pulled off. That "hardboard s only water proof while he board integrity isn't breeched. In other words, once it has a hole in it water vapor will seep in behind it and mold-city/paint-peeling will result.

Hardboard - also known as Masonite - was a popular wall treatment during the 40's and 50's.

phlegmfatale said...

At least you don't have to do the work yourself. Can't wait to see the finished product, and I'll be relieved for you when it's all done! :)