Month: February 2012

I (heart) plaster – or just say no to crack

I have never been a fan of drywall. Having grown up in a house with “real” walls made out of brick and cement, it seemed odd to me that anyone could, with little to no effort, punch a hole in a wall with their fist. Where I come from, such action would require a trip to the emergency room, not to the hardware store.

Plaster, unlike drywall, is a much harder surface. It is fire resistant and it blocks sound quite nicely. It breaks my heart when people talk about ripping out the plaster in their homes simply because there are a few cracks. While we have a  few walls we think are not salvageable (top floor bathroom is cracked to oblivion due to years of unchecked moisture), we plan on repairing the many many many many cracks and missing bits of plaster throughout the Pink Lady.

Here is a great case for saving plaster, as well as more info than you ever cared to know about plaster technique and historical relevance.

Since time is a-wastin’, I decided to try my hand at crack removal. In some places, the first layer of plaster is separating from the walls. I really can’t stand poorly patched walls, and I really didn’t want my patch job to fall into that category. I stared at this wall for a couple of weeks to work up the courage…  (I forgot to take a true ‘before’ shot, so here it is a few steps into the plaster removal process):

Squishy bubbly walls be gone!

We removed the bubbling top layer of plaster to reveal the layer beneath it, which was in OK shape. The size of the required patch was quite intimidating.

No more plaster bubbles

And then filled it in with joint compound.

First layer

Since I hate sanding, I’m taking my time with the layers to see if I can avoid it all together. I figure it will take 2 or 3 more passes and I should be good to go.


Alas! The Interwebs!

It took 2 separate trips by Cablevision and four sets of technicians, but we are fully connected to the world outside now. Woo hoo!

During our 27 days of cable/internet hiatus, we did things the pioneering way: went to bed early, read books for entertainment, attempted to watch TV on our cellphones – OK, that right there? Neither old fashioned or effective. In any case, some actual work on the house also got done.

After much hemming and hawing about paint color, we decided on a combination of dark/light gray and pure white for the garden level hallway and staircase. The wainscoting and the spindles will be light gray, the banister and the steps charcoal gray. The doors and door moldings semi gloss white and the walls flat white, like so:

The new floor will be going in this weekend and I will post full before and after pics – from muppet flesh tone orange, to monotone awesomeness.

This is actually really out of character for me, since I’m a fan of color. I have no idea where this love of muted monochrome tones came from. For the third floor, I’ve been debating the finer points of way too many shades of white, something that I will get to as soon as we deal with the cracks in the plaster:

Rites of passage and the passing of time

(internet is getting hooked up tomorrow – more regular posts to follow. In the mean time, here is what we’ve been up to)

From what I have been hearing, a sewer surprise in the basement is more or less a rite of passage for Brownstone homeowners. With the smell now mostly gone, the several pounds of baking soda I sprinkled on the floor are making the basement look like an outtake from the movie Blow – I expect Paul Reubens to casually walk up our basement stairs anytime now,  covered in white dust. Anyway, hopefully the poop chapter is done.

The leak was caused by a massive clog in our sewer pipe. Turns out, someone who lived here before we did had a habit of flushing paper towels. While I didn’t witness it, I was told by the hubs that a geyser of grossness (Poop. It was poop). shot out of the pipe as soon as the plumber opened the trap. The contents of the pipe, which were seemingly pressurized, landed on the floor of the basement.

No amount of cleaning and disinfecting was getting rid of the smell, so I figured “what about baking soda?” and spread an enormous amount of it all over the floor. Turns out it works (and makes the air salty). Anyway, it was everywhere – hence the Blow reference.

These past few weeks have been dedicated to moving, moving in, and getting some of the less sexy work done – anyone care to see our new electrical panel in the basement?

Huba huba!

How about the new gas meters? Ooooh!

And let’s not forget the fact that the water meter no longer drips on the electrical panels. Indeed, our basement has been the center of activity lately.  With the mechanicals all getting a once over, we will now be moving on to stuff that is actually  visually interesting.

Wall colors and a revamped garden apartment entrance coming right up!

And then your pooper ‘splodes….

After living like a bad episode of hoarders for several weeks, we managed to get unpacked this weekend. Things were going well and we were making steady progress: wardrobes were assembled, clothes were hung and all was well in our world.

That was until we discovered a rather large and foul smelling water feature in the basement.   Always the optimist, the hubs blamed it on the de-humidifier being off, but after testing all the faucets and toilets, we concluded that all of them – yes all – were dripping rather enthusiastically on our basement floor.


Plumbers will be coming today to evaluate the situation. We’re currently operating under a strict water conservation rule (no showers, no dishes, no pooping…)

We are hoping this is simply a matter of a clogged sewer drain. But I’m checking the black market rate for a kidney. Just in case.