Invisible Sun

DeShawn and I worked upstairs for about 2 hours tonight. At first, my intent was to continue working on the ceiling shims in the west bedroom. Before going to bed last night, I made some measurements from the level reference line (thanks again, wonderful laser level!), to the shims already in place. The goal being to double check that the new ceiling height would be the same, and hopefully level, across the length of the room. Measuring every couple of feet along the wall, parallel to the shims/joists, I discovered that the ceiling is as much curved as it is unlevel. At the high end, there is a distinct bow, from the highest point, along the wall to the middle of the room, with most of the “unlevelness” in this half of the ceiling. From the middle of the room to the low end, there is much less variance.

The net consequences for my shim job is that the shims don’t have to be as long as I originally designed. Not only does this mean less work on the remaining shims, but, of course, it means additional work removing length from the shims already in place. Such is the learning curve in my continuing education on old house restoration. This evening, after a couple of confirming measurements, I went to remove the extra length on the 5 sets of shims already screwed to the ceiling. Only then did I realize that my drill was at the office. No surprise that it should still be there. It only took me 7 days to remember to take it to work.

These type of self-induced setbacks would have totally frustrated me 2 years ago when first setting up shop at 118 Henry Street. Now, with the hardknocks kind of wisdom from those 2 years, its very easy to redirect my energy at any of the 999 other tasks that can be done. It took me less than a minute to mentally switch gears from the ceiling shims to the electrician induced hole in the bathroom wall. Standing on the sides of the clawfoot bathtub, I could reach the hole, near the ceiling. After raking away the loose and broken plaster, I began pulling off the ragged paint surrounding the roughly 6″ hole. The paint came off in large, continuous sheets, likely the result of the previous owners painting directly onto the plaster surface.

In the overall order of room restoration, the upstairs bathroom is next on the list after the west bedroom. Over the last year, I’ve begun some of the demolition and prospecting as a prelude to dedicating all my time to it. I’ve removed the paneling in the closet (to be replaced with beaded board to match the downstairs bathroom closet), stripped the paint off the pine floor in the closet, and removed the window sill to see how much work will be needed inside the bottom of the window frame.

As recently as a couple of weeks ago, I did a timed paint stripping exercise where I stripped 4 layers of paint from half one of the door frames with a heat gun and carbide scraper. Turns out, I stripped about 6 1/2′ feet of door frame in about 20 minutes. Extrapolating to the whole bathroom, 5 hours to strip all the wood trim, not including epoxy repairs or finish sanding. Seriously, for flat wooden surfaces, nothing strips faster than a heat gun/scraper combo.


Upstairs bathroom original paint and hole courtesy of the electricians

This evening, the paint was coming off the wall so easily, I couldn’t resist trying some oldfashion elbow grease scraping. With minimal pushing on a 3″ scraper, sheets of paint 8-12″ long, 6-8″ wide and 2 layers thick were falling to floor every few seconds. Within an hour, a quarter of the total wall surface to be refinished was down to the original paint (a pinkish peach color) on the original plaster surface. At this rate, ALL the paint to be removed from the room will be gone in 8-10 hours, including trim, windows, and walls. This seems outlandishly fast to me after almost 2 years in the west bedroom. There are only 2 possible explanations: either there is now a warp in the time-space continuum on Henry Street or maybe, just maybe, I have learned something after all.