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Gennesee Sampson
First time Home Owner!

Hello, my wife and I just bought a home that is about 112 years old. We have a ton of remodeling projects to do. We have decided to start in our office. After removing some built in cabinets I have unearthed tongue and groove walls covered in wall paper. I was expecting lathe and plaster to be honest. Two of the walls are exterior walls and I have no idea if there is any insulation behind the boards. Not sure what to do. I need to run some new electrical outlets, then sheet rock the room but I am apprehensive about ripping into the walls. Are there any potential health risks from materials used then? Please help!!

MLB Construction
Re: First time Home Owner!

chances are pretty good that the boards were painted with lead paint under the wall paper. it's hard to tell you what to expect in a house of that age other than saying that it could be anything.

the only thing i can safely say is that once you start tearing into things (walls, floors, etc) you will most likely be opening up a can of worms. you'll be finding many many things that are not up to code. the best advice i can give you is to expect the worst and be happy when you don't find it. take it room by room so you don't get in over your head and end up ripping the whole house apart.

i've seen houses of that age in excellent condition and in horrible condition.

keep us updated on how things go and what you find.

Gennesee Sampson
Re: First time Home Owner!

Thanks for the post. Yeah I have a feeling it will be a BIG can of worms that I am about to open. I can tell that around the window the wood is raw and unfinished at least right there. There is a web cloth stretched tight over the wall which I am assuming was used to help the wall paper glue adhere to the walls. I am considering sheet rocking over the walls as they are and only pulling a board or two out in order to run new electrical also (No power on one wall). The previous owners had sheet rocked over the old walls at one point and left a 1/2" edge around the door frames :(

Re: First time Home Owner!

I kind of like your idea of sheetrocking over the existing wall elements. If you can make it look nice I'd say it's always preferable to retain the original elements. That way if you or a future owner ever change your mind you can restore it to the way it used to be and you haven't thrown all the original parts in the landfill.

If you do decide to demo some of the materials you should a buy a lead test kit from HD or Lowe's and if it's positive make sure you wear a P100 or N100 lead mask. The test and the mask will set you back about $25 and $14 respectively.

Definitely share pictures when you get them. Sounds like a very big and very fun project!

Re: First time Home Owner!

It would be helpful to know where you live and the type of house your in.

Round these parts we have 1920's craftsman bungalows built very similarly to what you are saying. Since your house is older than that, I highly doubt there is a lick of insulation in those walls.

When doing a whole home renovation, there are two basic paths; One room at a time or One system at a time (electric, plumbing, insulation) the choice is yours.

I would heartily suggest that you make an overall plan before you do anything. Granted, over time the plans will change, but at least you'll have some direction. For example; as you re-wire each room you can either disconnect all the old knob-and-tube wiring and run the risk of cutting off outlets in other rooms OR leave the old KNT wiring and add a new circuit for each room. When you get to the last room, cut off all the old KNT.

There is also 1/4" drywall for going over the old ship-lap on the interior walls.

Removing the old ship lap allows you to insulate, re-wire, re-plumb, and add fire blocking / rodent blocking. BUT sometimes the shiplap runs under one wall into the next room, particularly on load bearing walls.

Choose wisely grasshoppah.

Re: First time Home Owner!

That web cloth was your wallpaper most likely. I still have some in my ceiling that was reframed and dropped.
Shiplap is some tough stuff, and can hold a bit of a load as well.

If you apply the drywall over the shiplap, do yourself a favor and pop off your moulding. That was not done in my house and it frustrates me to no end.

Re: First time Home Owner!

The gauze is what was nailed to the ship lap before the wall paper was applied as wall paper wouldn't stick to fresh Douglas Fir. Still won't

The wall paper was applied over the gauze, then usually covered with more wall paper then 1/4" drywall when it became more popular in the late 1950's

MLB Construction
Re: First time Home Owner!

i'd just like to comment on something scott said. if you do have lead paint, by law, it must be removed by a licensed lead paint remover. i would advise against doing it yourself, especially if you have children under 6 years old.

Re: First time Home Owner!

If you are a homeowner and you are going to remove or disturb lead paint yourself the federal lead paint rules do not apply to you. They apply to contractors, any paid workers and landlords. If you hire a contractor that will disturb more then 6 square feet in any interior room or more then 20 square feet outside then he must be lead paint certified which requires a training course and specific rules when working with lead paint and notification requirements.

You can work with lead paint safely if you read up on the safety precautions and follow them strictly. If there is any doubt in your mind about lead paint work and especially if you have children 6 years old and younger you should consider hiring certified contractor.

Re: First time Home Owner!

It's definitely true that you may be opening a can of worms. That being said, if you open up the walls and deal with what you find, you wont' have to worry about it in the future.

One other item to keep in mind is asbestos. There are types of loose insulation from that period that contain asbestos fibers. If you think this might be an issue, you can send a sample to a local lab for testing.

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