Continuing my quick roundup. There’s been good progress in the front bedroom after the final removal of the wallpaper. I started painting the undercoat but was still concerned about the amount of uneven and damaged plaster – there isn’t a room in the house with undamaged plaster, I suppose that’s what you get with 100+ year old houses, but I really wish someone had taken a bit more care when fixing things rather than just bodging and covering up the problems. I then discovered Filler Paint (thanks Anne!) which creates a kind of adhesive coating which fills in cracks. It isn’t perfect – nothing but a full re-skim could cover some of these problems – but it does have a stabilising effect on the walls. This stuff is specifically for ceilings but all the walls could do with a bit of help so I’ve started using it everywhere as a first coat. The upstairs bedroom is now starting to look habitable though there’s still quite a bit of filling and further coats to go.

The main development in the kitchen is that there’s now hardly anything left. I’ve been negotiating (very slowly due to Covid and, you know, tradesmen…) with a joiner over demolishing the remainder of the kitchen and rebuilding it with something more functional. I’m hopeful this is now close to happening, after which the rest of the downstairs should progress at speed. I’ll do a separate post on this soon. Effectively, all work in the kitchen is aimed at getting ready for joiners to come in.

The sink has turned out to be a mini-project on its own. The installed sink is an ancient, wrapover unit which was too big for the space. To make it fit they demolished a chunk of the plaster wall and replastered the new sink in meaning that a) the wall is already compromised and b) the old sink can’t be removed without damaging the wall further and plastering. Underneath, plumbing for the washing machine takes up the left hand side of the space and the waste outflow pipe takes up the right so the chances of my getting a dishwasher under here are low. Again, something for a future post.

Did a lot of work filling and patching the exterior wall in the living room with help from my dad. It’s one of the worst in the house, crumbling, full of patches and very, very uneven.

On the left the wall in patched and pre-painted state. On the right after a first pass with paint.

I’ve also been gradually working away at the inset bookshelf nook. It had multiple layers of wallpaper and paint. I finally managed to burn it all off with the heat gun.

Things have been a bit quiet round here recently due to the fact that WordPress suddenly took exception to the scale of my pics – possibly due to the fact that I started using a new phone with higher image quality and I was laid low for an entire week with a bug. I did have another post on the way but it’s been superseded. I’ve been doing a lot all over the house so I’m going to do a quick series of room by room updates to catch up.

I’ve also given the site a new background images for a bit of variety. Give yourself extra points if you know where this comes from…

So we’ve achieved a sort of milestone, we began painting yesterday. This marks the turning point between the destructive and constructive parts of the project. The upstairs bedroom has reached a point where, with some more filling and wiping down, the undercoat can now start to be applied to the plaster. Needless to say this feels like a huge psychological step forward as we can now see some positive results even though there’s still much destruction to be done.

This is the test wall, filled, sanded and washed with liquid soap.

The kid gets involved in painting her room…

The end result may appear almost identical however we painting with watered down paint which is the recommended first step with unskimmed plaster. Next step is to fill and sand the rest of the room and continue painting.

I’m happy to report that the upstairs bedroom is now wallpaper free (with the exception of a tiny are behind the heater). This feels like something of a milestone after the ongoing battle that was stripping it all. I can now see the state of the raw plaster – which is a bit variable as you can see. Some filling required but it’s not too bad.

Just posting some progress pics.

I stripped off the layer of painted lining paper in the kitchen. Discovered that this area has two different wall coverings: the easy to remove lining paper and painted plaster.

Removed the wood from the base of the living room bookshelf nook.

Made a start on demolishing the fireplace. Removed the terracotta tiles from the mantelpiece and hearth. The rest of it is concrete faced with thin bricks. This will need some serious tools to remove.

The battle against the wallpaper in the front bedroom continues. The end is in sight but the remaining bits are the toughest.

I’m at the stage where you have to keep going with each job regardless otherwise it just feels like it’s going nowhere. I had a useful discussion with a joiner this week which suggests my plan for the kitchen should work (more on that in future).

Upstairs, the kid’s room is just about free of wallpaper. I’ve come across a couple of tricky areas, specifically in the chipboard at the windows and on the ceiling. The latter is woodchip which is renowned for being impossible to remove. In this room, the ceiling paper definitely has to come off as it’s been badly patched in the past and looks rubbish. The good news is that the woodchip itself isn’t any more difficult to remove than the rest of the paper – it tends to come off in nice sheets. The difficulty is in using the steamer upside down. In addition to the steam there’s a lot of condensation build up in the plate which needs to be emptied frequently plus there’s quite a bit of sputtering and splashing of hot water which makes using it slow and hard going.

This looks like some kind of explosion has occurred but it’s just condensation.

Downstairs things are going more rapidly. I’ve managed to remove the wallpaper from all the walls right up to the glass door.

