The Proverbial Bee

Another of those “not enough time to work on the house AND write about working on the house” periods. Just making time to work on the kitchen annex has been a challenge. Still, with will comes progress…check out the Kitchen Annex Project List for more detail.

The big dramatic changes in the kitchen annex have been finishing the plaster work and drywalling the ceiling. The finish plaster work, though far from journeyman perfect, repairs and restores the beauty of the original walls. For an old house like 118 Henry Street, the plaster’s slight imperfections are more charming than mirror smooth new construction anyway.

What big plaster repair?

My daughter, Elizabeth, helped me hoist the 1/2″ drywall panels up to the ceiling weekend last. We made all the noob mistakes, up to, but not limited to, breaking the edges in several places, missing the furring strips with the drywall screws, and leaving very uneven gaps between the sheets.

For better or worse, the sheetrock materials are made for fast, under the rug style, fixups. In all candor, how could it be worse than the original ceiling?

Kitchen annex ceiling before

Kitchen annex ceiling in progress

Plaster Obsessive

In about 5 short hours this weekend, we have applied the final layer of plaster to about half the total wall area in the Kitchen Annex. While the rapidity of application is amazing, the most astounding (and most pleasant) result of the work was the high quality of the finish. Carole described the feel of the dried finish to “porcelain”. It is very hard and polished smooth. In the unpainted finish, there are “veins” and burnish marks not unlike marble. Little wonder that the MOP is mixed with color and applied unpainted in some applications.

We waited all week for some new leaf trowels and a blister brush to come via internet mail order, but, so far, they are a no-show. While we wait, here is a picture of the tools currently in plaster use at 118 Henry Street:

Plaster tools

  1. 14″ trowel for applying base coat�to large uninterrupted wall areas
  2. 11″ trowel for most general purpose application and smoothing
  3. 6″ detail trowel for small areas such as above a window
  4. 6″ drywall knife for carrying plaster, scraping the trowel, and detail work
  5. 3/4″ plastic drywall knife cut down in width to function like a leaf trowel for narrow wall areas such as between a door frame and a wall
  6. 2″ margin trowel for narrow areas

By far the majority of my time was spent with the 11″ trowel in my right hand and the 6″ drywall knife in my left hand. Not shown is the ever present 5 gallon bucket of water, wet towel and water spray bottle. The bucket of water and towel are used to keep the tools clean. The water spray bottle is used to wet the plaster as it sets up to facilitate smoothing and burnishing.

Switching gears and rooms…

An old repair to a plaster crack in our bedroom (originally a study) broke loose this morning. I peeled away the loose paper and was rewarded with a complete paint color history of the room.

Paint history of the front study

In order from youngest to oldest:

  • A. Current off white
  • B. Pale pinkish rose
  • C. Dark salmon rose
  • D. Dark grey sage green
  • E. Original unfinished plaster

Switching gears and rooms again…

A picture of my stepson, Carole’s son, Howard in the dining room. The “green room” as DeShawn has taught us to call it.

Howard in the Green Room


The high point of this week, if you ask DeShawn and Carole, was the snow storm we got last Thursday morning. Four inches of snow fell in about the same number of hours. The wet, heavy snow completely covered everything for a day or so. An unplanned day off school for them both!

Snow still coming down

For me, the best day was Saturday. After getting over a very nasty stomach/intestinal bug, I finally felt well enough to work on the Kitchen Annex.

In the class of Plastering 101, Kitchen Annex Building, I’m preparing to take the final exam. The 2 basecoats of MOP (Master of Plaster) are in place on the walls. I’ve studied trowel technique, purchased a whole new set of tools, and probably made every noob mistake possible. The good news: all the “learning experiences” with the basecoats will soon be covered by the finish coat material. The potentially terrifying news: all “learning experiences” with the finish coat material will likely be evident forever (or, at least, until someone removes all the plaster from the walls).

We wait on the final process before publishing any more photos of the walls. In the interim, here are a couple of shots from the “lost years” between the current blog and the old one.

Outside the Kitchen Annex windows, the original 100 amp meter box and the upgraded 200 amp new one. Note also the new wood siding, red door, and proper flashing between the siding and the steps.

Meter box before

Meter box after