Monday, February 8, 2016

All I Wanted to Do Was Put Up Some Shelves ...

Old house people will be familiar with the theme of this story ... it's rare for a project in an old house to progress on schedule or as planned.  

Around here, dealing with stashes of materials for various projects is a real problem.  For example, I have siding from the Shack stacked on the floor of my workshop, parts of the trim for our stairs piled in a corner, and baseboard and casing molding from our living room leaned into a corner in the garage.

A few weeks ago, I saw THIS post over at Follow Your Heart Woodworking.  Julie built a genius lumber rack for her workshop.  I planned to use this idea to get my own materials off the floor and organized on narrow shelves on the wall of our basement hallway.  All I had to do was locate the wall's framing, screw a piece of slat-board to the wall (like I did in the garage in THIS post from 2009), slip in a few shelf brackets (which I have on hand), sort my materials onto the new shelves, then stand back and admire the results.  You have probably already guessed that this is NOT what happened.

The basement wall in question has two layers of drywall on it, which are attached to furring strips applied over a coating of gypsum plaster, which was applied over the original lime-washed brick ... I know this because of other basement walls that we have worked on.  Drywall Layer #2, the outer-most layer, was only secured with glue and a few screws.  I figured that I should remove it to have better access and a more secure attachment to the furring strips that were behind Drywall Layer #1.  As I was pulling off chunks of Layer #2, I realized that Layer #1 was poorly secured, too.  Dang it!!

This is as close as I can get to a Before photo.  The green that you see is the lower-most layer of drywall.  The upper-most layer is somewhere under that pile of stuff on the floor.


Turns out that there was very little left of the furring strips that were intended to secure Layer #1 to the wall, and the gypsum plaster at the bottom of the wall behind all of this had completely separated from the underlying brick.

Bottom portion of one of the furring strips.


Two more furring strips, totally decayed.  The black that you see is creosote, which was supposed to help the wood resist moisture.


Gypsum plaster is good for a lot of things, but applying it in damp environments is a total no-no.  Lime plaster would have been a better choice.  (This old house of ours is made entirely of soft brick, which is known to soak up water like a sponge.  This causes a condition called "rising damp".  Any water around or underneath the house is absorbed, transferred up the walls by capillary action, then dissipates as vapor.)  The former owners of our house who finished the basement early in the 20th century and used the gypsum plaster on the walls were probably not aware that they should be concerned with this.  (For the record, we have never had any standing water in this basement, neither did the family that owned the place before us.  I don't know about the experience of any other owners.)

See how the gypsum plaster has totally separated from the brick.


The gypsum plaster slumped and cracked, and fell away.


As the water vapor exits the bricks, it carries minerals from the plaster and mortar with it, leaving behind crystals called efflorescence.


How about some really scary electrical stuff?  (Not to worry, we recognized this a long time ago and disconnected it.)

Look at the rust on that electrical box!


The next photo shows drywall layers and furring strips are down ... next step was removing the loose gypsum plaster, with a hammer and 5-in-1 tool ... then the big job of cleaning up my mess (which I did not photograph).



About three hours after the project started, I was left with this ... a mostly-bare brick wall, and no shelves.



We like the look of the original brick, and leaving it exposed to allow for unrestricted flow of vapor is healthier for the house.  The other side of the basement hallway and most of our game room is already like this.  Eventually, we plan to remove the rest of the drywall and plaster, to expose the brick throughout the entire basement and return it to more of its original appearance.

Game room wall.


Game room wall.


Basement stairs.


After all of this effort, I scrapped the idea of making this into a materials storage wall.  The plan was going to be a temporary solution anyway, so now I will brainstorm and come up with another idea to organize my materials and supplies.  

What's the Take Away lesson in this story?  Covering up a problem (with multiple cover-ups, in this case) won't make it go away.

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Postscript ... When I went upstairs after I finished all the banging and hammering, this was the scene in the family room.



It's good to know that Ruby and Winnie weren't bothered by all the noise.

41 comments:

  1. It was worth all that work...look at that beautiful brick wall!

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    1. We love the brick, too! I look at them and think about the workers who made them here on the property, and imagine what it may have been like for the families who lived here so long ago. It's been at least since the 1930s, I think, since these bricks have been visible. Makes me feel pretty humble.

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    2. What Linda said. My thoughts also.

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  2. The wall is gorgeous now but wow that is some work. Old houses have so much to offer us but it's sometimes lots of work to get there. Oh and furry kids sleeping cracked me up!
    hugs,
    Linda

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    1. Everything around here takes more work than I hope it will ... this wall is no different. Fortunately, that water-damaged gypsum plaster isn't all that difficult to remove. It just takes some time.

