plastering

Hole In The Wall Cafe

Posted by Steve on Wed, 06/28/2017 - 11:26pm


Yeah, Cafe. Because there are several things on the menu... several tips from my tyromaniac's bag o' tricks.

First thing, I apologize for the long lapse in updating BrookynRowHouse.  Fact is, there haven't been anybuild-y things to talk about around here.  The house is just about done, and "just about" is the same as "done" in a DIYer's vocabulary.  So I don't promise to be more active here. I also accept the fact that my Google ranking has dropped like a pigeon dipped in plaster from its #1 position five years ago under "Brooklyn Home Renovation" to, hell, I don't even know where it is now.  Probably where they hide dead bodies

Anyway, a friend asked me a couple of years ago to write an article about fixing large holes in walls.  He had recently installed central air and wanted to remove all evidence of where the in-wall air conditioners used to be. IIRC, he had plaster-over-wood-lathe walls like me.  If you've read my blog you know that I prefer the look and sound control attributes of plaster better than drywall.  In a nutshell, I use drywall for new construction but I always repair existing plaster walls. 

Coincidentally, an air conditioning installation is why I have to repair these holes too. I had an 18,000 BTU split-unit air conditioner head installed in my living room and the installers had to open up some 10" holes in the wall to pull the copper, control line and drain.  I also replaced my absolute CRAP Fujitsu split unit system with a new Mitsubishi.  Warning: if you have a Fujitsu spilt unit system, the company doesn't stock parts for old products. Mine was only 12 years old when one of the compressors croaked yet Fujitsu America told me it couldn't help me. A local Russian A/C tech found a compressor for me in a shop in Moscow and it cost me nearly a thousand bucks!  But I'll end this rant for now.

The Mitsubish installer is Russian as well and gave me a great price for this three-head system.   He also did a very clean job.  The last guys took sledge hammers to the walls, which loosened the old plaster all over both sides of the wall.  These guys used an oscillating saw which makes very clean cuts, as you can see from the photos.  I'm happy to give them a recommendaton: EDITA MC CORP, Heating and Cooling, 646-719-4559.  NYC only though.


Some DIYer I turned out to be

Posted by Steve on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 10:26pm


During the heating season -- from late October until April -- I run a large humidifier 24/7. It's something I've done since music school. I had a 115 year-old Czech flat-back double bass that didn't like steam heat. By the time spring arrived I would have spent anywhere from $300 to $1000 at the luthier getting glue joints fixed, new cracks repaired, the sound post reset and so forth. Running a big honkin' humidifier was a lot cheaper and the bonus was learning that it was healthier for people too.

The humidifier, a six gallon Bemis, is located in the kitchen extension where it's close to water and where the noise is less annoying. When I walked into the kitchen to feed the dogs yesterday morning, something was missing. It was quiet. Normally that means the humidifier tanks need refilling, but I'd just done that the night before.

I checked the unit and there was no sign of power. I pulled out the heavy breakfront to get to the wall outlet, forgetting about large bottle of VSOP on top. It shattered on the floor, showering my pants in brandy. After a quick clean-up and clothing change, I checked the plug with the first thing I found: my cordless phone charger. There was no juice at the outlet. Or at the next one either. Hmmm, a blown breaker?

The basement breaker panel looked fine. Nothing tripped. Aha! That circuit is downstream of a GFI exterior outlet on the back porch. Sure enough, it had tripped. I reset the GFI and the circuit, and humidifier, popped back to life. I climbed the stairs to my office/mushroom cave, self-satisfied that I'd fixed a problem that would have driven a lesser man to call an electrician.

An hour later, I went back to the kitchen for a coffee refill and saw that the humidifier was dead again. Drat, that probably means a bad GFI. Oh well, I can handle that too. But when I reset the GFI this time, the circuit was still down. Huh?


The Mystery of the Ducts To Nowhere

Posted by Steve on Sat, 01/20/2007 - 12:21pm


(Or "Why A Duct?", with a tip o' the hat to the Marx Bros)

This house has ancient, single-pipe steam heating. From what I've been able to determine from digging in these walls over the past seven years is that it's always had steam heating. Nothing interesting there.

What's baffling is why the house also has ancient metal air ducting buried inside the walls. I discovered this shortly after I moved here when I ripped down the basement ceiling and found three vertical ducts to nowhere. Over the past hundred years, various plumbers and electricians had used them for service pulls. So did I when I ran 3/4" copper to the second floor bath, the central vac piping and various electrical branches from the basement panel.



