Friday, February 22, 2013

Undoing the sins of the past

If you have read this blog for awhile you know our house is a work in progress—an old, out-of-date house on a beautiful lot. We have been working on it for the past five years and made a lot of improvements, including adding the studio and greenhouse, but the back, non-public part of the house is still in need of help. The bathroom, in particular. Sometime in the past thirty or so  years, previous owners wallpapered. Extravagantly. Horrifically. Unforgivably.


Not one ugly wallpaper, but three—a faux woven design on the upper half, a mottled blue on the bottom half, all tied together with a border of hydrangeas (or are they lilacs?) and sweet peas around the middle. And the floor was covered in dusty rose plush carpeting. We have hardened ourselves to the reality of that bathroom and "lived with it." Then several months ago the toilet leaked and soaked the disgusting carpet, so Ray pulled it out. Under the carpet we found vinyl flooring in the same pattern my friend Muriel, had in her kitchen in 1980. And—it covered only half the bathroom floor. The rest was unfinished plywood. Behold:


At last we are interviewing contractors and making plans to enlarge and refresh this old bathroom. I have been picking at that wallpaper since we moved into the house, but today I got serious about getting it out of there in preparation for fresh, clean paintable walls.  I enlisted Sofia's help, and she got into it.


Have you ever removed wallpaper? Sometimes it is the easiest thing in the world. Once when we bought a different house I curiously peeled up a corner of the unwanted wallpaper in the dining room and gave it a pull and the whole panel stripped off cleanly. I had the whole room un-papered in about 30 minutes. Usually it is much harder than that. This bathroom is a bit by bit, layer by layer job. If I had a nickel for every square foot of wallpaper I have removed in my life (the cost of loving old houses) I would be a rich woman. I have tried all the chemicals and tools made and found that the best are a sharp putty knife and a spray bottle full of very hot water. I got a good start, but it is going to be a slow job.

11 comments:

  1. You are right. That is a horrible bathroom. I am sure that it will be lovely when you finish, though. How nice to have a good helper!

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  2. Do they have wall paper steamers there? My husband used to do the same scraper/hot water things, but now he has a steamer and it works a lot better.
    http://www.wagnerspraytech.com/portal/pics/spraytech/products/powerPrep/705-w14_product.jpg
    You still need to scrape. but he has a triangular scraper which avoids gouging the plaster.
    Sandy in the UK

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  3. Oh, my sympathies- I am also a victim of wallpaper-removal-symdrome. Our old house had layer upon layer with painted layers in between. It was very interesting walking backwards in history and taste levels! When I finally found plaster it was in pretty bad shape so I had to (sigh...) use wallpaper liner to hold the walls up! I always longed for clean painted walls, never happened there. Looks to me tht no matter what your choices that bathroom is going to be greatly improved! I'll come help rip out that linoleum first! LOL

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  4. That wallpaper must die. My house was built in 1952 - three rooms had 4-5 LAYERS of wallpaper that I had to dig through. I could see time passing with each layer removed. It was a horrific, nasty, time-consuming chore, but oh, so worth it. :)

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  5. We had our bathroom totally gutted and remodeled last summer. It was terribly inconvenient, cost an arm and a leg, but we're sooo glad we had it done. It's beautiful, 'handicapped accessible' and we enjoy it immensely. I know you will have a beautiful room when yours is completed. Best of luck to you!!!

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  6. Always good to enlist help!
    I don't know why we wallpapered in our homes so much 30 years ago.
    But I do know why my parents wallpapered in our old farm house (circa 1813)It was to keep the horsehair plaster from falling off and having to repair the whole wall and ceiling. No money for repairs so more wall paper went up.
    Since they still live on the properties, my brother in one and parents in another (circa 1905) they are still wallpapering... Imaging how many layers they have.

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  7. The owner/builder of the house I live in used three different wallpapers in EACH room. Top,bottom and middle. Just like yours. Lucky for me the owner between the builder and us, had removed most of it. I have heard from people who looked at the house the first time it was for sale that they turned and ran after one peek. She even painted all the trim work to match the wallpaper. I pulled paper off when I got the new replacement windows in my bedroom and then peeled 50% off the master bath walls. I now think you have encouraged me to go back and finish. It comes off easily as she primed the drywall. Thank goodness.

    I remember our first house. Wallpaper behind the stove, I started peeling it off and discovered no drywall just studs. I glued it back and we sold the house quickly. Made a profit after only 8 months. But I did remove the bathroom carpets and painted every wall antique white. Big improvement. I was much younger then.

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  8. OK, let me guess. It will not be blue and it will not be pink. Hint? This one is particularly hard on the eyes. Anxious to see your updated bathroom.

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  9. I don't envy you. Our house is circa 1967. Every room was wallpapered and the drywall was not primed - even the kitchen! Heavy vinyl wallpaper. Hubby lived here for 10 years before I moved in. I pondered what was behind the 60's panel one afternooon. Three months later, no wallpaper, paneling, and retextured walls. He runs now when I think out loud. :)

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  10. Days of removing wallpaper was when my retina detatched. Let's hope that you have better luck -- both with the wallpaper, as well as with your eyes...

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  11. I've removed layers of painted wallpaper on top of each other and some 70's grass wallpaper. It has been a bear to remove every time I have done it. I haven't found any that has come off easily.

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