Chronicles of the Workroom War- The Walls and Floor

I can’t believe it’s been 2 months since the kitchen was finished! I kept telling myself “I’ll update the blog when I finish the workroom, I’ll update the blog when I finish the workroom…” but tonight I sorted out some pictures and realised that the workroom ‘post’ was going to need to be split into several.

Though it’s no wonder looking at the floorplan:

135 stamford street house progress

For those of you who don’t know, I work from home and I’m tired of the room I spend most of my time in being a pokey little hole that Tab the drawing gremlin pushes comics out of. So I picked the biggest and prettiest room for me to work in, which could then change into a dining room if I host a party. In december I got a steel beam put in and a wall taken down, then it was time to see what the condition of the walls looked like under all that wallpaper…

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I borrowed my friend Ben and we got to work duel wielding hot strippers.

Yep.

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The filing cabinets made very good stepladders.

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Anyone who thinks stripping wallpaper is a pleasant and clean job is a downright liar and you should send them photos of my blog.

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Such loss.

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Such devastation.

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(The last owners left us a date to find in two places- 10/8/88! This wallpaper is older than meeeee)

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Such carnage

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Such is the life and death of wallpaper.

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Here’s a full view of the room just before we cleaned up and made it look less like the battle of Hogwarts aftermath. I then had a fun couple of weeks attempting to find a plasterer I: a) liked b) cost a reasonable amount and c) wasn’t booked up for weeks in advance. Eventually I found one which yay, but also booooo time to take the radiators off the wall.

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Draining a radiator isn’t particularly tricky, it just smells like the boiling metal of ancient water. I highly recommend using a fine serving tea tray to do it.

 

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I also had to haul the floor up to make sure it was stable for the plasterers. I’d been noticing a bounce in the floor as I walked over the middle which was fortunately solved by whacking some bits of slate under the joists where they needed it.

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The edges where the wall had once been was rotten and sad so I measured exactly 15 cm, set the circular saw to the correct depth and cut a strip ready for some new wood to go inside.

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Temporary! Please do not stand on me! – I quickly got this down before the plasterers arrived the next day.

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Then plasterers turned up and suddenly made things AMAZING

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The radiator walls were the first to be done so I could get them connected back on as quickly as possible and help the room dry out.

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I used to have two big holes from an old leak in the bay/cavity so I decided to get my ceiling completely boarded with pasterboard.

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Unfortunately I lost a bit of the coving at the edges but that’s better than a ceiling falling in on you… which sometimes happens with old houses if you leave the lathe up.

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The plasters had three guys working over a course of three days and finished the entire room in that time with an afternoon to spare. Jeeeeesusss there’s a reason I don’t bother to attempt plastering myself.

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And lo, a room is born!

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Now to dry the damn thing out.

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While the plaster was drying I put down the new board in the centre and used the old pieces of skirting to finish off the edges properly. You can use a fancy mitre saw to do this but I just set my circular saw to 45 and got to it. The sawdust from the 100 year old wood smelt *delicious*, like super expensive barbecue.

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Then with great resignation I moved all my stuff back into the (once beautiful) kitchen because it was time to sand the floor.

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Dust sheets up everywhere. (Cheers for the curtains Mum- they came in handy!)

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Doors open to get the dust out.

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Let’s do this.

(I put a piece of plasterboard up in the window because I was tired of making awkward eye contact with everyone going past. I cannot WAIT for curtains)

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Dust breather because DUST SO MUCH DUST, gloves in case something flies up and burns your flesh, overalls for the same reason, steel toe caps because DANGER,  sound protection because LOUD and visor because DUST AND DANGER.

Wearing all this kit is important, but it’s also like being in an isolation chamber. I spent several hours going crazy as my brain decided to talk to me about “that One Conversation you had that One Time and Oh, here’s a list of things you should have said that were far better than what you did”.

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First pass going across the grain to make sure the worst of the bumps came out.

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Second and third pass with finer paper

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Finally I was free!

Things I learnt from sanding this time:

  1. My floor is hella bumpy
  2. A floor this size will take several back breaking hours, but then it will be DONE
  3. Wear earbuds and listen to music next time, JESUS.
  4. Local independent hire shops are basically half the price of brand stores (£60 this time instead of £100 from when I did the living room)
  5. Hitting nails as you sand is always terrifying because it makes the sandpaper explode into shreds

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With the sander returned the next job was to fill any awful holes I had found and make the place a bit more draught free. I used expanding foam for any really large bits under the skirting board, then trimmed it down and covered with filler.

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For the floor I saved a bag of sawdust from the sander and mixed it with PVA to make some super tough (and cheap) wood filler.

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Which then went in the worst of the cracks like this one.

Then it was time to tarp the floor because PAINTING was about to happen.

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My dad lent me this paint spray gun which I was very excited about for using for the mist coat. The mist coat is a watered down paint job in cheap white emulsion because fresh plaster absorbs a lot of liquid.

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Finally my hovel is complete!

(Masking the windows off so I don’t spray paint all over them)

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Masking off the french doors

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The spray gun comes with a little funnel that you use to time how long the paint takes to go through and dilute accordingly.

I was SO EXCITED to use this spray gun, it was going to be so AWE-

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Oh.

WELL.

I couldn’t get it to work for the life of me- and this room needed to be painted, so it was time to break out the roller on a stick and get to it!

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TO BATTLE!

(At this point I started going stir crazy and cataloguing my decent into madness in picture form. The ceiling took four coats of white over the course of two days, all of it shoulder destroying work as paint rained down from the ceiling onto my face. I abandoned my shirt after the first hour)

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PAINT FOR THE PAINT GOD

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WE SHALL RIDE INTO VALHALLA WHITE SPECKLED AND SWEATY

…This is basically how I spent the last two months. It might have been because the time of year or how exhausting all the work was but I really hit a burnout when it came to the sanding and painting. It seems ridiculous as I knew the worst was over and I was SO CLOSE to Real Life House(tm), but it took most of my mental energy to get downstairs and do work. Just goes to show- starting a project and ripping things out is easy, struggling through the middle and finishing things off is not.

Tune in next time as we move onto the finishing off of things- Because it’s time for the workroom to get COLOURFUL.

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2 thoughts on “Chronicles of the Workroom War- The Walls and Floor

  1. Greetings from Baltimore, MD, USA! Found your blog through Apartment Therapy. We’re working on an old house, too, with help from the interwebs. This is the first time I’ve seen someone talk about the psychology of these projects. Scraping paint/wallpaper/pieces of your soul for hours really does make you examine your life. I feel you. Carry on, though. Things are looking grat.

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    • Greetings from Manchester!

      I think a lot of people’s mental health suffers while doing up houses- whether it’s staring at all the other perfect houses online, frustration at ones own skills or loss of control as the schedule spirals away from you. That’s not to put you off your own build- just to let you know that it’s okay that sometimes you’ll just be living in a pit like ‘WHEN WILL THIS END?’.

      I’m reminded of a favourite comic essay of mine called Brick by Brick which is startlingly accurate for house building too- I picks me up when I’m low, hope it helps you too!

      http://doodlealley.com/2011/10/19/brick-by-brick/

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