Our Current House
Send out the ravens! (yes, that’s a Game of Thrones reference). Wallpaper stripping has commenced.
I was actually really excited to tackle the half bathroom’s wallpaper removal project, because I am a strange breed of human and that’s my idea of a good time. And since we have five rooms full of wallpaper (the foyer, the half bathroom, the kitchen, the dining room, and the master bathroom), I decided that I would try a different removal method for each one and report back with the pros/cons about each approach as I went, all in the hopes of sussing out which ones bite the big one and which ones seem to work the best. I’m telling you guys, I’m like one of those people who works in “risk management” and gets their kicks watching paint dry. So hold onto your hats, it’s about to get crazy up in here.
My first step was to clear things out (the soap pump, mirror above the sink, toilet paper, etc). Just so I don’t have any accessories in the way of the serious peelage that I was about to dive into.
Then I removed the wall plates to free up some edges of the paper and hopefully make the removal process easier (there are two light switches and an outlet). I couldn’t help but marvel at the dedication that was once put into this wallpaper job – the outlets were papered and the flowers even matched up.
Next I boiled a pot of water on the stove, since the method I’m trying this time is intensely simple, but I’ve also heard that it works like gangbusters. Get ready for my method guys. Here it comes. Oh my gosh, it’s…. boiling water sprayed on the wall. That’s it. No scoring, no steamer, no spackle knife, no application with a weed sprayer, no fabric softener. While I’ve also heard awesome things about those methods, the simple boiling water applied with a spray bottle approach seemed like a good place to start. If it stunk, it was the smallest room (and if it straight up didn’t work I could abandon that method and move onto something else).
And speaking of moving onto something else, this approach almost went off the rails immediately? Why? Well, I had this vat of boiling water on the stove and I was holding my spray bottle thinking “how am I going to fill this without dripping hot water all over myself?” – seriously I stood there a solid minute wondering how I was going to avoid giving myself third degree burns filling the bottle. I stared at my ladle and thought “no way, that’s going to drip out all over my hands” and then finally slipped the empty capless spray bottle itself into the boiling water and used the ladle to hold it under the water. I heard that comforting glug-glug-glug sound as it filled itself up, which was music to my apparently burn-a-phobic mind. Then I used the same ladle that I had used to submerge it so it would fill itself up to fish out the bottle without touching the boiling water itself.
I used one of those silicone pot holder things to hold the bottle as it came out and then attempted to secure the top of the spray bottle and that’s when I realized – DUH! – that the bottle had warped from the boiling water…
Guys, what was I thinking? I have no idea. I blame it on wallpaper-stripping-excitement. I was as wired as a kid hopped up on four boxes of Nerds. But I realized that the spray bottle still sprayed even without a perfectly shaped bottom or a perfectly attached nozzle, and in a very “the show must go on” moment I walked into the bathroom and just started spraying. Worked just fine.
What I learned:
- Spraying the entire room with boiling water and then attempting to peel the paper is a lot less effective than saturating small sections at a time (ex: half of one wall) and then peeling while the paper is still wet and loose. When I attempted to spray the whole room first (even a small room like a bathroom) by the time I got back to the first part I sprayed it was starting to dry and re-attaching itself to the wall. It came off much easier when I moved in smaller sections.
- Constantly spraying that bottle does get a little old (your wrist/forearm gets a little Jillian Michaels-ish workout) but it wasn’t bad enough that I cried or anything. I’ve heard that filling one of those plastic weed-spray containers from Home Depot gives your arm a huge break, so that might be helpful in a larger room, but I had such little wiggle room in the bathroom (there was a chair in there with me sometimes so I could reach a few high parts) that a big gallon sprayer would have cramped the room even more.
- I needed to use a silicone pot holder to hold the bottle the entire time I was spraying since the bottle itself was still really hot, but the super hot water really seemed to get the paper off the wall well, so it was worth it to bring the heat, so to speak.
- Almost all of the front of the wallpaper came off in the first round of spraying and peeling, which took about 1.5 hours. Then I re-sprayed the entire wall again since the backing/glue was still there in most places, and that came off in a second round of peeling, which took about 1.5 hours. So all told, it was about a three hour project from start to finish.
But when I was done I had a garbage bag full of wallpaper and white walls!
Glorious, glorious, de-flowered white walls.
Which was definitely a welcome sight after seeing this for the last few weeks…
And now I can make loud proclamations, like “hear ye, hear ye, my house has four different types of wallpaper instead of five!” Not that I’m anti-wallpaper (I actually linked to a few options in this post that I’d love to see in here someday). Oh and I saved a small flowery wallpaper remnant from my removal process because I think it would be fun to frame little squares of each one of them somewhere – just for the memories. So… one room (and one wallpaper method removal) down, four to go…
Psst- OK, who’s watching Whodunnit? We saw the first episode last night and we’re hooked.
