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New Kodak Room – Chapter 2

September 14, 2012
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So the next two-and-a-half steps in creating our super storage room were patching some holes, scraping loose and peeling paint, and scrubbing clean every square inch of wall and ceiling.

Patching wasn’t too much work – that’s the half step. The ceiling was more critical than the walls, since it would be visible after all the walls had shelves against them. There were lots of holes remaining from all of the lighting boxes and surface-mounted conduit that I removed during demolition. But the biggest area to patch was where two radiator pipes penetrated the ceiling, and the plaster around the holes had fallen away, making the patch needed about two feet in diameter and about an inch thick. Yep, that one took about 4 applications of patch material.

Big Ceiling Patch

Step 1.5: Scrape the Paint

In my opinion, scraping paint sucks no matter how you look at it. My earliest recollection of having to do that nasty chore was somewhere around 1970, when our dad “requested” (i.e. made) my older brother Rick and I scrape the old paint off of our little garage where we lived in New York Mills, New York. I hated it then and I hated it in 2012. But, I understand the value of it, and it must be done.

Our scraping tools are simple. Sharp blades against flat surfaces. The variety was just as helpful for our hands as for the task – just taking a break from one tool you’ve held in your hand for 45 minutes and using another grip and set of muscles can keep fatigue from setting in too soon.

Our fine selection of imported scraping tools…

I bought a shop dust collector to suck in all of painty-dusty air and filter it out – and I always wore a respirator when scraping paint – there was surely a layer or two of lead on those walls.

The scraping seemed endless – just when I thought I had a length of wall finished, my scraper would catch the edge of a thicker area of old paint and it would start peeling away. If I pressed just a LITTLE bit harder, I could dig further against the new edge and scrape away more. What started as a 2″ square could quickly become a 12′ expanse of newly exposed wall. That occasional super-sweep where paint chips just flew off in a continuous sheet, like a snow plow speeding through a street of slush felt really sweet, and kept me thinking: “Yeah! I can keep going – this is the easy stuff!” But then I was soon battling a tiny chip of paint that took 5 attempts to whack it off.

I scraped so much it looked like a map of a distant land…

While the Kodak Room is really just ONE room, it’s bigger than your average house. With walls over 16′ high, 45′ long, and 15′ wide, that’s almost 3500 SF of surface area to scrape. What made it slow going besides the thousands of square feet (and other than just the fact that it was paint scraping), was that I had to move the scaffold so much, especially when scraping the ceiling. I could reach about 50-60 square feet of ceiling from the top deck, then when finished I had to climb down to the floor, roll the scaffold over about 6′ to 8′, then climb back up and scrape some more.

Ugh. It always seemed to help if I said “Ugh” after I stopped scraping, to help me begin again. After a lunch break: “Ugh, I better get back to scraping…” Bathroom break: “Ugh…” Climbing down the scaffolding to get a drink of water, “Ugh”, and it was easier to climb back up.

And with scraping, the wall or whatever you’re working on doesn’t really look better as you make progress, in fact it keeps looking worse and worse – as more wall and old paint layers become exposed.

Lookin’ good?

Then as I got closer to finishing this step, it was still quite incomplete. All of that scraped paint ended up on the floor, in a sea of chips, crunching beneath our feet wherever we walked. It was like it snowed for a day in there (except it wasn’t fluffy, white and soft) (okay not like snow at all) but like snow it was best scooped up with a shovel.

Pail-O-Paint chips

So just two final words about scraping paint – it sucks.

Step 2.5: Cleaning and scrubbing.

Most of the time when you’re painting walls, you can just paint over the old coat without much concern. But BAB walls are heavy duty industrial surfaces, and we suspect they have questionable histories.

Some parts of the Kodak Room looked pretty dirty – though several areas were painted black and it was a little tough to tell. Since we planned to go through the extra effort of applying a coat of Peel Bond (a special coating that keeps peeling paint from peeling any further) I thought I should at least investigate how dirty everything is.

So I bought a couple boxes of trisodium phosphate (TSP), which when diluted with water, cleans and degreases walls; it also breaks the gloss of oil-based paint and opens the pores of latex paint, providing a better surface for the next coat. TSP is also approved as a food additive in Europe. True. Look it up.

I mixed up a batch – tested a square on the wall, then rinsed it as directed by the box — and it was amazing. See for yourself in the next picture.

Can you see the clean spot?

It made the most sense to me to start with the ceiling, then the walls; thinking that any drips/runs could be cleaned up on the next pass down the wall.. Just like the scraping, this cleaning phase was going to take three trips around the room with the scaffolding. Since the rinsing step required my hand holding a sponge, my reach was limited. From the top deck of the scaffold, I could scrub and rinse 50-60 square feet of ceiling, and about 6′ of adjacent wall (when I wasn’t in the middle of the room.)

