Refinishing The Wood Trim. PART 5.

Soooooooooooo…all along I thought I was dealing with a 120-year-old finish on my woodwork.

And I was fretting, big time, that maybe my refinishing was not, you know, right.

Yet in plain sight all along was proof that I was dead wrong about my finish assumptions.



ABOVE: What you are looking at was behind a radiator (which I had temporarily removed).


The image above reveals several most interesting things:

1) The original wallpaper from 1894. WAY cool.

2) The base molding unmistakably shows TWO finishes.

3) The dark finish, which I has assumed was from 1894 (and darkened with dirt and age), is clearly NOT the original finish.

4) The lighter finish, one might reasonably assume, IS the original finish. But note how the very bottom of the 1894 wallpaper has STAIN on it from the base molding finish. This mean that even the lighter finish was done AFTER the house was wallpapered in 1894.

Wild. I would never have guessed all this.

This means that I have ZERO idea of what my original finish was, and moreover that I should stop fretting, STAT.

So, the finish that I arrived at in my previous post (on the subject) is just fine, thank you.


  1. Betsy on January 6, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    What a fabulous solution. I think you have to go with what looks good and I must say the final result looks great.

    • Ross on January 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you!!!!!!

  2. tiffaney jewel on January 8, 2015 at 12:48 am

    You know, if you really have no good idea about what the original XYZ would have been, I say don’t worry about it. That lack of knowledge gives you permission to do what you want. The house is saying, “I don’t care, friend, do you what you’d like.”

    • Ross on January 8, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      I like having a talking house!

  3. Leo on January 8, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    I just found this page when I read your comments on Old House Dreams and can I just say how amazing it is to see someone so dedicated to save an old house. You are truly inspiring, I just read all your posts and I love the fact that you are taking us through this journey. There was this beautiful old home that I used to drive by every day, this is how it looked like

    My dream was to buy it and save it. Unfortunately the house is not there anymore it was demolished and the only evidence that there was something there is the gazebo, remains of the paver driveway and the the barn that you can barely see at the back. I’ve been trying to find another house like it but unfortunately none are for sale which I guess its a good thing since people are actually caring for them and not selling. Cant wait to see the final results of this restoration to this amazing house. Take Care

    • Ross on January 9, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Thanks for the kinds words!

      The house you loved? It looked incredible! WHO would tear such a treasure down???????

  4. Sara Beth on January 9, 2015 at 5:34 am

    I think the house is saying that you gotta find wallpaper just like that! It is way cool. Great find!

    • Ross on January 9, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      I am working on it!

  5. Vicki Kea on August 12, 2015 at 11:53 am for period hand-painted wallpaper.

    • Ross on August 12, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Vicki! I am well aware of Bradbury!

  6. Barbara V on November 30, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Late to the party, again, but just need to mention – even in their sad condition, it is obvious that the old wallpaper still brings out the best in the woodwork – comparing to the adjacent painted (or wallpaperless) section – if that makes any sense at all… I.e., Don’t paint, Paper!

  7. Thomas Gordon on March 25, 2020 at 6:00 am

    Well Beeswax and Linseed Oil were common finishes in the 1800s as well. Which is possible, but it would seem a house like that would have been Varnish. I don’t know if you have given this any thought, but realize what you see behind radiators is not necessarily original. I am not sure the Radiators are Original to the house. The reason you have all the fireplaces is because that is the original heating system. Radiators were retrofitted in old house when “Central Heating” became a new technology. My house was built in 1909 and I think the Radiators were installed around 1915. I can tell because the risers don’t always have much architectural thought behind them. They go through ornate plaster work in some places. And it would not make sense to have redundant heating systems in the house when it was built.

    • Ross on March 25, 2020 at 9:24 am

      Hi, Thomas!

      The radiators are original to the house. They are mentioned in an 1895 newspaper article.

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