Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ridding Our House of Wallpaper

6:50pm - Green Wallpaper Peeling in a Grandmother's House by Marc Shank
Part of the 10-piece "Scurvyville" Series
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
4 feet x 3.75 feet

Before the Summer of 2004, wallpaper did not concern me. No where in my heritage did it touch me as I never seemed to encounter it. I may have watched a situation comedy about people trying to put up wallpaper in a comically argumentative way. It may just as well been an activity of beings from a distant planet. What a strange custom! Living in San Francisco, home of Victoriania, I only encountered moulding -- never wallpaper.

There was a scene from the Cohen Brothers' Barton Fink with melting and curling wallpaper. It was supposed mean something-- unraveling layers of Hell?

I guess when I was playing "The Sims" which is a computer game that is sort of like playing with paper dolls I did select wallpaper for the houses we built if paint wasn't enough. Even then I think I opted for paint. Walls are supposed to be a canvas where you hang art or have someone do a mural of paint or tile.

Our move to Marin introduced me to wallpaper -- its horror presented itself immediately. What seemed like innocuous floral print wallpaper which came off deceptively easy revealed layers and layers of suburban archeology in paper and adhesive. First was the painted over layer of wallpaper -- who knows what it depicted and who cares? Beneath the next was the brownish duck hunting motif, which must have been from the sixties. Beneath that and the final layer of wallpaper was a teal and pink Dutch Girl and tulip motif. Good God, what were they thinking?

In the dead center of a sweltering Summer, it was just me and the wallpaper steamer. The wallpaper steamer could have been filled by my tears. This was what Hell was like. Heaven is being in a coffee shop while Henry the Coffee Guy roasts the beans. Hell was removing wallpaper.

No one told us that while being a non-toxic, the wallpaper steamer wrecks the drywall. According to wikipedia you can score the wallpaper and use a water and vinegar mixture to get it off. There is also chemicals you can use to eat at the adhesive. I notice that every method I hear about never promises you easy success. When you watch home improvement shows, they edit out the part when they removed the wallpaper. They know as I know that if they showed what you needed to do to remove wallpaper, it would turn people off on home improvement. It is that horrid. All you see is the host cheerfully saying, "After we removed the wallpaper and painted, it made such a difference."

A contractor we know said it is not unheard of just removing the drywall with the wallpaper and just replace the drywall.

It is another Summer and I did have to remove wallpaper in the kitchen, and if I am lucky we will grit our teeth and remove the last remaining bit of wallpaper in one of the bathrooms. Then I will never ever go near wallpaper again unless it is a part of an anti-wallpaper art piece.

"The most common wall covering for residential use and generally the most economical is prepasted vinyl coated paper, commonly called "strippable" which can be misleading." - Wikipedia

Cue bitter laughter.


Anonymous said...

I can certainly relate. every part of the house was covered with layers of paper. The most unbelievable were the 3 layers on the ceiling above the bathtub!

Anonymous said...

God, I remember stripping the house in NJ - dining room only. They wallpapered right over the sheetrock and every strip of wallpaper that came off took a strip of sheetrock paper. That SUCKED. Pretty much everything about wallpaper removal sucks. People who put up wallpaper in their houses for future owners to remove should be drawn and quartered.

I highly recommend a healthy dose of Xanax before attempting wallpaper removal. That or medical marijuana. :)

Hugs, you bastard.