Monday, January 6, 2014

What to do with these walls...

When I describe the building materials and techniques I'm using on this project, one of the things that many people find most surprising is our use of plywood internally on the walls, instead of plaster. I've plastered walls and ceilings before, and hated it with such vengeance that I swore never to do it again.

And being that I'm building this place myself and minimising the use of subcontractors, we needed an alternative wall lining. Enter the plywood.

From memory I believe it was actually suggested to us by Peter, our architect and Adult Supervision before I'd even mentioned my hatred of plastering. And his recommendation as to the finish we'd apply was to limewash with a water-based, low VOC paint-of-sorts.

Really, we have three options:
  1. Paint as if we were using plasterboard;
  2. Polyurethane or oil the ply with a transparent, if tinted sealer; or
  3. Limewash per Peter's recommendation.
The first would be completely wrong, hiding the wonderful A-grade plywood grain behind opaque paint. Not only that, the joints between the sheets (being impossible to hide without using some sort of ugly plastic mushroom cover, like that used with cement sheeting) would be visible and their reason for being would be hidden by the paint. So that approach was never an option.

The second alternative is appealing enough, if we were to use a natural oil finish for example which would protect the timber and bring out its features. But I feel like an oil or polyurethane finish would wind up being too dark; too much like the wood panelling of the '70's. So that was eliminated as well.

So we're left with the limewash finish - which gives us the best of all options. It's translucent, so the grain of the timber will be expressed through the finish and it'll still be obvious that we have plywood walls. It'll be protective and seal the timber against moisture and grubby hands, and it'll be light and airy in appearance. Perfect.

So with that decision made (well, Peter's recommendation adopted really) I've been experimenting with paint. I've got a plain white water-based acrylic, and diluted it in various ratios with water and applied them to a test piece of ply.

What we'll end up going with is something somewhere between the third (most translucent) and second patch, which represent one and three coats of the diluted acrylic at a six-to-one ratio. In reality, we'll probably end up using a liming white floor finish for the top coat, as this will give us a strong protective coating which we can wipe clean. So one coat of say four-to-one acrylic and one coat of liming white will probably do it.

In other news, I finally got around to assembling and installing one of the overhead kitchen cabinets. It went together and up on the wall with ease, but it wasn't until I installed the doors that I spotted a small problem.

It seems the cabinet maker has cut each door one thickness (16mm) too narrow, so we have a 32mm gap between the doors. I'm in two minds how to handle this - I could ask them to make up new doors, I could dismantle the cabinet and shorten it slightly, or I could install a filler between the doors as they are now.

I don't think I can be bothered pleading my case with the cabinet maker, especially so long now after they completed the job. And it takes two people to lift the thing off the wall, so in the short term I'll probably just make up a filler to install between the doors (this is the bonus of specifying plain white melamine cabinets ;) ). With the handles on you'd probably never realise it wasn't supposed to be this way.

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