      I was concerned about Winnie and Ruby, since I remember that our Daniel was so afraid of loud, sharp noises. Not to worry about these two, I guess.

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  3. That reminds me of the shower leak that cost us $300K to fix. LOL

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    1. We refer to projects like yours as 'cookies' ... like in "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie". One thing leads to another, and the checkbook is sure to suffer. Sounds as if your checkbook was on life support.

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  4. Well worth the effort. I wish we had anything made of brick here. We are all timber framing in this neck of the woods. Brick just seems like such a lasting material. I would be flattered if you take a second to look at my blog which has some gardening posts. Sure enjoy your's! Naramatablendblog.wordpress.com

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    1. I just ran over to your blog and read quite a bit of it. We have a lot of common interests. Your treehouse is fabulous! (look to the right and notice that I added your blog to the blog-roll on my sidebar, that way I can keep up with your posts.) Thanks for stopping by!!

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  5. The brick wall looks amazing! And it can literally breathe better now that you've taken off all the "improvements" other owners have done over the years. Sometimes the original design and materials really are best. Sorry you did not get your shelves though. But I think you did right by the space.

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    1. There are times when it seems as if all of our improvements to this place have involved demolition and removal, instead of building and adding things. In the 160+ years of this house, there have been a LOT of unsympathetic things done to it. Fortunately, the original bones are mostly still here ... patiently waiting for their chance to shine.

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  6. As I was scrolling through the photos, I kept looking at that electrical outlet and shuddering - so I was relieved to read you'd already disconnected it! The brick walls do look nice though. And nice to see the pups weren't a bit bothered by any of it. :)

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    1. Loud house projects ceased years ago while Daniel was with us. He got crazy anxious with loud, sharp noises ... so anything that required hammering, nail guns, etc., wasn't done unless it was absolutely necessary. For example, I had to send him for a sleepover at a friend's house when we had the crown molding installed on our kitchen cupboards. It's a relief to find that loud projects are not a source of panic for our current crew of pups.

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  7. I much prefer those brick walls! Can't imagine why anyone would want to cover them up in the first place.

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    1. I imagine that the walls were covered up for the same reason that basements are finished today, to make the rooms there into living space. The project meant well, it just didn't hold up well. Successive owners probably wanted to keep the finished walls, so they kept covering over the problem. We gained a full three inches of floor space by removing all the stuff on this wall!

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  8. I love that brick wall. I totally understand, some years ago we owned a house built in 1895.It took us 22 years to get it up to date. Then we sold it.

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    1. 22 years? I believe it. I started on this place in January 2003 ... making this year 14 for us. Projects were fast, furious, and concurrent for the first five years. After that, pace slowed and I tend to work on things as I feel motivated. We are the main labor source, with only skilled/dangerous stuff hired out as needed. Stuff takes time.

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  9. That old brick is beautiful. So even though you didn't get to do what you set out to, you took something old and crumbling and exposed beauty. Can't believe you did all of that in three hours. WOW! I am such a sloth. :-)

    I was glad to read that the electric was disconnected too. Scary stuff.

    Ruby and Winnie have it made. They know they have a 'good thing' going.

    Have a great week.

    I'm expecting a FED EX pkg today of my 'first' order from Rose Petal's this year. The 'second' order, because of being 20% off on the Bermuda's, will be here after the 22nd. I am excited.

    FlowerLady

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    1. I had a three hour limit on this project because I wanted to be finished in time to go upstairs to watch the hockey game on Saturday. Nothing like a deadline to kick things into a higher gear and get stuff done.

      This isn't even the worst of the scary electrical stuff that I have found. I know to be on the look out for it well ahead of any sort of work.

      You already know how much I love Rose Petals Nursery! I also love your rose choices that I saw on your blog yesterday and before. I especially have a soft spot in my heart for the Bermuda roses. The folks in Bermuda are so nice, and their rose society did a great service to the rose world by recognizing that they had unique roses and by preserving and distributing them around the island and throughout the world.

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  10. Fascinating. As always.
    Well worth all that effort. The exposed brick is lovely.

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    1. I share stuff like this because I figure that other people besides me are interested in seeing what the guts of an old house like ours look like.

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  11. In our 1930 house it's about the same, the plaster is coming off the bricks in the basement too. After your work it looks already much better now, but haha, you came upstairs for a rest watching a hockey game on the couch. Mistake, couch engaged.......they are so cute sleeping there. I think I can longer watch these sleeping beauties than watching sport.

