Friday, December 28, 2012

Wallpaper Hell

'Twas the day after Christmas and my parents were here for a holiday visit.  It's really amazing that they keep coming back, considering that every time they're here, they find themselves knee deep in painter's tape and sawdust.  But in our defense, they keep showing up with suitcases full of grungy work clothes, so they're kind of asking for it. Either that or those are just their everyday clothes, but that would warrant a whole different blog.

But this time was supposed to be different.  My dad emailed me last week and asked if he needed to bring his Little Giant ladder (the Cadillac of ladders, mind you) and his painting clothes.  "Of course not!" I said.  "We're just so tired these days, I think we just need a nice relaxing Winter Break.  No projects this time!"  Cut to December 27, a chilly, calm winter's morn.  Everyone's sitting in the living room in our cozy pj's, drinkin' coffee, relaxin' all cool.......when the next thing I know, we're all in the foyer, surrounded by strips of torn down wallpaper (still wearing pj's).  I don't even know how it happened!  I think there was a conversation about re-doing the foyer, stairway, and upstairs hallway, and then someone (it was not me, I swear!) spied a loose corner of wallpaper and gave it a curious pull, "just to see how easily it comes off."
                                         (the very "before" picture- from the real estate listing)

At first, the paper was coming off with the greatest of ease.  It seemed it had only been fastened to the walls at the seams, so the parts between the seams practically floated off the walls.  All we needed to do was use a little wallpaper stripper for the glued-on parts, and we'd be ready to prime and paint by nightfall!

This brings me to fun fact #1 of the day: old wallpaper was never intended to come down.  Unlike the silly newfangled wallpaper glues of today, this stuff was designed to withstand a nuclear attack.  And, as it turns out, commercial wallpaper stripper, liquid fabric softener, hot water, coarse sandpaper, the Paper Tiger scoring tool, and profanity.  After HOURS of scraping with little to no results, I finally did what I should have done in the first place: I Googled "removing old wallpaper."  And within minutes, I had the answer.  VINEGAR (this is fun fact of the day #2).

I already knew vinegar had a myriad of household uses, and we always have at least a gallon of it on hand.  It's great for removing lyme deposits from glassware, unclogging drains, cleaning the gunk out of coffee makers, and 100 other things.  And when you add 1 part vinegar to 1 part hot water, it becomes a miracle wallpaper stripper.  Just use a spray bottle or a sponge to apply it to the wall, let it soak in, and the old wallpaper glue just peels right off.  Like freaking MAGIC.

The not so magic part is all of the huge cracks in the plaster that we discovered behind the wallpaper, which we will now need to repair..........

So, we bought a house.

Seven months ago we purchased our first home- an old farmhouse style dwelling in small-town Columbus, WI.  Built in 1895, it is on the city's register of historic homes (according to the sign that hangs on the front door, anyway) and like all new homeowners, we were foolishly looking forward to all the blood sweat and tears it would take to make the place OURS.  

We spent the summer painting, sanding, restoring, and spending, and sweating ("historic charm" means "no central air") and we continue to make changes large and small, although we are freezing more so than sweating these days. Also, we utter a lot of discouraging 4-letter words.  I created this blog to keep family and friends updated on our latest projects, and to share information about things we have learned so that others may learn from the wisdom of our (many) mistakes.