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Hawk & Trowel - Spring 2009
Arched Hallway

The Last Lath
X Hits the Spot

by Emily Panter

When John Watson of Ultrabend was contracted to help remodel a Texas farmhouse, he was greeted with standard 8-foot flat ceilings and a lot of work to do. The owners wanted to give their house more of a Tuscan feel, and to do that, a lot of ceiling work had to be done.

The main architectural feature in the house is the back hallway, which leads to a multitude of rooms and the back patio. In all, the hallway is around 8 feet wide and nearly 44 feet long.

"It was basically just a big, open rectangle when we got there to build the ceilings," Watson said.

To create a sophisticated, European look, Watson built a groin vault ceiling system. There are a total of five oval-shaped groin vaults (also called cross vaults), each made with intersecting barrel vaults. Arches are centered over doorways and windows. Stone columns were constructed for attachment to the groins - the ridges where two barrel vaults meet. The ceiling was then completed with 1/2-inch drywall.

Watson was able to create a tight radius on the drywall using his own drywall bender, which he hopes to sell on the market within a year.

"The tightest radius we got was about 34 inches," he says.

In addition to the hallway ceiling, Watson did projects throughout the house, including three ceilings in the bathroom.

He installed a small groin vault above the master tub, as well as a radius ceiling over the shower and a barrel ceiling that extends the 20-foot length of the bathroom.

Other projects in the house included a cove ceiling over the sitting area in the master bedroom and all of the trim in the house.

"I would guess we used 1,600 or 1,800 linear feet of rope molding," says Watson.

For Watson and his crew, one of the biggest challenges they faced was simply keeping focus. Because they had to wait for other contractors to finish before they could do the work, they were on the job for nearly two years. "We would put up the frame and then it was months before we could go back and do anything else," says Watson.

Despite spending so long on the project, he is pleased with the end result.

"It turned out to be a pretty good-looking house," he says.

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The Plaster Zone >
Ornamental considerations
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The Preservation Plasterer >
How to repair historic plaster
by Rory Brennan

That Drywall Guy >
Building the best arches and curves
by Myron Ferguson