Three things about this house:
- Almost every room is 106 year old plaster.
- The corners of the foundation sank approximately 5â€ in the last sixty years.
- Every single surface that is plaster has â…›â€ hardboard glued to it. Yes. GLUED.
Now. Three things about this renovation:
- Completely replace and upgrade all electrical work.
- Insulate both exterior and interior walls for warmth, sound, and fireproofing.
- Save plaster, if reasonable.
The third bullet point was entirely of my own making and is admittedly probably some version of DIY harakari when coupled with House Fact #2. Back before we really started renovating, I was bored and went after the downstairs stair wall with water and a 5-in-1 scraper.
I knew this wall was probably original plaster. I also guessed that since it was central to the house and not load bearing, it was probably in decent shape.
Four hours later and way past my bed time, who’s right?
I thought that would be my one piece of plaster in the house – a testament to the old ways. I thought I’d walk through our finished renovation and point to it saying â€œSee that? That little bit is original.â€ Everything else we would tear down to the support structure, shim, and re-drywall. A complete gut job.
Brandon was on board with this – operation Demolish All commenced. Save nothing. Destroy everything. No mercy. We’d already begun the upstairs by now. Once more to the studs, dear fellow.
Then one evening, we started picking at the green expanse of the stairwell. A top corner was sticking up so we tugged, just to see what would happen.
WOOSH. A quarter of the paneling came off in approximately ten minutes . This section has no glue, apparently – you can actually see the line where they stopped gluing. Behind the paneling was… something. If I could just look closerâ€¦
Well that looks like wallpaper. Hmm. *Google search: 1910 wallpaper.*
ALERT ALERT. FULL STOP. WE HAVE POTENTIAL ORIGINAL WALLPAPER ON THE PREMISES.
I couldn’t find the exact pattern, but those are close enough in style and aesthetic to lead me to believe they MAY be original to this 1911 house. Close enough for me, anyway.
Now I have a conundrum. I can’t just gut a wall full of original wallpaper can I? Ignoring the fact that the wall paper is painted because SHHHHH. Future problem. And on top of that, this wall seems to be in shockingly good shape. I can’t just destroy that for no good reason, taking 100 year old wallpaper with it. I CAN’T.
We can insulate most of the wall from the back when we gut the rooms on the other side. The electrical box required for the upstairs hall light is already present, so we can use it for a light switch. No other electrical will be added. It’s also approximately sixteen feet at its tallest and is a STAIR wall which will be twenty-seven kinds of terrible to drywall. Ergo? Don’t gut this wall.
That’s a fine theory. In practice it places me on the labor end of removing approximately 125 square feet of cemented on hardboard in 0.5 square inch chunks armed with only a spray bottle and a scraper. Meh.