Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Razor's Edge on Skull Island

One of the interesting things about working on an old home is how one thing leads you to something unexpected and how a little patience, and a razor, can go along way in bringing back to life some old door and floor molding.

We knew there was some water damage behind a closet wall adjacent to our entryway and tried to figure out the best way to deal with it when the walls are all made of plaster and the roof is, well, really, really high up (don't care for heights). So I decide to take down one of the entryway walls to see how bad the damage is and replace any wood rot. What I found was a long neglected leak issue that allowed rainwater to run down to the subfloor and into the basement. Andrea wondered aloud if we could somehow open up part of the entryway so that the 2nd bedroom closet could also become accessible from the entryway. It was also a very dark entryway and we hoped that the light from the little window in the closet would shed more light and perhaps open the space up a bit more functionally. But first I had to replace a piece of rotted subfloor. I almost always keep any wood I remove from the house in the basement and it turned out that the floor boards in the master bedroom that were painted white were actually pieces of old subfloor! So I removed the paint and was able to replace the rotted piece with an almost exact fitting piece of solid flooring.

After fixing the wood damaged pieces we now had a fresh new entry way wall with a new opening. This led me to heat gun the paint off the original floorboards,
Victorian hanging rail and door trim that led into the parlor. This is a painstakingly long process that involved slowly peeling away 3-5 layers of old paint inch by inch. I prefer the heatgun method over scraping paint and using chemicals since the heatgun method pretty much keeps all the paint intact without chips flying all over the place and less fumes. But it's kind of like pulling gum out of your hair if the gum covers your entire body and you happen to be King Kong. Andrea and I wondered how we could make the entryway seem more like it was in the old days so a quick trip to Urban Ore turned up a brand new double roll of wallpaper (geometric tulips) from York, Inc., the oldest wallpaper company in the U.S. She also found a nice floral border for a grand total of $3.50.

We spent one evening putting up the wallpaper after studying videos from a master wallpaper installer on Youtube. We didn't know if the paper would hold since it was discontinued in 1971 but everything went on smoothly, straight and now looks pretty good after a few weeks! Also from Urban Ore, we picked up some nice looking distressed trim for the new closet doorway and wood threshold for about $2.
Wood threshold at HD alone is $20!

After sanding the new newly exposed wood down and filling the decades of gaps and scratches with wood filler, I applied one coat of mission oak stain and about 4 coats of Tung Oil. Yes, I did get on my hands and knees with a razor and pick and plug out the little bits of white paint hiding in the grooves. A single razor is a good thing to have around but again it is very easy to spend an entire day just picking up pieces of paint on a floorboard. So now I just finished applying a light, classic oak stain to the oak floor in the entryway. Now this bland entryway seems the most authentic Victorian part of the whole house with all original wood stained to virtually the original colors with vintage wallpaper. I found some metal Victorian wall hangers for artworks on Ebay for $4.00 and the nice looking cloth medallions for about $10. Sylvia sent us home with very nice pieces of art that will soon decorate this redone entryway that will hopefully transport people the moment they step into the home.

I'm a bit tired now, hands hurt, knees hurt but I'm feeling pretty good about the results. How about you?

P.S. This entryway was brought to you courtesy of Andrea's friends Heather and Tricie who contributed HD gift cards (for our wedding) that went towards purchasing wood filler, stain, masks and other materials.

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