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It started with a bit of water and a paper napkin

This is where it all started
Daniel and I were sat by the fire with a glass of wine (nothing newsworthy about that!)  We started discussing the furnishings and decoration of the living room and I questioning whether we should stick with the plan to whitewash the wood (as it had originally been decorated underneath the drop ceilings) or if we should strip the wood back to the raw wood.    I hypothesized that the old whitewash would clean off relatively easily...a hypothesis that needed to be tested.

I took the napkin and poured some water onto it and started rubbing the whitewash away.  It just  washed off, leaving fabulous clean, undamaged wood.     From this small spot in the living room I moved on to the patch of beam that had been where the old stair to the basement had been and therefore escaped the black paint.   Again the whitewash came off easily. 

Below the whitewash was a second wash wood/pine colored paint that was also water based and rubbed off easily too...I guess that this original yellowy/orangey color on the beam may have been used to hide the grain of the wood.
  
Pine yellow water based paint under the whitewash
That was it...I wanted to see what the ceiling looked like if it's all wood....and here started the weekend of ceiling stripping!!!   The whitewash was water based and after a bit of trial and error I learned that if you dampen the ceiling about 20 minutes before you start stripping the water softens the whitewash and it scrapes off in one go.   10-15 hours later and both Daniel and I had the majority of the paint off the beams and the ceiling in the library. 

Library ceiling mid stripping
The paint on the bottom of the beam was not so easy as it had some latex paint and lots of layers...but a bit of elbow grease and a decent scraper from Lowes and we finally worked the paint off. 
 
Newly stripped Library ceiling (the beam in the picture is about 14 inches deep)
The beams were fantastic.  They had been put in the house green so they had split and cracked...wonderfully.   We had to remove the filling but I love the character when these cracks are exposed.  

Beams with character
Perhaps the best part was when we washed off the final layer of residue you could see the subtle hand plaining of the original floor boards that had been protected and covered up by the drop ceilings for literally hundreds of.   These ceilings will be spectacular.

 Cleaned off and with visible hand planing
Now my shoulders ache like a bugger but there is a real sense of satisfaction from restoring these boards to their former glory.  

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The story of three Marias

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