That post title is my version of “Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture” and it is best when sung at the top of your lungs while peeling wallpaper. But we’ll get there in a minute.
Let’s talk about what we’d like to accomplish before this baby comes for a second. In our first house when we were preparing for Clara’s arrival, over those nine months we tackled a few rooms that were still on our redo list (mainly the full bathroom and the nursery) since so much of the house was already done (our kitchen reno was all finished, the hardwood floors had been redone, we had opened up some walls and closed off others, etc). This time around, there’s a baby on the way but this house is much less finished than our first one was, so our goals before baby are more about getting it to a nice blank slate than a fully finished after.
And in case you’re wondering, my mantra is: Go Prego, Go Prego, Go (a la the Three Ninja’s “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go”). Update: I have just been schooled by
Ninja Warriors commenters who rightly recognized this song from Ninja Turtles 2 (the video editor just laid it over 3 Ninjas). My greatest ninja apologies for the mix up.
I chant it while I strip wallpaper and paint trim. It keeps me going.
You see, I’m a mom on a mission. And that mission is to get rid of all of the old wallpaper, old carpeting, and blue trim before this baby comes. So that means chipping away at seven spaces over the next six months:
- de-blue-trim-ifying and de-wallpapering the dining room
- finishing Project No More Graph Paper in the kitchen
- stripping the blue wallpaper in the sink/tub area of the master bathroom
- ripping up the old carpet runner on the stairs (our new runners finally came after being on backorder, woot!)
- painting the blue trim in the office
- removing the old carpeting on the steps that lead from the garage into the kitchen (don’t even know if we’ve shown those…)
Of course we also have other updates on our radar that we mentioned in this post last Friday – like adding built-ins to the bedroom, amping up the office, packing in a few guest room updates, and creating a nursery of course! But man I’ll be a happy momma to slowly but surely send the blue trim, the peeling wallpaper, and those old stair runners packing. Out with the old, and in with the new, baby! Or should I say out with the old and in with the new baby? Somehow they both work.
And we actually get to cross off that second bullet already, thanks to a few days of the serious wallpaper battle that I waged on the kitchen
graph paper wallpaper. Ahh, look at that clean wallpaper-less wall, complete with a big ol’ intercom. Can I get a hootie hoo?
Every time I tackle wallpaper I try out a different method just to see what works better (I’m like Anderson Cooper with this hard-hitting investigative journalism) so you can read about how boiling water worked here, and how a steamer worked here (spoiler alert: so far the steamer is in the lead). And this time my method of choice was warm tap water and Dr Bronner’s soap. I hear that soap can help cut the glue from the wallpaper a bit more than plain water can. Some people swear by a Downy + water mixture, but since my tummy is so easily rebellious these days (morning sickness tends to go until about the half-way point of pregnancy for me) and my nose is turned up to “bloodhound mode”, I opted for a less fragrant soap that still cuts grease/tackiness : Dr. Bronner’s.
I just added about seven squirts of Dr Bronner’s to my wonky spray bottle (remember when I nearly melted it with boiling water here?) and filled the rest of the bottle with hot water from the tap (so it wasn’t boiling, but it wasn’t lukewarm either). Then I sprayed down this entire wall, let it soak in for about three minutes, and got to work peeling like a madwoman.
This is my third attempt at wallpaper removal and my third attempt without a scoring tool. Going into this I assumed I’d try one out one of these times, but thanks to many large sheets coming off like this, I’ve actually become afraid of a scoring tool since it seems like it could create a lot more work for me (peeling off ten million scored pieces instead of one big sheet).
So the best removal methods certainly seem to depend on a multitude of factors (how stuck your wallpaper is, what glue was used, what prep work was done to the wall under it before it was papered, and how old it is, how many layers there are, etc). My recommendation would be to try peeling it without scoring first, and if it just won’t budge you can then move onto scoring things to get through the paper and loosen things up. I just think it’s a smart secondary step in case your wallpaper comes up in larger sheets like ours has so far (if it helps anyone, this wallpaper was all applied around 30 years ago to our knowledge, and we believe the walls were properly prepped beneath it with primer, which definitely helps with removal).
After doing that big wall next to the table, I just inched my way around the room, spraying, waiting three minutes for it to soak in, and peeling.
Once again, there were some nice big sections that came off…
… but of course from these piles you can see that there were also smaller sections that took a little longer after the big chunks came down (I just resprayed those more stubborn areas and picked at them with my fingernail until they came off). I should also mention that I tried a spackle knife since I’ve heard those can be helpful but I found that it caused little dents in the wall so I quickly abandoned that. I’d rather take my time getting the paper off and have pristine walls in the end than ding them up getting the paper off faster (but then have to spend time spackling those spots to get things smooth again).
I ended up getting around to the other side of the kitchen (where the built-in desk is) about three hours into the removal process, which is when this momma needed a break.
