Sunday April 24
My brother Gordon is a painter. He tells me: everyone thinks painting is easy, but it’s the preparation that takes time and skill to get right. I didn’t fill the nail holes before we whitewashed the ceiling, or sand the plywood: I didn’t see the need. My brother thought I should have. To him it wasn’t a finished surface yet, unworthy of paint. I might fill the holes, someday…
The prep work for the walls took a couple of hours over a couple of days before the whitewashing. The first job was to fill the shadow line between the wall and the floor. We had purposely left a 6mm gap – a tolerance to allow for any undulations in either the plywood or the concrete floor. It turns out the floor was one of the flattest ever recorded – less so the plywood panels that took much longer to fit.
I used the caulking gun to run a bead of white Sikaflex along the gap between the ply and the floor; then scraped away any excess before running a screwdriver wrapped in a rag along the edge to finish the line. It wasn’t textbook but proved effective. What I didn’t realise until later was that the whitewash wouldn’t stick to the ply where the Sikaflex had been in contact – it was like invisible ink.
Mind the Gap
I used the same technique to finish the change in material between the timber and concrete floor, except first I had to repeatedly cut the edge of the floorboards to create the shadow line. Greg the builder had done an admirable job of fitting the boards to the edge of the concrete but there was still a lip and I felt it needed a release detail: cue the Sikaflex, this time in black.
Like Putty in Your Fingers
Greg suggested I fill the nail holes in the walls that were at eye height. I don’t see the point in only half doing a job so I got carried away and filled them all. It was easy enough: rub the putty in your fingers to warm it up; push it on with your thumb or finger – done. Well, not quite because some left a smear the size and colour of a small Pacific island, at about the same height above sea level too. But I quickly got the hang of it. All of the nail holes, now filled with putty, needed sanding. I had already decided to give all of the walls a quick sand because they are closer and people will potentially touch them. I didn’t have the vacuum hose attached to the orbital sander so dust went everywhere and the next day I swept up two pans of dust.
I hadn’t been entirely happy with the shadow line between the wall and the ceiling. Gordon said he could fix it. A quick run with some gap filler followed by a couple of coats of full strength paint had the edge looking respectable.
It’s a Whitewash
We used the same ratio of 50:50 white ceiling paint and water for the mix. Just like the ceiling (See ‘Finishing the Ceiling’) Gordon rolled it on and cut in the edges with a brush while I followed behind him with a rag and wiped the whitewash along the grain of the plywood. It was difficult to get the coverage even – especially the edges and joins – because the whitewash dried so quickly. Gordon said: don’t worry – the grain will save us. And it does: the natural differences in the grain distract the eye from the sometimes imperfect whitewash job in some places.
Overall I think the effect looks pretty convincing. I was aiming for the warmth of timber but with the lightness of white. Obviously the whitewash ply walls contrast with the black form ply of the kitchen, but the white goes well with the lime mortar and the white bricks. Vindication came a week later when someone unfamiliar with the project stepped inside and said: I like the Scandinavian look.
Costs: Sikaflex – $11; paint – $90 (the same tin that was used for the ceiling)
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.