1907 Remodel/Restore - What to do w/Interior walls

jedwards601September 1, 2008

I am currently working on a 1907 home. We recently undid some remodels and then did some of our own. I now have a question regarding what to do with the interior walls. My carpenter obviously thinks it easier to drywall. I am not sure that would look right. What other options do I have if any besides beadboard or plaster that would look right. I am not "restoring" to it's true self, but I also do not want make it worse!Other rooms in the home have previously had some drywall added; but the main rooms I would like to be more authentic.

Also, what do I do with old wallpaper on some sort of cheesecloth with a million tacks? Wallpaper is not historical (already checked with local historian) and is eaten by bugs in some large areas. Want to put something else - plaster or wallpaper - what is easier and less costly but looks nice? Process? If I have to pull those tacks - how do I get them out?

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What is the condition of the walls now? If they are currently plaster you should leave it/repair it if possible as plaster walls are more sound proof and have many advantages over drywall. (See plaster wall thread on this forum.) I've heard about skim coating over drywall to make it look like plaster, but I've never had any experience with that but it might be a good option to make a more authentic look in the rooms you mentioned, if the old walls are not repairable and new plaster is cost prohibitive. My 1920s home has 2 part plaster which is plaster on top of wall board, I learned that is what it is called on this forum, as opposed to 3 coat which is lathe then 2 layers of plaster. It is very soundproof and strong, and I like the look of the slightly textured surface.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 6:49AM
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I agree it is good to try as best as you can to save old plaster walls. But if this is a new wall you can find someone who does "new" plaster, usually not the same as a drywall guy. It may or may not be less expensive than drywall. My plaster guy is less because he can do it in 1 - 1 1/2 days. He does a two coat process. Blue board (like drywall) then scratch coat, then top coat(usually later that day if not then early next day). No sanding so less mess and it all cures pretty fast so it goes up fast. But the guy has to know what he's doing. Plus it blends better with the old plaster.

Not sure about old wallpaper. I think there was a thread a few weeks back on how to get old wallpaper glue off. But gee, those tacks sound fun:). Probably no other way than to pull them out by hand.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 1:15PM
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I should add that the walls in question are new construction walls. I have no plaster in my old house. All original walls had/have wallpaper or beadboard. Walls which were re-done by previous owner were either:

1. paneled with '60's era paneling,
2. plywood and wallpapered
3. one room was dry-walled (it looks the worst of all of them).

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 2:15PM
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Your original walls probably have old plaster under that wallpaper. Using wooden lath, horse-hair plaster and a smooth top plaster. That was the way things were done at the time your house was built. The wallpaper was to give decoration and protect the walls from scrubbings, which had to be done a couple times a year. And the beadboard protected the walls from getting banged up.

I personally think beadboard up to 3' then smooth plaster either painted (what I'm doing) or wallpapered looks great in an old house. Sherwin Williams and many others have a whole array of historic colors to choose from if you go with paint. And there are also historic wallpapers to choose from as well. Maybe if you get creative you could put up a picture rail to keep from getting holes in your new walls as you decorate :).

Also wanted to comment, if you decide to put up wallpaper that can be put directly over smooth plaster (once it cures properly). Drywall will need to be sealed first.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 4:03PM
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Our house was built in 1900, and is a very small victorian cottage. The interior walls are shiplap, then they had cheesecloth stretched across them with wallpaper on top. I am fairly certain this was the way it was done originally (at least that was the way it was when they added the bathroom in 1920), and that there was no plaster. It could be that yours is the same. I'm facing the same dilemma as you, as the choice is to keep the 20 layers of wallpaper and paint, or put drywall on top of the shiplap (which is 3/4" itself). Some of my friends with similar houses removed the shiplap, but because it's on 24" centers, I'm worried it may affect the structural integrity.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 6:57PM
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No there is no plaster in my home and according to historical records, there never was. Our living room and dining room have original 100 year old wallpaper - which is falling off, has been eaten by bugs, etc. due to the wheat-paste it was stuck on with. Like Jenn, my house has shiplap, one layer of cheesecloth attached to shiplap with tiny tacks and then wallpaper was adhered to that with wheat paste (which incidentally, bugs love.) Sometime in the 60's, previous owners did replace the wallpaper in the foyer and sanctuary with a more modern paper attached to plywood. I would never remove the shiplap. I don't think it would do much to the structural integrity of our home, but I want to keep as much as I can the way it was meant to be. I recently toured a bed & breakfast about the same age and the proprietor there just removed the paper, cheesecloth & tacks and painted the shiplap. Once it was decorated and furnishings in place, it looked pretty good. The website is: http://www.georgeblucherhouse.com If you click on "tour the inn" and look at the picture of the living room closely, you can see the shiplap which is painted blue. All rooms that I viewed were done this same way, however they are not as evident in the pictures. Still nice.

