Fixing the Stairway Hall

There was so much to contend with. The stairway had terrible plaster,  and the intense turmeric yellow walls and ceiling with the charcoal grey trim and floors was so unpleasant. I wasn’t there for more than a couple of days before I started picking at the transoms upstairs, which had all been painted over. I used paint stripper and razor blades to reveal the glass below.



The walls in the stairway were really rough. Someone previously attempted to remove the wallpaper, but gouged up the walls with a scraper, then aborted that effort. The previous owner was a happy user of a paint sprayer, and didn’t bother to patch a single one of the cracks or dings before the walls and ceiling were covered with YELLOW paint. This yellow was in conflict with the charcoal trim, and made it look an ugly blueish color.

The realtor’s desaturated photo made the stairway color and texture appear relatively sane, like muted butternut:


This is how bad the walls and color actually were:



Every white splotch was a joint compound repair, patching a crack, hole or gouge.


I built up the worst areas then started to skim coat. I used joint compound, which was available at the hardware store two blocks away. (If this had been a proper historical restoration, then lime plaster would have probably been the correct material. I had no experience with lime plaster, and it takes about three months to fully cure before it can be painted.) I had used joint compound in the nightmare apartment and my former house, to fix similar problems, so I could predict the results.

Every day I did more patching and smoothing. A professional plasterer has the skills to skim coat so smoothly that no sanding is needed. I am not a plasterer. I patched, sanded, with sanding dust underfoot for weeks. I worked on it until I was sick of it. I primed it, touched up any outstanding problems and painted. The walls now just looked like walls. They were smoothER but would never be flat. This was good enough.

I didn’t have scaffolding, so I taped a paintbrush to the extension pole to cut in the ceiling. This made me grimace and sweat but the results were okay.

I started picking at the stair treads. They had areas of levelling compound, imprinted with the backing material from the previous flooring material (cheap carpet). I spent a couple of hours with a heat gun lifting up the floor goo on a couple of treads, with underwhelming results.

My sister was coming from across the country to visit, so I figured that painted stairs were a greater priority.

The lighter ceiling, walls and floor were a big improvement in gloomy January.



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