A room of one’s own: bad smells, dodgy MDF and crumbling plaster (part 1)

Thursday, April 9, 2015 1 , , , , Permalink 0

Oops, this blog post is long overdue! For the past month I’ve been working non-stop decorating the second bedroom so it’s been hard finding time to blog.

The room is quite small (3 metres by 2 metres) but for me it’ll be one of the most important places in the house – my study and a home for my books.

Here’s what the room looked like at the start.

Second bedroom

Second bedroom

Convention dictates I should start with the first thing I did…

Step 1: getting rid of cat urine smells

I decided to rip up the carpet fairly quickly after moving in because of the pungent cat smell but it didn’t make much difference. The floorboards had obviously soaked up some of the cat urine from the previous furry occupants. To get rid of it, I made up a solution of warm water, bleach and floor cleaner and went over it with a mop. Then I let this dry and went over it again with a solution of warm water and white wine vinegar. Once this was dry I just used warm water and floor cleaner. Eventually the smell faded which meant we didn’t have to take up the Victorian floorboards.

As well as the carpet, something else which found its way into the skip that day was a modern pine fire surround. It was propped up against the wall but for some reason it fell over and landed bang on my ankle. I was so annoyed I just wanted rid of it as soon as possible!

Step 2: adding a new electrical socket

There was already one double socket in the room but it was nowhere near where I wanted my desk so I decided to install another one. It was a pretty easy job since I’d already taken off the skirting and the walls were just plasterboard which was easy to cut away. I added the new socket in the corner of the room in a more convenient location.

Wall with a new double socket and wire exposed.

Installing a new wall socket

Step 3: installing the skirting, architrave and cornicing

I love deep skirting boards and wide plaster cornicing but sadly the room had none of these original features. I bought the 7 inch Athens MDF skirting and reeded MDF door architrave set from SkirtingWorld. I chose MDF because I was curious about the quality with it being cheaper. Most of the skirting would be hidden behind bookcases anyway so it was a good opportunity to experiment.

And the result of the experiment? The quality of the MDF was really poor! It was like sawing cardboard and the surface didn’t sand down or paint very well. Compared to the MDF skirting in B&Q this seemed a lot softer. I liked the shape of the moulding though, especially the reeded design of the architrave which matches my door handles and window frame. Next time I’d just buy their pine version.

MDF architrave and skirting

MDF architrave and skirting

Poor quality rough MDF surface

Poor quality rough surface

The room had no cornicing but the ceilings were high enough for me to recreate a bit of Victorian elegance without it looking odd. I bought my cornicing from Plaster World UK in Blyth. Visiting their workshop was fascinating and I’ll do a blog post about this in more detail at a later date.

The cornicing I chose is quite similar to the original cornicing in the living room. It’s a Victorian style that has a broader top lip so that it lies flatter on the ceiling with less down the wall.

Victorian style plaster cornicing

Victorian style plaster cornicing

Our plasterer had a lot of trouble installing this because our walls and ceiling were so out of alignment. It looks ok but it’s not very neat in the corners. The ceiling was replastered after the cornicing went up.

Plaster cornicing going up. Most of the room filled with ladders, buckets and plasterer's equipment.

Plaster cornicing going up

Step 4: repairing the Victorian window frame

The top right of the window frame was damaged and the plaster behind had crumbled away. The rest of the frame was covered in layers of old paint.

Crumbling plaster around damaged window frame

Crumbling plaster around damaged window frame

I filled the holes in the wall with plaster filler and used pre-mixed wood filler on the frame. The rest of the frame I sanded down to key the surface for a fresh coat. Beware: old paint can contain lead which creates harmful dust when sanded. Read the government’s advice on lead paint in older homes.

You can see the restored frame and the finished room in part 2 – coming soon!

1 Comment
  • Lee
    September 25, 2015


    My names Lee and I work for Skirting World! Glad to see you chose the Athens design but I’m sorry you weren’t happy with the MDF quality. I can recommend that, should you use again, you choose the HDF material. It’s much denser than MDF resulting in smoother finishes and it’s also moisture resistant just in case.

    Thanks again for your custom and this project was a nice little read.

    Kind regards,
    Skirting World

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