Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Peeling Back The Layers

In my last post, I told you of my imminent plans to destroy the newly discovered mold growth behind my walls. Well, before beginning the process of gutting the whole interior of my house, I wanted to be sure that there really was mold (the dangerous kind) behind the walls and that I absolutely HAD to gut. (Why create more work if it’s unnecessary?) So, a couple days ago, my mom and I went to the house to peel back the layers and find out what lies beneath.

I was nervous about the process of removing the drywall because the house is so old. Why would that matter?, you ask. Well, in old houses (in New Orleans, at least), after a house was framed, long narrow slats of wood would be placed perpendicular to the studs to close in the space. Then plaster would be applied on top of that. In modern construction, there is a space between the outerwall and the inner drywall (usually filled with insulation), so punching a hole in the wall would result in nothing more than… well, a hole in the wall. But in my early 1900’s house, I’d run the risk of breaking the underlying wood if I drove a sledge hammer through the wall. Construction-savvy readers may guffaw at my perhaps baseless fear, but it was my fear nonetheless… and I’d rather err on the side of caution than ruin what is left of my little investment.

So, we went to the house to crack open those walls. Using a utility knife, I cut a rectangle in one of the bedroom walls and my mom gently tapped on the drywall to break it. We then used our hands to pull the broken drywall out. What we found was interesting (if you’re into history). Yes, there was mold growing in black circles on the back of the drywall. But we also found old wallpaper (pink with flower designs). The original owners just slapped wallpaper right on top of the wood. Even more interesting, there was a layer of burlap underneath the wallpaper. Maybe people used to line their walls with burlap for insulation? Certainly not for aesthetic value… maybe for suicidal masochists. I must find out. Also, now that there’s a big hole in the wall, I may be able to determine if my house is actually constructed from barge boards… or if it’s just constructed in the bargeboard style. Curiouser and curiouser…

Anyway, I emailed these pics to my uncle/contractor to find out if I really REALLY need to take the walls out. If I do, that’s fine. It was actually fun. My mom really wants to get back in there and pull some more out. If not, onto the next project!

So, without further ado, I present photos from this latest mini-adventure:

Our initial rectangular hole in the wall

A close up on the mold

Me pulling out drywall with my (gloved) hands

Old wallpaper beneath the drywall

Old moldy burlap beneath the old wallpaper

The layers of wallpaper and burlap... I think it's pretty.

Since we were also waiting for the Insurance Adjuster to arrive (re: my stolen copper pipes… see previous post), we decided to spend some time pulling up the floor in the kitchen. I’d heard that it was labor intensive because of the adhesive underneath the tile, so of course I wanted to see for myself. Well, it wasn’t really difficult at all (we only pulled up about a 2 foot square area). And we found some old linoleum tile. Actually, directly beneath the tile was a layer of plywood. But under that, we found a layer of yellow and green tile, arranged so that the yellow tiles were grouped in the center and framed by these dirty dark green tiles. Hmmm... apparently the original (or pre-previous) owners were into ugly things. (No offense if you like floral pink wallpaper in your bedroom and yellow and green tile in your kitchen.) Under THAT, there were a few squares of an older tile. And then the floor boards. Maybe I am a geek, but I think that’s fascinating. Makes one wonder who owned the house… and what possessed them to make these strange interior decorating decisions.

Here are a couple pics from that experience:

My mother pulling up floor tile

Oh, the many layers


Odene said...

jenga u look funny in that mask, although I partially saw your face. You weren't playing to guard up your face. lol. A lot of hard labor!

kenya said...

i'm truly enjoying your stories!

Mtume said...

Jenga, there must've been a reason for all the mustard yellow and avocado green. My guess is it was an attempt to bring color to the kitchen after decades of wood and iron. Think about it: if all appliances were black and always had been, then suddenly you could get yellow and green, then yellow and green would be the height of modernity. Right?

It's sort of like the current trend of royal blue and blood red washing machines and dryers. For decades, they were white. So now the trendy people want the boldest colors they can find.

Anyway, I realize I just talked myself into thinking that I have some idea of what I'm talking about when I actually don't. But it's a theory anyway.

honeychild / the mixtress said...

omigod. i am totally into history, and am totally loving the photos and the layers, and the photoshopped keys to what's in each layer, and in general the entire architectural adventure you are embarking on. thanks again for sharing it.

and, uhm, you are hysterical. 'apparently they were into ugly things.' LOL!! although i am all tender and appreciative of the history of design as manifested in the intricacy of the linoleum and wallpaper patterns, i do agree that it's kind of a lot to live with. do you think the burlap might have been part of the wallpaper at one point? like a backing?

anyhoo... i hope that future owners of my house read mtume's post when trying to figure out why i have a 'sedona orange' dryer! ;oP

quitcoffee said...

Your project is giving me courage to get started on my own project! My kitchen has about 10,000 layers of floor!
The burlap you've found is likely from grass-cloth wallpaper.

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