Details, details, details

We are surely and squarely into autumn at 118 Henry Street. Friday was Carole’s and my anniversary. We both have been so busy, neither one of us remembered until Carole’s sister posted on Spacebook about it.


That’s us on our 100th anniversary, October 30, 2104

For a visual retrospective of the wedding, click here.

Yesterday was Halloween, a pretty big deal here in Chester. Carole and DeShawn dressed up and we went trick-or-treating down York Street. I live with these two:


Trampling the antique hurricane lilies

Today, I did the touchup painting and final finishing in the kitchen annex. Mostly, this was painting the baseboard and toe molding, a little paint on the windows, and some small spots on the walls.


Part of the ready kit

The arrow points at one of the indispensible tools at 118 Henry Street, a paint stirring rod for electric drill. Getting paint to match when doing touchup is especially important, thorough mixing is the secret. 

Before painting, we use painter’s caulk to fill in all the gaps in the woodwork. This eliminates the dark shadow lines where old, uneven, and beautiful trim work come together. Even with the tape, an angled bristle trim brush and good technique are slopping of paint at this stage!


Taping the baseboard


Still life with tape…I love the sunlight in this room

After the paint is dried and the tape removed, there is a little work around the edges with a moist cloth to remove any paint that has seeped onto the floor.

Touching up paint on the walls can be either very easy or more complicated. If the wall surface is scratched into the plaster (say if you are moving a ladder out of the room in too big a hurry), regular paint will not adhere to the powdery, chalk-like inside of the crack.



There are a couple of ways to screw this up. One is to apply paint directly to the scratch. The other, more plausible way, is to try using a latex based primer before touching it up. Both of these approaches will lead to exfoliation of the paint because of the unconsolidated nature of the scratch innards. There just isn’t enough moisture in the paint to re-harden the plaster.

To avoid de-lamination of the paint, the insides of the scratch have to be stable. For a really long, or especially deep crack, either spackle it or use an oil base primer. Then wait 24 hours…

For a small crack like this one, I will use white Elmer’s glue to fill it in. A little dab of glue, wiped clean with a damp cloth and I’m painting it within an hour.

Another area of house restoration where details matter is in energy efficiency. This publication from the federal government’s EnergyStar program is excellent in describing how all the little holes add up to big energy loss.

After taking care of the attic spaces, the next biggest source of air infiltration is around electrical outlets and under doors. Here is an example from our house:


Outlets before and after

As you can see in the vintage, 1930 outlet above, there is a huge gap between the baseboard and the box holding the outlet. This is a serious source of air infiltration.


Blocking the air

We attack this 2 ways. To stop air from coming in around the box, more painter’s caulk. To stop air from coming in through the box, we use these outlet insulators under the wall plate.

Truth be told, we buy white, paintable caulk by the carton of 12 tubes. There are days where we will use 2-3 tubes.

Finally, the “Aww…” picture of this cold, wet autumn day:


Huddled together for warmth upstairs in the west bedroom