Paint Stripping

Big Project Week 4 (5, 6, 7…)

So where were we?

Ah, yes, the façade. The epic project to end all projects.

To recap: scaffold went up, and we had 28 days to strip. On day 29, the scaffolding turned into a pumpkin and went on to a different job site.

On the to-do list:

  • Repair holes in cornice, paint cornice
  • Stip façade
  • Remove vinyl flashing form around windows, restore old window frames (hoping those were still there)
  • Restore turned columns (which we hoped were still there).

So here is what got done:

Cornice. Our tin cornice had several holes. The part above the corbels is actually really thin – so thin that an overly enthusiastic wayward bird could puncture it.

cornice-beofre

So the holes got patched up with Bondo. The orange paint got scrapped off and the whole thing got coat of oil based paint in flat black.

Here is the cornice in progress:

cornice-repari

cornice-being-repaired

Here is the cornice all done:

finished-cornice2

 Next up, the windows. The two turned columns were still there, however they were very damaged. The flashing did an excellent job of trapping moisture, which in turn rotted the wood.

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Ugly flashing covered the columns

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and trapped moisture, which did a number on the wood

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The hubs rebuild and re-sculped the parts of the columns that were missing bits. Eventually these will need to come down for a full restoration, but for now they a) look good enough from street level and b) we stopped any further damage.

A coat of primer and paint and now they look like this:

columns-after

Columns partially restored and painted to prevent further damage. Paint is left over from the front door project from a couple of years ago. 

Aaaaand the paint stripping. This one is self explanatory (but I’m working on a post about how to DIY your very own façade stripping, which is really not as scary as it seems). For now, suffice to say: PeelAway1 + Time + Water = pretty brownstone.

facade-bedore2

Before scaffolding went up , the house looked like this. 

The thing with stripping paint is ‘easy does it.’ You have to work in small areas and it’s super hard to resist the urge to just cover the whole damn façade in PeelAway all at once. Don’t! There is a limit to how much you can accomplish in a day, and if you over do it, you’ll be racing daylight (and exhaustion) to get it all off before it hardens beyond removal (which means you have to apply paint stripper to the paint stripper, and that’s just counter productive)

peelaway1

After the paint was removed, the stone was washed with citric acid, to bring the pH of the wall as close to neutral as possible. The citric acid, in turn, removed the old mortar in between the sheets of brownstone. So the entire façade was repointed with the appropriate mortar mix (not modern cement, because that will crack the stone).

facade-after

The gray/light brown stuff on the wall between the window and the door is the runny left-overs of the old mortar. It will be washed off eventually. Will take some elbow grease to get it off. 

There are a few areas of stubborn pink paint. These are patches where the stone was improperly repaired in the past.  We found it impossible to remove the paint from it, so at some point in the near future, we’ll have a mason drill it out and do a proper repair job. This is one of those things that is well above our DIY skill level.

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Palor window frames mid restoration. The white is just premier. 

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The project started on August 1, with the delivery of the scaffold. The majority of the work was completed by August 22nd, when the hubs had to go back to work. We still worked on it over the weekend, until the scaffold came down on August 29.

How much did it cost?

  • Scaffold rental: $603.17
  • PeelAway 1 and related supplies: $374.25
  • Masonry supplies: $112.02
  • Other supplies (window restoration, new ladder, primer/paint, etc): $1,255.89

TOTAL COST: $2,345.33 (plus a whole year’s vacation taken in one chunk).

Cost was one of the two major factors why we decided to tackle this project ourselves. The estimates we were getting just for the façade work (not including fixing the cornice or dealing with the window flashing) started around 60K. The second deciding factor was that none of the contractors we spoke with wanted to use the technique we felt would do the least amount of damage to the stone. We hard a lot of power-washing/jackhammering, so, um…. no.

 

Griffons!

 

(or at least I think that’s what the weird bird thingies are).

Anyway.

I’ve been working on this summer cover for what seems like an eternity. Actually, that’s a lie. If I had been working on it, I’d be done a long time ago.

