Monday, October 01, 2007
The accidental crack in the wall.
About four years ago I moved into my apartment and shortly thereafter punched a hole in my bathroom wall by accident with my knee (see above photo). At the time I was bewildered that the wall would crumble in so easily, kind of like the shell on a hard boiled egg. It is a known fact that I do not possess super strength, super eating abilities... maybe, when compared to the average Canadian but not super strength. The wall was therefore quite brittle, thin and cheaply constructed.
Today, the first day of October and the last month of my residence in the apartment was the fire I needed to start fixing up the hole and restoring the apartment to it's former glory (if there was such a thing). That and my landlord wanting to take photos to be used for ads in the apartment for rental classifieds.
As I'm not a house construction kind of guy and was feeling too lazy to look up how to fix a plaster wall on the internet or in a book I decided to be creative. The first step was to cut around the crack to leave a hole. I got the idea from fixing holes in bike tires over the years. You clean the hole of stuff before putting on the patch. Same kind of thing.
Once the hole was made I looked to see if there was a way to glue, screw, or nail a flat piece of wood or something to hold the plaster filler in place. The only thing I could see was the plastic from the show stall. I could puncture that or I'd spring a leak. I needed some other solution. The reason the wall crumbled so easily was that the only thing holding up the plaster (because there was a hole made there before) was the dried paint. The job of filling the previous hole was done pretty poorly.
A few years ago I watched a video on making vinyl models kits. Since a lot of vinyl kits are of humanoid characters there's a lot of hollow parts (arms, legs, torsos). The video showed the model builder pour foam into the vinyl before gluing the pieces together. The foam would ensure that the model didn't fall in on itself later on. I walked by a display of spray on foam once at a home depot. A can was sprayed with another can onto cardboard. This resulted in the first can being securely held in place. A lightbulb went off in my head and this is where I got the idea to spray foam into the hole to A) hold the plaster, but B) to make sure there was support after the plaster had been placed in the hole.
So that's what I did. The foam is a sticky substance that pretty much sticks to anything. I tested a squirt of foam into an empty peanut butter jar first. It seemed to work so I filled the hole with foam.
the foam added... Yikes! It's coming out of the hole.
The Foam expanded a lot more than I had planned but once dry with a X-acto knife I cut off the excess piece coming out of the wall and made a foam pit. The whole process made me think of "Devil in the Dark" the Star Trek episode where Spock has to heal the Horta with cement. It's the same episode where McCoy says "I'm a doctor not a brick layer". For a brief moment I thought of putting the words "NO KILL I" into the plaster. The idea went away when I thought of the landlord's reaction.
The foam carved out
The foam pit was eventually covered with plaster. I used a tub of premixed polyfil which ended up taking four days to dry completely. Probably because the bathroom is a humid environment. I took the picture below before it dried completely. Once dry I sanded down the wall to make a smooth surface. There were a few divots from where the plaster had air pockets so I applied a second coat. In the end the wall looked pretty good.
The first pass on filling the hole.