Feb 7, 2011

Do as I say, not as he did

A few weeks ago my husband and I made the decision to turn a small room off the kitchen (what the builder jokingly called the dining room but good luck fitting a full-sized dining room table and hutch in there) into a "den" where he can play his video games and I can have a cozy place to read (when he's not playing video games).

The room was decorated 25 years ago - with a nice small floral wallpaper on top, dark green on bottom, chair rail in between.

My husband had a very bad wallpaper experience a few years ago. I wanted to redecorate the two upstairs bathrooms, replacing wallpaper with paint. We (He) decided to steam the old wallpaper off, and steamed it so much big chunks of the wallboard came off as well because we (he) hadn't prepped the walls properly before putting the intiial wallpaper on. Rather than fix the missing chunks, we (he) used a textured paint on the walls to cover up all the (cough) imperfections. In my upstairs bathrooms if you aren't paying attention when you go to hang up a towel, you can scrape the skin right off your knuckles on the paint. 'Nuff said.

So he eyes the wallpaper in the little room and says "no way are we taking the wallpaper down - we'll just paint over it". This is twenty-five year old wallpaper that is starting to curl at the seams. Paint over it? Ummm... no. As soon as he left for work, I pulled at one of those curled edges and got one nice long even strip of wallpaper off and thought Yay! this will be easy! And it was... for about 10 minutes. Long enough to get to the "no turning back now" point.

I went to the store and picked up some DIF (wallpaper remover) and one of those Tiger things that pokes holes in the wall to let the DIF soak through, and went at it again. The sound the Tiger makes, by the way, is very similar to fingernails on a chalkboard - screech! screech! screech! Because of my back problems, I would work for about 30 minutes, then give my back a break for an hour, work 30 minutes, take a break for an hour...  By the time husband got home from work, I had about 75% of the room done.

"What'd you do today?" he asked when he got in. "Oh, not much..." I smiled sweetly, and motioned for him to go in the room and see for himself.

"I thought we agreed NOT to take the wallpaper down!" he said, looking totally dismayed at the mess in the room (though to my credit, I had bagged up all the wallpaper I'd removed). "It's no big deal - it's coming off just fine," was my response.

Apparently, that sealed my fate. Removing the wallpaper was officially my job. And from that point on, no amount of DIF, no screaching of the Tiger hole puncher thingie was going to persuade the last 25% of the wallpaper to come off. I think my husband hexed it. Seriously.

After two weeks of struggling with a putty knife, DIF and screeching Tiger, I was exasperated and still had 15% of the wallpaper on the wall. It refused to come off, no matter what I did. I'm thinking my husband put parts of it up with Gorilla Glue. How could big long strips come off in part of the room, but not even an 1/8th of an inch be chiselled off in another?

A friend offered up her heat gun (thanks, Lynn!) and saved the day. With heat gun in hand, I could finally loosen up the wallpaper backing enough to get my putty knife under it and get little bits off at a time. It took me a full week to get the last 15% off!

So it's done. And fate came back to my side by providing me with an email from a local company that offers color consultation, wall prep and painting two coats of paint in any one room - for $85.00. I am taking advantage of it. I don't want textured walls in my new den!

The moral of the story - for me, it's never put wallpaper up in my house again. But should you want to do so? Make sure sure sure and prep your walls with the correct kind of sealer before you do. You will save yourself weeks of spraying, chipping and cursing if you put in that little extra work to start. And God knows, you don't want to end up with textured paint on any wall in your house. I'm thinking removing that paint in the bathrooms might be my (his) next project...


Karen said...

I know what you're going through! In our house on Royal Circle they had painted OVER the wallpaper and we foolishly decided to try to take it down. Three weeks later, we gave up and painted a second coat over the paint they had put there. Lesson learned.

NanaDiana said...

Oh...I have had houses like that! What a blipping mess~ I know your pain. I had a kitchen like that where it was vinyl wallpaper and I don't know what the heck they put it on with but my girlfriend and I worked on it everday to get it off...and finally LEFT the stuff that was behind the range and out of sight...figured the lucky new homeonwer could remove that someday! Ugh! What a job- I don't blame you for hiring the painting job out! Hugs- Diana