Yes, we named the rug in the sunroom Stinky. We were feeling literal, and it was damp in the corners from moisture seeping into the sunroom from bad seals in the old sliders and some wood rot. The previous owners knew there was a moisture issue (along with a serious smell issue) in there, which definitely came into play when they set the low-enough-to-be-in-our-range listing price, so although this rug sounds like a curse, we actually consider it to be a blessing (heck, if we can take care of something that might turn off other buyers and it helps us afford a house that we LOVE, we’re all about it).
So here’s how we got that rug up and outta there along with the glued down rug pad underneath – and some pretty serious nails and staples that were lurking below. First we yanked up the rug in the corner using a small crowbar to free it up from some of the nails in the tack strips around the perimeter of the room that were holding it in place.
After we got the rug free from the tack strips around the edges of the room, we rolled each side like a scroll, towards the midpoint of the room. Once we got them there in the middle, we used a box cutter to slice the rug in half so it was easier to carry out of there (you can cut a rug before you roll it, but we found that the extra slack that it gained after it was rolled made cutting it easier once it was in this position). Then we carried each section away while trying not to inhale or think about how much of our body it was touching.
Next we attacked the rug pad, which sadly was glued all over the place (we hoped it was just a floating pad so the concrete under it wouldn’t have glue stains out the wazoo). Soon enough… we hit glue. Boo, glue, boo. And suddenly this post is an ode to Dr Seuss.
Oh well, still had to get it outta there, glue stains and all. We yanked up as much as we could with our hands and for the areas that were super stuck to the glue, we used the same $25 floor scraper from Home Depot that had come in handy when we removed the carpet in the upstairs bedrooms. It has a pretty sharp and smooth blade at the end of it, so just like you’d use a razor to get paint off glass, you run it across the floor with some force and it basically slices the glue right off so the floor is smooth and flush again.
So glad the glue bumps could be removed, even if the glue stains were still there (I’ll show you those a little closer in a second).
While I was slicing my way around with the floor scraper (yes, with my dangly earrings on because I’m cool like dat) John got to work on busting the tack strips out from around the perimeter of the room. They were basically spindly old wood strips with nails sticking up that had held the carpet in place, and they were a pain to get up since they were so brittle (they kept splintering and breaking instead of coming up all as one strip – even when John worked the prybar under them every few inches to pry them away from the floor). It probably took a good hour and a half just to get the rug pad, excess glue, and tack strips up after spending about ten minutes pulling up the carpet itself.
Once all the tack strips, random nails, and glue spots were up it was time for the shop vac. First I picked out the longer shards of wood to bag and dispose of separately (no sense in trying to suck up a foot-long shard of wood with the shop vac) but all of the small splinters of wood, nails, balls of glue, and tufts of old carpet got swept into piles and vacuumed up.
And with that, the room turned a corner. The raw concrete, even with the glue stains that it has, is definitely an improvement on the swampy old carpet.
And thanks to my little scraper action, the entire floor is flush and smooth now, even with those frustrating glue stains that have soaked into the concrete (at least they no longer bump out along with a slew of nails and staples).
So we think a good cleaning followed by a coat of stain & odor blocking primer (just to be sure the stink is really gone) along with some porch and floor paint will cover up those stains, seal in any lingering smells (so they won’t waft out to greet us on a hot day), and we’ll have a room that’s approximately 98% more pleasant to be in.
And down the line we have big plans for this room. So beyond this little carpet’s-gotta-go first step, we’d love to…
Rip up old stinky carpet and padding
- Scrub the concrete and seal in the smell somehow (so it doesn’t leech odor forever)
- Stain or paint the concrete floor as part of Phase 1*
- Permanently remove the half-broken base heater
- Eventually retile the floor with outdoor-safe stone to upgrade the old concrete floors (down the line for Phase 2)
- Convert sunroom to an open covered porch with new columns and no more sliders (many of the sliders are bad and the posts are rotten) – we’re envisioning something like this
- Possibly build a brick outdoor fireplace off of the sunroom after we open it up? Kind of like this, but different…
- Add beadboard to the ceiling and paint it soft blue?
* This is just a first-thought brain dump, so if we learn that painting the floor won’t allow us to tile it down the road, we’ll course correct and share the new plan as we go
So glad to have that old carpet gone. Even though we had to carry it out to the garage ourselves (which sends a shiver up my spine every time I think about it) it was totally worth it to have it outta there.
Psst- Clara’s having more conversations over on Young House Life. Number 5 made us laugh until we cried.