Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

April 15, 2014

Finishing Walls and Floors

Filed under: Dining Room,Living room,Stone house restoration — Duane Diefenbach @ 9:05 pm

Doing the plastering (actually, joint compound to be technically correct) took a lot of time. Not only did drywalled joints have to be finished but all the plaster required multiple skim coats to patch cracks and holes and smooth the complete surface. I have great admiration for the plasterers who did this house because with plaster you cannot sand out your mistakes – you have to finish it perfectly smooth. And they did just that because I never found a single mistake in the ceilings.  Plus they did not have halogen or LED worklights to help identify imperfections.

Here is a photo of the living room with the plastering almost completed. You can see the wall where I repaired rather than replaced the lath and plaster.  The ceiling has drywall installed to cover the opening for the former stairs and those edges where it met the original plastered ceiling had to be feathered to match.



And here is the living room with the walls finished and the floor sanded. I am pleased with the results but don’t look too closely in the corners and around the windows (especially the window on the left where it meets the wall).


In the dining room every single plastered surface had to be skimcoated.



Once the walls were finished and primed I started sanding the floors.  The rest of the house was white pine but this room had the floor replaced sometime in the 1930s or 1940s (I’m guessing) with 2″ wide strip flooring. As you can see, this floor was never sanded or finished and was a dark brown. I assume the original floor just plain worn out because this was the kitchen in winter, the main entrance, and probably where baths occurred (we found razor blades behind the wainscot that was installed probably around the same time).

I expected the strip flooring to be yellow pine, but I think it is actually red pine because it has a lot of resin and a deep red and yellow coloring. It is also hard wood and seriously cupped such that sanding with my 8″ random orbit sander was slow going and I was running out of sandpaper!  So I rented a drum sander to level the floor using 20 and 36 grit paper. It took several hours, but I was able to level most of the floor and the edge of the room and other areas I could mop up with my belt sander and 8″ random orbit sander.


Here’s the floor completely sanded and ready for the finish. It doesn’t look that great, but actually all the abuse over the years leaves a patina that looks great.  The abuse includes hundreds of nails and nail holes (literally, hundreds), stains from spilled fuel (?), scratches, and dents.


The finish I apply is 4 coats, beginning with 1 coat of sanding sealer (dewaxed shellac), followed by 3 coats of an oil-based polyurethane. The polyurethane has a golden tint (as does shellac) that gives the wood a warm color. The first two coats of polyurethane are gloss because it dries hard and fast. The last coat is satin but takes several days to dry before you can move furniture into the room. Below is the room with the first coat of gloss applied.  The red pine has great color that does not show up well in the photo.



The greatest thing about being at this stage of the house renovation is that we remove the plastic zippered “door” between the new and old part of the house! Below are before and after views from the new to old part of the house.


The other task downstairs was deciding what color to paint the stairway.  We decided to continue the wall, baseboard, and trim colors from upstairs to the dining room. And the living room will have the same colors as the upstairs guest bedroom. But what about the stairs?  The olive green of the baseboard would be too dark and I think a different color for the steps and risers would accent the stairway. With the help of our friend, Liz (a self-described frustrated art major – her words, not mine!), we decided on a deep blue that has some shades of gray/black (I think – anyway it looks “colonial”). The photo below shows the stairs with the paint job only half completed – the diagonal trim under the steps will be the same mustard color of the other vertical trim.  The stairs need 2 more coats of paint (I used a urethane paint for stairs that does not require a primer, but that means more coats to finish).


With the vertical trim painted it looks a little better. But with the walls and trim just primed it is difficult to imagine the final result. That should happen this week!



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