Category Archives: Decorating

Painting the ballroom walls

Plaster repairs, filler, and prep for painting all take ages.  It was beginning to feel a bit overwhelming working day after day without any obvious progress.

So I’ve put the first coat of paint on the walls that are ready so far.    That feels better.

Painting the ballroom ceiling

The ceiling ended up with quite a lot of plaster and filler in the repairs and cracks.  As the filling neared the end the thing that took the most time and effort was moving the scaffold tower around.   It’s been good exercise.

I finally measured the ceiling height – it’s about 4.5m and quite awkward to access.   That probably explains why it has only had 2 coats of paint over the last 99 years.   The first coat was a purple-red which must have been very dark.  The second was an off-white which has become brown due to tobacco smoke.

ceiling-prep

Finally a photo that isn’t completely brown.  I’ve painted the centre panel with Earthborn clay paint.   I took the photo before covering up the last little bit just to show the coverage.   Two coats should be enough for the ceiling which is handy as around 30 moves of the scaffold tower will be required for each coat on the whole ceiling.

So far the repairs aren’t noticeable through the paint.   But I have found a couple more cracks and a bit of lifting paint that I missed.   Overall it’s looking pretty good so far.

center-panel

It’s starting to look smart with the rest of the ceiling painted.   Some salts have come through from a bit of plaster that got wet before the roof was replaced.   It’s dry now so a bit of primer should block the salts.

The white paint has changed the light in the room.  It is becoming much brighter in there.

ceiling-painted

A bit of paint is quite motivating.  The plan is to repeat the process on the walls, but I’ll likely do one or two walls at a time and then paint them for a sense of achievement rather than wait for all the walls to be finished.

Upstairs wallpaper stripping

Upstairs someone had papered over woodchip wallpaper with textured wallpaper.   That worked out just as well as you might expect.   I’m getting ready for new electrics so it is useful to figure out what the walls are made of.

wallpaper-over-woodchip

The wallpaper came off very easily, but the shiny green stuff is waterproof paint over lining paper and is proving more challenging to remove.

after

Some of the green stuff fell off anyway and it’s what’s underneath that is interesting.   I think the wall was skimmed with gypsum in 1921.   It’s a bit of a shame as I had been hoping to find evidence of an earlier layout.   But I maybe found the original 1920s wallpaper!   It’s very dark.  It must have been gloomy up there.

old-wallpaper

I bought a Zinsser scoring tool and some DIF concentrate.   They actually work!    The green stuff is gone from the stairs and the plaster underneath is well preserved having been protected by a thick cushion of wallpaper.

Modern practice would be to paint onto the plaster but I can’t do that – it’s 100 years old and perfectly preserved and it would not be possible to remove nasty modern paint from plaster.   I’ll put lining paper on.  Then use a nice paint.

I had just cleaned the whole house and stripping the stairs made a huge mess again.

bare-plaster

And I found more damp.   The salts at the bottom of the plaster are particularly impressive being more than 1m above ground level.    I should imagine the wall has no damp course, and the walls had been waterproofed on both sides in the usual misguided way.   I’ll let the wall breathe so it can dry out.

salts-stairs

Wallpaper Stripping

I’ve been making a mess stripping wallpaper.   The wallpaper had been painted with a gloss or vinyl paint which defeated the steamer.  I ended up using a 5 inch bladed scraper to take the top layer of the wallpaper off, then the steamer and a paint scraper to remove the remains.   The whole room should be stripped in 3 days.

The steamer can also remove the textured paint underneath, but that is slow work and a scabbler and another skim coat will be quicker (there is no asbestos – it’s a thin emulsion textured coating).

walpaper-stripping

Guess what – I found some damp!   The impermeable paint had trapped water coming through from underfloor in the adjacent rooms which have a higher ground level.   It seems to be drying out now the wallpaper has been removed so a nice breathable clay paint should allow the wall to find a new equilibrium and avoid damp without any real effort on my part.

rising-damp

Plaster Conservation (with Lining Paper)

The Bedroom is one of the older rooms in the house.   The blue colour is distemper on top of haired lime plaster on wattle and daub. The pink (a gypsum skim over lime) was applied by the people* who filled in the door opening to the right, raised the ceiling, then chopped a new door opening through the wall plate!

*I’ve been calling them Edwardians but it seems that Gypsum became popular only after WW1 when skilled plasterers were killed and a new generation took over.   The remodel was complete before 1926 and started after William Thomas became landlord in 1910.  I’m going to change my estimate to 1920.

I’ve exposed the beams (I think the wall plates were originally exposed or hidden by the ceiling.  The tie beam was originally above the ceiling).

bedroom-plaster

The original plaster was protected by wallpaper and is still in reasonable condition after several hundred years.  Originally lining paper was applied before paint, and it is is lovely to be able to take off layers and layers of paint and get back to nice smooth plaster using only a wallpaper stripper.

So I’m being nice to future restorers and covering the original plaster back up with lining paper before paint (using a cold water paste so the paper can come off again in the future).   It is my first time wallpapering and lining paper seems forgiving.   On the far wall the outline of the timber frame is quite visible through the paper.

lining-paper

It looks a lot better with the lining paper finished.   I went for maybe 0.5mm or 1mm gap between the sheets, then painted the joints, then used filler to hide the gap.    The paint allows the filler to be sanded a little and the joints in the paper aren’t noticeable after paint.

lining-finished

A bit of paint later and the room is closer to being finished.   Ceiling needs another coat and I might yet continue the wall paint past the beams towards the ceiling.

bedroom-paint

I did end up painting up to the ceiling above the beams.   Looks more balanced, but there is something very nice about bare wood against white walls.