Sunday, January 22, 2006

Weekend Warrior: Sweat Equity

When we looked at the house before we bought it, I knew immediately it would be home. I also knew immediately that the wallpaper had to go.

Our living room was decorated in what I guess the other owners thought was a tasteful early American colonial kind of thing. Separated by a chair rail were two different types of patterned wallpaper. Up top was a marbled kind of mottled cream with bumpy things and on bottom was a striped kind of thing (picture the stripes you get when your tv is out of focus on an arial antenna--with the little dots and lines and all) with string interwoven in the paper.

The window in the room faces our front porch, which is under an overhang. As a result, the room is very, very dark a lot of the time. The dark wallpaper, crappy color of the fireplace, and the navy (yes, navy-shows-every-speck-of-dirt) carpet all made the whole thing feel rather drab and dreary. Consequently, we don't use the room much except as a dining room when we have a whole bunch of people over and need the space.

But it was kind of depressing to see the room, which has loads of potential--and which I dreamed of re-doing somehow. The wallpaper around the door to the kitchen was peeling, and with so little use, it was a bit cobwebby. If I had a bunch of reproduction antique or colonial furniture, then yeah, sure, I would definitely be able to use that room to its full design potential. But that just isn't my style!

So, I talked to my father-in-law who told me about a product I could buy to strip the wallpaper, and, taking my inspiration from "Weekend Warriors" on HGTV, I just decided to plunge in.

Now, I know absolutely NOTHING about wallpaper, and less than nothing about stripping wallpaper. But my mom told me to get a puncture thing, and my father-in-law told me about that solution, so that's what I was going on. (Mind you, I was struck with inspiration on Michael's birthday!!!!!!)

So I went over to True Value, since it's a local instituation around here (I've had several people tell me to go to Earl's T/V for stuff), and I was pleased to see that Earl carries "DIF" wall paper removing gel. I bought a spray bottle's worth and a refill bottle for good measure. To my chagrin, however, there was no puncturing thing. I did get a nifty scraper though.

So after lunch, we went to Home Depot, where they put the puncturing thing (Called THE PAPER TIGER) in the "decor" section. And I came home and got to work.

I took off all the switchplates and covers, unloaded all the bookshelves, moved the furniture, and put all my breakables and books downstairs. Then, I punctured the upper paper to a farethewell. And I started spraying the gel--letting it soak in. And I gave it the obligatory 15 minutes, per package directions. And then I scraped with my little PAPER TIGER scraper.

And not much happened. And I had a bunch of swiss-cheesed wallpaper, and I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on.

If I scraped long enough, the scraper could get through all the raised crap on the paper and hit the seams. But it certainly was nothing like the promises I was given. Hank told me the paper would fall off the walls, and DIF promised I could just run my scraper over with the lightest of touches, and the paper would come loose.

So, I went for backup. I retreated to the crawl space closet and got a paint roller and fresh roller head thingy. I sprayed the section again, and then used the roller to really get the gel in the holes good.

So I sat down and waited for something to happen. And while I was waiting, I started looking at that bottom paper, which, to my mind, was the more loathesome of the two. And the more I stared at it, the more it seemed to mock me.

So I started playing with one little corner of it. And before I could blink, I had 1/2 a panel already gone! I looked up at my punctured, gelled, scraped paper, and I looked back down at this other paper I hadn't done a thing to.

I could cut my time in half.

So I went for it. I picked at another piece and it came off so easily!

I channeled my inner Kathy Bates, started hollering "TOWANDA!!!!!!!!!!" and had a field day pulling that paper off. Within 30 minutes, I had the entire bottom half of the room stripped.

The only catch was, as mentioned, that bottom paper contained some kind of thread or string. And that did cut my fingers a couple of times. But I remedied that with some scissors for the really tough parts.

I figured that was pretty good till after supper. I fussed with the top part a bit more, and then, when I got one section of wall cleaned off, I consulted the DIF bottle again. And it said once the paper is off, you have to sponge off the adhesive.

For as much muscle as the paper requires, once that adhesive layer is wet with plain ole water, it comes off so beautifully.

I was too tired to continue last night. This morning I got up and I finished off all the paper on the top half of the room. It's all down. The room feels twice as large, it's twice as bright, and I am just thrilled. I've started work on getting the adhesive down--my trusty paint roller is doing a wonderful job of getting large patches of adhesive wet, and my PAPER TIGER scraper is just slicing the adhesive paper to ribbons.

I got somewhat sidetracked by the other projects of the weekend: Cooking, grocery shopping, HAM radio construction (well, OK, I mainly stayed out of the way on that one!), installing the General's world map in the office for his HAM contacts, and measuring the windows and blinds. Plus the general duties required of being a bunny owner.

However, I have to say, as of this moment, I have NEVER in my ENTIRE LIFE been so proud of myself. Not when I graduated high school, not when I got my master's degree, not when I was asked to become a big cheese with the social organization we're running with these days... NEVER have I been prouder of myself.

My goal is to finish pulling down the adhesive this week. Since I'll be working, I'll only have an hour or two every day to do it. Then hopefully I can research what I have to do to cover the MAROON that some genius painted all the woodwork, and seal all that up, and hopefully have the room painted before President's Day Weekend. Currently I'm considering "Manhattan Mist" for the top half of the room and a plain white for the bottom half. But I have a load of paint chips and ideas from Home Depot, and am still planning it out!

I've put pictures at if you're interested in watching as the work progresses...

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