Three full buckets had to be hauled to the top of the scaffolding – one with the TSP, two with clean water to rinse the sponge. That was a bit precarious.

Cleaning overhead was the messiest. I had to buy a new face shield; the one Franco used to strip paint from windows was no longer see-through.

It was like washing a car upside down.

And I found good use for those gauntlet-length black rubber gloves I picked up at an estate sale.

The cleaning & scrubbing came first – I used a floor mop stick with a new sponge head with heavy duty scrubber on it. Dipped in the TSP solution, it started dripping immediately out of the bucket, and I had to be careful to apply just the right amount of pressure to the ceiling. Too little pressure and no cleaning solution touched the paint, too much and it all squeezed out onto the floor below. And most importantly, make sure I’m not immediately beneath it.

Messy sweaty scrubbing.

Occasionally the scrubber would catch some almost loose paint chips and break them away. I figured that was better now than later when I’d be rolling on the Peel Bond.

Then before the TSP solution dried I needed to rinse the cleaned area. I couldn’t think of any method other than just a big sponge dipped in water, rinse the wall, dip sponge back in water, squeeze, then repeat. It simply seemed a bit primitive.

Water everywhere.

THIS actually was the messiest part. With the mop stick, I could keep a bit of a distance. But with a sopping sponge in my hands, dripping water ran down the gloves and then my arms. It splashed everywhere. I stayed drier when giving dogs baths.

And the floor was just getting soaked. I could hear blops of water crashing on the floor. I am so glad that Sue convinced me to NOT scrape up the flooring during the demolition phase.

A section of wall near the windows seemed particularly dirty. After cleaning that section, there was an impressive contrast between old/dirty and new/clean. Makes me wonder how long our new coats of paint would have stuck if the walls were painted without cleaning.

Wow. To quote Martha: Cleaning is a good thing.

The black walls at the ends of the room were unique. Since this room was used for photography and darkroom (that’s why we call it the Kodak Room) (and it was full of Kodak paper boxes), the ends were painted with a flat or eggshell black paint.

That black paint really sucked up the soapy and clean water.

The black walls were troublesome.

It’s like it got all sudsy. The mop head turned black quickly. That paint also seemed to dissolve. Or something. Like it was water soluble. Every wipe of rinsing water turned that entire face of the sponge black, so I was continually rotating the sponge with each wipe.

And the entire bucket of rinse water turned black with one squeeze of a sponge! That was difficult to mentally accept and keep “rinsing” with the black water – it was probably “not dirty” and it just had black paint in it. I knew if I dumped and refilled it, it would be black with one sponge squeeze and I’d be refilling the rinse buckets every 2 minutes. I got over it.

probably okay to drink

The upper section took the longest; then I adjusted the scaffolding shelves so that I could scrub & rinse an area from around 6′ above the floor to 12′. But it was still a pain in the butt to get down and move the scaffolding for each chunk of wall.

It actually felt EASY to do the final go ’round. I put all three buckets on a cart and I could reach the remaining lower section of wall while standing on the floor. And it was the least messy, cuz I could stand away from the wall as needed.

When finished I didn’t even bother doing anything about the watery mess on the floor. Yes, it was very wet, but I knew I wouldn’t be back working in the Kodak Room for a few days, so I set up that huge attic fan we salvaged out of the demo house, turned on the dehumidifier, turned out the lights and shut the door.

So that’s the end of Chapter 2. It still doesn’t look much better than when I started, and from certain points of view it looks worse, though I guess the dirty walls are gone. But I myself KNOW the walls are now well prepped for the step that will make the BIGGEST difference – the upcoming white paint.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Don Occhi permalink
    October 15, 2012 5:03 pm

    You guys are my hero’s!! This brings me back many years ago when we did some crazy things along the same lines,but not in such a large structure.Keep up the good work,it will be a special place.

    • Tom permalink*
      October 15, 2012 10:37 pm

      Thanks Don! We’ll keep chugging away at it!

  2. rick peterson permalink
    October 14, 2012 1:58 pm

    i can’t believe you haven’t bought some type of lift yet, but then again, not quite sure how you would get it to the various floors ?
    tough job, any way you look at it.
    I remember scraping that garage, what a pain. have you looked at one of the wagner power scraper’s ? I had one, but took it back, as i couldn’t get replacement pads for it. It did work great though !!
    good luck.

    • Tom permalink*
      October 15, 2012 10:35 pm

      I came REALLY close to buying a lift at auctions, but it would be tough to get into some of our rooms – the Kodak Room in particular has a very narrow corridor and we had trouble getting a couch through the door, so no way could we turn a lift into it. (But we have an elevator that could move it to the second floor!)
      I’ll have to check out the power scraper for our next room! Thanks.

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