Friday, May 28, 2010


So now that I'm in the big house, I walk back and forth a lot between the front of the big house, down the back stairs and out the back door, into the carriage house and up those stairs to the apartment, which is still where the bathroom, kitchen, and remainder of the family is located. Not to mention, downstairs in the carriage house, the family room and my shop (actually just tool and materials storage, as I don't have a proper workbench).

I go through this door a lot, which is between the mudroom and the back stairs. It was originally the back door to the one-story back addition, probably originally the kitchen, and the "mudroom" is basically just a later back porch that has been enclosed - one wall still has the siding of the earlier back room, and the other wall is the brick of the earlier earlier back room. (This house tended to accrete back into further and further back rooms.)

Now, the problem with this door is that the frame had somehow managed to move to the east (that is, into the house) by about 3/4". The problem had obviously been of very long standing, because it had been caulked and some plaster added, clearly in an attempt at winterization. So naturally I popped the trim off, nailed a couple of 2x4 bits to it, and took the maul to it - which worked wonderfully! In about five minutes, I had it back where it was supposed to be!

Unfortunately, all the plaster around the door frame kind of fell off; the old box gutters were attached to the eyebrow that had a squirrel living in it last year (scroll down), and so there was obviously a great deal of leakage through the wall.

So I took the opportunity to go to Menard's and make an exciting new purchase: a bag of base coat plaster!

Anybody who's been reading this blog for any length of time (a year already!) knows that I favor solid construction and masonry. The only problem is that I've never done any of it, so I'm learning as I go. This was therefore a gulpingly novel step. My first real plaster job.

Incidentally, the old basecoat plaster on this wall probably dates to about 1890 (the date I believe this back room was added, along with the dining room bay), and yes, it is mixed with what appears to be human hair for strength. Which I'd read about, and is only marginally creepy.

Lesson #1 about plaster: you need a lot of it. A base coat about half an inch thick over a couple of square feet of wall is a lot more plaster than my usual half-hour tuck pointing quantity of mortar. So this first bag of base coat is going to go fast.

But the first part of the base coat turned out extremely satisfactory in terms of solidity. Here's a picture. I'll update you when I try the top coat - right now I'm knocking out all the crappy bits of plaster on the back stairs and putting a base coat into those (rather extensive) gaps.


  1. Go, plasterer!
    (I do enjoy watching you work from a safe distance.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  2. Oh, hey - I didn't see you post earlier. Yeah, I can imagine reading about the work is relaxing - but in point of fact, doing it is relaxing for me. I have really enjoyed the past year working on this place, seeing things get better as I go.