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.

IMG_1324

Ugly flashing covered the columns

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and trapped moisture, which did a number on the wood

IMG_1328

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.

facadeafter3

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

facadeafter2

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.

 

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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.

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

 

5 months, 23 days (and counting)

It’s been 147 days since we last occupied our bedroom. It all started back in August, when we treated ourselves to some professional help and had all the woodwork in our bedroom stripped. Our paint-caked walls were a casualty of the ferocious paint removal activity, and the room looked like an alien murder site. What started as 2-week project, has morphed into a monster of a redo – actually, I think it’s more aptly an undo, since we’re trying to undo what has been done to the space over the years and restore it to what it once was.

Alien Wall

This is what happens when ZipStrip drips down your walls.

After a full on chemical assault, details like this appeared.

But it’s totally worth it: after a full on chemical assault, details like this appeared.

Since the room was already an empty hot mess, we decided to tackle the ceiling next, and a bigger mess was made. (Never underestimate the filth that hides in a 120 year old house. Nothing can prepare you for that). Because the plaster was beyond saving, everything came down to the bare joists.  The ceiling was leveled and dry wall went up. (I intensely dislike dry wall, but that’s fodder for another post). Once the ceilings were closed up and the first layer of joint compound was applied,  we hit a bit of a morose patch and not much happened. Didly squat. Zilch. Nada. We camped out in the rear parlor and our lovely victorian home now resembles a very messy dorm room.

Things finally got back on track this weekend, when we tackled the walls and started removing all the evidence that an extra terrestrial being was slayed here. The advice we were given was to skim coat the walls, which basically means applying a thin layer of joint compound over the entire wall. I didn’t much like that idea, because just knowing all of this grossness would forever live beneath our pretty walls really bothered me.

Damaged plaster, filth from the ceiling demo, and splotches of paint stripper.

Damaged plaster, filth from the ceiling demo, and splotches of paint stripper.

The hot mess in all of its glory.

The hot mess in all of its glory.

Since my experience with removing paint from the brownstone façade was pretty straight forward, we figured it would be a total cake walk to strip the walls back to the plaster. Our old friend PeelAlway1 was called back into service. Ignoring all advice to work in manageable chunks, and still under the delusion that this would be easy, we decided to tackle one whole side of the room.

This is what more or less 4 gallons of paint stripper look like.

This is what more or less 4 gallons of paint stripper look like.

In a sign of uncharacteristic restraint, I decided that perhaps we should save that little sliver of wall above the fireplace for another time. About 18 hours later, it was time for this:

A glimmer of plaster somewhere back there

A glimmer of plaster somewhere back there

A previous resident of our home must have been a pink enthusiast: the house is pink on the outside, and at one point, it was pink on the inside too. Removing the paint from the interior walls proved to be much more difficult than I originally thought. Given the smooth surface of the wall, the paint will not let go without a fight. And fight we did. After about a half day worth of scraping, brushing and picking, most of the paint is gone. We’ll need another spot treatment for the stubborn patches and the wall trim. 3 guesses as to what we’ll be doing next weekend…

Stubborn paint and cracks galore

Stubborn paint and cracks galore

Update-ish

With the weather getting cooler stupid cold, the work outside has slowed  stopped. October/November were not particularly productive because work (as in we need to fund this restoration by actually working)  got in the way. Here is where we left things off:

Facade

The garden level is mostly done, but there are still some stubborn patches, primarily where the stone is deteriorating. It’s particularly bad where there are patches on the brownstone. I have yet to find a good method of removing paint from cement (at least I think it’s cement – I can’t tell for sure since it’s covered in paint).

Facade2

Not surprisingly, we are STILL waiting for estimates from the contractors for the stripping and repairing of the brownstone. Somehow, I have a feeling I’m in this for the long haul and I best get cracking and learn how to patch the stone myself.

Stubborn paint

photo

Progress is slow but steady, with a good portion of the paint on the garden level gone. For most part, it’s a pretty straight forward process: apply the goop, cover with paper, wait, scrape, wash. Repeat if necessary. But since this is a learn-by-doing type of project, I found out that removing paint from where the stone has been patched is  nearly impossible. It takes a combination of Peel Away 1 and Peel Away 7, and still the results are ‘meh’ at best. You can see splotches of stubborn pink on the far right of the wall on the top of the stoop, and also under one of the parlor windows. It simply does not want to go away. I’ve experimented with dwell times and it seems that a minimum of 24 hours is necessary. In some cases, 48 is actually better. Rain doesn’t seem to be a problem, so long as the area is covered with the paper stuff.  Just to be safe, I tape up the edges with painter’s tape.

The exposed stone in the photo has not been washed with the citric acid neutralizer yet, so you can still see the white-ish film of alkalinity in some spots. I figured once the garden level wall is finished, I’ll neutralize all at once, since until then it gets constantly splashed and gunked up.

It’s been fairly tedious do get this far, yet it’s also quite satisfying to pull huge chunks of paint off.  The fact that the neighbors constantly remark on my stubbornness to take on this project also means I need to see it through – at least up to where I can safely reach. I am hoping that by Sunday the lower portion of the wall (from the parlor windows on down) will be finished. Fingers crossed!