Dust and Treasure

The seismic retrofit plans are still in the works but, in the meantime, I’ve been keeping busy with prep work. This week saw a minor victory in making demolition more safe. The scary electrical wiring has been disconnected at the source and I now have two new J-boxes with GFIs to safely power my tools. A big thanks goes out to my electrician.

breaker box

With that done, it’s back to the plaster demolition on the second floor without any fear of lighting myself up like a Christmas tree.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with lath and plaster but for those who’ve not experienced the pleasure, the following is a brief description of what it’s like.

lath front

This image is of what a lath and plaster wall looks like after being whacked a few times with a crowbar. It’s basically a 1/2″ thick layer of very soft cement that’s been troweled onto a series of 1 1/2″ wide slats which are nailed to the wall studs beyond. The fun patterns that you see are many layers of wall paper adhered to the exterior face of the plaster and, in this case, it’s mostly what’s holding the old plaster together.

lath back

On the back side of the wall, you can see how the plaster spludges through the lath. Is spludge a real word? Well anyway, the spludging is what causes the plaster to anchor to the lath thus making it stay in place for a hundred years or until someone like me whacks it with a crowbar. Why you don’t see this material used anymore is that it is very labor intensive to apply and requires a highly skilled craftsman. A typical house could take weeks to plaster and months to dry. With the invention of drywall or gypsum board, the process of covering walls could be done much more rapidly with less skilled laborers thus leaving the skilled craftsman out on the street corner selling pencils.

Now, back to the project. I’ve pulled down about as much plaster as I can by myself and I’m hip deep in rubble. It’s now time to call in my contractor with his crew of very strong guys and a dumpster to clean up the mess. While I’m waiting for a window on his calendar, I’ve taken the time to start scrounging whatever elements that I can use.

Scrounge 02

Scrounge 01

It’s a shame to let any of this stuff go to waste particularly when you see the prices for this sort of thing at the architectural salvage places in Berkeley. Oh, and lest I forget, this little beauty came out of the Guv-Nor’s-Sweet and will look fabulous once restored.




Author: Glenn

I'm a 5' 8" tall ape descendant with an interior design degree and a love for antiques and vintage architecture. I recently escaped from the IT world to follow my dreams and a beautiful damsel who shares my love of old buildings no matter how much dust is involved.