Friday, March 30, 2012

Repairing 100 year Walls - Upstairs Hallway

My brother and I are repairing the 120 year old walls in the upstairs hallway.  The wall cracks are isolated with blue web tape.  Then I scrape a trowel full of Durabond over the tape--just enough to embed the net-like structure of the web tape with mud, bonding it to the wall surface. 

With the old layers of wallpaper removed, you can see the white patterns of web tape & Durabond repairs emerge over the green colored wall. 
This is the north end (stairway landing area) of the upstairs hallway.  The opened door leads to a small Juliet balcony at the front of the house. 

Next . . .
This is the south end of the long hallway upstairs.  It is 28ft. long and runs from the front of the house to the back, ending at the bathroom door. 

Above: let's peak inside the bathroom a second; we finished this bathroom in May 2009.  I uploaded photos of the bathroom "before and after" on HGTV's Rate My Space.  It was in the top 3 of the nation for 15 days in June 2009.  Two years later, I received an email from HGTV asking if I would mind if they featured my bathroom in their bathroom makeovers gallery?  Are you kidding?  Like, yeah.

Check out the HGTV Link below. 

My bathroom before and after is photo 9 and 10.

The amazing Kohler clawfoot tub was born May 12, 1903 at Plant Line #2, Kohler WI, about 11:30 in the morning acording to the serial numbers on the bottom of the tub. 

We bought the tub from a historian in Neenah who restores residential and commercial bathroom appliances for a living.  After surface preparation--the tub was heated to orange hot, powder porcelain was applied, and allowed to gently cool in an oven.  For curiosity sake: the restored tub cost $700, and new chrome fixtures were $715. 

All the rooms upstairs--3 bedrooms, full bath, and hallway--will receive crown molding treatments once the hallway is finished. 
 A simple hook and rod treatment holds a vintage curtain purchased at Reflections Antiques, Nelsonville, WI.  At the window, you get a peak of the saw tooth and spoon carved flower block woodwork original to the house and still present on every window and doorway.

Here is my brother Will, applying Durabond coat over web tape repair.  The walls upstairs are a modest 8 ft --much different from the 10.5 ft. walls on the first floor.

A longer view of Will at the bathroom door, south end of the 28 ft. long hallway.

If you look closely, you can see the faint image of the blue web tape. 

Here's something important to tell you about the woodwork upstairs.  It is faux bois.

What you see is not stained wood with a shellac finish.  It is a painted finish.

What I see is only two steps of a faux bois finish, the paint color, then stain.  There is no wood grain pattern added to the trim and doors.  Whereas downstairs the faux bois finish is complete with the painted wood grain.  Downstairs we touched up chipped areas of the faux bois--the original work of artisans when the house was built in 1893. 

Upstairs is a different story.  All the bedroom woodwork was painted white over the years.  In my humble opinion, I don't think I can pull off the task of finishing the wood grain pattern missing in the faux bois finish.  I may choose in the end to paint it off white to match all the other woodwork finishes in the upstairs bedrooms and bath. 

Will begins first skim coat of drywall compound over the wall surface, completely covering the web tape repairs.  We always wait days/weeks sometimes to allow skim coats thorough drying time.  That's probably excessive, but as I get older I find it easier to let my body rest (especially knees and hips).  My hips hurt lots when I spend two days in a row, up and down a ladder. 
I'm really glad to have my brother Will's help.  He is doing a great job.

In this photo you can see a painted line imitating a border. 

To the right you can see an example of first step to do an inside corner with paper tape and mud. 

The paper tape is sturdy, but flexible like a noodle when pre-soaked in water for 5 minutes. 

I cut a 8.5 ft. length of the 3 inch wide paper tape to soak in a clean bucket of warm water.  Then,  sand the inside corner and nearby wall surfaces. 

With a hand trowel  I apply a thin layer of drywall mud 3-4 inches wide down the entire length of both walls, ceiling to floor.

 Moving quickly, I pull the noodle paper tape from the water bucket and fold the 3 inch width in half to 1.5 inches.  Starting at the top I place the folded paper neatly into the inside corner joint.  Half of the tape now sits on the left wall (1.5"), and the other half on the right wall (1.5").

Once the paper tape is seated nicely, I apply a skim coat of drywall mud over the tape.  Adding pressure from the hand trowel the tape is smoothed and excess drywall mud is tapered outward very thin--toward the unfinished wall surfaces. 

This work is dirty, messy, but a labor of love.  Our goal is to give the house the dignity it deserves. 

There are a dozen rooms in our old Victorian and more if you count the unfinished foyer and converting the carriage house to Jon's man cave.   We are into our fifth year, and still plenty of work ahead.

Then, there is still the downstairs bathroom, ugh.

The downstairs bathroom was remodeled last in November 1945 according to previous owner's journal. 

When I shower I notice the ceiling has five intersecting cracks--holy moley. 

And, the plaster wall above the toilet is opening like a spring bud. 

I hope I'm not the one sitting on the throne when that piece of plaster gives way! 

Is there a bathroom remodel sweepstakes I can enter?  I need money.


  1. how wonderful HGTV loves your bath! Congrats. Such hard work to restore your home, I so appreciate that. My house is 1903 and luckily the walls are in great shape, however my Grandparents home I have 1896 does have some plaster problems although not bad.

    Love seeing your home.

  2. Looks great guys! I still LOVE your bathroom. I'm glad it was featured. I actually went through the others posted and none were quite as nice or elaborate (a few looked like they just cleaned and repainted the room).

    As for the trim, from the photos, the faux wood looks quite good, and I wouldn't paint it. But that's my 2 cents.

  3. Hi Mrs. D-

    How cool that HGTV decided to highlight your amazing bathroom transformation on it's site! I remember when you posted originally about that bathroom. I just love everything about it. You and your family are amazing rehabbers! Wish some of my brothers were so handy, lol! You have really great tips, too. I never knew to soak the joint tape first, but that makes sense!


  4. Great news about HGTV! Your bathroom is very deserving. You did a great job and the before and after photos tell the story. Alot of work in a small space. Although a good size for a bath room. Wondering if you got the studio done. We need photos if you did! You guys are doing a quality restore. Maybe you can get the complete reno on HGTV. It's a thought. Keep up the good work.

  5. I enjoyed seeing all your progress, and made a visit to your HGTV link. Wow, what a difference in the before and after! I think your use of trim and the beadboard was brilliant!

  6. Mrs D, I have to comment tonight on this post because right now, right here I am up to date. I've read every single one of your posts in 4wks. Yours was the first blog I ever read - unbelievable I know, I am really into computers but never had time for blogs. I love old things and have several old pieces of furntiure some waiting for restoratino. Maybe when I retire like you both...Your home is so much more than a home it is like a living museum. Future generations are indebted you for preserving such wonder. It is beautiful.
    I love reading about your bargain buys too. I covet those library card file drawers! You always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Donna G