how to extreme

Reinventing a 100-Year-Old Bedroom

Bedroom, Construction How-To, Finish Carpentry, Remodeling, Trim Carpentry September 3, 2008 admin

A bedroom remodel is fairly fundamental. Most everyone has done something to the bedroom to make it their own, whether it’s as simple as a new paint job and hanging a new light fixture, or as complex as blowing out a closet or wall to make a master suite of an entire floor.  


For me, tackling this master bedroom project meant creating a space that makes sense for living in this century—a handy feature for a house built in 1905. Old houses are tough enough to work on, but this old bird was (I’d like to say “lovingly remodeled,” but that would be deceitful) was remuddled some 75 years later. And by “remuddled” I mean That 70’s Show style hit this house like an out-of-control freight train, complete with accents of wood paneling and pink shag carpet throughout.    


Upgrading this bedroom to meet such high-brow standards as un-cracked plaster walls and ceilings, along with suitable clothes storage (there was no closet in this bad boy), required blowing out a neighboring room’s closet to add square-footage. I also upgraded all the electrical from the haphazard knob-and-tube to 21st Century specs. All this was to reach the ultimate goal of creating a remodel-free sanctuary while the rest of the house undergoes its growing pains on its way to a second life in modernity.  



Tearing Back to a Blank Slate

This master bedroom is a gut-job. Nothing is worth keeping.

The plaster has long-since over-served its duty and has been trying to retire to the floor—without a lick of encouragement from a wrecking bar I might add—for at least a decade. The windows refuse to stay open without special assistance from a book or scrap of lumber. The electrical knob-and-tube is like an active volcano waiting to light. The trim looks like it was cut during a blind-folded dare. And the insulation is like believing in a Santa Claus: I like to think that it exists, but it doesn’t. The walls are just simple, sturdy ol’ terra cotta block with plaster-on-lath. Not a high R-value here. 

And you don’t have to know anything about remodeling to catch this fastball: I just don’t think pink works for an adult’s bedroom. Once we settled on a realistic scope of work and a proper budget, I couldn’t wait to start smashing out the mangy pink walls. 


Game plan

But, planning precedes smashing, despite the spike in my blood pressure when I got clearance to have at it.  


You may be thinking, why doesn’t he just sheet the entire room in drywall? Wouldn’t that save a whole pile of time and money? No and yes. 


Time. It would actually be more of a hassle to work around the current state of affairs. Laminating drywall on top of bad plaster would trap substandard wiring under a new finish and leave the HVAC system sucking wind like it was breathing through a straw. Not only would it have been not right, it would have been seriously wrong—and not safe. 

Money. It does cost more out-of-pocket to do things the right way, but the amount of time saved from not spending hours jimmy-ing around with seriously PITA carpentry (you figure out that acronym) like tiny jamb extensions and/or re-hanging the door combined with bringing out the brittle, cloth-jacketed wires to the new drywall plane, I will actually save money in labor cost.  


The biggest benefit to stripping the room back to block: The room can be insulated and a proper tie-in can be made to the HVAC system. That’s a big bonus for a house that’s never had any—and the project is ultimately cheaper to own over the long haul. ‘Nuf said.