Lighter, Faster, Longer Lasting

wallpaper diagram
Illustration: Ian Worpole
1) Drywall
2) Acrylic primer: Protects drywall from wet paste
3) Acrylic wallcovering primer (aka sizing): Promotes adhesion; makes removal easier
4) Vinyl paste: Secures paper to wall
5) Vinyl wallpaper: Durable and easy to clean

Long-Lived Floor Finishes

Time was, all wood floors were sanded and finished on-site, a process that's notorious for the dust and fumes it generates. But with factory-finished floors, there's no need to sand or wait days for a finish to cure: You can walk on it as soon as it's installed.

These finishes, now used on many brands of solid-strip and engineered-wood flooring, have as many as seven coats (three is typical for job-siteapplied finishes). Each one is loaded with transparent ceramic particles, which resist wear and tear. Warranties of 25 and even 50 years are now fairly common. "You can't come close to that kind of durability with a job-site-applied finish," says Tom Silva.

installing wood floor
Photo: David Carmack

Lightweight Crown

Plaster moldings have a crisp, seamless detail un-rivaled by most wood trim. And they don't gap open as the seasons change. Trouble is, solid plaster is also weighty, rigid, and costly. Not so the Trimroc crown molding installed at the Winchester project. It has an expanded polystyrene core with a 1/8-inch veneer of acrylic-modified gypsum plaster, making it light enough to be glued in place with ordinary joint compound. The same compound fills all the joints: no nail holes to fill, no copes to cut. While more expensive than standard wood moldings, Trimroc boasts profiles that would be expensive to reproduce in wood. And it costs less than cast-foam moldings.

lightweight crown
Illustration: Ian Worpole

Veneer Plaster

In the days before wallboard, skilled craftsmen would cover interior walls with thick layers of plaster, creating a rock-hard, extremely durable surface quite unlike the soft, "cardboardy" texture of everyday drywall. You can get a similar effect much faster with veneer plaster, which is troweled on in one or two layers over a specially treated gypsum panel, commonly known as blueboard. "The nice thing about veneer plaster is that you don't have the mess of regular drywall, which takes days of sanding," Tom says. "With veneer, it's dusty on the day it goes up, then the crew is gone." The downside is the additional cost (about 25 percent more than drywall) and the scarcity of plasterers with the skills to apply it.

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