11 December 2006


Today I had an epiphany. If I wanted to be able to share all the sorrows, joys, triumphs, dirt, discoveries, and disasters of owning and restoring an old house when no one I know seems to be interested, I'd need to blog about it. Hopefully what I write won't be inane drivel and will contain at least some modicum of usefulness to the outside world. That said, on to the restoration!

I also decided today to spend at least an hour a day stripping old paint off woodwork in some part of the house. I have this neat scraping tool I found in a junk store a few years ago that I find I can't live without. It holds 2" blades of beveled steel at an angle and makes paint just fly when you use it right. I have found that it works best on harder woods like oak, but you still have to be careful of gouging. With this and some dental pics and another tool similar to it that has some interchangeable shaped blades I can strip with relatively no mess but flying paint chips. I suppose I'm also putting lead paint into the air but I don't have any windowsill chewers around and the cats and I won't live forever so I don't care.

Today I stripped quite a bit from some doorways in the kitchen. It was interesting to see what colors these had been painted over the 114 years of love and abuse this kitchen has had. On top of the wood was a thin coat of gray paint. I have found that almost the whole house had the woodwork painted gray at this level. There were other levels of cobalt blue (probably from the '20's), off-white, yellow, chartreuse (ewwww) and white.

Every inch of woodwork in this house had been painted except the pocket door, which would have been if the previous owner had known it was under that strip of molding on the archway. This door is a real beauty. Oak on the parlor side, something else on the dining room side. I need to find some pictures of woodgrains to figure out what this is. A few years ago I really went after this door with Murphy's Oil Soap and got down into the cracks and crevices and now it really gleams. Since it exists, it gives me the problem of what finish to put on the rest of the woodwork in the room when it is finally all stripped. I've never done real varnish before--never even done the alcohol test.

Since the people who painted all this woodwork never bothered (thank Heaven!) to prepare the surfaces before they painted, sometimes I can "lift" paint off with a razor-bladed stripping tool. Once a break in the surface is made or found, carefully working outward and breaking the surface bond of the thick latex paint goes pretty fast. Of course, you have to like the look of leopard-spotted doors all over the house! I really hate to use stripper because it usually chases paint down into cracks I'll never get it out of. Taking all the woodwork off and sending it out to be professionally stripped is totally out of the question with my budget.

The guy who I bought the house from was not a handyman. He had a hole-saw and a staple gun, however, and there are staples and holes all over the house. He liked to put up Christmas lights, so drilled holes through window frames and stapled lights up. He also stapled plastic over the windows. To get power to the dining room, which has not one outlet on any wall, he drilled holes into the basement and ran extension cords from outlets down there. He also liked phones in every room, so stapled phone wire along all baseboards and up and around all door openings. It will be a major fishing operation when I get around to putting phone lines in the few strategic places where I want them. In the meantime I have them draped all over the upstairs where I have taken down walls and doors that were put up in the 1950's to make an upstairs apartment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well Marilyn, I have read your entire blog. What a lot of work you've done. Good luck with all you have yet to do. Very well written, too.