Thursday, November 6, 2008

home renos

Like most people's houses in the old part of Toronto, ours is about ninety years old. Plaster is failing, trim is coated with layers of flaking lead paint, the roof has leaked, and the legacy of questionable updates abounds. Renovating this place has so far meant stripping back layers of interventions to reveal the original materials, which so far seem to be more interesting than anything added subsequently.

After seven years of contemplation, we were finally ready for action this spring. Our basement neighbours moved out, and in went a set of stairs to the lower level. Reorganization freed up an upstairs bedroom, and gave me a place to start earthen plastering.

But first, baseboards. Stripping the trim in that room to reveal the delicate and shapely curves of century old wood has been rewarding, though time consuming. The product that I am using, SoyGel ("made from 100% US-grown soybeans"), apparently binds with the lead in the paint, enabling me to scrape it off without launching the toxin into the house's atmosphere. Apparently.

Sophie and Alan crowbarred off the layers of tile and subfloors to reveal a rustic but beautiful subfloor that we've decided we will refinish and retain as the final flooring surface.

Once the trim in that room is completely stripped, I'll plaster the remaining walls, we'll finish the floors, and (as Sophie says) "Wa-la!".

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I've been teaching myself how to earthen plaster, and have been applying this finish over drywall in parts of our house. Here I am in our former-basement-apartment-kitchen-soon-to-be-laundry-room, standing in front of newly finished plaster. Although I'm not particularly good at it, wielding that beautiful Japanese trowel feels like something I was made to do. I'm going to do more.