2nd Floor Hallway

This hall takes ugly to a new level.  That being said, it is also what connects all the rooms upstairs.  That means that no matter where you go in this house, you end up looking at this hall.  Restoring this will make a world of difference in the house for sure!


This project actually covers the Hallways from the first floor up to the third.  Plaster wall and molding repairs can be tricky for a number of reasons.  I was talking to someone I met at a party who had restored their old house and they strongly recommended using 1/4" sheetrock to "skin" the walls.  This was the best advice I could have gotten and that is what this whole section is about.


If you are reading this, then you probably own, or have owned an old house.  Along with most old houses comes plaster walls. Along with some plaster walls comes cracks, and in the case of this house, some of the cracks are pretty severe.  With all of that being said, there are few ways to deal with these cracks.


Repair the crack - gouge out the loose plaster, pre-fill anything really deep, use drywall tape or mesh over the crack, then feather the spackle out nice and wide to blend into the existing wall.

  • Good News - Easy low cost fix - only takes a few hours

  • Bad News - The crack almost always returns over time

Demolish and replace - Major mess, often requires removing existing doorframes, window frames.  The bad news is that The good news here is the fix is pretty much permanent.

  • Good News - Permanent fix - opportunity for insulation, and new electrical outlets

  • Bad News - Huge mess - major amount of work, expensive dumpster

Skin it with 1/4" Sheetrock

  • Good News - Permanent fix

  • Bad News - Can't be done in all cases - read on

When you skin a wall with 1/4" sheetrock, you need to have enough depth in your baseboards, window and door frames to lose a 1/4" and still look natural.  In my case all the woodwork was made with 1 1/4" thick wood.  Losing a 1/4" everywhere made no noticeable change. 

The Plaster Moldings

Okay, bear with me here, this is really hard to explain.  All long the ceilings (in the whole house) are plaster moldings.  This is the one place where I don't have enough depth to lose that 1/4".  So to compensate, I ordered a whole lot of 5/8" bull-nosed flex moldings.  These were nailed/glued directly beneath the plaster moldings with the intention of being blended in as an extra ridge.  Now, the sheetrock butts up underneath, nice and tight.  Once blended and painted it will look like it all has been there from the start. 


This may sound like a big pain in the neck, and quite frankly it is, but it beats the alternative.  In the end, the plaster moldings all need repair anyway, so what is a little extra blending work, while your up there right?  The new bull-nose molding also provides an opportunity to compensate for some settling issues by providing a new straight base line.  The eye sees this as straight, when actually the gap is still there it is just above the plaster molding line and gets lost in the detail. 

Loose plaster is removed and then we start filling in the deep patches. 


Add some plaster, let it dry, repeat until filled.  Then shape the extra by carefully shaving and shaping.


The corner looks like new!


The Walls

So, the deal here is that we are skinning the walls.  The 1/4" sheetrock is applied just like regular sheetrock.  The only challenge is finding the studs in the walls.  These old houses didn't use 16" on-center framing.  We just drilled small holes when in question .  Anyway, we just put up a lot of sheetrock over all the walls and the arch.



This is where the chimney runs through the hallway.  In other words, no studs to screw into here.  Just plaster over brick.  So we covered the wall with construction adhesive.  Then took a bunch of studs that stretched across the hall to the opposite wall and wedged it tightly in place overnight.  Sorry for the two pictures, instead of one, but it was a little tight.  I'm sure you get the idea. 


Here we go with the corbels again!  There is no good way to sheetrock around these, so out they come!  They need to be restored anyway.  I'm not going to write about that here.  You can see the process we went through in either the Parlor or the Reception Hall.  The wall will be skinned and smooth when they get back from their tune-up.


With the walls being permanently covered, we were able to add a new switch for a third floor hallway light and another to turn on the Attic-house fans in the Summer.  Nice added convenience.


Some of the pieces take a bit more time than others...


Cutting curved pieces can be a bit of a challenge - if you want it to fit the first time.  Funny, I still hear myself (as a kid) saying "why do I have to learn this?  I'm never gonna use this in the real world..  (That is why I had my friend John do this, I am no mathematician!)


The result was a perfect fit to the curved plaster moldings.  Just a little blending and it looks like new.


Then we filled and sanded the ceiling as well as the ceiling medallion.  


The Third Floor Ceiling and Walls

I know this page is supposed to be about the second floor hallway project, but sometime these projects bleed into one another.  The BIG problem with the third floor hallway was the ceiling.  It was replaced many years ago and was just thrown up without proper support.  What remained was just a mess.  So the only solution was to remove it completely and replace it.  Sounds easy right?  Not so fast.  That ceiling is part of a hallway/staircase that passes through all three floors of the house.  In short, pulling this down would cause a debris cloud that would trash the whole house.  So we built a platform at the top of the stairs with a hinged hatch door.


This view is from the third floor with the hatch closed.  Once up there, you just close the hatch cover the railings with plastic and you essentially have a sealed room to do your demolition in without spreading the mess.  But, that leaves two problems.  How do we get the debris out of the house?  And, obviously it needs to be done in one shot so you can clean the room (and hatch) before opening it up to get downstairs.



"Say Hello to my little friend"  We rigged a pulley system with a debris bucket attached.  So, on demolition day, one person is on the ground and another in the sealed third floor hallway.  Down comes the ceiling.  The debris is broken up and shoveled into buckets.  The buckets are then put out the window and lowered to the platform below.  The second person takes the bucket off and takes it to the dumpster, then returns it to the pulley.  Rinse and repeat.  


The ceiling was completely removed, and the hall was vacuumed and sponged clean in a matter of hours.  No dust leaked downstairs - none!


All the proper supports were later added and the ceiling was replaced.  The walls were covered with 1/4" sheetrock.


There was no light fixture in the Third floor hall.  While we were re-structuring the ceiling supports, we added a line for a light and ran the switch to the bottom of the stairs.  So, where there is light, why not add a medallion.  This medallion was given to me by a friend who down props for movies.  It was actually cast from an original plaster medallion.  It is made of some very light weight resin material, but looks exactly like plaster.  I laid it out on the dining room table and painted it,  I cut the hole for the light fixture with a scroll saw.


I applied a good amount of construction adhesive...


And smooshed it onto the ceiling with a simple support I made with a chunk of thick insulation for padding.  I just wedged it there overnight.  If you look closely, there are pencil marks that I put on the ceiling that show me what is square to the walls.  This is really important, because the medallion tend to travel a bit while the adhesive is still wet. this gives you something to watch until it firms up, to ensure you don't take off the support the next day and find a crooked (permanently mounted) medallion.


The After Pictures

Third Floor Hallway Ceiling


Second Floor Hallway Medallion and Fixture


The original doors did have the small brass knockers, most of which were missing. So I decided to get new ones.


The most time consuming thing with this hall was finishing all the doors.  There are six bedrooms, a laundry room and a bathroom all connected to this hall.


This is the Laundry room door.  I saw this sign in a store and couldn't resist.






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