Knocking out walls and saving the plaster

The whole reason we started this restoration project was because we didn’t want to paint our pink house (that was ten years ago.) It is expensive to keep up with the painting a repairs a wood house needs–there is always repairs to be made to the wood screens, the gingerbread, the wood porches. I grew up in an old home (1913) and it is only now, that I’m supporting an old house do I appreciate the constant care it takes.
The house we live in now was built in 1888. It’s on about a half acre, with a pool, a summer cottage, the original outhouse, a large garden, a koi pond and five bathrooms. One early morning, Mike and I were sitting out on the front porch, having coffee and talking about how we didn’t want to paint the house again.

We were talking about were we’d move and I said “Why don’t we move to the hotel?” We hopped in the truck and drove over….we didn’t really want to chop it up into low income apartments (this was during a time when towns were trying to get housing in the historic downtown areas, to revitalize the down town areas–sort of like the Gaslight District in San Diego).
So we are walking around in this total wreck of a building and thinking, you know…we could knock out a wall here and have a kitchen; knock out these walls and have a huge library; knock out this wall and have a huge master suite….

So we did. I personally knocked out the doorway for the kitchen. We knocked out a wall to open the dining room into the library, where we also knocked out a wall. The library is something like 18 X 35, with soaring ceilings and a wall of windows.

We knocked out a two walls for the master bedroom and then put up a wall in the adjoining hotel room to make a sewing room and closet. The master bath is in part of one room; the utility room is in the other part. There is an extra back bedroom that we’re not sure what we are going to do with–maybe a stained glass workshop for Mike.

So that was in 1998.

The hotel already had been seismic retrofitted (Mike does that) and had a new roof. It had been de-batted and the bats had been relocated. It had been plywooded over and what we call “the pigeon problem” had been stopped. About 2 tons of pigeon shit had been shoveled up and removed. (I’m not a fancy shoveler but I’m a shoveler. I can shovel all day long–and did.)

I helped frame up the new doorways–well, help is too broad of a word. I sat on a bucket and picked up nails. (My Da always had a stick with a cow magnet on it, so we could pick up nails on the farm. So I have extensive experience picking up nails.)

I love these steps–good thing because I have trekked up and down them about a million times!
Those steep stairs lead from the front
The walls were cattle hair plaster; the plaster was mixed with animal hair as a binder. Hanford had butcher shops and cattle yards, so finding a binder was easy. The walls were in middling shape; mostly intact, with some loosening from the lathe. We (the royal “we”–I didn’t actually do this) used plaster washers (which I had never heard of) to fasten the original plaster to the walls. Cracks we reinforced with fiberglass tape. This was a year long project.
kitchen with original plaster

kitchen with paint sample
Guest bathroom with 12 foot ceiling


One thought on “Knocking out walls and saving the plaster

  1. I like those tall windows too!

    We have some old hotel rooms over businesses in our old downtown area. . . I ahve often wnted to check them out but people live ther and the steps up are dark and dirty.

    With huge photos like the last two posts were, it is neat for us to see detail but it is going to eat up your photo space realy fast. . .

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