master bedroom

A hundred pounds of plaster later...

Posted by Steve on Fri, 10/06/2006 - 12:33pm

It worked! It took four days, three fifty pound bags of plaster, a makeshift profiling knife and a couple of finish coats but the radiused closet corner is done.

There was only one mishap. Jack the Dog, my Newfoundland, was standing at the base of the ladder looking up at me when about 8 ounces of wet plaster fell off my palette and landed squarely on his head and muzzle. Against his black fur it looked like he'd been smacked in the face with a custard pie. So there was a quick diversion to the back yard for a bath before the plaster dried. He took both ordeals in good spirit but when I got back my batch of plaster was hard as a rock. So I had to run out for another bag.

If you're new to our three-part closet drama, Episode One was the framing. It was followed by the exciting tragedy in Part Two: the skinning, or the Drywall Strikes Back.

Anyway, I cut my homemade knife to the profile I needed from a scrap of masonite. I gave it a couple of coats of urethane to seal the open edge and to keep the wet plaster from sticking to it. I drew a vertical pencil line on the wall as a guide for the outside edge of the knife. Then I painted two coats of Quikrete bonding adhesive on the wall.

Plaster should be applied over a tacky bonding agent so before the second coat dried I mixed up a bag and a half of plaster and water spiked with a half cup of white vinegar to retard the plaster from setting too quickly. I made the mix a little wetter than normal so the knife wouldn't gouge the plaster.

You don't know until you try

Posted by Steve on Sun, 10/01/2006 - 10:09am

The guys at Kamco were right. Quarter-inch drywall can curve to a minimum five-foot radius, dry. Wetting/scoring it can reduce that to as little as three feet "if you're really good!" The problem is, the radius of this corner is about ten inches. That's even too shallow for High Flex, which I could only get by special order and only in palette quantities anyway.

The story of this closet starts here. I could have saved myself a lot of problems if I'd just built a square corner on that closet. But I really wanted a radius here to match two other curved walls in the room as well as one in the hallway leading into the bedroom. I haven't even started thinking about how I'm gonna do the 9" red oak baseboard moulding around that curve. I imagine there will be a few blog entries about that ordeal too.

The Most Painful Free Drywall In the World

Posted by Steve on Tue, 09/26/2006 - 1:27pm

Yesterday, I got the framing completed in the new closet so it was time to fetch the free drywall my friend, John, around the corner had offered to me.

John is another home renovation tyromaniac. In fact, I wouldn't have found this place if not for him. He was the former NYC City Register so I had a complete history on this place a few hours after its former owner had mentioned to John that he was thinking of selling.

John knew I was looking for a cheap fixer-upper with a garage for my bikes. He called me, I rushed down here from Manhattan on my Triumph, did a quick inspection, negotiated a selling price and snagged a commitment from the owner before he had a chance to contact a real estate agent. Then I waited nine months to close, but that's another story.

John and Joyce did a fantastic renovation job on their old house. He's a woodworker from way back and, like me, he opted for restoration rather than rehab. Joyce has an artistic decorating eye that I lack. Their house always feels like, I dunno... Christmas.

Anyway, John and Joyce are a rare breed: home owners who actually completed their renovation. Just last year, in fact. Then they experienced a homeowner's worst nightmare: FIRE!

This past February, John couldn't sleep and went downstairs around 3am for a glass of milk when he saw smoke. The power went out a few seconds later. He woke his wife, called 911 and they exited the house into the sub-freezing night.

Plague Walls

Posted by Steve on Mon, 09/25/2006 - 10:30am

With great reluctance, I pulled myself out of my sick bed to get back to the master bedroom renovation, which means more demolition. Lovely.

A couple of hours later Karen called to see how her patient was doing. Karen's an anesthesiologist who had to leave medicine because of a severe latex allergy. So she takes things like breathing both personally and professionally. When I told her I was ripping down old woodwork and plaster I thought her hands were going to zoom through the phone and strangle me, Bugs Bunny style.

"Are you <bleeping> nuts, you stupid <bleep>?! Do you want bronchitis or pneumonia? Do you want your lungs full of mold spores while you're still fighting off a fever?"

Message received. I told her I'd stop and hung up promising to go back to bed. I just didn't say when. I went back to work, making a note to look out the window every few minutes to check for her car.

As usual, she was right. Even with a fresh mask I lasted about another hour before I started coughing like a coal miner. I knocked off, showered (I'm glad I installed that steam generator) and had just crawled back into bed when the doorbell rang. It was Karen. Talk about cutting it close.

Anyway, I got this much done.

What you don't see is the mess that was living behind this woodwork. Really fine spooge, like grey talcum powder mixed with sand. To avoid stirring up dust sweeping it I decided instead to use the central vacuum to clean out the cavities as I opened each one of them up. My vac, a VacuFlo, is one of those bagless tornado action units that exhausts the really fine dust outside, under my back deck. After sucking up a pile of this stuff I went into the office to answer an instant message summons when something caught my eye out the window in my back yard.

