For some reason, the previous owners replaced the original fireplace summer cover with a modern brass fireplace surround. Luckily, the original cover was still in the cellar, albeit covered in a million layers of paint. Continue reading
A normal person may look at what projects need to be done and prioritize accordingly. A normal person may look carefully at the options available and make sure not to overburden themselves by taking on more than they can handle. A normal person will finish a project before starting a new one.
Well, normal people we are not.
Over labor day weekend, we tore out the bedroom ceiling. A cheap patch job of installing a false dry wall ceiling (and covering it with popcorn) robbed the room of its original height – plus it left us wondering what lurked above it.
Turns out the damaged original ceiling was still up there, minus a big chunk of plaster right in the middle. It was severely bowed towards the center of the room, which is probably why the plaster fell off. There were signs of water damage. Fun!
After we removed both ceilings and the original lath, we discovered that the support structure was compromised: the strips of wood attaching the ceiling to the roof had come lose over the years.
With the ceiling gone, we had a good look at the space above – more like a crawl space than an attic, it’s called a cock loft (and yes, because I’m totally immature I can’t say it without giggling). It’s kinda interesting to see the structure from above: the sky lights, some strange built-in alcoves. The filth up there is indescribable, the dirt is nearly impossible to wash off the skin. I suppose that’s what 120 years of dust, coal, cigarette smoke, and old fart residue looks like. Absolutely gross.
The space is now ready to be re-built. We saved a piece of the ceiling molding so that we can restore it in the new ceiling. Sadly, most of it was gone so we’ll have to rebuild from scratch.
Since all the prep work has been done, you’d think we’d finish it off quickly. That is where you’d be wrong. This past weekend was dedicated to working on the stoop railing and doing a test stripping of the brownstone. Why? Well, winter is coming and it needs to be done. The stoop has been the Hubs pet project during the summer. Amidst finishing grad school, the crazy rains of June and the sweltering temps of July, progress has been slow. Happy to report one whole side has been stripped and coated with primer.
As for the masonry, we’re having a hard time finding someone who will strip/repair the brownstone the in the way we feel it should be done. So I decided to do some tests and see if I could do it myself.
Cue stripping test #1: Some PeelAway 1, a bit of time, some water and some citric acid later – voila! Brownstone without paint.
My biggest problem is that I’m super afraid of heights and I have no idea how I’ll get to the second and third floors….
I’m told that our neighborhood boasts some of the largest collection of original ironwork in all of Brooklyn. Rows upon rows of ornate stoop railings in block after block of brownstone homes.
As is the case with pretty much every surface of our house, our railings are caked up with paint and they are peeling. Water is the arch nemesis of ironwork, so it’s super important that the paint be in good condition to prevent rusting.
Our newel posts looked like this:
Gross, right? The first we* attacked it with our trusty PeelAway 6. It worked OK, but since we were working outside we decided to give harsher chemicals a try (Zip Strip). It worked OK, too – but not that much better. Because the third time is the charm, we tried a heat gun. Our previous concerns of scorching woodwork didn’t apply here, so we went to town:
Worked pretty well. It was great to see all that detail that had been lost under the gobs of paint. Here is the after shot with a coat of primer:
There is still a long way to go to get all of our railing stripped. The newel post itself took about 2 days. The weather has been making progress slower – all this rain makes it difficult to camp outside for any length of time.
* by we I really mean the Hubs. I had nothing to do with this project, other than the occasional cheerleading.