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    1. Sitting on the sofa watching sports, surrounded by critters, is one of my favorite things!

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  12. OMG if you hadn't said Winnie was in the photo I never would have noticed her! Have fun with your reno - love the brick wall!

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    1. Anytime of day, we can count on finding Winnie somewhere in or on that green throw. Right now, she's burrowed inside the pile and completely invisible.

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  13. You simply wore those dogs out. Can you imagine their inconvenience with all your noise making?

    In the process of moving an old shed, ca. 1900. Beloved said he should have put a match to it, cheaper than all the renovations he's doing to it once moved. Next? The other old shed, dirt/wood floor, after liking the results with current shed, will be turned into his office. Was hoping this would happen :)

    First shed is now on perfect axis with future orchard/potager. Slow, but exciting.

    First winter in this house. You already know the propane company is on speed dial. They will be here again today.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

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    1. I get so excited hearing about what you are doing at your new place! How incredible to plot and plan, then gesture, and a small building shifts to fulfill your vision.

      Our heat is oil, and I totally understand your fixation on the propane guy. We have our account set for automatic delivery. It's their job to monitor our usage and fill the tank as needed. Best part is that it's their fault if we run out (like we did once last year), and they send the truck to remedy the situation with no charge for the emergency trip.

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  14. I love the brick wall. Although I wasn't the one doing the work, I can say it was a few hours well spent. How's that for being supportive?

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    1. You ARE being supportive ... my husband was, too. He offered to help, but there was really only room for one person to work effectively.

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  15. LOL...oh how I know the feeling of start a project, and open up a can of worms to make it more involved. Old House Love, sigh...but worth it. I truly love the look of the brick walls. And I learned something today. We have stacked stone walls in our basement, and to control the humidity with the dirt floor, there are fans that run continuously, they dry the air. Good job! Passing on post to Bob to read now. :)

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    1. It's a huge relief to get rid of all of those modern wall finishes and to reveal the original look of our basement! Eventually, the ceilings will go, too.

      Brick walls that soak up water, no vapor barrier underneath the ancient concrete floor. We have a big dehumidifier that is set to run, as needed, to keep the humidity in the basement to a manageable level. It runs pretty much 24/7 in summer, and slows down to run intermittently in winter.

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  16. Love your brick walls! With "this old house" it never ends, right? Love how the doggies were not bothered in the least. Good heavens, you wouldn't want to disturb the 20 hours of sleep they need each day. :)

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    1. Never ends! That's why we have decided that 'Finished' is our version of the "F" word.

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  17. Replies
    1. It's especially awesome to have so much of the old lime wash on the bricks. The mortar is in iffy condition ... one day we will do what we can to remove the loose stuff and repoint the joints ... that day isn't anytime soon.

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  18. Ha ha! The pups are comforted by knowing you're close by. The noise just confirmed it!😊

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    1. Ruby is fairly bulletproof where noises are concerned. It is Winnie that's the variable ... I was glad to see that this particular project didn't upset her. Makes me feel more secure about tackling similar things in the future.

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  19. Smiling only because we were Old House People until last year when we moved to a New Build... but oh how I remember the decades of projects turning out somewhat like this at the Historic Homestead... which we haven't Sold yet but are in the process of putting up for Sale. I only Hope whoever buys it is Realistic about what being an Old House Person will entail... it is definitely a Labor of Love, with the emphasis on Labor! *LOL* I am Loving your Exposed Brick Wall tho', even tho' it was initially Intentional to expose it... you just could never get THAT look in a New Home, I'm Envious since we're going for a Vintage Industrial Loft Style in our Livingroom and are considering Chicago Brick around the Fireplace and along an entire Wall at the New Villa Boheme' when we can afford it. Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

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    1. You're the exact opposite of us! We went from new build, to bigger new build, to biggest new build, to this old place that we now call home. People who are accustomed to tidy concrete block walls in new-construction basements, with neat copper supply lines, plastic drain lines, and modern wiring, see the stuff in OUR basement and they sometimes gasp. Not to worry ... I know what's what, and we are working toward making sense out of most of it.

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  20. I am very behind on my blog reading and was so glad that I did not miss this post. I am sorry you did not end up with a nice lumber rack like mine, but I do love the brick wall as much as the rest of your readers! Maybe you'll find another more suitable place to make a rack.

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    1. I definitely have to come up with a solution to the lumber/supply storage issue. I cannot continue to tip toe around and over the piles of stuff that are in my workshop.

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