It started out like this:

Fireplace Cover before

The initial strip revealed this:

Fireplace Cover Detail

And then it sat. And sat. Half finished. I finally brought it outside, switched the stripping method from the milder PeelAway to the more toxic (but faster) ZipStrip (hence being outside) and got a bit more done:

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While it’s still not done, the griffons look far more regal without the orange paint.

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The design of this summer cover is fairly common. The griffons and the bowl of flames are fairly common in houses nearby built around the same time. What makes this one different, is that the cast iron seems to have been gilded with something. It was a copper-y color to it, and some of the stripped sections are tarnishing green. Usually the covers are just black, even the ones that are not painted to look black.

I’m really excited to see what this looks like once all the paint is gone. Sadly, I’m not equally excited to pick the last bits of remaining paint off.

Happy New Year

It’s been a while since the last post, a perfect storm laziness, heavy work load at our day jobs and a good amount of House Paralysis. (House Paralysis is a real condition with symptoms including indecision, moroseness, and a general lack of enthusiasm for any and all home projects. Unfortunately there is no cure for this condition, other than time and impending house guests).

After the rush of getting the house ready for guests, the work slowed to a crawl – that is until a few days ago, when our front parlor went from this:

Floor before

Floor before datail

To this:

after first sanding

Work in progress: stripped and sanded (sort of)

We have been meaning to do something about junky parquet laminate for a while. Not only did it give the room a 1970s look, it also was so poorly installed, it kept coming up and getting stuck to our feet. The laminate parquet tiles came off fairly easily. They were glued onto stick on vinyl tiles, which in turn were glued to the painted wood.

(oh how I hate stick on tiles.)

We first pulled up the laminate, which brought with it the stick on laminate. Miraculously, the damage to the wood floor was pretty minimal.

Laminate removal

For some dumb reason, there was one vinyl tile that was glued directly onto the wood with some absurd super-duper glue. This of course was right in the middle of the room (because of course it was):

Glue

We then stripped the glue residue and paint using Zip Strip.

Floor stripping

It all came off fairly quickly and easily. The floor definitely shows its age. There are lots of dings and grooves and evidence of some very indecisive furniture placement – “Put that big heavy thing here. No, move it over there. Wait, never mind. Move it back…”

Stripped not sanded

Stripped floor before first sanding. 

There were so many different types of paint on this floor. Strangely, they were not many layers, but different patches of floor, painted different colors. Go figure.

two tone floor

A different section of the floor, before the first sanding

So now the paint is gone and the first sanding is done (it needs one more pass to smooth out some of the rougher areas).  Because the temperature drop just before the New Year, we decided to hold off on the finishing. It’s too cold to properly cross ventilate the house. We have an asthmatic cat, so we don’t want to aggravate this crusty lungs.

Originally we thought our house had hardwood parquet with a two tone border, just like other houses within our row. But our seemingly original baseboards tell a different story. I think our floors were always pine, and perhaps covered with a ground cloth or rugs. Victorians loved their rugs, after all.

Anyway, we think we can rock the pine floors, and have decided to just go ahead and finish them as soon as temps climb a few degrees. After all, we’re pretty happy with how the pine held up in out upstairs bedroom.

Tile carnage

While picking through a pile of house parts that were in route to the dumpster, a Brownstone Detective found this:

Paint covered tile

It’s a section of the tile that surrounded a fireplace, with the wall still attached to it. It was covered in silver paint, probably spray paint. I know from the real estate listing  photos that it was the tile that complimented the fireplace mantel  currently  disassembled in my cellar (one of the three Killian Brothers mantels I brought home). There was quite a bit of non-painted tile intact (not that it matters, because paint comes off tile quite easily).

It took about 15 minutes, some nail polish remover, a metal scraper and a Mister Clean Magic Eraser sponge. Now it looks like this:

clean tile

It’s the same style of tile of three of our fireplaces (parlor and garden), but it’s not an exact match: colors are similar, but it’s a much larger size. It’s also still attached to about an inch of cement. I have no idea what I’m going to do about that. I love love love love old tile. I have no use for it (due to the color/size discrepancy, not to mention the hunk of wall that comes with it) yet I’m happy I have it.

