kitchen walls


Posted: January 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, kitchen, progress | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »


We took a big plunge and decided to hire a few contractors to help us get the kitchen up and running. We still want to try and do most everything ourselves, but it felt like a week or two of hired help could help us get a huge kick-start on the kitchen, just to get to the point where we can survive through the winter in here. Consulted our budget (ie. how much money we can borrow from my parents) and decided we could (just barely) afford to hire some help from a carpenter and a plasterer, to get the kitchen walls finished up quickly so we can move on to installing cabinets, counter, sink, all the good stuff! My dad had recently bumped into on old acquaintance named Lynn, a master carpenter who happened to be looking for new projects. And my sister Alicia recommended a plasterer friend, Laura, who had done some good work in their house and could help us whip up some kitchen walls. So we made some phone calls and… VoilĂ ! December began with a house full of skilled tradesmen working away in our house. Lynn and Laura working on the kitchen while Nate and his helper worked away on the bathroom plumbing and basement drainpipes. We can’t afford to have them do a whole lot of work, but they can quickly get a lot of basics finished and get us further along the road! It was weird and fun to spend a few weeks with a crowd of workers in the house, we had to try and stay out of their way so they could work, and I was almost constantly employed in answering zillions of questions about “will you want to put some molding here” or “how do you want this wall to meet the ceiling” or “where should this pipe run” or “can I rip this out” or “should we plaster over this or go around it” etc etc! There were so many questions that we hadn’t thought about – it’s like a full time job just figuring out how to orchestrate and direct the contractors. At night when everybody had gone home, we’d drag two chairs into the empty kitchen and sit by the woodstove eating dinner on our laps, then in the morning we’d have to wake up super early to clear away everything from the kitchen again, drag the chairs and everything out of the worksite and start up the woodstove so it would start to get warm by the time everyone turned up for work. Then once it started snowing we had to clear and sand the driveway every morning so the work vans could get up the driveway. Mike had to stay in the bedroom to work most days, since his workday is filled with conference calls, can’t really do that in the middle of a construction site. The puppy made friends with all of the contractors and clambered all over them while they worked and tried to steal their lunches every day, but had to be locked up in the bedroom with Mike most of the time, or else she certainly would have chopped off the end of her pretty little nosy snout by getting it too close to a sawzall or a drill.

Lynn’s work in the kitchen was mostly getting everything totally finalized and prepared for hanging wallboard – in an old house, no walls are straight, no two wall segments line up quite properly, no doorway is straight, no two pieces of wood are on the same plane. There’s an infinite amount of little discrepancies to be evened out and tidied up. With a plane and impressive speed and skill, Lynn straightened out our doorways, replaced missing studs, missing bits of strapping, made walls level and plane and square, furred-out short bits and sawed off other bits, took out old broken wood and replaced it with new strong wood. We’d done our best to do the pre-wallboard preparation ourselves, but it was remarkable to see how many things we’d missed!

kitchen ceiling

1-inch insulation and strapping on the ceiling, all ready to hang blueboard.

Then Laura and Rick hung blueboard all over. Blueboard is a special wallboard that’s intended for plastering over. Here’s what the kitchen looked like with all the wallboard up – what a dramatic difference!

kitchen with blueboard

all done with insulating, now the blueboard is up, and all is ready to plaster!

Work got slowed down with Christmas and then a big snowstorm. Just before New Years, Laura and Rick started to put up the plaster, and finished up in the first week of the new year. The plaster is kind of a mysterious and magical thing. It starts as soup and ends up as rock-hard walls. They had a bit of a struggle to work on the ceiling and walls above our woodstove, as it’s blazing hot and dry up there, and the plaster needs to complete a chemical hardening process before all the water evaporates out of it. We had to spritz the walls lightly with a spray bottle for an hour or two after they finished, to make sure it didn’t dry out too quickly.

plaster in kitchen!

all done with plaster!

Laura grew up learning plastering from her father and her grandfather, who were plasterers too. She said when she was just little, she would do the bottom of the walls while her father and grandfather worked on the top part. These days plastering is much less common, most people just do wallboard now, but it works really well for an old, crooked house – it fits with the history of the house, and works nicely up against the exposed beams and it helps to fill in some odd gaps and smooth over some of the irregularities.

Back when we were in the destruction and gutting phase, we found this beautiful huge beam when we ripped out the old wall by the chimney. We’d originally imagined having cabinets along this wall, but then it seemed like a shame to cover up this amazing beam, so in the end we took a few days trying to figure out whether it made sense to do some carpentry and plaster magic to keep it exposed, or just cover it over for the sake of getting work done more quickly. In the end we decided to take the time to expose it and we are really happy with how it looks now!!

kitchen beam

before and after.

plaster in kitchen!

Historically speaking, this kind of exposed beams are not at all authentic, it has a fun old-timey look but the original house never would’ve had its beams showing like this. We think it looks cool anyway!

painting the ceiling priming the kitchen walls

priming the kitchen walls

So… early January and we’re ready to paint the walls! This felt like such a huge exciting milestone and we were SO pumped to get started!! but turned into a huge job because the fresh plaster absorbs a TON of paint. It took something like six gallons of primer to cover the whole kitchen. I also had to tape off and mask off ALL of those precious exposed beams, a hellishly tedious process that involved balancing on top of a ladder, sweating in the heat and weirdly contorted to reach the beams overhead, carefully taping along the edges of every beam while wood splinters fall down in my eyes.

painting the kitchen

taping the ceiling for painting is really annoying

color deliberations

color deliberations, part one

We went through some lengthy indecision about colors, we tested EIGHT different color swatches and ended up liking this light-blue color.

painting the kitchen

benjamin moore, yarmouth blue

judy helps with painting

judy helps with painting


4 Comments on “kitchen walls”

  1. 1 indigorchid said at 4:21 pm on January 21st, 2011:

    Your kitchen is coming along so beautifully! The exposed beams on the ceiling and walls are just gorgeous, and the brick chimney and woodstove makes it so atmospheric! You’re certainly putting a whole lot of work into your house, but it looks like it’s paying off – everything looks so well done, and so pretty!

    I’m really enjoying seeing the process of your farmhouse!

  2. 2 eliza said at 12:35 am on January 26th, 2011:

    thanks indigo! great to hear positive feedback :)

  3. 3 Steve@UrbanCottage said at 6:28 pm on March 22nd, 2011:

    Just happened upon your blog and saw your beams. Looks like post and beam construction to me. Do you know what year your house was built? I have an 1842 Greek Revival in Cambridge, MA and mine was built the same way. Looking forward to poking around some more.

  4. 4 eliza said at 8:01 pm on March 22nd, 2011:

    Hi Steve, we aren’t sure exactly what year our house was built – it’s got a complicated life history. We think the oldest parts of the house might be about 1830′s-ish. As far as we’ve heard, it began as two separate houses, from a neighboring town. They were taken apart, moved in pieces by oxen and re-assembled together on the current site, as a single structure. That was around 1850′s-1870′s ish? The smaller house became our kitchen (my studio upstairs). Then around 1880′s-ish? the whole house was modified again and Victorian-ized, the pitch of the larger roof raised to a more fashionably steep angle and two turrets and a wrap-around porch added to the front. Maybe the gables were added then too?

    Anyway, in a previous (original?) incarnation it was a Greek Revival style farmhouse and still has the column details at the outside corners, probably much like yours, I would guess they were once similar!


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