The Cross House

Beginning the Round Bedroom. And Other BIG Issues.

When Bob Rodak owned the Cross House, from 1999 to 2014, he rewired it.

Well, that is not really accurate. For, Bob super duper atomic rewired.

I mean, if a normal rewiring job would have taken a mile of wire, Bob put in three miles of new wiring.

This was because Bob wanted a high-tech old house. He wanted every light fixture and every outlet controlled by a computer. So, even if he was in France, he could turn off the lights in the parlor. Or start the coffee maker.

Today though, it would be easy to do this with wireless technology. Thus, Bob’s high-tech was almost instantly outmoded.

In working on the house, I quickly discovered problems with all the super duper atomic wiring. Scary problems which could cause a fire. And there were other issues which were just, well, weird. Like, if I clicked on the lightswitch in the hexagon bedroom bath, the overhead light in the sewing room turned on. This is because Bob’s wiring is incredibly complicated. There is SO much wiring and it all had to be done just so for the whole thing to work. Whenever I open a electrical box I gasp at how much wiring is stuffed into it. I get frightened, too.

Soon after buying the house it became apparent that, even though the house had been fully rewired, I would need to tear all of this out and start over again. Sigh. But at least there are a lot of raceways and a zillion studs had been drilled through to install wires.


Bob created horizontal raceways all through the house to install wiring. You can see this above the windows.


The raceways are filled with wires, and different kind of wires. So. Many. Wires.


I have now removed most of the wiring and electrical outlets.


Next to every stained-glass window in the whole house Bob put in an electrical outlet. This was so he could plug in light strips which would light the stained-glass at night, and also be controlled by a computer. I love the idea of this, but will be removing all these outlets, and instead install wireless LED light strips. In this image, see the holes about half-way up? These are where the 1894 gas/electric sconces were. I will wire these for sconces.


The lovely mantel is removed so I can repair the walls. Today, Kenny stopped by. He said he had a long weekend in January and asked: Did I have a project for him? I replied: Why, yes! Kenny said he was very good at fussy work so I thought he would enjoy refinishing the round bedroom mantel!


The old finish is heavily alligatored and, as y’all know, Ross hates this! So, I breathlessly await the Kenny resurrection!


Oh, the ceiling. Oh. I have spent an absurd amount of time pondering how to repair it.


The holes in the ceiling do not freak me out. No, what freaks me out are the layers of wallpaper which have been…painted. This means that the ceiling has to be scraped. Every inch. With a small scraper. Ugh. A thousand ughs.

I see two options:

  1. Scrape the ceiling, repair the holes with plaster, repair the many many many cracks, and then paint. This will actually be really inexpensive, but will take me a TON of time. And time be something I ain’t got extra of.
  2. Hire a company who will sheetrock over the ceiling. INSTANT solution!!!!!!!! The cost will not be too bad, likely less than $500.  A bonus is that the old plaster will remain in place so a later owner could remove the sheetrock and restore the plaster.

Tomorrow, I am meeting a sheetrock guy. I am eager for a quote.

This ceiling is my test ceiling. For, what I decide to do in the round bedroom will determine what I do in the rest of the house. And at the moment I am kinda 50/50 between options #1 and #2. But that whole time thing makes me think: #2.

But…we will see.

Anyway, the round bedroom was not on my priority list (the dining room was) but getting the Worst Wall fixed has inspired me to focus on it. In addition, there are three issues stopping me from moving into the house:

  1. I can’t heat and cool the house because it is still too porous. I have been slowly sealing up all the windows, and might have this task completed by the end of 2018. Then, the second floor ceilings all look like the round bedroom. Which means that any heat just vanishes. So, I need to do ALL the ceilings on the second floor.
  2. The round bedroom will be my main office. While I don’t need a finished bedroom or finished kitchen or finished dining room to move in I do need a finished office. I can’t be redoing my office while also working in it.
  3. I need a full bathroom. I don’t need a finished full bath but do need a full bath. Showers are gifts from God. And the huge Cross House currently ain’t got a shower anywhere.