Unfortunately this revealed a couple of issues. First, in the kitchen area, the paper had been applied on top of a layer of what looks like skimmed surface plaster or paint. A section of this fell off (first pic at ceiling of kitchen) as I removed paper no doubt due to it’s age and the fact that the walls are quite uneven. I didn’t fancy removing the rest until further discussion with professionals. The whole lot may have to come off and I can imagine this will have to be skimmed or faced with something. The second issue was in the ceiling just above. I’ve been trying to avoid taking off the paper there in the hope I might get away with just painting it, however the area above the bare plaster pulled away by itself revealing multiple layers of paint, paper and other materials. I can’t see this being a stable surface to leave in place so I guess it’ll have to come down too.

For a change of pace I returned to demolishing the wooden shelves in the corner of the living room. As I’ve said before about the built-in elements in the house, they aren’t especially pretty but they were built to last. My previous attempt at this (with screwdrivers and a heavy masonry hammer) only resulted resulted in some barely loosened supports. I had a go at splitting the shelves and supports with the jigsaw, which worked very well and allowed me to batter the sliced pieces to bits with the big hammer. Very satisfying.

Ok, so I said there was nothing more to say about wallpaper stripping but it turns out there is. When I was researching the best tools for this I couldn’t find anything which conclusively said that a steamer was better than any other approach. Consequently I tried manually scoring the paper, soaking then scraping. When this proved to be too arduous I moved up to a borrowed hand-held steamer. This was better but still seemed to take too long and require too much effort – remember my house is only small but every surface is covered in wallpaper. So I concluded that it was time to graduate to a serious steamer.

I got the appropriately named Titan and the effect is incredible. The heat is way more intense than the hand held model so it only takes a minute or two of pressing to the wall and the paper melts off in large, soft sheets. Suddenly wallpaper stripping is almost a joy. There are still tricky aspects but now I can start a section of wall knowing that I’ll be able to get it done within a reasonably short time without arm wrestling with the paper and knackering the surface of the wall. It also makes short work of any stubborn lining paper and glue – frequently more trouble than the top layer of paper.

These walls and window were only an afternoon’s work, previously they would have taken double that and there would have been loads of tufts and glue leftover. The one wrinkle in this day’s work was the discovery that the window insets (what’s the correct term for those?) are lined with chipboard. Though I’d be quite happy to leave it on show, it’s extremely absorbent so gets very wet when steamer is applied. The glue also bonds more tightly with the wood fibre so is harder to remove and inevitably destroys some of the surface in the process. I’ll have to review this when dry. Might just have to paint this.

Pros and cons of heavy duty steamer

Pros

  • Large capacity of tank
  • Continuous boiling generates enormous amount of steam
  • Stubborn wallpaper and glue falls away in seconds
  • Very light hand-held plate attached by hose to boiler, saves having to lift the heating element and water while working
  • Kinder to the wall – the easier the paper comes off, the less effort required and therefore fewer nicks, scrapes and general damage will occur to the plaster surface

Cons

  • Takes around 10 mins for boiler to reach working temp
  • Boiler allows approximately an hour of steaming before it has to be turned off and refilled requiring cooling down and reheating time
  • Turns the room into a sauna
  • Very real possibility of scalding

In summary I’d say the cons are minor compared to the immense effectiveness of this kind of device. You obviously have to be careful working with hot steam but otherwise, it’s a no brainer for me. If you have lot of old, painted and layered paper to remove, go straight for a machine like this, you won’t regret it.

Finally I came across the plasterer’s signatures which date this work (and I assume the replacement windows) to what appears to be 1985 and 1990.

At the moment every task is about tearing down, demolishing and removing which can feel a bit negative. When I look at the pictures of entry day back in June, everything was at least whole and presentable, now it all feels a bit trashed and I wonder how long it will be before I can do something actually constructive? Having said that, nothing had been done in decades and there were a great many bodges, make-do’s and patches, all of which need proper attention to bring the place back to life, so I can at least be satisfied that I’m paying attention to it all.

I had a clear-out of the under stairs cupboard recently. The decor in here is a combination of the original, rather shiny plaster and a fair bit of patching. This is how it looked pre-purchase. There were a couple of old kitchen units stacked up and some old wall mounted shelves.

I carefully removed the units and discovered a hole in the plaster which had been carved out to accommodate the corner. You can see the bodged fix they used to cover the bulk of the hole. The shelves were straightforward to dismantle and may come in handy at some point in the future. There is a questionable looking cable sticking out and I guess it’s one of the original lead ones the electrician was trying to track down. I’ll get him to take it out next time he comes.

I plan to fit this out at some point into an efficient utility cupboard perhaps a bit like this one.

I also found this vintage AA badge in one of the cupboards. It’s a quality curio, I’ll find a place for it somewhere in the new design.