Here is a link that might be useful: George Blucher House Bed & Breakfast

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 11:33PM
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OH, that sounds lovely! Could you match the shiplap at some lumber mill and put that up on the new wall? I had a local lumber mill make a knife to match our trim maybe a lumber mill or local woodworker around you could do the same?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 10:56AM
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Hi- I just came upon your posting and wanted to add a link to a discussion I started about our cheesecloth-and-wallpaper-with-bazillions-of-tacks walls, which are in our 1916 foursquare. This is a pretty rare construction, which is why you'll spend so much time here explaining what you DO have rather than getting quick ideas on what to do with it.

Our plan of attack is still being formulated, but for right now, I'm removing wallpaper/cloth and pulling tacks, then priming and painting; caulking between the boards if needed w/ something sandable and paintable. (this is for the living room, dining room, and kitchen) I'm pulling the tacks with a hammer when I can, and needle-nosed pliers when I can't, and leaving some in the wall that are just too deeply sunk to reach. A pair of tweezers come in handy for plucking cheesecloth threads clinging to those tacks that aren't going to be removed. Yes, it is a horrendous amount of work, timeconsuming, and something I could never afford to hire someone to do, even if I could find someone who would do it.

I considered 1/4" drywalling over the walls and decided not to because of the one bedroom that's had that done-- it looks okay, but definitely lessens the depth and impact of the woodwork (baseboards, doorways, windows). You can pull all woodwork off the walls, THEN install drywall and replace, but you can imagine how much work that would be, and probably damaging to your woodwork as well.

The various kinds of 1960s paneling in other parts of our house are getting different types of treatment. (Kitchen- rip it out, remove wallpapers, and paint boards underneath; one bedroom- texturize the flat panels w/ concrete drywall mud-thickened paint and a stucco roller (looks pretty good!); office bedroom- possibly apply a faux leather treatment over existing paneling.)

I don't know what to tell you about the new walls-- except I'd say that you want to make them look as much like the other walls in the room as you can, to avoid the "here's where I screwed with my house's layout" look. If you have to drywall the whole room(s) to achieve this, that may be your only option.

Make sure you post back here to let us know what you decided to do!

Here is a link that might be useful: old wall discussion

    Bookmark   October 13, 2008 at 6:17PM
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Awesome advice from all - thanks Fuzzy for your exceptional "nail on the head" input. What we have decided is to drywall our new additions and then skim-coat smooth for wallpaper prep. I am going with a damask wallpaper. I think I am going with a paintable version for our new additions because I love to change color way too much and cannot afford to re-wallpaper every few years. However, in the original parts of our home, I am going with a flocked wallpaper; probably still a damask. I am going with a really bold black & cream for my foyer and sanctuary. A little more subdued for the other main rooms. On my ceilings which were originally wallpapered, I have decided to go with these styrofoam tiles which mimic old tin tiles. They are very easy to install, budget friendly, decorative and best of all offer some insulation benefits. We will finish those off with crown molding which the previous owners took out. My beautiful home is coming together, after a year, slowly, but I believe she is worth it. thanks again!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2008 at 9:48PM
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