DIY Disasters – No. 1: Removing the plaster

DIY disasterI’m no handyman. In fact, I’m barely even a man, let alone handy. Much to my wife’s dismay though, my lack of any discernable skill doesn’t stop me from trying.

I can hear her exasperation as I head off to get my toolbox stating defiantly how much money I will save us by doing it myself. Unfortunately, she is almost always right. I tend to make a complete balls-up of even the most simple of tasks and have to call someone who knows what they’re doing to sort out my mess… usually at not inconsiderable expense.

So, I thought it might be a good learning experience for me to record all my dismal failures. Maybe once I read what a disaster zone I am I’ll reconsider before taking on the plumbing or electrics… unlikely though.

The first task I decided to take on in our house was to remove the plaster from the ceilings. The previous owner, in her infinite 1990s wisdom, had covered the beautiful vaulted brick ceilings in about an inch of plaster and white paint, and it had to go. Everyone I spoke to assured me it would be a pretty simple task.

So, I bought a hammer and chisel and got stuck in. Two hours later, I’d revealed almost an entire brick. Only a few thousand left to go.

Removing Piemonte plaster the hard way

Our geometra recommended I get a power chisel to speed the process up a bit. Any opportunity to buy power tools should always be seized upon, so off to Granbrico I went.

The power chisel is awesome, it makes a great amount of noise and sprays dust everywhere. Sadly though, in my hands at least, it is useless at removing plaster from a brick ceiling. I spent a full day stood on a table, chiselling away, being careful not to damage the brick I was attempting to reveal. Progress was slow. Very slow.

As I stood in the shower at the end of the day, the dust stubbornly refusing to wash out of my hair, my nose, my ears and my eyes, I decided this was probably not a task for me.

We’ve called some real men out to finish what I started. I hope they enjoy it more than I did.

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27 responses to “DIY Disasters – No. 1: Removing the plaster

    • Haha thanks! I don’t deserve pity though 😉 I’d like to think that one day I’ll be able to build beautiful stone walls, I just can’t see it though. My main problem is that being terrible at these things doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm. It never ends well…

  1. I look forward to reading about DYI Disasters # 2 through…….well, when you’re restoring a house, I guess there’s no end to possible DYI Disasters!!

  2. Congatulations for trying and never losing the enthusiasm ! Let us see the cleaned up and restored brick ceiling when it is all done by the local “muratore” . Ciao-bye!

  3. Oh this made me laugh and I totally get your enthusiastic efforts I am the same way with cooking (my hubby does 99% of the meals). He is however very handy at most things so our renovations are not the disaster type rather the take on more than you can handle type. I do the painting and start in one corner then move to another bit, until all the ‘bits’ eventually meet up. Hubby is much more methodical so we balance each other out. Stick with it x We must try to all meet up some time we could swap reno stories lol x

    • Thanks Lisa! I think we’re the other way around… I tend to start something and then either get bored or realise I can’t do it and move on to the next thing, while Allegra is far more methodical. We both have a lot to learn when it comes to this kind of work though.

      It would be great to meet up some time. Let us know if you are ever heading down towards us, and we’ll do the same!

  4. Love your writing, by the way…… and am “here” to offer moral support! My motto is,”Leave the grunt work to the pros. and personally deal with the smaller projects later!” Even with an architect/contractor for a husband we learned that some times it’s better just to cave in (no pun intended!), hire out the ‘dirty’ work and pitch in when the worst is over! So, should you need a female window restorer, plasterer, kitchen installer, wooden ceiling scraper ‘par extraordinaire’, minor electrician and plumber, and floor layer, then I am your (wo)man!!!! Tool belt armed and at the ready….! Buona Fortuna!

    • Thanks a lot Deborah! Wow, you sound like you have a lot of skills there… are you free for the next 12 months?!

      I think our problem is that we don’t really have those skills so we feel we have to get stuck in to the dirty, less-skilled stuff instead. Maybe I need to get on YouTube and watch a lot of ‘How to’ videos…

    • I actually don’t mind it, despite being terrible at it! After years of working at a desk and with computers it’s great to achieve something concrete, physical… I just need to cut out the failures!

    • You’re right, it will definitely be worth it. I couldn’t bear to look up every day and see those vaults covered in plaster. I think I still have to learn where my DIY limits lie though…

  5. Enjoyed reading this and a good reminder for us to always get someone in if we actually want the job done. Otherwise we’ll be renovating our Portuguese house forever.

    • Yep, I think it’s a steep learning curve. I still think I can do everything, despite all the evidence to the contrary! Sometimes though you just have to concede… I’ll check out your blog now, it sounds like you’re in a very similar position to us.

  6. Pingback: Serralunga d’Alba: Another long, lazy lunch | Living in the Langhe·

  7. Lol, I don’t believe you are a disaster zone, however I did see the look on your wife’s face, when I passed you the sharp knife and a walnut, after showing you how it is possible to open the nuts without using nutcrackers. If I remember correctly she demanded you use the nutcrackers.

    • I think she might have had a point. To give you an idea of just how clumsy I am… this evening I managed to shut the car boot onto my own head. Just think about the levels of clumsiness required to do that. And it really hurts!!

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