Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Zen and The Art Of Spackling The Wall

Weekend projects should not take two weeks.

When you have a house that is older than about a day or three, you will have repairs.  Brand new custom homes around here are generally shoddy, and you never know what you will find wrong.

The house gets a little older and the owners decide to fix that squeaky door hinge and the popped nail heads in the middle of the wall.  With a stud being placed every 16 inches on average, there are a lot of nails that can pop.

The original owner moves out.  The house passes to someone who doesn't know or doesn't care to keep it up.  The "Rearranging the Deck Chairs on The Titanic" school of thought, just cover it up with a bit of paint.

Someone please stop them before they create a problem?

That owner gets someone in and fixes some things, and the house gets sold.  Now the house is a bit older, starting to show its age.  A new owner moves in with great ideas and it is time to act.

Well, that's how the story goes anyway.

I've always been excellent at spackling holes in the wall.  I once moved out of an apartment and was stopped by the maintenance crew who handed me back my deposit check saying "We had to do nothing at all, what did you do?".

I didn't tell them that I used Colgate Toothpaste to cover up a nail hole or twelve before I went to the hardware store for the spackle and paint to cover up a cracked wallboard and a few scrapes in the hallway.  

It did look that good though, all they did was move the next guy in the place.

When I saw plaster bubbles forming on my walls, I cringed.  I knew I was in for an epic.  I dutifully popped the bubbles, peeled back the paint and the craft paper that was attacked for a backing for paint, and saw a spiderweb of geometric cracked plaster.  Some of it fell onto my foot as I pulled the paper off.  More came off with a gentle tap.  By the time I was through, I had created a one foot by a foot and a half wide splotch of bare concrete that needed attention. 

I also had a plugged up bathtub that had some of that old plaster that fell down the drain.

Paint the wall with primer, begin to fill with spackle and putty. 

When you have a large area like this, you are in for a long haul.  You get time to think.  I went out to the computer and started up some music.  May as well. 

As I was listening to Diana sing about her "Baby Baby", I had gotten into a rhythm.  Dab a little spackle, wipe almost all of it off with the putty knife.  Thin as possible.  I had about a half inch to fill.  If you put it on thick it will crack.

"I'm Coming... OUT!"  get the area near the door of the shower under the soap, it's hidden so it doesn't have to be perfect.  A little dab of spackle, rub it thin with my index finger.

"Take me higher!"  Start to feather around the edges of the old plaster.  I had sanded them down so they were lower than the wall, higher than the concrete.  Leave a little bit there to sand down with the block sander.

"Mirror Mirror!"  There's a spot in the texture next to the Medicine Chest that looks like someone threw something at it back in the 70s or the 80s, I'll get that next.  A thumb over top of the spackle to make sure that it domes high enough for me to wet sand later.

"Upside Down!"  Wet Sanding Spackle.  If you want a smooth finish, here's a trick I was taught by a crazy painter once.  Get an old white cotton sock.  Turn it inside out and get it good and wet.  Use that to sand the spackle.   Spackle will get wet but the sanding will give you a finish so smooth it will shine.

"Touch Me In The Morning! Then just walk away."  Now that the thing has been finish sanded, paint it with primer in two hours when it dries.  Good luck cleaning the brush since you need ammonia.  Windex will do in a pinch, but you really need the stuff that your grandmother used back in the 1950s.  Oh and the cheap clear ammonia that stinks and nobody likes?  Nobody carries it any more.  I found mine at a food warehouse to the restaurant trade.  There's the remnant of a gallon in the laundry room, go find your own!

After a good solid week of every two hours of your free time going into the bathroom, inspecting, sanding, spackling, sanding again, you are ready to call it done. 

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