So I posted this Instagram picture of the mess I made, and curled up in the fetal position for a while. Wallpaper will do that to ya.
About four days later I had more prego gusto as I like to call it (every few days I get bursts of energy, and dang it if I don’t capitalize on them) so I ran into the kitchen with a battle cry of “Arrrggggghhh!” and
scared the dog got to spraying and peeling again. I had this side of the kitchen to do this time, which was easier in some aspects (the backsplash is a lot smaller of a space to peel, for example)…
… but there seemed to be more glue going on, so it took a while longer to make my way around.
More glue in some areas meant that I was left with more of the paper backing on the walls in some areas, which looked a little bit like white tiger stripes wherever it stuck to the wall.
Here’s where I tried an entirely new method, that worked LIKE GANGBUSTERS. Guys, if you have that paper backing mocking you silently from your freshly peeled walls, here’s what to try. Fill a bowl with as-hot-as-you-can-get-it tap water and a few pumps of Dr Bronner’s soap (I’m sure other soaps could work, but I had luck with DBs). Then just dip a paper towel or a rag into it and dab that over the paper backing right on the wall. It saturates it a lot more than the spray bottle (without giving you hand cramps from squeeze-squeeze-squeezing) and…
… even giant chunks of that stubborn backing should peel right off in one giant piece. At least that’s what worked this time. Look at me go.
So in some parts of the room it felt like I was really peeling wallpaper twice (since it was a few hours of wallpaper removal followed by a few hours of backing removal) but when the dust cleared, we had a wallpaperless kitchen! Hurrah!
It’s still dark as heck with faux brick linoleum and a big ol’ garage-looking light on the ceiling, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. As for how long the entire process took, I’d estimate that it was 8 hours of work when you add it all up.
But those blank walls sure do feel good. Now all I need to do is wipe them down with a vinegar and water spray (that has worked to get rid of any lingering glue residue in the past for us) and we can paint our little hearts out.
Aaaand, just because I like to cross things off…
- de-blue-trim-ify and de-wallpaper the dining room
finish Project No More Graph Paper in the kitchen
- strip the bold blue master bathroom wallpaper
- rip up the old carpet runner on the stairs (our new runners finally came after being on backorder, woot!)
- paint the blue trim in the office
Oh and in case you’re wondering, the steamer still wins as the easiest/fastest method, but neither the boiling water or the hot tap water + soap approaches were that bad (and they’re 100% free) so they’re pretty decent back-up options – at least to try. Next up, I have my eye on the bathroom wallpaper (I think I need a smaller space to give my arms a break) and the carpet runner on the stairs’ days are numbered too. Be afraid, be very afraid (if you’re our carpet runner or bathroom wallpaper – if not, no need to be afraid). Is there anyone else out there with a deadline and a list of non-negotiable house stuff they’d like to accomplish? Honestly I’m so excited about the nursery that I’m hoping to rush through all of those other bullets so we can get to the fun stuff.
Psst- Clara’s having conversations again. And as usual, she’s cracking us up.
Truth: Sherry was oddly into fan hunting and the idea of adding two new fans to keep our freshly-opened sunroom cool (and to create a nice mosquito-warding-off current while we’re out there relaxing), but I was NOT excited about said fans.
Generally we’ve had 7.5 to 8′ ceilings in most rooms with them, and being 6′ tall, I’ve always felt like they were low-hanging oversized pinwheels that were one inch shy of giving me a haircut – although we’re suckers for function, so we’ve always kept a few around wherever they were especially useful (we kept them in the sunroom and den of our first house, and the sunroom and guest room of our second house). In other words, a few got to stick around, but we’re not really in the practice of adding to our total-house-fan-number, if you know what I mean.
This is actually the first time we’re increasing our count, by going from one out here to two thanks to this wiring that we had done after we ripped out the ceiling. We knew two fans would more efficiently cool the space (and make mosquitoes say “ain’t nobody got time for that”) and thanks to the freshly lofted ceilings we hoped the fans wouldn’t feel too low-hanging or heavy. But the thought of installing new fans STILL wasn’t something that my brain could get excited about. So it settled on assuming the task would be difficult and the results would be underwhelming. Awesome attitude, self.
After looking everywhere from craigslist and thrift stores (it was hard to find two of the same kind secondhand) to more obvious places like Lowe’s and Home Depot, we settled on this model from Home Depot (which we found to have a better fan selection in general, by the way).
They were $119 each, plus a $10 downrod that we had to add to each of them since our ceiling is lofted. You may be surprised that we didn’t buy white fans, but with so much lightness in the ceiling area already we thought something dark would add some nice contrast and play off the dark floors (once they’re tiled).
Beyond just looks, we also had to be sure to buy something that was safe for use outdoors and that could be installed on an angled ceiling.
