Theory of Picture Hanging
We bought the place with fair notice of the amount of work required to meet code as well as meet our own standards. Soon after we moved in, the renovations began. Using contractors for the garden level apartment rental and the heavier roofing, plumbing and electrical work we handled everything else ourselves; everything from joist to joist and wall stud to wall stud. We’ve mastered flooring, tiling, skim coating, cabinetry, finish carpentry and refinishing.
I’ve discovered along the way that I curse almost as much while working on the house as I do when I bake. (My wife thinks I have renovation triggered tourette syndrome – I deny this.) I also discovered the Theory of Picture Hanging (“TPH”). TPH holds that for each picture you hang on a plaster wall, there is an incalculable number of linearly connected consequences resulting in unforeseeable theretofore-unexposed issues.
Basis for the Theory:
1. Select the wall where the picture will hang.
2. Select the smallest fastener that will handle the weight of the picture.
3. Using the lightest hammer in the toolbox, gently tap the fastener into the wall.
4. Step away from the wall and watch helplessly as a hairline crack snakes its way from the site of the fastener all the way up to the crown molding at the vertex of the wall and ceiling.
6. Remove fastener.
7. Begin crack repair.
a. Using a small tool, open the crack slightly to create a suitable “key” to accept the repair material – in this case 90-minute setting joint compound.
b. As you delicately excavate the hairline crack, a 4’ by 4’ sheet of plaster releases from the lath and crashes down onto the floor.
d. Examine now exposed lath and discover behind it a long abandoned vent stack that has been wicking moisture from the roof down to the site behind the lath for forty years resulting in loose plaster.
e. Begin lath removal and vent stack repair.
i. Using a small pry bar, slowly, carefully remove each piece of lath from the framing studs.
ii. Expose vent stack and notice that building directly abutting your house has used the vent stack area in your common wall to run their live, non-armored electrical conduit.
iii. Confirm that conduit is live by licking thumb and forefinger of right hand and touching conduit.
8. Contact building department to file a formal complaint against bastard neighbor.
9. Address bastard neighbor’s concerns about building department shutting off his electricity by laughing into telephone receiver.
10. After bastard neighbor discovers the only way to have building department turn his power back on is to correct violation, neighbor arrives at door with 12-year-old bottle of single malt.
11. Good neighbor’s contractor allowed access to electrical problem for repair.
12. Contractor is not a skilled cursor, uses only one language.
13. Contractor finishes work, good neighbor’s power restored, work resumes on crack.
a. Water leak appears to have originated at junction of vent stack and roof.
b. Go up to roof and wiggle vent stack to test flashing.
c. Flashing disconnects from vent stack exposing a hole in roof two feet in diameter.
e. After almost two weeks of cloudless skies, a thunderstorm arrives from the east.
f. Rain falls for three days straight.
g. Plastic sheeting prevents most but not all the water from dripping down the vent stack through the walls.
h. Call roofer to eliminate vent stack and repair roof.
14. Roofer provides reasonable estimate for vent stack repair and warns that entire roof must be replaced otherwise he may have to call building department to report dangerous roof condition.
15. Replace roof.
16. Resume repair of crack.
a. Reaffix lath.
b. Apply wallboard over lath.
c. Skim coat wallboard level with existing wall.
d. Feather sand wall flat.
17. Paint repair to match wall
18. Decide picture would look better in my office.