Omigod, FIRE!! The back yard was full of billowing grey smoke belching from what appeared to be my basement. I ran downstairs in a panic, yelling at the dogs to pack their milkbones. But the basement was fine. It was dust from my central vac's exhaust port. Whoa. I figured that it probably wasn't in the best interests of public health to keep doing this. I managed to completely fill the vac's six-gallon collector bucket too.

Back to the renovation, the idea here is to get rid of that steam radiator on the left by tucking a pair of smaller radiators in soffits under the windows. I have a plumber friend coming by this week to size the units I need to buy. The soffit facades have to be easily removable because steam radiators require periodic replacement of their air valves.

Into the closet

Posted by Steve on Tue, 09/19/2006 - 8:50am

I've been fighting a sore throat and sniffles all day, but I'm tired of my belly aching. That's why I'm so behind bloody schedule here.

Yesterday, I got the rough framing done for the new closet in the master bedroom. Well, almost done. I thought I had the 4" lags and shields I needed for the upper cabinet's deck support. Because these houses don't have attics, I need to build one for dead storage. There will be two levels in this closet, with cabinet doors on top.

I want a profiled corner on the closet, not a square edge. This will make a softer return back to some oak built-ins I have planned for the space on the left (four 42" drawers and a linen cabinet above).

The curved corner top and bottom plates were made from 3/4" scrap plywood. I made a circle from a tracing of my drill press table, then scribed the inner diameter with a compass.

Phase 7: Plan B

Posted by Steve on Wed, 09/13/2006 - 12:30pm

The animals aren't particularly happy about my relocation to the smaller guest bedroom. The cats seem determined to remain in the master bedroom demolition site regardless. But at least the fold-out sofa's pretty comfortable.

I began ripping out the funky old woodwork today which is when Plan B started to take shape in my head. No matter how much time I put into planning, drawings and so forth it's not until I actually start the project that the ideas start coming.

So here's Plan B: the first project will be a new walk-in closet in the master bedroom's alcove, which used to be another (tiny) bedroom. It will be a six foot expansion of an existing closet in that room. The reason I want to do this now is to get rid of the pile of 2x3s, plywood and drywall that's making my shop unnavigable at the moment. I'm gonna need lots of shop floor space to build the cabinets.

Phase 7: The Wrath of Details

Posted by Steve on Fri, 09/08/2006 - 11:36am

Today officially begins the scheduled start of the next major phase of the renovation at Brooklyn Row House: the rebuilding of the master bedroom and upstairs hallway. It started like most of my scheduled projects. In other words, it didn't.

Dykes Lumber, which was given instructions to call me before delivery, arrived yesterday when I must have been out walking the grovelers. Granted, it's a contractor size order but, sheesh, even GC crews take lunch breaks, guys. They didn't call to confirm that they were even delivering yesterday so I could at least hang a note. For that matter, I still don't know what the charge is, although I'm figuring in the $2500 range.

The delivery was rescheduled for Monday which isn't much of a setback because my weekend is shot anyway.

Speak of the devil, the flooring just arrived from Hosking Hardwood: thirteen cartons of Mannington engineered flooring and accessories.

I used Mannington flooring in my office and guest room renovations and the jury's still out with it. I'm already seeing some scratch marks from the dogs' claws. I probably won't be ready to lay the floor until around Thanksgiving at this rate. Before then I have to make some serious progress on building a new referral management system for Children's Health Fund. At least the flooring will be well acclimated to the house by then.

Referring back to an article I wrote last week, Last Lap Crash, I guess I was successful at psyching myself up for this next phase of the renovation. For the past three days I've been running around the house taking care of unfinished business. Yesterday I bought a bunch of drawer and cabinet pulls from The Great Indoors and finally finished off the kitchen, five years after I started it.

The Plan

Posted by Steve on Fri, 09/01/2006 - 9:35pm

So I psyched myself up and put down the plastic for the next and final major renovation project here: the master bedroom and hallway.

The way I figured it, if I had a pile of lumber in the shop I'd want to do something with it. I didn't spare much expense in this project although I'm not completely irresponsible with my money. For instance, I'll be using red oak plywood in much of the window and doorway trim rather than solid oak. That alone will save me several hundred bucks. And while an engineered floor is actually more expensive to purchase than a 3/4" raw hardwood floor, it's cheaper to install and maintain while also providing a more durable finish against doggie nails, or so the sales literature says anyway.

The Last Lap Crash

Posted by Steve on Thu, 08/31/2006 - 11:40am

Most people will experience a major home renovation only once in their lives. This is my third one and I think I've discovered a thus far unreported affliction which I call Home Stretch Complacency. Let's give it an acronym so it sounds official: HSC.

HSC doesn't appear to be a unique defect in my genetic makeup. I know several tyromaniacs like me who have suffered and are suffering from this dibilitating condition. The symptoms of HSC are, after spending years on a difficult and time-consuming renovation project, crashing on the last lap. That final room doesn't get done, the trim doesn't go up, the primer doesn't get painted. You sink into lethargy and just live with it.

Some people crash earlier; some only a few feet away from the finish line. One of the early warning signs of HSC seems to be Normphobia: a sudden avoidance of TV home improvement shows. Perhaps it's a mutation of the diY-chromosome but we won't know for certain until more research is done. Maybe we need a telethon.


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