They’re not shown here on the box, but we also checked with the store associate to make sure it was compatible with light kits (check) and remote controls (double check) in case we wanted to add either of those things down the line (we’re currently planning to add sconces on the columns around the room for softer eye-level lighting instead).
Before diving into installing each one – a task I was certain would involve a few missteps and lots of upper body strain – we made sure the power was off, both at the breaker and the light switch. And then Sherry still insisted on triple-checking things with our little live current tester (sometimes outdoor wiring can be tricky – for example in our first house a few outdoor things got power from a shed way back in the woods).
Before I go further, I should be clear that Hunter doesn’t know us from Adam and certainly isn’t in cahoots with us or this post. So the gushing I’m about to do about their instructions is purely because, having dealt with plenty of sub-par instruction books in my day, it makes me downright joyful when I encounter a manual that’s well done and easy to follow (like the one for our Nest thermostats). For example, this manual included a section for double-checking that your ceilings aren’t too angled for the fan to be compatible. They even marked the corner of the page so you could fold it down and hold it against your ceiling to check the angle and be sure. So simple. So smart. Maybe this install wouldn’t be so bad after all?
Another little ingenious touch: the hardware was separated into different bags and labeled by step with a unique symbol that the manual referenced whenever it was time for that particular batch of parts to be used.
Obviously you’ll want to consult the installation instructions for your fan since they can vary, but for anyone else who is tackling a fan installation, we wanted to cover the general process for you – especially since it was something we had never done before (and I was convinced would suck). Our first task was to assemble and install the mounting bracket to the fixture box. This is basically what secures the fan to the fixture box, which needs to be braced properly for the weight of a fan. The good news was that the electricians took care of that bracing step for us when they added the two fixture boxes, so we just needed to secure the top of the fan to our already braced box.
I also liked how the instructions gave you a thumbs up at the end of each step. Nothing like a big confidence boost from a little hand icon.
The next part was actually what I was most anxious about – adding the downrod. This was where we had to modify the parts included with the fan (i.e. sub out that nubby rod with the longer one) so that ours would drop down from the ceiling a bit. For some reason I assumed this would be the point I’d screw up.
But once again, the instructions made it error proof. Basically we just removed a couple of screws and stuff from the rod they included…
…and reattached them to our new one.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how we knew what sized downrod to buy: Home Depot had a guide on display along with all of the differently sized rods. Our ceiling was a little over 9ft at that point, so we got the 12″ rod.
The fan had tons of extra wire, so it was just a matter of threading it up through the longer rod.
Then I attached the rod to the fan (it twisted in and got held in place by a screw) and I clipped most of the excess wire off.
Even this part – where I expected to be exhausted by meager upper body strength while holding the heavy fan up for
hours minutes to get it in place – was no big deal at all. The little ball at the top of the rod slid into the mounting bracket with virtually no effort and within seconds my arms were free. Seriously, it was a motion that took ten seconds tops. Well, except for the added time that was required to pose for this picture (it took me a few tries to nail the “focused, but not too strained” look that I’m sporting).
With the mounting bracket doing the work of holding the fan up, it didn’t strain me at all to connect the wires (and the instructions were very clear about what color went where).
And then while I screwed the canopy in place…
… Sherry got the fan blades prepped by adding rubber washers and screwing them into each of the five metal arms.
Then up those went, finally making this fan look like a fan.
Last but not least was installing the cap at the base which is where a light kit could go eventually, if we ever decide we want one (hence all of the wires that get tucked away in there).
As much as we wanted to sit back and celebrate our first-fan-ever-installed victory, there was the minor detail of getting the second one up. The first one took us a bit longer because of instruction reading and photo taking, but I still think we got both fans up in about 90 minutes. Zero missteps. Minimal arm strain.
And, here comes the real shocker, we LOVE them. I didn’t know my heart had such a great capacity for loving fans, but I couldn’t stop smiling once they went up. Maybe it was knowing that it marked the end of working above my head for a while? Or maybe it was just how finished they made the room look (assuming you kinda held your hand over the lower half of this photo). But seriously, picture them with the dark slate-like floors that we’re putting in. Not bad, eh?
I think they’re just one of those “moments” in DIY that really hit home how far a room has come. From this…
…to now this.
We’re also relieved that our instinct to go dark with the fans was one that were really happy with. Sunny spaces like this can usually use some contrast, and these fans are finally giving the light blue ceiling and all of that white trim a little pow, if you know what I mean.
Now, if only we had finished this project about a month ago when their cooling action was actually still needed. Oh well, at least it gives us something to look forward to for next year.
New truth: I’m crazy excited to have our fans installed in the sunroom.
Secondary truth: I have no idea why the ceiling looks so light/not-blue in these photos (see the first picture of this post for a more accurate color depiction). Or just ignore the ceiling and keep oogling the fans.