Thursday March 3, Sunday March 20
They say delegation is the sign of a good leader. That, or people get other people to do the things they don’t want to do themselves. Greg the builder wasn’t too keen to tackle the galvanized edge strip for the plaster – it was a kind of important detail, one worth getting right. The edge strip (known as a P50) was to provide a release detail between the junction of the plywood wall and the raked plaster ceiling. Greg recommended I contact a local plaster to install the edge strip. Pete the plasterer turned up to inspect the job just as we were getting underway laying the internal brick wall so it was a bit of a mad house. Pete the plasterer wasn’t overly impressed by my plastering skills and conceded the two coats of plaster I had put on over the joins in the sheets and the screw heads was barely worth one coat. He offered to ‘fix it’ while he installed the edge strip.
Pete said he had installed loads of P50 in the past but this was the most challenging. Pete did the work on his own, while I was away. Greg and I hadn’t realised that the plywood bows in at parts of the top of the wall. Pete had installed the edge strip as a straight line – not picking up the slight in and out of the plywood. I was shocked and disappointed when I first saw the result – some larges gaps between the edge of the P50 and the face of the plywood. When I say ‘large’ I am only talking a couple of millimetres. It wasn’t all bad – most of the finish was good, but there was just a few spots that didn’t really look that great. The imperfections can only be seen when standing directly underneath the junction, right next to the walls – not something most people would ever do. We will look at trying to improve the worst bits. In hindsight we should have run the P50 past the top of the plywood, allowing for a smaller shadowline (the gap between the face of the ply and the edge of the plasterboard) and a bit of give and take. Oh well – 60k House is a living experiment and you learn from your mistakes.
Trial and error
Once the plastering was finished the ceiling was ready to paint! You know you’re getting close to being done when you start to paint inside. The effect I was aiming for with the plywood was a ‘Scandinavian summer house’ – light and bright, but still giving some warmth by showing the timber grain. I bought a 10 litre tin of ceiling paint to use for the plasterboard and was going to give the paint leftover to my brother for his place – payment for his efforts. Ceiling paint is always white and always ‘flat’ (not gloss or sheen). It’s also water based – meaning you can mix it with water, and makes for an easy clean up. I tried a few paint samples on an offcut piece of ply: full white; 50% paint / 50% water; 25% paint / 75% water; right down to about 10% paint / 90% water. I brushed the watered-down paint samples onto the ply and let them dry. Here’s the thing – with a natural material like timber, that has a grain and knots and non-uniform absorption – HOW you apply the paint is just as important as how strong the paint is, maybe even more important.
Whitewash vs limewash
I took my slab of sample swatches into the paint store where they offered to show me how limewash would look. At nearly $40 per 1 litre tin limewash was going to be more than 4 times more expensive than watered down ceiling paint. And they only had one tin. And my brother was free to help that weekend. I decided to opt for diluted ceiling paint.
Roll and rag
It was a bit of an experiment for Gordon too, and he’s a professional painter. We tried a few more samples on the day to get the mix and application right. We settled on the technique of rolling on the mix of 50% paint / 50% water and then wiping with a rag in the direction of the grain. Once all of the drop sheets were setup and we had decided on how we were going to whitewash the ply ceiling it was reasonably quick. A single coat, not too much mess, decent enough finish.
One, two, three
Gordon cut in the edge and then rolled on the rest. The plasterboard ended up needing 3 coats. It was getting dark by the time he finished and we couldn’t really see the end result until later. I think the contrast between the solid white of the plasterboard and the whitewash of the plywood, with the grain still visible but the entire ceiling lighter in colour, looks alright. Limewash might have been a bit brighter, but it wouldn’t have been done by then and would have cost much more. At this stage of the project, with an impending deadline (I’m headed overseas in May) and a dwindling bank balance, pragmatic decisions need to be made.
Costs: plasterer – $400; paint – $90
Disclaimer: Any advice contained within this blog is of a general nature only and cannot be relied upon. Details provided are in good faith and relate specifically to this project. Any author will not be held responsible for advice or information presented.