June 24, 2014

That Time a Simple Painting Makeover Took Down the Walls

Who's ready for a long, wordy post with lots of pictures all about scary home repairs? We'll admit, it's a doozy, but we're excited to be on the other end of this particular home "project," so let's get started!

Recently, we mentioned being able to complete the work on Stephanie's bedroom, of which we've had in the works for almost a year. In our 2014 goals and resolutions post, we also declared wanting to complete 3 larger (and necessary) exterior home repairs, which believe it or not, were all actually connected to painting Stephanie's room. Before sharing the before and after shots (and everything in-between), we wanted to go ahead and give the full backstory on how the simple idea of re-painting her walls from lime green to a nice neutral hue turned into a year-long project with lots of learning along the way. We can file this one under the "small project that turned into major renovations" folder — and whew, are we glad we can finally call this update complete.

Stephanie's bedroom is the first room you see to the left when walking up our stairs, so basically our upstair's first impression. It had the same bright lime green painted walls that we moved in with, which certainly gave an impression that couldn't be missed. Here's a shot of the green view you get at the top of the stairs in a pic from when we recently painted the upstairs hallway:

The short of it is, when Stephanie moved in with us for the summer last year, she wanted to update the bright lime green walls to a more calming and neutral paint color (can you blame her?). Painting this room was on our list of things we also wanted to do, so we couldn't wait to get started, especially with the added help from Stephanie. There was some minor peeling and bubbling along the wall of her room that faced the exterior (normal for 100+ year homes like ours) you'll notice in the shot below:

We planned to peel the flaking paint, sand the patchy area then give a hefty priming before putting a couple fresh coats of paint on the wall — simple, right? As we began to peel and scrape the paint away to prep the walls for priming, things started to go south:

As you can see, the paint literally began to peel away in giant sheets (not little dry flakes like we thought it would), exposing more than just wallpaper or more paint. We were literally peeling back to the plaster and sand mortar of the exterior walls with barely any effort. This is probably the point in time where we each took a deep breath, looked at each-other with the same look, wondering what we just got ourselves into:

Then we went a little further. As we continued to peel, we saw all the different layers and colors of paint the room had previously been painted, but the most interesting part was what we uncovered on the plaster walls:

See those funny little drawings? Who would have guessed — cavemen lived here before us! So, could you have slept in this room knowing these Stephen King-like drawings were under the walls? You just never know what might be hiding underneath the many layers and surfaces of your home:

It was at this same point we realized just what the bigger problem was stemming from — moisture. Dun Dun Dun....

Yep, we could literally feel dampness and moisture coming through the peeled back walls. This was not a good sign...

We quickly realized our weekend paint project was turning into a much bigger set of home issues that needed fixing, so we stopped stripping the paint, cleaned up and re-evaluated. First of all, we knew we'd need to locate and address the moisture problem, otherwise any wall repairs we did would just end up with the same bubbling and peeling result. 

This is where we ended up while doing all of that re-evaluating:

We decided to just leave it be until we could get everything addressed, which made for some interesting jokes when we'd give family and friends that stopped in tours of the house over the last several months — you know people pay extra for "distressed" walls like these in cities like NYC, right?

We ended up having a roofer come out to take a look at what might be the cause of the moisture, thinking it might be the roof flashing or gutter leaking. He let us know it was definitely a gutter issue, that flashing and other roof repairs could stand to be updated and while we were at it, that the mortar in the bricks on that side wall of the house would benefit from some patched re-pointing. Whoa, that's a lot.

Knowing realistically it was best to just go ahead and get these more boring but necessary home repairs taken care of, we took our time getting quotes for the various jobs and pinpointing the best timeframes to get them taken care of. When it comes to larger exterior home repairs like the roof, gutters and bricks, we're definitely fans of hiring trained professionals instead of trying to DIY anything of this nature.

First up, we knocked out the roof repairs. You might remember this past February we had the roof updated with flashing repairs, some slate tile repairs, front gutter work and an overall silver coating:

Yep, it's pretty high up there!

You might remember all of this roof work also helped stop the moisture problem we had with the gutters in the front of the house, allowing us to replace the rotted front stair boards in April (another moisture problem).

Later in March we had the masons come out to re-point all the patchy areas on the exterior side wall where moisture was coming through. Repointing consists of getting mortar scraped out of loose areas in the brick and re-patched. This was one of those repairs I'd never thought about before, but we're both so happy we had it done. We'd love to get them back at some point to do more re-pointing on weak areas near the back of the house.

To give some perspective, that "hump" on the side of house with windows is the same wall as our downstairs kitchen and Stephanie's bedroom upstairs. You can see in the areas under the exterior windows where the mortar is much fuller and filled in now:

After the roof and brick work was complete (if that weren't enough!), we still needed to get the side gutter replaced, which was the main cause of added water running down this side of the house and along Stephanie's exterior bedroom wall. So, in April we had a completely new side gutter and downspout installed — which only took about 4 hours to get done, but made all the difference:

Older roofs like ours were originally built on a slant, so the rain all slides down at an angle, headed for that side of the house. It's interesting and makes it so there's only need for a single gutter along one side of the house. It was great only having to get this one side replaced, but also made us realize why there was so much interior damage in that one area where all the water was washing through the old problematic gutter.

Here's a detail shot of a portion of the repointed brickwork and the new gutter once all of the repairs were complete (also, can you believe that sliver of space between ours and our neighbor's homes? Tiny!):

So, that's the extent of all the exterior issues we had repaired over the last year in order to come back to tackling Stephanie's lime green walls. Having all these larger, less exciting home updates taken care of definitely wasn't the most fun of repairs or renovations, but they are those things that come with the territory of living in old homes and we both feel a huge sigh of relief knowing the water damage is completely taken care of at this stage. We had a couple huge rainstorms come through over the past 2 months where we couldn't wait to run our hands along the bedroom wall to see if we felt any residual moisture, and much to our happiness it's been dry to the bone (errr, sandy wall mortar?).

Since the moisture problem was 100% addressed, we felt confident in taking on the next steps to repair and finally paint the walls in Stephanie's room, who by the way, went back to JMU for the school year after last summer, graduated and returned again this summer in time to tackle her room makeover — take two!

Now you have the full background on the issues we've been facing upstairs over the past year and why we needed to have a few larger home repairs taken care of before jumping back into more fun projects with immediate results, like this and this. Next up, we'll give you the rundown on how we went about addressing the interior wall repairs, since you know, restoring 100+ year old plaster walls is something we've always wanted to learn how to do, ha!

UPDATE: We've posted the full rundown of interior repair work and some proper "before & after" shots of Stephanie's room — check out the interior wall work we did here and see the full transformation right here!

Have you ever run into or uncovered unexpected home repairs that began with one project and turned into a completely different beast? It reminds me of the HGTV makeover shows where they uncover one little problem that turns out to take over the entire budget and the homeowners give the hosts that blank stare like, are you kidding me? Ha, we'd love to hear your own experiences in the comments section!

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