Regular readers will recall that back in February we started work on doing up one of our spare bedrooms. We stripped most of the wallpaper, then had to return the wallpaper steamer to Ste’s parents, and work stopped there!
A few weeks ago we finally had a full weekend free, and got back to work on it. We had noticed that one wall would need re-plastering, and as we started to chip off the cracked plaster, we realised that behind it the old plaster was so ancient it had crumbled to sand, and that would all need to come off too. Cautiously we picked off a small patch with a screwdriver, and realised that underneath was solid stone wall. It looked like it might be quite attractive from the small hole we’d dug, so we got the hammer drill out and decided to take the whole lot off.
(Sorry about the wonky picture sizes, writing this in a hurry before heading off on holiday so no time to fix them!)
You have not experienced dust until you’ve been covered in hundreds-of-years-old-plaster, so ancient it was held together with horsehair and was full of scraps like seashells and old coins! We goggled and masked up, and still it felt like our eyes were full of grit. It took ages to dig and scrape out all the old plaster, taking care not to dislodge the lime mortar underneath which was actually holding the stones in place. We first used the drill with a chisel bit to get the worst off, then used wire sanding drill bits to get into the nooks and crannies. Then finally a brush for the last part. We would end each evening needing to strip off everything we’d worn inside the room and run for a shower. And centuries old plaster dust turns into something rather like cement when you wet it, so washing my hair each evening was quite a task. Despite draping a sheet over the door to stop the dust spreading, there is a thin layer on pretty much everything in the house right now. There was so much of it during this process we had to invest in a dust vacuum, which has been absolutely brilliant. Without it we would still be drowning in the stuff.
Since the wall was happily attractive enough to leave exposed (we were dreading it being ugly), we next needed to cement up the gaps between the stones. This was quite a process, getting it looking neat, but also just getting the darn stuff to stick in the bigger holes was tricky. We worked out it needed to be smeared on and gradually built up so that it didn’t just plop right back off the wall onto the by now absolutely filthy carpet. Once dry, we set about tidying it up with the drill sander, which took a few days because it was hard work on the arms and very dusty.
Eventually it was all done, brushed off and ready to seal, which we did with watered down PVA glue, brushed on with a large brush. I think it looks really great now (I’ll reveal the finished wall soon!) – we just need to repeat the re-pointing process on the fireplace downstairs now that we know what we’re doing, but neither of us can face doing more of that for quite a while yet!
Next thing was to take out the built-in wardrobes at the other end of the room. I had measured and worked out that we could get the fully expanded guest-bed into that space at the end of the room if the wardrobes went, which would make the room feel much larger, so we spent an enjoyable afternoon ripping those out. From the ancient wooden rawl plugs, we think they must have been there for the best part of fifty years or more, but since they were not wide enough for normal coathangers to hang, they were only really useful for suitcases, and took up far too much space. The room is so much more spacious without them, so it was a good decision.
Afterwards the wall behind had to be re-plastered, as did the join between the plaster and the newly exposed stone wall, since there was an inch or two gap either side where the old plaster was. Ste did an amazing job of this, adding plastering to his litany of DIY skills. I’m a lucky girl!
So now the room is an empty shell, waiting for us to come back from France and begin the reincarnation! There’s still a lot to do – papering the whole room and painting the walls, ceiling and woodwork, getting someone in to seal the chimney off and part-fill in the back of the fireplace, which we are keeping as a feature, ripping out the disgusting old carpet, installing a radiator and power points, sorting out the floor (we’re not decided on this yet – either sanding and sealing the floorboards, or re-carpeting), and then finally furnishing it. I bought a huge antique wardrobe on eBay for a song that is currently in the dining room waiting to be taken upstairs, and I’ve been doing a little DIY on the bed too (more on that later), and I’ve bought a few little bits and pieces of décor. I cannot wait to put it all together again! And we had better do all of this quite sharpish, because we have a houseguest coming at the end of June who would like a lovely room to stay in, so we’ve got three weeks to do all this really! Eep!
So, what do you think? Do you like the exposed stone? Carpet or bare floors? Any other thoughts?