So, the round bedroom…commences!



24 Responses to Beginning the Round Bedroom. And Other BIG Issues.

  1. Looking forward to seeing this done. Especially given how amazing the other rooms you have restored have turned out. 2018 is going to be an exciting year for Cross House.

  2. In an area like this ceiling, I don’t see a problem with using drywall. I just took out a plaster ceiling in my basement without any guilt.

      • I question whether someone will attempt to uncover the many screws necessary to restore the plaster. It would likely be easier to plaster the entire ceiling.

        I’m an advocate of saving material and history, but I think there’s a point where you must be logical about things no one notices.

        I would like to see Ross enjoy the finished house at some far off date.

        • I will likely install 1×4 boards across the ceiling first. The sheetrock will attach to these.

          This will minimize the amount of screws into the plaster. Thus, somebody could easily later remove the sheetrock, the boards, and restore the plaster.

          I will also pre-drill through the boards/plaster to minimize damage to the plaster.

  3. Wow-ee-Zow- ee!!,
    Now I know why I felt compelled to send you my silly & absurd but joyous—family fam jam Xmas pix! You needed some comic relief & distraction from all the pondering:-)

  4. Sheetrock or plasterboarding as we call it isn’t rocket science, why not attempt installing new yourself? It would be much cheaper than getting a team in! Clearly marking out joist locations beforehand is the key.

  5. The round bedroom is one of my favorite rooms. So thrilled to see the fireplace tiles of Marie Antoinette and Napoleon still intact! Sorry about those plaster ceilings, ”tis truly a dilemma. Just love seeing the progress. Showed my daughter who lives in AZ your blog she’s hooked and hoping when it’s all done someday you’ll have an open house…. I feel you have an open house every day! Thanks for the updates.

  6. I taped and mudded cracks in my hall ceiling before painting it. It wasn’t even missing any plaster. And it took forever and was really hard on the neck and shoulders. Considering the amount of damage and the huge amount of square footage you have, I think you are completely right in drywalling the ceilings. Now if you start drywalling the walls willy nilly, you will not have my support! Oh, and if you were to drywall the ceilings yourself, you would need to rent one of those machines that lifts the drywall in to place. Considering the amount of time it would take one person to install the drywall, it is probably much more cost effective to hire a skilled crew to get in there and get it done. Just my opinion, of course. You are fantastic!

  7. I look at the photos and the renovation seems so overwhelming but so does everything that you show us! I know it will be so beautiful – what a great room for an office!

  8. I think it’s a really good idea to focus on the three areas you mentioned. When you had first debated a few months ago about plaster vs. sheetrock, my thought was plaster where the majority of the plaster was still on a wall or ceiling and sheetrock where more than half was missing. Of course, that’s easy for me to say! You have to draw the line somewhere and I think ceilings are a good place to draw that line. My only other idea you might consider would be to go forward with sheetrocking the round bedroom and then just put temporary sheetrock patches over the holes in the other bedrooms. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it would save you some money now and really wouldn’t slow down your move-in plans that much. Then later, you might decide to go ahead and plaster the other ceilings since, by then, you will be a plaster pro or you might decide to go ahead and sheetrock those too.

  9. As a temp solution, you can patch holes in ceilings with 1/8″ pink foam insulation from Home Depot, duct tape them up. Buy a drywall hoist (Craigslist) and dry-wall yourself Ross. Relatively easy job to learn. Pay a pro to mud.

    When finished, sell hoist. Simple and economical.

    I am reno’ing a huge Victorian as well. The more tradesmen I keep OUT of my property the better off I am.

    • I actually lose money when working on the house myself.

      The very best use of my time, financially, is restoring lighting fixtures (this is my business). For example, the hours and hours and hours I would spend on installing sheetrock myself? I would be MUCH better off spending all those hours restoring lighting fixtures for sale. The return on the fixtures will easily pay for a pro to install sheetrock, AND put money in the bank. In eight hours I can normally restore four fixtures, which, on average, might have a retail value of, say, $3,000. Hiring a pro to do the ceiling in the round bedroom might be $500.