I moved the renovation activity into the upstairs hall two weeks ago. After ripping off an old baseboard for replacement, you can see one of those ducts here.



Here's a closer look. The ducts are a fairly heavy gauge steel wrapped in another layer of corrugated steel, which functions as plaster lathing. It's real nasty to work with. It takes quite a bit of effort to knock a hole in this stuff. Because the ducts aren't anchored to anything, you can't use a saw on them. They just flap around, loosening the surrounding plaster. And after you succeed with tin snips you're left with metal edges as lethal as a machete blade.

There used to be an old baseboard outlet here. I hate baseboard outlets. They're inconvenient and a trip hazard when anything is plugged into them. My intent was to move that outlet up the wall. But once I removed the baseboard and saw the ducting (which I'd forgotten about) I decided I liked my unlacerated flesh more than I hated baseboard outlets.

Wall Prep Tips

Posted by Steve on Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:38am


I've got a lunch meeting with a prospective client today so I'll dive into the first priming of the master bedroom project this evening. This gives me an opportunity for some virtual renovation this morning: reading the Houseblogs sites and posting to my own.

Bill over at Enon Hall posted a cool Top Ten list. There are some good tips there. Ya'll should check it out (although my lumberyard likes to see double-spaced, typed materials lists with product codes and a letterhead, preferably faxed in advance).

Since I'm in "wall prep mode" I thought I'd post my own Top Ten in that area. So without further ado...

Forging ahead...

Posted by Steve on Wed, 10/18/2006 - 3:00pm


At last, some visible progress on the master bedroom renovation. For most of last week and the weekend I repaired plaster, which isn't very exciting photography. If you can see something it means you didn't do a very good job of it.

Four years ago, I replaced a termite-ridden center support beam in the basement with a steel I-beam. As careful as we were, there was enough settling that the upstairs plaster took a minor beating. Because these were stress fractures that went all the way through the brown coat, I had to dig out each crack with an old beer can opener and embed mesh tape over it. There's probably a hundred feet of it buried in these walls. I wonder what plasterers will use when the last of the old fashioned beer can openers disappears into history? It's perfect for this job.

Where's the progress?

Posted by Steve on Thu, 10/12/2006 - 10:56am


You DIYers know what I'm talking about. A friend comes by to check out your latest completed project and goes "ooh! ahh!" over the paint color and asks where you got your terrific door knobs. You modestly thank him for the compliment. But, deep inside, you feel like Michelangelo after hearing, "Hey, nice paint colors. Where'd you get the cool frame?"

You shed blood on this room for... what?... three months and that's all he can see? Paint color and door knobs?! Is he blind or just clueless? He doesn't see the five hundred feet of mesh tape you skillfully buried in the wall to fix the broken plaster and the hours you spent scraping and spitting out paint chips? He doesn't appreciate the week you spent getting the squeaks out of the floor or the rerouted heating or the four independent lighting circuits or the door it took two days to get plumb and level or the brazillion trips you made up and down a ladder till your quads burned, the scraped knuckles, the twisted elbow and the bottle of Costco ibuprofen you've swallowed over the past 12 weeks just to dull the pain enough to get some sleep?

Perhaps that's why we blog. It documents proof that we did more than just roll on some paint and screw on a door knob.

I'm at that stage of the master bedroom rehab now. I've worked on it for the past five days. Last night I broke out the Canon to take took a "progress shot". Then I compared it with one taken last Saturday. I was crushed. The only thing that looked different is that I had more tools in the room. I know I did something in that room because I've got a blood blister on my thumb, "plaster hair" and a pile of filthy clothes that says I did.

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.

Skim Coat (almost) Like a Pro

Posted by Steve on Sat, 09/02/2006 - 1:33pm


Most people seem to like the flat, clean effect of drywall. Drywall is cheap, goes up easily and doesn't take much acquired skill to learn how to tape, mud and finish the joints. Even drywall repairs are relatively painless. So what's not to like?

Maybe I'm just weird (well, there's probably no contesting that regardless) but I like plaster. I like the way side lights create shadows and textures over the natural unevenness of a plaster wall, giving it density and bulk.


Guest Room

Renovation By The Numbers


A few House page viewers asked me to walk them through a typical room renovation. This room already had a lightweight renovation when I moved in and needed to set up my office quickly. Now it will undergo a complete refab for a guest room.

Generally speaking, I have a few fixed strategies for renovation, at least in this house:


Subscribe to plastering