(which is probably what all headers say about every bit of useless crap they own).

(on a side note, I wonder if the people removing all this stuff know that one little piece of tile like this retails for between $7-9? And that the two large flower relief tiles that were part of this set sell for about $50 each?)

(sad)

Boiling Hardware

Our world is covered in (undesirable) paint: woodwork, walls and hardware. Sometimes it seems that all we do is remove paint –  and yet, we haven’t made a dent!

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Egg and Dart patterned door knob.

Back plates with tape residue

Back plates with tape residue

Intricate (and rusty) door set

Intricate (and rusty) door set

The door knobs and plates we picked up on our trip to the Historic Albany Foundation’s Parts Warehouse were no exception. Luckily, removing paint and grime from hardware is actually pretty easy. It just requires water, baking soda and a little time. Using a stainless steel pot (once you use it for this,  you can’t use it for food anymore, so make sure it’s marked accordingly).

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Boil up water with  baking soda. How much baking soda, you ask? Uh… a bunch? Some? I’d say  pretend you’re boiling pasta and add about 4 or 5 times more baking soda than you’d add salt (you can also substitute the baking soda for dish soap, just be careful not to let it boil over, as things will get very sudsy). Once the water comes to a boil, toss in your hardware. You’ll see the gunk come off in the foam.

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Let it boil for a little while, then check to see how your door knobs are doing.

IMG_9842Some of the items may need a bit of scrubbing. The paint will be soft and bubbly and will pretty much wipe off. It goes without saying that they will be very hot, so curb your wild enthusiasm as you grab the searing metal to admire your handy work.

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Back plates free of paint, but still looking a little sad

Once your hardware is free of paint, you may find that it’s still looking a bit shabby. Sometimes items get rusty after their bicarbonate bath, but it’s all temporary – because you’ll buff the living daylights out of it.

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If it’s good for rims and candle stick holders, it sure is good enough for our door knobs

Some metal polish, a little steel wool and an old T-shirt will get you this:

Before elbow grease and after

Before elbow grease and after

After it was all said and done, our door hardware looked like this:

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Black Doors

Things have been a bit sluggish over the past few months, but a few projects did get crossed off the list. First up: front doors.

The doors are not original, but they are close enough. The previous owner installed these and overall, we’re really happy with them. They are a close match to what the original doors looked like. The problem was the finish – or lack thereof. Our house has southern exposure and it gets quite a bit of morning sun, which was unkind to the varnish.

Here is a before/during shot (of course I forgot to that a proper before photo). Both sides used to look like the one of the left.

Door (before)

Removing the finish (with ZipStrip)

removing the finish

Once free of the varnish (and whatever else coated the door), we gave it a light sanding and filled in some holes with putty.

sanded and puttied

The wood was quite damaged in some spots, and we decided it would be better to paint rather than stain it.  We decided on black with just a tad of shine (which is a fun thing to go buy at the Benjamin Moore paint store).

– You just want black?

– Yes.

– We have this new onyx color that has a little bit of gray…

– No thanks. Just black.

Anyway, here is what it looked like with one coat of paint:

painted

And this is what the doors look in place. Of course, we forgot to paint the outside of the trim holding the glass. We also learned that entry door hardware is absurdly expensive (particularly the period appropriate kind I want), so the full makeover of the door will have to wait a little longer. Considering I’ve been slacking on the façade job, pretty sure no one will notice the unpainted trim…

(almost) done

Mid-Strip

 

For the Why Did They Paint Over This? file:

Fireplace Cover Detail

I decided to take a break from stripping the bedroom walls and strip the front parlor fireplace cover. This poor thing  has been relegated to the basement since before we bought the house, as the previous owner replaced it with one of those awful Home Depot brass monsters. Here it is in its gaudy paint scheme (which incidentally matches the paint scheme of our front parlor/living room. So. Much. Muppet Flesh paint!)

Fireplace Cover before

I wasn’t expecting much from this cover, until the paint started coming off. Unlike the one in our bedroom, which is just black cast iron, this one has a little something-something going on:

Fireplace Cover Mid Strip