      In short, every hour I spend on the house is penny wise but pound foolish.

      • After reading your response about the cost of doing the work yourself, I agree wholeheartedly, as long as you know that you can trust the drywall person to do the job right the first time. I have had so many experiences with contractors in my life that have yielded unsatisfactory results. Either the work was not to my standards or worse they did a great job, but made executive decisions about a “better way” that they knew of, completely bypassing my vision of how I wanted it done. They would rarely if ever agree to redo it the way I had specified, and I found myself displeased with the choice of withholding funds until it was done right (they might put a contractor’s lien on the property), or paying someone else to do it my way when the quality of the work was good. When there are as many things as there are in my house that need doing, I never seem to get back to those projects, which never seem to have the urgency that they initially did.
        – I also noticed that you did not take that road with the painting, decorating, and other projects that we would all like to see done our way by others.
        – On the other hand if your return on your lighting restoration is six times that of drywall, it might be worth paying to have it redone, particularly if you hate doing it yourself.

  10. I fully vote for plan 2. It makes a ton of sense and you should do it. That said, I will be surprised if you end up taking the less-work-less-expensive route on anything!

  11. Ross,
    -I have a way to remove the wallpaper that works well for me and quickly too. I get the cheapest garden sprayer for under ten dollars at the big box hardware store in the garden section. I have also ordered them on line. I fill it with water, usually hot, and soak it down on a fine mist. You are better at drop cloths then I am, but I let everything fall where it may and clean up later. Water that isn’t left to sit for long periods of time is usually harmless.
    -The water begins soaking in almost immediately. If the paint is highly resistant to the water I use purple cleaner and degreaser in it. This will penetrate the paint on the wallpaper, but can act as a solvent on paints and finishes elsewhere, depending on the concentration.
    -The trick is to keep it wet by spraying it as soon as it looks like the surface is beginning to dry. Each application allows more water to get through the layers of paper and glue. I don’t even begin to scrape before I think that water has thoroughly wet all layers of paper and glue, however I do begin to peel off a painted layer to see if it will come because that is the biggest barrier to water reaching the lower layers.
    If you want to preserve a sample of one of the unpainted layers, I have a technique for that which has worked for me. I take a poster sized piece of acid free white paper and mark that size section of the wallpaper pattern. When that layer is thoroughly wet down, yet not yet scraped, I apply wheat paste to the acid free paper and apply it to the wet paper on the wall or ceiling. I have found the paper comes right off, good side down on the acid free paper. This has preserved it for the future. It can be placed in a bath of distilled water between two layers of non woven poly fabric. The wheat paste lets go and the acid free paper can be slid off and put aside to dry. You then have a sample of the old paper that needs drying between the two layers of poly fabric. I start by placing it on top of layers of paper towels. Layers of paper towels go on top too. Another piece of the non woven poly fabric on top of the towels allows you to squee…. gee, it pretty dry. Then dispose of the towels. Paper restorers then put it on a flat level table between layers of flat felt with a weighted flat surface on top to keep it flat while drying. You keep it between the non woven poly continuously until it is thoroughly dry. The whole removing the acid free paper can be saved for another time. I just let my samples dry on the acid free paper and label them as to where they were in the house. They have curled as they dried and I don’t care because the process from the distilled water bath on won’t change. I’d really rather set all of that up for one time after I have collected samples in most of the rooms because it is too much for me to set up a clean room each time I remove wallpaper in my house.

  12. Sheetrock for me is the way to go, as ceilings are literally a pain in the neck. At 62 years old I call it a young mans job . However your wiring story tickles me, because I am remodeling a beach house that was wired in 2004. Do you think forty can lights, six wall scones all controlled by three-way switches on two floors is to much? And that’s just the living room. The thought of rewiring this is overwhelming. Wish me luck with my wire spaghetti feast, I start next week. Hi Ho, Hi Ho, up to the attic I go.

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